Top 50: 2000 – 2009 #30 – #21

What does a film need to do to become a modern classic in just five short years? For Robert Zemeckis’s The Polar Express, it wasn’t an easy task, what with it’s pioneering, but rough implementation of MOCAP technology causing an initial backlash among movie-goers, and yet here it is. The Polar Express has become the It’s A Wonderful Life of the new millennium, and it’s as powerfully moving as it is aesthetically pleasing.

Joe Wright’s Atonement is not a ‘nice’ movie. The film has the audacity to make the claim that fabrication is an acceptable practice when writing about real people and events. The lesson the viewer learns during the harrowing two hours while viewing this film is that sometimes fiction can be more honest than the truth – a potential oxymoron that the strength of the film prevents the viewer from fully realizing.

Another technological marvel of the last decade, Sin City is also one of the most fun and breathtaking movie-going experiences ever. The members of the star-studded cast effortlessly morph into their characters, and nothing can prevent one from enjoying this work of art.

The best Will Smith movie of the last decade, is also the best Matt Damon movie of the last decade. Nothing could have prepared us for the surprisingly minor turns these two actors took in Robert Redford’s stunning The Legend of Bagger Vance. You don’t need to be a golf fan to fall in love with this wonderful film.

No one would have thought that the most powerful political film of the last decade would tell the story of a nymph-like creature living in the pool of an apartment building, but then again, when M. Night Shyamalan is involved anything is possible. Lady in the Water is a film that is so forceful and unapologetic, that even if one disagrees with its anti-war message, he or she will be left cheering at the end. This film demonstrates that if we stick together, no matter how different we may be from one another, we can achieve anything we set our mind to, and that may be the most pertinent message of the last decade.

The best documentary of the last decade sees director Werner Herzog editorializing about a tragic figure’s life and death – that of one Timothy Treadwell – the titular Grizzly Man. It is a film made up largely of Treadwell’s amazing footage, and Herzog’s interjections make its impact even stronger. The last scene of the film, which plays as the credits roll, is one I will never forget.

Most Robert Zemeckis detractors tend to bypass the fact that Cast Away is one of his films – that’s how great it is. And considering that most of Zemeckis’s detractors hate cinema as an art form, and embrace Steven Soderbergh, it’s actually saying quiet a lot.

Sadistic, cynical, violent… and yet still one of the most beautiful fairy tales ever told – Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth gets better and better with time.

Memento is still Christopher Nolan’s best film, and that its storytelling style, along with it’s aesthetic quality, haven’t been duplicated yet (through many attempts since) speaks to just how well a filmmaker who isn’t on top of the world can perform.

What’s not to like? Martin Scorsese doesn’t make a single wrong move with The Aviator – a star-studded historical epic that is almost uncomfortably accurate in its depiction of Howard Hughes’s tumultuous life. It didn’t go down easy when it first came out, and it still doesn’t today, but it’s certainly a trip worth taking.

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