Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Decade's Best: #1-#10



My breath catches a little to realize what a bittersweet conclusion this represents for the countdown: Grizzly Man is the only member of the Top 10 to premiere as late as 2005, and you have to slide down to #18 to see anything that premiered any later. I'm suddenly left with the feeling, espoused by Bill Chambers in an earlier comment thread, that the decade has manifested a real law of diminishing returns. Granted, we are not inhabiting a desert at the moment. My forthcoming Top 10 of 2009 would look quite different if I could incorporate some festival titles from the past year or two that haven't quite achieved their Stateside commercial bow. They're films to look forward to, for sure, but are they enough to countervail the sense that we've seen fewer and fewer masterworks as the decade has evolved?

It's probably wiser to realize that I've had more time to let my feelings about movies like Dancer in the Dark, Morvern Callar, and Amores perros marinate for a longer period of time, and that after a few more years, a Lazarescu or an INLAND EMPIRE or even a Synecdoche or Hurt Locker could move up to those positions. Plus, it just seems incontrovertibly true that the artworks you embrace when you're newest and freshest to the form become more intimate favorites than later acquaintances. The decks may thus be stacked in favor of titles from the 90s and early 00s, often for reasons evoked in the Remembering series.

But also: these are ten astonishing movies, so it's a little strange for me to second-guess what any of them would be doing at the top of a decade review, or to feel remotely bad about it, no matter what other movies or moments in the decade they wind up displacing to lower rungs. It's a great note on which to end the decade and the year... and meanwhile, I hope you've enjoyed this very rare month of daily activity on Nick's Flick Picks. I'm so grateful that you read and participate, and I wish you all a tremendous 2010!

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21 Comments:

Blogger Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Even when I don't agree with your choices these lists make me feel good. Yes, they remind me that I really need to see more films but seeing a list including Erin B, Gosford Park [even if I find the rating offensively low :)], Eternal Sunshine and countless others is just nice. I've enjoyed this series. And just because I'm unsatisifed, who would be on your lists of fave performances?

I know you're meticulous, but don't over think. Give me a name or two.

12:27 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Brook Brooks said...

I love this top ten, especially demonlover and Movern Callar. I watched the latter after sitting through The Lovely Bones and wondered why the hell Lynne Ramsey wasn't allowed to stay on to direct. She would have nailed that book for a few tens of millions less. Missed oppourtunity.

It reminds me I also need to see Talk to Her again, for all the reasons you list.

12:40 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@A:EE - Well, Huppert in The Piano Teacher, Cheung in In the Mood for Love, Winslet in Eternal Sunshine..., Penn in Assassination and Milk, Gheorghiu in Lazarescu, Sol in Oasis, Rourke in The Wrestler, Kidman in Birth and Dogville, Carradine in Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Swinton in Michael Clayton and Julia, Wahlberg in Huckabees, Theron in Monster, Gosling in Half Nelson, Moore in Far from Heaven, Björk and Deneuve in Dancer in the Dark, Irwin in Rachel Getting Married, Ledger in The Dark Knight, Marsan in Vera Drake, Ruffalo and Linney in You Can Count on Me, even though I'd still have voted for Roberts in Erin, the discovery (for me) of the consistently brilliant Emmanuelle Devos and Vera Farmiga... those all pop to mind.

@Brook: I actually interviewed Lynne Ramsay once, and I think it's actually best that she and the studio reached a mutual decision to pass the project to Jackson, despite her having already worked on a script for somewhere around a year. (I'm not trying to be coy, but I think she wanted the details off-the-record.) In any event, when she kills in her next couple of long-gestating movies, it'll be sweet recompense for all these years of missing her. She's still got till 2022 until she's officially on the Malick calendar, and even that has turned out to be an easy thing to make peace with in retrospect!

12:54 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Evanderholy said...

