Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 8

Dedicated To
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010

Added 1/27/10

Right about here is where it got tough. The following thirty selections are truly my favorites of the decade and trying to put them into any sort of order of preference was daunting, to say the least. Depending on my mood on any given day, I could probably shuffle the order and come up with a completely different top ten that I'd still be entirely happy with. So you have two ways of looking at these last three days of JET's 100 Best Movies of the 00s. You can take me at my word that the order they're in now best represents the way I feel about them, or you can call it a 30-way tie for number one. If I were you, I'd take Option A.

As a quick refresher, here are the 70 movies that we've already discussed:

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

Part 6: Numbers 50 - 41

Part 7: Numbers 40 - 31

We now return you to JET's 100 Best Movies of the 00s, already in progress...

30. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

I went into Moulin Rouge! with a great deal of trepidation. I had enjoyed Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom but actively disliked his take on Romeo + Juliet. And as Moulin Rouge! began bombarding me with sights and sounds, I feared this would fall squarely into the hate-it category. But Luhrmann doesn’t let up. Songs, bits and lavish production numbers come at such a breakneck speed that before I knew it, I was having a good time and didn’t know what hit me. Luhrmann has made a gigantic sugar high of a movie, deliriously over-the-top in every respect. At the same time, he closes the book on the 20th century musical and reinvigorates the genre for the 21st. Moulin Rouge! is a dazzling, one-of-a-kind experience and sensory overload at its finest.

29. Adaptation. (2002)

Sooner or later, all artists get stuck. Anyone with a creative impulse knows how terrifying and frustrating it can be when inspiration just won’t come. Charlie Kaufman dealt with his writer’s block by writing a screenplay about it. On the face of it, this should at best be a surreal head-trip, at worst a self-indulgent mess. But Kaufman and Spike Jonze use their meta-movie to make profound observations about the writer’s life, the definition of success, depression, jealousy, joy and love. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are outstanding but it’s Nicolas Cage who holds the picture together. Cage is a brilliant actor and it’s a shame that he actually has to remind us of that every few years. Adaptation. is an endlessly fascinating rabbit-hole of a movie that just gets better and better the deeper you follow it.

28. No Country For Old Men (2007)

For years, Cormac McCarthy’s prose defeated even the best filmmakers’ attempts at adaptation. Joel and Ethan Coen perfectly captured the mournful, doom-laden mood of McCarthy’s acclaimed novel. Even more impressive, they did it without sacrificing their own unique voices. The Coens have long been interested in how lives can spin out of control and whether an individual’s attempts to control their own fate makes things better or worse. The struggle between Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem give the Coens’ a gritty, suspenseful backdrop for these themes, while Tommy Lee Jones’ sad, lived-in eyes look on and silently comment on the shocking evil that men do.

27. A History Of Violence (2005)

David Cronenberg has worked with some of the best leading men in movies, including James Woods, Christopher Walken and Jeremy Irons, and he always knows how to best utilize their talents. But with Viggo Mortensen, Cronenberg may have found his ideal collaborator. As a family man whose carefully-buried past comes back to haunt him, Mortensen is nothing short of extraordinary. Whether he’s confronting a palpably sinister Ed Harris or trying to explain things to his wife and children, Mortensen gives a performance that is both sensitive and physical. Perhaps the best moments are between Mortensen and Maria Bello, crafting one of the most vivid and intimate portrayals of a marriage I’ve seen. From its stunning opening scene to its final moments, so quiet, ambiguous and perfect, A History Of Violence enthralls.

26. American Splendor (2003)

Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical underground comic book is probably the unlikeliest candidate for movie adaptation you can find. But directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini found an ingenious way into the material by having multiple Pekars appear throughout. There’s the real Harvey. There’s Paul Giamatti as Harvey. There are animated Harveys. There’s even Donal Logue as Paul Giamatti as Harvey. But as clever as all this is, it doesn’t take away from what’s most important in Pekar’s work: a celebration of the beautiful banality of everyday life. It isn’t that Pekar doesn’t believe in heroes. He just doesn’t believe in superheroes. American Splendor reminds us there are victories, tragedies, comedy and beauty all around us every day, provided we open our eyes to them.

25. The Incredibles (2004)

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with superheroes, mind you. With The Incredibles, Brad Bird perfectly captures everything that makes them so magically appealing better than any live-action film. This is a stunningly animated film with action sequences so spectacular they leave you breathless. But it’s also a wonderfully clever comedy, maybe the most sharply written of any of the Pixar films, with a pitch-perfect vocal cast. But above all, it captures the spirit of wonder that captured my imagination as a superhero-loving kid, translates it and makes it accessible to anyone. It’s a rare movie that can succeed as a commentary on a genre, a loving homage to it and a shining example of it at its best all at the same time.

24. The Pianist (2002)

I’ve seen a lot of Holocaust movies but none of them affected me nearly as much as Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. Adrien Brody is astonishing in the film and it’s to his and Polanski’s credit that his character isn’t immediately sympathetic. Brody is no hero. He’s simply a man trying to survive in a world that wants him exterminated. There’s a level of detail and realism to The Pianist you simply don’t find in other movies of its type. Polanski uses all of his considerable skill as a filmmaker to make you understand not simply what happened, but what it felt like to live under these conditions. As it should be, the result is devastating and unforgettable.

23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Meanwhile in Spain, Guillermo del Toro tells a very different type of war story. A grim fairy tale about a young girl whose flights of fancy allow her an escape from the harsh reality of life, Pan’s Labyrinth stands at the crossroads between fantasy and reality and embraces both. Del Toro’s images are beautiful, disturbing and as imaginative as anything you’ll find in any medium. But the movie’s secret weapon is young Ivana Baquero, so good as the young girl who learns that her fantasy world isn’t as safe as she thought. Without her as our guide, Pan’s Labyrinth would be all icing and no cake.

22. Oldboy (2003)

Even the most well-executed revenge movies can come off as shallow, especially when put alongside the complexities of Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy. Park allows his film to unfold like a mystery, with a man imprisoned for 15 years, then suddenly released with no explanation for either. As we get to the bottom of this dark well of secrets, Park cranks up the brooding intensity. He also delivers scenes of jaw-dropping mayhem, shot in such a gut-wrenching style that it makes Death Wish look like the story of a man writing a strongly worded letter to his congressman.

21. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger turned in a mesmerizing, iconic performance that will forever link him with The Joker. But don’t let that overshadow his best work in Ang Lee’s heartbreaking romance. As a cowboy who can’t quite admit to himself that the love of his life is another man, Ledger gives a quiet performance of disarming simplicity. But he conveys more emotion with a glance or a slump of the shoulders than most actors could with an entire monologue. Lee’s film was justly celebrated as a triumph in 2005 but its reputation seems to have dimmed a bit in recent years. I believe its time will come again. Lee invests Brokeback Mountain with a timeless quality that will keep it fresh for generations to come.

We're getting down to the best of the best. If James Cameron is reading, you only have two more days to buy a spot at the top of the heap. I can be bought and I'm slightly cheaper than a Golden Globe.

Your pal,