Note: In preparation for a future post discussing the uber brilliant film Wall•E, I'm posting my thoughts of some of this decade's most accomplished films.
There have been some absolutely riveting and beautiful films made in recent years. A quick glance back to some of my favorite films of the last decade reveal an astonishing number of cinematic triumphs. Here are some musings on the years 2000-2001.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not only the best film of the year 2000, it holds a place in my heart as one of my most favorite films of all time. It's an absoulutely gorgeous, even sensual cinematic treat. Here lies one of the most heartbreakingly powerful love stories to grace the silver screen amidst a backdrop of a mythical, epic feudal China photographed exquisitely. The fight scenes act as sort of operatic musical and balletic dance numbers in a production full of theatrical qualities. Director Ang Lee captures the best performances of Yun-Fat Chow and Michelle Yeoh's careers and introduces the world to the mesmerizing Ziyi Zhang. But above all, Lee captures the interpersonal human tragedy and quiet beauty of fantasy filmmaking and elevates the martial-arts film to one of substantial quality and importance.
Requiem for a Dream and Almost Famous are 2 more movies from 2000 that have had lasting impressions on me and my view of cinema and life. Requiem is a devastating look into the consequences of drug abuse and addiction. Almost Famous is a nostalgic view of the 60's and 70's with a revelatory performance by Kate Hudson. Look forward to more in depth reviews and discussions of these movies to come in the future.
The year of the Hobbit. Some said it couldn't be done. Some said it would never manifest into reality. But Peter Jackson proved the naysayers wrong. The first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy debuts as The Fellowship of the Ring and the new standard of epic filmmaking is set. While Fellowship remains an excellent picture, the trilogy as a whole is really what has made a lasting impact. The monumental achievement of Peter Jackson's trilogy sweeps us into another realm. With the dawning of 21st century special effects, the trilogy blew people's minds when it debuted with beautiful camera work and visual wizardry. Between the years 2001 and 2003, moviegoers were treated with a Christmas season gift. And they responded in huge numbers. This is epic fantasy movie magic at its best.
Of course 2001 also brought us the return of the movie musical. Some argue that 2000's Dancer in the Dark (starring Björk), in and of itself a strong film, deserves that badge. But I still vehemently choose 2001's Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann as the film responsible for bringing back one of my favorite genres in film. Moulin Rouge is a tour de force for director Baz Lurhman and for his two stars Nicole Kidman (one of my favorite actresses) and Ewan McGregor. The film is at first an almost send up of the genre it later fully inhabits. Taking it's cue from Puccinni's La bohème, the film slows its rapid pacing down to fully explore the tragedy of the Bohemian lifestyle. It says wiser and more mature things of that chosen lifestyle than such overated stage works as 1996's Rent. The movie improves everytime I watch it. And without it, we wouldn't have Chicago, Dreamgirls, Sweeney Todd, or Rent as cinematic offerings.
Other films from this year that I adore are Bully (a Larry Clark film that doesn't shy away from showing us the violent truth behind mob-ish mentality and teen America suburbanite boredom) and In the Bedroom (Todd Field's illuminating portrait of a broken family dealing with guilt and grief).
Stay tuned for 2002-2003 and for deeper discussion regarding all movies mentioned.