— by JASON EAKEN —
We previously offered you The Decade’s Top 10 Films: Part I — No. 10 to No. 6 (read it by clicking here). And now for the rest of the list …
5. “Kill Bill”
I took a girl to see “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” and she walked out. I stayed. We’re not together anymore, but I’ve got a four-hour masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino, so you won’t catch me complaining. For those who say “Volume 2” is better or “Volume 1” is more exciting, I say you’re missing the point. It’s one story, one movie, you just had to wait a while for the second part. In a style all his own, Tarantino frontloads the action and the movie, about Uma Thurman’s “The Bride” hunting down the man who tried to kill her – her husband. There’s kung-fu and some western and even some comic book. “Volume 1” has an incredible action set-piece in the restaurant, and “Volume 2” has my favorite scene — a flashback where The Bride finds out she’s pregnant just as someone comes to kill her. The conversation between The Bride and her would-be assassin (also a woman) shows Tarantino’s patience and skill a story-teller. I’m partial to “Pulp Fiction,” but this may be Tarantino’s most complete work.
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4. “The Incredibles”
Not only is “The Incredibles” the best movie to come from Pixar, it’s also the best superhero movie ever made. There isn’t a wasted moment in Brad Bird’s movie, which is sortof like a combination of “Watchmen,” “The Fantastic Four,” and “American Beauty.” You’ve got super-heroes being sued for saving people. Everyone in the family has a unique, awesome power. There is endless commentary on the state of the suburban family. Come on! Plus, the action. The best sequence in the movie involves the young son, Dash (he’s fast), running from bad guys on an island. He’s been chased for a long time, and all of a sudden he looks down and realizes, to his total glee, that he is running on water. The combination of the score, the reveal, and Dash’s reaction make it a perfect moment. This is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. And one of the smartest.
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“Traffic” is not the movie for the lazy. Convoluted plot-lines, dialogue-heavy, fast explanations of who people are and why they’re important, and a huge ensemble all surrounding the notion of the War on Drugs. Senators and Drug Czars, corrupt Mexican officials and cops trying to figure out their place. Kingpins and D.E.A. agents and informants, parents and children, and one man choosing whether or not to be corrupted.
The film won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director, and well-deserved. It’s my favorite Soderbergh picture for the way he coordinates all the stories and finds a bold look for each setting to help tell the story more clearly. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it asks the right questions and looks in the right places.
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2. “The Royal Tenebaums”
Another ensemble, Wes Anderson’s film does what all of his films do — it looks at the life of a family through the prism the patriarch’s effect on the rest of them. But it does what not quite all of his films do – it gives just the right amount of time to each character and weaves the stories together so that we can’t quite gauge how everyone will respond. It is funny and exciting and compassionate and sad and whimsical and quirky — that evil word that used to mean something better than it means now.
The movie is grounded by Gene Hackman’s performance as Royal, who isn’t so much an asshole as just more a son of a bitch. Anderson doesn’t play safe and the material gets dark, even bleak. But in one of the film’s final shots, a long-take that puts a button on the story but not the characters’ lives or issues, there is a definitive hope. Isn’t that just like a comedy.
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1. “The Lord of the Rings”
I suppose there must be people who don’t like this series, but I don’t have much use for them. Peter Jackson solidified his place in film history with the best trilogy ever made. That’s a little unfair, since it’s really all one story. One glorious epic story about good and evil and love and death and regret and friendship and loyalty and pretty much anything worth anything. This is truly awesome spectacle, with numerous amazing battle sequences (my favorite may be the battle and chase in the Caverns from “Fellowship…”), grand landscapes and maybe the biggest scope of any movie ever made.
But what sets it apart is it gives dimension to all those elements, they’re not cardboard cut-outs. There are difficult choices in hopeless moments and to say everything worked out in the end is pretty naïve. When Sam confronts a giant spider, it is loaded with the weight of saving Frodo, which itself is loaded with our knowledge that Frodo has been particularly horrible to Sam for quite some time. The movie blends its spectacle and story seamlessly, and the result is a great and unique entertainment that captivated audiences and critics.
Maybe this movie is No. 1 for me because these movies were the biggest event-films of this decade. I remember the planning that went into seeing it, the standing in lines for hours with family and friends. Going early to save seats. Seeing the movie over and over again because you knew you weren’t going to see anything else like it for 12 months until the next one came out.
I hadn’t read the books and even though I could guess how it would end, there was such a sense of anticipation about the films. They have a wonderfully mysterious quality to them that reaches something inside of me, longing and ready for adventure and danger and something bigger than myself. “The Lord of the Rings” tapped into that and did so with respect and care and true cinematic brilliance. It is the best film of the decade.
10 years, 10 movies, that makes sense, right? But while we’re at it, who can stop at just 10? Check out my Top 30 Films of the Decade.
Follow Jason Eaken on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EAKEN.