The lists are flying left and right as the Oughts wind down, or wind up, and I’m not proud -- I’ll add my catalog of essential titles to the deliberations. Culling from my year-end best-of lists (and adding one glaring omission – how could I have overlooked the title responsible for the decade’s ultimate movie catchphrase, “I drink your milkshake”?), and revisiting work by the likes of the Andersons (Wes and Paul Thomas), the Coens (Joel and Ethan), Clint Eastwood and AngLee (all with multiple contenders over the last decade), I’ve got the list down to the requisite ten.
Here goes (alphabetically):
Amelie (2001), with Audrey Tautou as a playing-with-fate café waitress, from the impossibly inventive director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Brokeback Mountain (2005), the heartbreaking gay cowboy love story, with a sad, searing performance from the late Heath Ledger
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004): Even with Jim Carrey in the lead, this is great stuff -- a trippy, goofball study of love and memory, steeped in melancholy
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Wes Anderson makes stop-motion animation magic, and offers a witty but profound take on the nature of -- well, human nature. Not to mention the nature of well-dressed, well-spoken foxes, badgers and moles, too. For kids, for adults, for everyone.
Into the Wild (2007), Sean Penn directs this Great American road movie, a beautiful tragedy about the need for human connection, and what happens when the quest for solitude turns dark and dire
Michael Clayton (2007), George Clooney stars in Tony Gilroy’s endlessly satisfying legal thriller/existential drama (really – it’s been on HBO heavy rotation forever, and never disappoints)
Million Dollar Baby (2004), Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning femme fight flick, with the sage Clint Eastwood guiding her both onscreen and from behind the camera
Sideways (2004), an oenophilic road movie and bittersweet romance, with Paul Giamatti as the tortured writer/Merlot hater. Smart, funny, sublime
Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Danny Boyle’s whirling Hindi fable about love and destiny, good fortune and cold cruelty, the hardships of life – and the happiness it can bring. (Especially when everybody in the cast starts boogieing crazily as the end credits roll)
There Will Be Blood (2007) Daniel Day Lewis is unforgettable as a money-mad oil prospector in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic about greed, God and going off the deep end in your own private bowling alley