Friday, January 29, 2010

The copy-editing conundrum

Featured Link to an Article of Mine on Helium:

I think it's funny (but mostly tragic) that people are complaining about copy editing mistakes in newspapers like the Washington Post or New York Times and cancelling their subscriptions out of disgust. Don't these people realize that if they cancel their newspaper it will give the newspapers even less revenue and less money to hire enough copy editors to cover their costs?

James Poniewozik at Times Magazine wrote a great article here where he discusses the crisis and says he doesn't blame people for canceling their subscription and surmises that eventually we'll have to enter into a social contract with the paper and decide what we're willing to give up for good journalism (i.e. less writers working in a metro section, less frequent delivery, tolerating more copy editors, etc.).

Personally, I do blame people for begrudging the newspaper for copy errors. It's one thing if the newspaper was inexplicably bringing out a poor product, but as consumers, we have been told exactly why this is occurring. It's one thing if the airline reservations agent is taking an inexplicably long amount of time to get back to you, but if you are across the street from the airport and you can visually see the airport is on fire, shouldn't you have enough sense to ascertain that the reservation's agent is not to blame?

I don't know anything about economics, but I think we have to be smart and responsible consumers. We can do anything we want with our money but newspaper subscribers should fully be aware of the consequences of their actions.

I personally reacted to this story with a sense of, "OK, the newspapers are in trouble, and this is completely understandable. If I want the quality of journalism to get better, I'm going to have to subscribe to their services."

Lastly, I don't think people realize how easy it is to make mistakes. Maybe the newspapers need to make readers understand that a little better, because when you're writing under a deadline, it's hader than you think to copy-edit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2012: At least Emmerich is an autuer

I saw 2012 last night at $1 Mondays at the Cinema and Drafthouse (but have no fear that i'm ripping off the movie industry because I paid a $20 bill), marking my 22nd film I've seen this year. Here are my thoughts:

2012 was such a predictable disaster film that the audience is almost cued to watch it with a wink and a smile. Lines like "We're gonna need a bigger plane" are references to earlier films (Jaws in this case). The film shouldn't be applauded for being a parody because it clearly wasn't intended that way and it comes off more as a film that doesn't care much at all about characterization or being original. John Cusack's character I've seen before in Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds (older child despises him, younger child is too innocent to know the difference).

It didn't matter so much once the action hit because the special effects are the real treat of the movie and they certainly didn't dissapoint. Major points off for waiting 40 minutes to get to the special effects. Plot build-up and anticipation do work well in films like Jaws where the characters are interesting. The shots of a tiny single engine plane curving around crumbling towers and building is pretty cool and 40 minutes in, the picture gets interesting. The action also redeems the lack of characterization. It's the way that people react to an enormous disaster of global scale (in this case, the apocolypse) that defines them and starts to make us care about them to the point where we're in suspense over what happens to them in the finale.

I would say it's a fun but not-so-memorable film except that it was made by Roland Emmerich who's basically made this same exact film twice before: Day After Tomorrow, and Independence Day. They all take on the fairly impossible task of trying to portray the entire planet as one large ensemble and squeezing the face of humanity in a single 2-hour scenario. The scenario involves large scale apocolyptic disaster. The running theme (along with save the Earth, it's fragile) is that people are defined and ultimately united by how they react to disaster. 10,000 BC is sort of a reverse apocolypse with a beginning of the world scenario (as I understand it, I haven't seen the movie.

With these films, he's practically written his own genre and people can compare how he handles the exact same plot three and a half times. The question is whether it's unoriginal. My argument there is that some directors make a lot of sequels and Emmerich has never done that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunshine Cleaning: Getting a little bored of the indie style

I just saw Sunshine Cleaning and it felt old and recycled to me.
I wrote in my last post about dramedies because I saw this film and was dissapointed by it's depressingness. I believe it was advertised as having had some connection to Little Miss Sunshine (same director, same writer, something like that) and it wasn't much of a follow-up. LMS made me laugh, cry, and jump for joy. Sunshine Cleaning just made me cry a little. The highs weren't as high and the story wasn't as interesting.

Proponents of indie films like that they don't have heavy plots because actual stories with action or plots get greenlit by studios and storyless stories are too risky. Therefore, indie films tend to be character-centered. The problem is that these characters on screen are ones I've seen before and I am rapidly becoming bored of. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play two sisters in arrested development with real responsibilities that they can't handle that well. They trace it back to lack of a mother and work through those issues. As siblings who grew up in the same estranged circumnstances they make teammates on this journey. Emily Blunt's character also does drugs.

Let me recall the number of times I've seen this female adult-child variation:
There was Julia just this year whose protagonist had substance abuse problems. Last year, there was Rachel Getting Married whose protagonist was estranged from family and had substance abuse problems. Her path to retribution was through her sister. There was Laura Linney a year before that who went on a path of self-discovery with her brother in the Savages. Two years before that, there was In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz being perpetually jobless and drunk. She and sister Toni Collette grew up (one overcomes commitment issues, one overcomes joblessness) through oming to grips with their mom's demise into insanity and early death. Good Girl has a Sunshine State features Edie Falco in a state of arrested development because she's been living in the same town forever You Can Count on Me features Laura Linney as an aduilt child who lost her parents at a young age to a car crash. She revisits those memories through a visit from her brother.

