Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 5
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010
Previously on Jahnke's Electric Theatre. In Part 1, Agents 100-91 discovered a terrorist plot to destroy Los Angeles with a nuclear bomb. In Part 2, Special Agents 90-81 took a man into custody tangentially related to the plot. Part 3 saw Commando Units 80-71 raid a warehouse where the bomb was supposedly hidden, only to discover it was all a decoy. And in Part 4, Terrorists 70-61 hid the real bomb in the day care center where Jack Bauer's daughter is employed.
The following takes place between whatever time it is when you start reading it and whenever you get done. Events occur in real time.
60. Spirited Away (2001)
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the great visual artists of our time and if animation didn’t exist before he came along, he would have had to invent it. Still images alone wouldn’t be able to contain his boundless imagination. Spirited Away is arguably his masterpiece, although he’s only 69 so he’s probably got something even better left in him. Equal parts Alice In Wonderland, Japanese mythology and Roald Dahl, all filtered through Miyazaki’s own wonderful eye, Spirited Away is a remarkable achievement in hand-drawn animation. A truly transporting movie for young and old alike.
59. The Host (2006)
I love me some giant monster movies, although I freely admit that the vast majority of them are dopey, cheaply-made crap. Joon-ho Bong’s The Host is the exception that proves the rule. On one level, it’s a terrific horror movie, balancing tension and thrills with genuinely funny comedy. On another, it’s a smart, incisive allegory for relations between South Korea and the USA. No, really! The Host is the most original, exciting and intelligent monster movie in years, even if you’re not the kind of person who’ll spend 14 hours watching a Godzilla marathon.
58. The Proposition (2005)
When rock stars try writing screenplays, the results are usually less than memorable. Anybody out there make it all the way through Bob Dylan’s Masked And Anonymous? But Nick Cave isn’t your typical rock star and The Proposition has all the moral ambiguity, historical background, Biblical portent and deglamorized violence of his best music. John Hillcoat directs this Australian western with all the epic grandeur of Sergio Leone. Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone are excellent as the conflicted outlaw and the amoral lawman. But when Danny Huston shows up as Pearce’s cold-blooded older brother, he dominates the screen. A brilliant cast combined with a literate script and keenly observed direction makes The Proposition an instant winner.
57. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The movies of 2009 have a distinct disadvantage on this list. Opinions change over time. A picture that I was lukewarm about originally can lodge itself in my brain and grow to outshine one that I had once been extremely enthusiastic about. Last year’s movies just haven’t had the time to do that yet. If a 2009 movie is on here, that means that I wanted to see it again immediately after the credits stopped rolling. That was definitely the case with Wes Anderson’s homespun adaptation of Roald Dahl. I’ve been talking about this one a lot lately, so there’s not much more to say other than this is one cuss of a great film.
56. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007)
A gory Victorian tale of love, vengeance and cannibalism in which nearly every line of dialogue is sung? This sounds like a job for Tim Burton! Burton’s movies have always been a pleasure to look at but rarely have they been quite as exquisite as this. The images here are unforgettable. If this were a silent film, you’d still be blown away. Of course, it’s far from silent and the images are perfectly matched to Stephen Sondheim’s incredible music. I know several musical theatre aficionados who were disappointed by the casting of non-professional singers Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. But I thought they acquitted themselves admirably, especially given the difficulty of the material.
55. Code Unknown (2000)
A young man carelessly tosses some trash that hits a homeless woman and from this seemingly minor incident, we glimpse the lives of an actress, a photographer, a farmer, a teacher and several others. Michael Haneke’s multi-character study is subtitled “Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys”, so don’t expect easy answers or satisfying resolution. Code Unknown has as much to do with your perception of what you’re seeing as it does with the events themselves. Occasionally perplexing but thoroughly engrossing, Code Unknown might sound like an empty intellectual exercise but the existential questions the film poses tap into a deeply emotional core.
54. Ratatouille (2007)
If I included every Pixar movie of the past ten years on this list, I probably wouldn’t get a whole lot of argument. Well, you’d be right to complain if I put Cars on the list but that not withstanding, Pixar has become one of the most consistently reliable studios in the history of film, with a run of critical and commercial successes like no other. Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, about a rat with a passion for haute cuisine, ranks among their very best. We’ve come to expect dazzling animation from Pixar, so it would be wrong to take the sparkling images here for granted. But beyond that, this is a movie with soul. It’s a tribute to the boundless power of imagination and creativity. And it’s brought to life and given boundless heart by the remarkable vocal performance of Patton Oswalt as Remy. His contribution to the film’s success is significant and too often overlooked.
53. Superbad (2007)
A lot of comedies load their biggest laughs toward the beginning of the movie, trying to hook the audience early and coast on good will through some dull patches. Superbad does exactly the opposite. The first 20 minutes or so sets things up and shows you enough of a good time that you’re engaged but it’s really just setting the stage for the real hilarity to come. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote a good script but it’s director Greg Mottola’s ability to sustain it as events become increasingly out of control that makes this worth revisiting again and again. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are a perfect comedy team and the interplay between Rogen, Bill Hader and Christopher Mintz-Plasse is priceless. The parallel stories are balanced so well that you never want more of one and less of the other.
52. Sideways (2004)
European movies and American movies have extremely different sensibilities. They have their own pace, their own look, their own sense of humor and their own ways of looking at life. Alexander Payne’s Sideways is one of those rare films that successfully blends the two. The story of two middle-aged friends on a trip through California wine country, the movie unfolds at the leisurely, sun-dappled pace of a French film. But the four main characters themselves are distinctly American and played to perfection by Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Sideways balances big laughs with poignant observations about life, love, ambition and failure.
51. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2005)
Even though I love Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit shorts, I was a bit worried about their transition into feature films. Would there be enough there to sustain an entire movie? Would they be dumbed down or Americanized (and no, that isn’t necessarily the same thing, thank you very much)? Turns out I needn’t have worried. Wallace and Gromit hit the big screen with every bit of their British charm, wit and inventiveness fully intact. These are classic characters, painstakingly brought to life through clay and imagination, and the world they inhabit is uniquely their own. If I have one complaint about the first Wallace and Gromit feature, it’s too short. It’s a rare treat indeed to find a movie you’re sorry to see end.
Hang in there, folks. We're halfway there. Next we crack open the top 50 of the 100 Best Movies of the 00s, so if your favorite hasn't appeared yet, there's still a chance. Unless your favorite movie of the decade was Daddy Day Camp, in which case there's really nothing I can do for you.