If I were calling into a radio station right now I would be saying, "long time listener, first time caller." In fact, I've been checking your blog on a near daily basis since about 2000. First, let me apologize for this. I've always been someone who enjoyed participating from a far (in this case as a reader). Secondly, let me say that this past month has been more exciting for a long time reader than possibly any other time in the last ten years. Especially as I've often experienced long (understandable) gaps between postings. I only bring this up to let you know that you have readers who hang on your every word. Even among those who read you religiously and haven't even commented (and there must be others like me). As someone who also keeps track of their movie viewings, it was thrilling to see your recollections of movie viewings over the past decade. Your top 100 movies of this decade list was truly humbling (I've only seen about half- although we share some favorites) and your latest reviews of movies old and new were some of your best yet. I have a lot more to say- and I promise you an e-mail within the week- but mostly I want to thank you for being my favorite critic of the decade. Seriously, Nick, know your efforts don't go unappreciated!

2:08 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

I just knew it was going to be either Russian Ark or Morvern Callar. I wonder what put Callar over the top? I'm overjoyed to see my personal #1, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, placed so high, and I suppose I should give Amores Perros another shot even though I'm not much a fan of Iñárritu.

2:17 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Alex in Movieland said...

It really was a pleasure to gradually read your Top 100.
thanks for including 2 Romanian movies :P and giving me enough of a push to finally want to see Russian Ark.

and talk about great timing. Now, considering it's 31st already

2:50 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

thank you for another lovely and perfectly timed delight

6:40 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Middento said...

Yay! (And I gotta say, I largely agree with you -- I was so excited to see "Talk to Her" as the photograph, which is my choice for fave for the decade.)

Happy New Year!

7:24 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Joe Reid said...

My bloated Netflix list can't thank you enough for these two weeks' worth of posts, Nick. My productivity, on the other hand...

Also, I know I'm not the first to comment on your choice of images, but that still from Grizzly Man terrifies me in the best way.

8:18 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Tim said...

And quite a thrilling month you've given us. You do know how many people you're about to send into the worst kind of withdrawals, yes?

Completely by chance, Morvern Callar was the very last film I watched prior to reading this final batch of ten, meaning that a) this is the first day that I've seen every film you named and b) I'm still in that extremely enthusiastic post-viewing afterglow where of course it's the best movie of the decade, so you'll get no disagreements from me there, for at least a day or two.

In fact, every one of these is a film I pretty much love (save for Dancer, but we've disagreed on von Trier before and surely will again), and while I am heartbroken that you put Mulholland Dr. so low, this list has been by far the most interesting and pleasurable of any decade-in-review I've seen. It's also spurred me to do a 100-film list instead of the 50-film list that I've been working on for three months, so thanks for the extra work.

A thought for you: the problem of the decade isn't the decline of "cinema", but of mainstream American films (or hell, American films in general), i.e. the films that everybody sees who isn't a regular reader of your site. Cause for alarm?

10:08 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

I don't know why no one else has mentioned this, but I'm immensely thrilled to see that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has appreciated in your regard above Mulholland Drive and Talk to Her, without implying any bad feeling towards those two yet-to-be-seen movies! Thank you for noting the Annie Hall connection, which I sussed out back in '04 when I watched those two movies back-to-back for the first time: are there two truer, more mature, more unexpected romantic endings in the American cinema? I can't think of any.

A happy new year to you, and thanks for all the joy you've brought with these posts. To a glorious new decade of the movies!

11:33 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@EvanderHoly: That is the most astonishingly unexpected and generous compliment I've received about this website in I don't know how long. Thank you so much!

@Robert and @Colin: Glad to have gratified both of you with the high ranking for Eternal Sunshine. I talked to two people last week who couldn't believe it had even qualified for other Best of the Decade lists they had seen. I just can't imagine not seeing something special in this film, and if anything, talking with them put me even more in touch with how much I admire it.

@Alex: Oh, the timing is in no way coincidental! So glad you were reading along, and enjoying the Romanian entries. Hopefully more of those in the next decade!

@Nathaniel: We've already talked earlier today, but thanks for this note, and Happy New Year! Loving the film-related resolutions.

