Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guest Post - Tanner McCuin - Best of the Aughts

Tanner McCuin is a freelance web designer & record store jerk. Occasionally he listens to some music and watches a movie. Someday he hopes to grow a proper beard.

My top 10 most Riveting Films of the 2000's.

This is a tough list to compile - I won't even dare say it's comprehensive, but i think in some respects, a list right off the top of the head is more revealing and honest, than one well researched and documented. Yeah, sure - that sounds good.

I have a lot of criteria for what constitutes a riveting film, while the end result is always the same, quickened pulse, wide staring eyes, lost time, sudden embarrassing emotional outburst in crowded theaters - the criteria itself varies - i like to think of myself a cinematic relativist - i try not to pander to a film, but i do try and understand it by it's own language, within it's genre, and by the scope and breadth of it's intent, (or at least, what i perceive of it's intent) and ability to achieve that intent. A fairly long explanation for what essential constitutes "My personal taste, so go **** yourself" but i digress. The list.

The Descent (2005) - This film gave me a panic attack - a couple of times. I still love to watch it when i get the chance to break it out on someone who's never seen it before. I was a fan of the director's first effort, Dog Soldiers, a somewhat goofy but fun and skillfully put together werewolf meets predator romp, but the Descent is by far the better film. Before the creatures even show up (and they show up earlier than you might have originally noticed) you're already white knuckling it from the claustrophobic tunnel action. Combine the two elements, add a non cliche, all girl cast, and an (original version) ending that doesn't pull punches, and you've got a classic horror / thriller.

The Fountai
n (2006) - Speaking of lofty themes and Archetypes... The Fountain pretty much takes the cake in that department. If i remember correctly i had tears in my eyes when i walked out of the theater and a deep feeling that i had just watched a remarkably personal, yet universal film - The fear of death, necrophobia, is a distinctly human fear, and in our uncertain and potentially meaningless post-modern times, is extremely resonant - that Aronofsky wrote this one in the wake of losing a parent makes sense - there's a fervor and a disregard present throughout this movie, like a whirling dervish of emotion and catharsis and while many critics complained of a train wreck, it felt more like a rocket to the sun, or the movie's protagonist, hurtling himself towards an uncertain blissful oblivion.

Children Of Men (2006) - If this list were numbered, this would probably be #1 - I think i cried after this one. I think i remember driving home and just not saying anything at all. Just thinking about this one. I think for the first time in distopian Sci-fi film history, for me anyway, a film really kicked me in the nuts. Not in that sort of esoteric, rhetorical, snide way that is great too, the way the other great distopians do, like Brazil, The Delicatessen, or Terminator 2. But just a real emotional visceral, nut kick. The story was taut and the hand held documentary style camera work was incredibly unique, the acting (aside from Maude Lebowski, but we won't go there.) was superb, and the actual future world itself, is easily the best imaged in the 00's and an easy contender for the 5 of all time.

Oldboy / Vengeance Trilogy
(2002, 2003, 2005)- What incredibly stylish and involving films - an absolute perfect storm of style and substance - a bit more style than substance, but when a series of films comes off so well, with such wonderfully unique characters and plot devices, who cares about things like plausibility? I don't. That dude just took out like 40 guys with a hammer... put it on the list!

Gosford Park (2001) - This film is simply pure understated cinematic perfection - it's Altman flexing his incredible film-making muscle with little to no intention other than to pay tribute to and at the same time beat at it's own game, a handful of Hollywood's beloved genres - period piece, murder mystery, and his very own trademark style of overlapping dialog and character arcs. All with a slight self aware wink and nod that never over asserts itself - This film can be enjoyed (and indeed, for me has been) on so many levels, snippets of dialogue, slight glances and knowing aversions of eye, all reveal themselves slowly over time and by it's 20th viewing you realize how incredibly rich and demure a film (and homage to film) Altman crafted with Gosford Park.

A History Of Violence
(2005)- This one's weird. This one's Cronenberg. So yeah, duh. I still to this day can't really explain why i love this movie so much - I've defended it from day one from alot of people who thought it was garbage, or even worse just another action movie. (Those people are morons.) I think one part of it is how insidiously Cronenberg's villains are introduced into, and juxtaposed against that classic American small town. There are many lofty themes and archetypes working in this one, under the guise of just a standard Hollywood Guy kills a bunch of other guys film and every time i watch it I'm glued to my seat and I'm left thinking about the significance of what i just watched.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) - About the point where the cruel Captain graphically and mercilessly bashes in the nose of the Spaniard with the butt of a bottle is when i realized i wasn't watching a normal director's "dark and stylish take on the fairytale". Guillermo Del Toro is the only director working now (that's right Tim Burton, you haven't made a film of this caliber since Edward Scissorhands) who has captured the true magic and horror of childhood - who can balance soft, resonant fleeting innocence, with the cruel, bright light of dawning realization that life isn't what we want it to be. In fact, it's often what we wish most it was not.

The Proposition (2005)- Watching the proposition is like watching someone slowly hang to death while tripping on mushrooms. I imagine anyway. It's also like if you could watch a bunch of Nick Cave songs, while tripping on mushrooms. But that's fairly reductive isn't it? It's hard to say what makes this film so riveting - the acting, is all as good as it gets, Ray Winstone is one of my favorite actors, his beleaguered law-man and husband is so pitiful and real - "Real" that's the word, this story, while strikingly, phantasmagorically lyrical is also one of the most flat out "real" films I've seen this decade. You can practically smell the flies sticking all over the faces of the corpses, man. i mean, wow man, tripping balls.

No Country For Old Men (2007)
- The question posed, like a bird of prey over our heads through out No Country is one regarding the origin, the nature of, the causation, or lack there of, of evil. How do these things come about, how do we bring them on ourselves, and once we've brought them out of the box, are we powerless to put them back in? Where do we go from here, where do we find our strength? To quote one of my favorite authors WG Sebald: "The history of every individual of every social order, indeed of the whole world, does not describe an ever-widening, more and more wonderful arc, but rather follows a course which, once the meridian is reached, leads without fail down into the dark." Like the quote, No Country left me in a dark rumination that i didn't recover from until the 3rd time i watched it, and realized how brutally hilarious it was.

Wall-E (2008) - The first 30 minutes of Wall-E are pure cinematic bliss. The film as a whole, is one of the greatest animated features ever produced. Wall-E's power to convey a universal message of love & hope is simple, honest, fun and breath-taking to watch.

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