The Rest of the Decade, Part Two

BeautifulContinuing on from yesterday’s post, here are a few more films that didn’t quite make the cut for my Top Ten of the Decade.

“Le Fils” (“The Son”) and “L’Enfant” (“The Child”): As the Dardenne brothers’ bleak, unadorned style spreads around the world — I thought Darren Aronofsky used it rather well in “The Wrestler” — it’s worth going back to the source to see what real emotional understatement looks like.

“George Washington”: David Gordon Green hasn’t really lived up to the promise he showed in his terrific debut; “All the Real Girls” is very good, but then it all goes to hell. That said, “George Washington” still stands as a film of tremendous, understated gravity — a piece of American Gothic that seems to point the way towards the revelations of post-Katrina New Orleans.

“Hellboy”: For all the praise heaped on “Pan’s Labyrinth”, I rather prefer Guillermo del Toro in full-on pulp mode; he brings a bruised charm to Mike Mignola’s comic-book universe that makes it feel fantastic, believable and strangely cozy. And, of course, Ron Perlman gives the performance of his career as Big Red.

“The Host”: More monster action, orchestrated by Bong Joon-ho with a kind of flat realism that makes the violent imposition of the unnatural into the lives of a squabbling family of Seoul underachievers all the more horrific. You can enjoy it for the social satire and the political subtext, or you can just luxuriate in the Godzilla movie you’ve always hoped to see.

“Hunger”: A meditation on martyrdom, righteous anger and institutional memory, Steve McQueen’s stunning, impressionistic look at the Maze Prison hunger strike was the most audacious directorial debut of the decade. I eagerly await the Criterion Blu-ray, even if I have to import the damn thing.

“Infernal Affairs” and “The Departed”: The former is a underworld thriller without an ounce of fat on its bones; the latter expands and personalizes Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s complex screenplay into a thrilling example of Martin Scorsese at his go-for-broke best. And even if you’ve seen one of them, the other still offers pleasures and surprises.

“L’Intrus” (“The Intruder”): The events depicted in Claire Denis’ fascinating, elliptical drama could be interpreted in a dozen different ways — and I have a sense that any of those interpretations would be just as valid as the rest. Whatever’s going on, though, it’s compelling, unsettling and strangely resonant.

“Kill Bill, Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill, Vol. 2”: The first half plays like a (mostly) live-action manga; the second, a dusty Western. Together, they’re Quentin Tarantino at his pop-art finest, a four-and-a-half hour epic in which he re-creates every single thing he loves about 1970s grindhouse movies … and Uma Thurman’s awesome performance makes it all mean something.

“King Kong”: Peter Jackson’s gargantuan remake never really tries to be its own entity; instead, it’s a love song to the stop-motion epic that made Jackson fall in love with cinema. Every scene plays like a rhapsody — yes, even in the first hour — and that central sequence where Kong and Ann get to know one another is as vivid and thrilling as anything Jackson’s ever done.

“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”: Robert Downey, Jr. started his return to glory with a plum role in Shane Black’s nimble, only-half-kidding action mystery — though it took a while for people to notice. I’m still not sure how Val Kilmer failed to make his own comeback; he’s at least as good as Downey, in a part that’s even more memorable.

… wow, that’s another thirteen titles. More tomorrow!

7 thoughts on “The Rest of the Decade, Part Two”

  1. 1. Le Fils
    2. L’Enfant
    3. George Washington
    4. Hellboy
    5. The Host
    6. Hunger
    7. Infernal Affairs
    8. The Departed
    9. L’Intrus
    10. Kill Bill Vol. 1
    11. Kill Bill Vol. 2
    12. King Kong
    13. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

    …nothing wrong here?

  2. Norm, you hope correctly. It’s one of my favorite lines, from among many quotable ones, from that movie. Nothing to do with your counting skills. I could just as easily queried whether you knew what you would find under the word “gullible” in the dictionary without any intended reflection on your smarts. I love a lot of lines from KKBB. (“Why would you pee on a corpse?” also comes to mind, but opportunities to quote it just never seem to come up in real life.)

  3. @ Chris — I believe you’re thinking of the word “idiot”, actually. Unless your use of “gullible” was another attempt to confuse me, Gay Perry-style. In which case, well-played.

    God, I love that movie. I want to watch it again RIGHT NOW.

  4. You’re right. I’m randomly quoting a movie I love but haven’t seen in a while, and I’ve obviously undergone some sort of “quote-drift”. No disrespect or confusion intended. Happy New Year and Better New Decade!

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