Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Decade's Best: #41-#50

Heading into the top half of the list, with three famously scarlet-haired actresses giving the performances many consider their greatest work. I demur on Julianne, with respect to her first collaboration with the same director, and it's too soon to tell about Tilda, but could anyone argue otherwise about Julia? Except with the "scarlet" part: her most famous hair color, but bottle-born.

Anyway, keep reading for boxing blues, boys who aren't boys, bomb defusers, strikers, psychos, cops, and robbers.



Blogger Sam Brooks said...

I adore your continued championing of The Cell; which I first saw in theaters and it's hardly left my mind since. I wish the director would work more often.

And Julia is, simply outstanding. I love it when a director and an actress tops their previous work; especially so when their previous work is already outstanding. (And I can't wait to see what Ramsey and Swinton do with We Need to Talk About Kevin.)

12:31 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

You're being such a champ to read all of these entries so quickly after they go up. Thanks for that! And we seem pretty simpatico on a lot of these choices, which definitely gratifies.

12:46 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Several interesting choices, here. Huge fan of both Far From Heaven and The Hurt Locker and love seeing you endorse them on this list. I was not crazy about Million Dollar Baby at first, but seeing your glowing endorsement of it in the past prompted me to reexamine and find subsequent viewings highly rewarding. I'm glad to see that Osama has not been a forgotten film to at least a few fortunate people. And it's a good thing that Tilda Swinton has an Oscar, otherwise I would be more indignant over the COMPLETE lack of any awards traction for revelatory performance in Julia. It's almost as if AMPAS handicaps her eligibility so that it won't be unfair to other actresses.

I wish I could see what you see in Erin Brockovich, though. I just couldn't be moved by the long-winded and conventional method that Soderbergh chose to present an Inspirational True Story about an Important Subject.

12:57 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

A resolute "yay!" on Julia, The Cell and Erin Brockovich, though I'd need to give Ocean's Eleven (seemed pretty slight to me), The Hurt Locker (Mackie was brilliant, but the opaque Renner's hoarding all the buzz) and Million Dollar Baby (Eastwood as actor has no modulation; Haggis' bad habits start to show) another go-round.

1:07 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Robert: Interesting that you found Erin Brockovich to be long-winded, because I list it among the most swiftly edited movies I know (among such Hollywood-bound, genre-variegated peers as Aliens, You Can Count on Me and Kung Fu Panda)! I can see where you're coming from, reading the film through a biopic lens, but like with Funny Girl, I found Erin quickly divesting itself of any relation to the "real life personality" on which it's based to invest itself into the "movie star personality" at its centre. In quick succession: Julia trying to ingratiate and failing, with a quick shift to annoyance; Julia stringing expletives at her car ticket and broken nail; Julia in a hilariously long neck cast hurling more expletives at lawyers who are against her (to her, there isn't another kind).

1:21 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Nick: Sorry for babbling so, but I just noticed your choice of frame from Ocean's Eleven, and it struck me that wow, what a motley of movie stars with oddly misjudged careers! (You can even add Casey Affleck to that list.) I totally prefer Pitt and Clooney in Burn After Reading, though.

1:27 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Robert: Great to hear positive reinforcement from you, and I'm especially excited about the seconded motion for Osama, a film that's much more interesting than I think a lot of people expected. I long ago gave up trying to psych out the Foreign-Language Film voting at the Oscars, but how this movie failed to grab them - either for its considerable merits or given their own usual preferences - stymies me. As for Erin, I'm with Colin on the zippy editing....

@Colin: ....though I see Funny Girl as the total antithesis to EB in this way (though I appreciate that you're making more of a point about star vehicles that strongly transcend their "biopic" foundations, and I agree). I actually think Eastwood is fairly modulated, or at least much more so than usual, in M$B, and as much as I've been cool on Pitt in almost everything lately and unsympathetic to Clooney's work this year, it's hard for me to think of that as a roll-call of mismanaged actors. I mean, Damon?

Amazing, though, how much younger they all look!

1:54 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Catherine said...

Agreed totally on Osama. I'm due a rewatch, but my memories are overwhemlmingly positive; I loved how narrow and concentrated a focus it took and the committment to Marina Golbahari's character. It didn't attempt to be The Big Afghani Film, which it is all the better for.

I'm kind of surprised that Far From Heaven didn't place higher, but I think I'm right in saying it's definitely not your favourite Haynes? I unequivocally adore it, though and that still you chose reminded me why: the lush colour of the cinematography and wardrobe, and the naked emotion it always stirs up in me.

P.S. Look at Baby Face Damon! Gosh.