@Jeff: Well, I figured I couldn't just give up the ghost with a still from my #1 film. And this, predictably, is so gorgeous.

@Joe: I'm so happy to have helped to bloat something. That's a whole new skill that I didn't know that I had. Let me know how the viewings go with NetFlix starts sending what you're ordering, and whether my corporate takeover plan as NickFlix seems like a good idea.

@Tim: Honestly, any of the top six would have made sense as a #1, and I'm glad the formatting of the frames site fortuitously isolates them as a top tier. Don't take the "low" ranking of Mulholland too seriously. Thanks for saying such nice stuff about this list, and as for the waning of American films, there is plenty of evidence for that thesis, but then I look back and realize how Anglophone this list actually is and feel like I can't toss that stone with any real impunity. Glad you had a recent hot date with Morvern, though!

5:06 PM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger JKlorfein said...

Your 00's retrospective over the past month was so much fun. How can you prolong this series? Best Shorts of the 00's? Favorite Music Video? Best Music Video? In any case, thank you for your exhaustive but concise, personal, awesome reviews. Happy new year!

7:23 PM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@JK: I'm 800 years old, but you're still young! Shouldn't you be out celebrating somewhere? It means a lot to me that you enjoyed these entries.

8:10 PM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

Thank you so much for the bevy of writing you've given us recently. it's been a treasure. The conclusion of this list is kinda sad, but also exhilarating. Can't say I'm that big on Callar, but it would hardly be interesting if you went with something typical.

Thanks again and congrats on somehow managing to actually do all of this!

5:27 AM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger Lev Lewis said...

Well, as it turned out, I didn't even mention the right film when I tried to predict your top choice. I have to say, I'm most surprised by your inclusion of "Amores Perros" on here. I never got the impression that you loved it that much. Not that I don't, it's just one of those films that I haven't seen for years, but assumed I had overestimated. Perhaps not.

And, I'll echo the sentiments of so many others by saying thank you for this wonderful month, but please don't completely disappear! It's going to be a serious withdrawal.

12:01 PM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger Δημήτρης said...

Nick, thank you for sharing your favorites with us and for providing some interesting options for me to watch.

In case you didn't know, Lynne Ramsay is making a film with Swinton and it will be released in 2010. I thought you would love the combination.

Happy New Year!

6:21 PM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: Glad to entertain, and now I can appreciate even more fully what all you daily or near-daily bloggers are able to sustain!

@Lev: It's true that Amores perros is the Top 10 movie for which one wouldn't necessarily sense my admiration by reading around the site. I'm much more gregarious about all the others, but I do find the tension, the arrangement, the acting, and the detailing of that movie pretty profoundly humbling every time I go back to it. Even seeing its less and less inspiring imitators over the years, including the films made by its own progenitors, hasn't dulled my admiration.

@Δημήτρης: Not only do I know it, but believe me, I live in anticipation of this. Thanks for making sure I knew, though! (Meanwhile, I'm sorry for such a numbskull question, but is there a Roman-alphabet transliteration for your name? I love that you post your name as you would write it, and I think the Web should push us more often to be more multilingual, but I just like to know what sound I should be "hearing" when I reproduce those characters. If I ever meet you, not that I necessarily ever would, I'd want to know how to say hello to you!)

7:08 PM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger Δημήτρης said...

It's Dimitris in Greek. I have been using Jim T here and still do at Nathaniel's (and Incontention etc) site but at some point I was forced to use my google account which automatically put my Greek name. Not that I mind.
Jim (James) is the English equivalent to my name.

7:31 PM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Δημήτρης: A-ha! Threshold of revelation! Fun to realize that I already know you, and to hear "Dimitris" when I read "Δημήτρης," even though I'm suddenly abashed at not having figured it out. Nice to know that the pedantries of Google log-ins can occasionally have the side-effect of increasing personal mystique.

8:29 PM, January 01, 2010  
Blogger J.J. said...

So pleased that you included Birth, Junebug and Prodigal Sons in the list.

4:39 PM, January 02, 2010  

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