Top 50: 2000 – 2009 #40 – #31

A great example of American cinema, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a beautiful and unconventional film that takes its viewer on an emotional roller coaster ride led by Daniel Day-Lewis’s fantastic performance. Director Anderson’s film is a political allegory of sorts, but even more so an exploration of people’s ability to simultaneously destroy and create by utilizing the economics of capitalistic society. It is not a criticism of course, but one shouldn’t be reluctant to call it a plea for change.

Unparalleled in its originality, Tim Burton’s moving phantasmagoria Big Fish may be the legendary filmmaker’s finest hour. For a film that features giants, three-headed women, and many other types of circus freaks, it finds a surprising balance between truth and fiction, and Burton is brave enough to maneuver between the two without warning the viewer. Big Fish is on its way to becoming a modern classic, and no wonder – I can’t think of another mold that it might fit into.

Who would have thought that a sequel to the acclaimed 90’s horror Silence of the Lambs would be director Ridley Scott’s finest hour in the last decade. From the very start, Hannibal surprises, unnerves and disillusions its audience. Scott’s film is not a simple horror film, and the themes it offers up with the scares – love, faith, innocence, guilt – are treated in a broad, but intelligent manner.

A major and important entry in Clint Eastwood’s filmography, (Spike Lee be damned) Invictus represents the filmmaker at his best, because he has to rescue the film from a potentially cliched story. But great filmmaking always wins over cliche, not to mention great acting, cinematography, editing, score and of course a great message. Invictus has it all.

I knew how it was going to end, and it still surprised me! Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice is that type of film. It has the power to touch the heart of even the biggest cynic, as its timeless themes are brought to life in what maybe the most satisfying adaptation of the Jane Austen classic yet.
Martin Scorsese’s most underrated film, Gangs of New York signaled the beginning of a new phase of his career, and what a beginning it was. The last ten minutes of the film are ones that won’t leave the viewer’s mind easily and represent what Scorsese is best at – astonishing us through the use of pure cinema.

You have got to admit it – Hayao Miyazaki certainly has balls and his Spirited Away shows that. Refusing to fall into tiring anime conventions, Miyazaki created the most epic, moving traditionally animated film of the last decade. If the film doesn’t please you (though it will) at least Miyazaki’s fatal jab at the poisonous anime culture surely will.

One could talk about M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable for hours, but I’ll keep it short by simply saying that it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout and was one of only two movies of the last decade (the other is further up in the countdown) to be able to do that every single time I watch it. Shyamalan is a master of suspense, but its his portrayal of the family drama at the center of this film that truly impresses.

Apocalypto may be summed up as two hours of terror, but director Mel Gibson still makes the viewer care about the Mayan hero at the center of the story. As seemingly one of the few Mayans who didn’t contribute to the great civilization’s self-destruction, Jaguar Paw is a hero worth rooting for. Of course you have to sit through a movie that makes The Passion of the Christ look like Finding Nemo, but it’s still worth it.

I never thought action-helmer Tony Scott, would be involved with a film as engrossing and affecting as Man on Fire. That Scott is still able to come up with some of the millennium’s most iconic imagery despite his shaky (to say it lightly) camera-work is a testament to the stregth of the material. Lets say it like it is – Man on Fire may be the only film on this countdown that I have never heard someone say they disliked – that’s how unyielding and poignant Scott’s masterwork is.

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