2:09 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Catherine: That still even shames me about not ranking it higher, but then again, I do see that as a pretty peak moment within the film. "Not being my favorite Haynes film" is like not being my favorite of my own organs, or something.

And about the P.S.: I know!

2:13 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Catherine said...

Nick! Why on earth are you awake?! Hahah.

Just to let you know I've been reading the series avidly so far, getting a plethora of interesting titles to rent in the future of stuff I maybe skipped when they were in theatres, or some I haven't even heard of. You're a champ!

P.S. "Least favourite organ"? No question, gall bladder. C'mon dude, do something!

2:18 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Erm, is it because I don't live in America, because I've been catching up on too many non-recent movies, or because movie stars just don't age like normal humans? In my mental images of their current selves, only Pitt has visibly aged beyond what he looks like in that Ocean's still.

Perhaps "misjudged careers" wasn't what I was going for; I'm going to steal a phrase from your Home for the Holidays and say that those matinee actors all have "bright but vaguely disappointing careers", even Damon. I can't pinpoint a favourite performance in their respective careers that is particularly galvanising among the critics I trust.

2:51 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

I'm a bit disappointed, Nick, that The Cell isn't much higher. I was anticipating it to be so. Alas.

I do adore the inclusion of Ocean's 11, wanna marry Erin Brockovich - so glad at least some people can see beyond Julia's Oscar - and think the Julia, Far From Heaven and Block Party are fantastic. The latter is one of the most moving, inspiring and life-affirming gifts of the decade I say. Whenever the soundtrack pops up on iTunes I smile.

Hunger? Perhaps one of the most grossly over-estimated films of the decade in my humble opinion. Almost no movie made cinephiles get such a hardon from being so incomprehensibly, statically, repulsively ugly. But, hey, that's just my opinion...

12:28 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Glenn, agreed on Hunger: there's a galling amount of "artful" exploitation in that (literal) shithouse. I will speak for the first ten minutes, though, as the movie refreshingly opens with the enigma of a man going to work: lowering his hands into a water basin, eyeing the road, checking under his car, puffing a cigarette in the snow. Too bad about the rest...

12:44 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

I'm always happy to include people in my very very tiny group of anti-Hunger activates. I did enjoy the opening bit too and that long take scene with the priest is good in what's going on, but I don't have any idea how it figures into the rest of the movie in any way other than a director wanting to show off.

Throughout the rest of it I could see the director behind the scenes nodding his head and saying claptrap like "aah yes, see how the character's inner spirit is reflecting with all this SHIT ON A WALL!" or something to that effect.

7:09 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Nick Duval said...

I see that you're big time into movies that are inflicting, as am I. "Hunger" and "Julia" I thought were incredible experiences, not just movies. So freaking tough to take but amazing nonetheless. Ditto with "The Wrestler" and "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (which I don't think is great but still powerful). I see others on this list apparently just as "inflicting," but that I haven't seen.

The only faux-pas I note as of yet is "Mother," loved by many but for me off the mark. Very well made, though. With Joon-Ho, if you're not caught in his tone, you're out. I also think "Anvil!" started great but ended up being only okay.

3:58 PM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin and @Glenn: I knew you guys were my anti-Hunger contingent, but I promise I wasn't baiting you by including it. Though I did decline from including the shit-spiral on the cell wall as my representative image. In McQueen's defense, I think his overall evocation of tactility in his images is just as vivid when he's filming linoleum, hair, metal grating, porcelain, skin, and light—there aren't a lot of filmmakers who even both to film the light, but he does—as when he's doting on spoilage and excrement. But I'm willing to see how the movie ages and find out if I start sharing more of your reservations.

@Nick: Hi there! I think you're right that I like "inflicting" cinema, although when it's done thoughtlessly or badly it's pretty miserable. I like when artists are representing something so difficult that it really forces them to think about what they're doing and why, and to me several of the movies you mention have that quality.

Mother is nothing if not divisive, and I even changed my mind about it several times while watching, but already in (fairly little) retrospect, that's become something I really treasure about it. Still, it makes perfect sense to me that it would warrant a split opinion.

4:04 PM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Joe Reid said...

Ack! Late to these -- commenting anyway. Don't take that to mean I haven't been rapt in following every post; it's my red-faced unfamiliarity with so many of these titles that's been keeping me largely quiet. But I did have to chime in because your take on Erin is so eerily similar to what I wrote in the 2000 summary I posted yesterday (but had written like a week ago). It really does seem like an improbably surprise every time, though.

11:09 AM, December 29, 2009  

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