Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 6

Dedicated To
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010

Added 1/25/10

Hello and welcome to the second half of JET's 100 Best Movies of the 00s. For those of you who took the weekend off, you'll want to play catch-up:

Part 1: Numbers 100 - 91

Part 2: Numbers 90 - 81

Part 3: Numbers 80 - 71

Part 4: Numbers 70 - 61

Part 5: Numbers 60 - 51

And off we go again!

50. Gran Torino (2008)

While Clint Eastwood’s directorial career shows no signs of slowing down, his time in front of the camera is most likely coming to an end. If he retires from acting altogether, I can think of no more fitting capper to his legendary career than the thoughtful, measured performance he gives in Gran Torino. The movie drew some fire for the somewhat stilted performances of the non-professional actors, but the natural authenticity of the Hmong culture more than compensated in my eyes. Besides, this is Eastwood’s movie all the way. Walt Kowalski is flawed, funny, surprisingly tender and one of the most real characters Eastwood has ever played. Clint Eastwood is a national treasure and if Gran Torino is truly his last role, his presence will be greatly missed. But what a wonderful gift he’s left us with.

49. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring (2003)

In a decade when movies were bigger, louder and more cluttered than ever, the gentle rhythms of Ki-duk Kim’s lovely and lyrical film can take some getting used to. The story of a Buddhist monk raising a young boy on a floating lake temple, Kim gives the movie room to breathe with long, lingering shots of transcendent beauty. Allow the story to simply wash over you and you’ll find it achieves a state of perfect Zen bliss. This is sheer visual poetry at its finest.

48. Bamboozled (2000)

Spike Lee’s most controversial film (and that’s really saying something), Bamboozled was attacked by just about everybody upon its release. Personally, I thought it was one of the bravest, most significant satires about race, class and popular culture I’d ever seen. Damon Wayans is great as the TV producer who creates a new minstrel show, with African-American performers in blackface, in an attempt to get fired. Much to his horror, the show becomes a huge success. Bamboozled is far from subtle but sometimes pushing things too far is the only way to make your point. Spike Lee goes to the edge and beyond with this movie. Yes, he’s trying to make you uncomfortable. But more than that, he’s trying to make you question why you feel that way.

47. In Bruges (2008)

This was not a movie I was excited to see. I was tired of self-consciously clever crime movies and I’d never had much use for Colin Farrell. By the end of the film, Farrell had completely redeemed himself and I’d been entirely won over by writer/director Martin McDonagh. In Bruges is smart, funny and exciting. The story goes down some strange paths but it never feels forced or that McDonagh is simply being quirky for quirk’s sake. Ultimately, it’s also unexpectedly moving in its depiction of the relationship between hitmen Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Martin McDonagh is the real deal and it’ll be fascinating to see where he goes from here.

46. Away From Her (2006)

Everyone knows about Alzheimer’s but unless you someone you love suffers from the disease, it’s hard to understand exactly what it can do. Sarah Polley rectifies that with her remarkably mature and assured directorial debut. Gordon Pinsent is tremendous as a man coping with the institutionalization of his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife (an equally astonishing performance by Julie Christie). The toll the disease takes on their marriage is heartbreaking but Polley doesn’t go for easy sentiment. Away From Her is a clear-headed examination of love and loss and if it’s virtually impossible to make it through the movie with a dry eye, it’s a tribute to Polley’s vivid depiction of a slipping away life.

45. Match Point (2005)

Woody Allen has been making movies like clockwork since the early 70s, so it was perhaps inevitable that he started this past decade in a bit of a slump. After making what may be the worst three films of his career, Hollywood Ending, Anything Else and Melinda And Melinda, Woody headed for Europe and instantly bounced back with Match Point. It’s the least self-conscious movie he’s made in years, a twisty dramatic thriller with a peerless cast of mostly British actors. In a career that’s had more than a few ups and downs, Match Point is a welcome reminder that it’s a mistake to ever count Woody Allen out.

44. Caché (2005)

Paranoia strikes deep in Michael Haneke’s tricky, fascinating domestic drama. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche are in top-form as a married couple who begin receiving strange, anonymous surveillance videos of themselves at home. The police are no help, since the tapes are definitely weird but not exactly threatening, so Auteuil tries to unravel the mystery himself. As in Code Unknown, Haneke has more questions than answers, which helps ratchet up the tension between husband and wife. Caché explores themes of personal responsibility and class difference in a way that’s utterly unique and constantly surprising.

43. Big Fish (2003)

Tim Burton is often criticized for favoring design and visuals over story and emotion. And while Big Fish is a typically ornate Burton production, I don’t believe anyone can say the characters take a back seat. Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup and Jessica Lange give wonderful performances in this heartfelt movie about a son struggling to get to know his dying father. Burton fills the picture with spectacular images and ideas but still manages to connect with some universal feelings at the core of the complex relationship between fathers and sons. Just about every guy I know reached out to their dad after seeing Big Fish. Most made an effort to watch it with their father. It’s a special movie that, for at least a little while, brings fathers and sons closer together.

42. About Schmidt (2002)

Jack Nicholson is such a larger-than-life figure that it’s easy to forget that he’s fully capable of disappearing into a role when called upon. But he does just that in Alexander Payne’s funny and sad portrait of a man who finds himself adrift and alone when he loses both his job and his wife in quick succession. Payne fills the movie with vivid, clearly drawn characters whose outsize personalities never teeter over into caricature. It takes a confident filmmaker to cast Jack Nicholson as the most withdrawn, introverted character in a story but it was a stroke of brilliance. Nicholson taps into an inner reserve and tells us everything we need to know about this man through the way he sits, how he moves and how he carries himself in a group. It’s a rich, nuanced performance of great subtlety from an actor who’s chewed more scenery than most people have had hot dinners.

41. Why We Fight (2005)

Eugene Jarecki’s political documentary is one of the most sobering, fascinating non-fiction films in years. Examining the rise of the military-industrial complex (Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term, not mine), Jarecki interviews people from both the left and right to paint a picture of an American empire that profits from continual war. Jarecki makes his points calmly and clearly, offering a well-reasoned argument free of knee-jerk partisan hysteria. The result is an eye-opening, often infuriating film that is no mere time capsule of the political climate circa 2005. By taking a broader, more historical approach than most films of its kind, Why We Fight should remain an illuminating point of reference for years to come.

See you over here as we head into JET's Top 40. Maybe Casey Kasem will even stop by with a Long-Distance Dedication. I doubt it but maybe.

Your pal,