Home > Film > Films of the Decade: 20-16

Films of the Decade: 20-16

20. The Incredibles (2004): The Incredibles is not only my favorite animation of the decade—and my favorite of all the Pixar films—I also think it is one of the greatest (and one of the most overlooked) superhero flicks ever made. For me, this film is a breath of fresh air. One of the most ignored aspects of this new and illustrious generation of superhero films is the fact that sometimes animation is preferable to live action. Animation is virtually unlimited in its creative potential because it isn’t held back by the limitations of the camera or by the need to look realistic. The possibilities thus become endless; and if you have the right team for the job (which Pixar always seems to have), live action will not be missed. More films need to follow suit. Oh and did I mention that this is the only Pixar film to date (with the possible exception of Up) to focus its story entirely around humans (albeit super)? Also a plus.

19. Stranger Than Fiction (2006): Is your life a comedy or a tragedy? That’s the question that Stranger Than Fiction continually asks us as we watch Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) struggle to make sense of the voice in his head that has recently begun narrating his life and that has just informed him that he will soon kick the bucket. A second question that the film raises is equally self-reflective: what makes our lives worth living in the first place? What gives our lives meaning, if anything? Crick is an IRS agent whose life is dull, mundane, and fill-in-the-blank with similar cognates. He reminds one of Sisyphus, the ancient king condemned to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down, for eternity. The only difference is that Crick is mortal. And it is not until he finds out about his imminent death that his life seems to acquire meaning. The film features an excellent cast—including one of Ferrell’s greatest performances—and a story that is as unique as it is thoughtful.

18. Harry Potter (2001-2009): I should note that I am primarily talking about the heart of the series: films three, four, and five. These are the films that began exploring darker and more mature themes. The first two films are more children-oriented by comparison and the sixth film felt like a filler for the finale. With that out of the way, I think the Harry Potter films are an excellent artistic achievement: although forced to cut out large portions of the books to conserve time, these films nonetheless succeed in recreating J.K. Rowling’s bizarre wizarding world. The films were also able to draw upon the deep and vast reservoir of British actors, the sort of quality crop that are necessary to make a fantasy genre film believable. Names such as Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, and Alan Rickman, make for an outstanding cast that add character to the films. Oh, and did I mention that Emma Watson is one of the most gorgeous beings in the universe Oh, I didn’t? Oh, that’s irrelevant to the films’ quality? Sorry.

17. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): Guillermo del Toro’s El Laberinto del Fauno (the original title did not reference Pan and del Toro himself apparently stated that the faun is not the Greek god of shepherds) is an artistic masterpiece of the highest order. The film is exceedingly dark—featuring one of the most gruesome death scenes I have ever seen on film—but also remarkably beautiful. Del Toro purposely blends real-world scenes with Ofelia’s fantasy-world scenes, forcing his audience to question the lines between the two. Are Ofelia’s fantasies merely the result of a little girls wandering imagination? Or is there more to the world than meets the eye? Or perhaps both are true. Perhaps this is del Toro’s way of showing us that fantasies (myths) don’t have to be literal in order to be real, in order to be true. This film would have been in my top 10 if it had played out a bit differently to the satisfaction of my personal desires (more on that below). But it nevertheless remains a brilliant piece of filmmaking that should not be missed.

SPOILER ALERT!!! After watching the film through twice, I have to admit that I would have preferred that the faun come to life at the end and kill the Captain in the labyrinth. He didn’t need to save Ofelia. It could have been after her death. But I suppose I was really hoping, deep down, that in some way, shape, or form, the fantasy world literally connected with our world. That may have downplayed certain powerful aspects of the film, but as the film progresses, one becomes increasingly convinced that these fantasies really are just the fantasies of a little girl. Del Toro really had the opportunity to throw us for a loop, one that I wish he would have taken. He could have even presented it in such a way that made us question the lines between the two worlds even more. In any event, the thought of the faun ripping the Captain to shreds is a pleasant one.

16. Pineapple Express (2008): For all the taboo that surrounds marijuana in our society, there is something unmistakably funny about the drug culture, especially when it involves Seth Rogen and a very impressive performance by James Franco. The film plays out like a good cat-and-mouse adventure thriller—including some unexpectedly terrific car-chase and shootout scenes—that also finds plenty of time to slow down for some hilarious raunchy and drug-related dialogue. This is just one more film to add to Judd Apatow’s never-ending-greatest-hits catalog.

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  1. 02/03/2010 at 3:33 pm

    20. my favorite thing about this movie was the first time i saw the trailer of it in the theater. it was the part where Bob is trying on his old costume, and it doesn't fit, and his wife is calling him for dinner, then the button pops off his belt. seriously, i guffawed in the theater. louder than anyone else there. very embarrassing.also, you're right. for me, the most important part – the climax – was when Vilet finally uses her super power, and it turns out to be an act of protecting people she loves. Seeing her strength, cartoon character as she was, was a poignant moment for me. (what a girl!)19. haha, it's still really odd to see/hear Harry and his story referred to in terms of the films. Most any shortcoming you notice in the story is a result of the films' being merely shadows of a representation that is the vast treasure of Harry Potter. imo, the films should only be reviewed on the basis of their success as a cinematic work of art, or on their relation to the books. judging them as a telling of the Harry Potter story seems wrong somehow. but i know you know my opinion on this. i still think you should take the time to read the books. sure, there's no Emma Watson, but… ;-)17. i thought Pan's Labyrinth was pretty good, but honestly, watching the bonus features gave me a huge huge respect for del Toro. he is the kind of director i believe we should have more of.

  2. 02/03/2010 at 6:19 pm

    I think I've read more of the HP books than you know. I think I'm on,
    what is it, book six.:P Although I haven't read them in a little while
    now and don't know if I'll make it to the seventh by the time the last
    films come out.And I never watched the Pan's Labyrinth extras.
    But he's a top tier director and I have confidence that he will do The
    Hobbit film justice.

  3. 02/03/2010 at 6:32 pm

    really??!? yay, that makes me happy!i have full confidence in del Toro, and was excited to hear he got The Hobbit. you should watch the extras. there's an interview that Charlie Rose did with him, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (director of Babel) that was great. apparently, they're close friends. maybe being interested in that kind of thing is just a geeky trait of myself only, but anyway… i highly recommend it if your'e into that kind of thing.

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