I happen to love You Can Count on Me (because it was novel at the time and it had a very sharp self-awareness), Sunshine State (the disillusioned adult-child was part of a large ensemble) and In Her Shoes (because they switched the roles up and made the main character not as much of an adult child), os I can't say that this is a bad trend but it's being overused to the point where I just didn't enjoy this film because I've seen these exact characters before so recently.

Worse, it's also becoming surefire Oscar bait. Two of Laura Linney's three Oscar noms have resulted from this type of role, and Anne Hathaway got an Ocsar nod last year for Rachel Getting Married. Tilda Swinton has gotten buzz for her role as well, so this exact role is bound to be repeated.

What's funny is that people are always saying indie films are better than studio films because they're aloud to be original, but I don't see that happening at all.

The case for or against the indie dramedy

One notable trend I've found in the last decade is that 4 films made the Best Picture Oscar shortlist that could be classified as dramedies: Sideways, Lost in Translation, Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. I would argue that two of these barely even had any humor in them at all. What unites them all is that they're dialogue and character centered and feel very personal. They get the comedy label by virtue of being classified as such by the Golden Globes race. My theory is that they get into the Oscar race because the Academy decides "we'll nominate some dark and gritty dramas and mix it up a little by nominating one from the comedy/musical column." They were also very strong films. Each of these made my top 10 of the year and I think all four are strong films (although Juno has faded a little bit in retrospect).

The problem is that for every Lost in Translation there's a Savages or a Rachel Getting Married which aren't as enjoyable to watch but are marketed as comedies. Check out the trailer for Rachel Getting Married. It looks like a comedy but it isn't.

Small indie films have to market themselves somehow and they generally have less of an overarching plot to offer so the only solution in a character piece like this would be to try to find some remotely comic moments and string them together. The film even uses creative editing to make it seem even funnier. At :044 for example, Rachel's mother asks "Is your sister behaving herself?", Rachel says "I'm not exactly sure what that means, followed by Rachel's sister (the main character played by Anne Hathaway) proclaiming among an awkward crowd, "I am Sheeva the destroyer and it's great to be here this evening."

It's classic comedy: The fish-out-of-the-water situation of a drunk girl having fun at the wedding. Having watched the film, though, I can tell you that that moment is taken out of context and that anything that looks funny in the trailer is anything but funny in the actual movie. These moments of awkwardness of Rachel or a wedding guest doing something inappropriate at the wedding are not played for laughs, but rather used as a window into the desperation that is being experienced by a daughter returning from a 12-step program and reconciling with her family.

Little Miss Sunshine is a movie in which you'll laugh, cry and jump for joy. Rachel Getting Married is essentially a movie where you'll just cry. You'll also gain insight into human nature and possibly admire the directing and acting performances, but the point is that one should beware the dramedy. Not every low-budget character-centered piece is meant to be funny. Fortunately, the Golden Globes noted this and categorized Rachel Getting Married as a drama.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming face-to-face with a Tarantino film for the first time

I wasn't sure what to expect from Inglorious Basterds. It was the first film by Tarantino that appealed to me because while I like film noir: a Japanese-inspired urban crime drama has been his last 4 or 5 films' themes if i'm not mistaken and none of them appealed to me. We had to watch Pulp Fiction for class but we watched it out of order and skipped major parts so it didn't resonate with me.

Anyways, I wanted to see this film because it is shot in the outdoors and i wanted to see how the cinematography would go. I also thought the idea of Tarantino tackling a period piece and putting his stamp on one of the most established genres he'd otherwise have no business belonging in was too irresistible to miss.

My impressions on Tarantino:
1. One of Tarantino's trademarks as I gather it is finding creative ways to kill people. That's never appealed to me, personally. I don't like blood and gore that much. If that's Tarantino's creative capital, what separates him from the pack, that's not something I'd be on board entirely. I think anything other than a rapid death is unneccessary cruel and inhumane and I don't see the point in celebrating it. I'm not so much disgusted by it, but I feel like it's equivalent to a director showing off how graphically he might be able to convincingly portray a dog-fighting ring.

2. He also likes to remain steadfast to his cultural cues even when not entirely organic to the film and that creates a personal stamp. I was thinking that the score seemed most out of place, along with some other things.

3. Another thing is really good dialogue. Who wouldn't appreciate that? The best dialogue writers tend to gravitate towards dramedies and melodramas: Jim Sheridan, Cameron Crowe, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Kenneth Longorean, Sophia Coppolla and Diablo Cody. How many of these scribes would take on an action film. Tarantino is the only one and that increases his value in Hollywood exponentially because action sells the best.

4. Suspense: because violence is really heavy
Suspense: because violence is really heavy and could be gruesome and we don't want characters to die too gruesome a death, the film's can be more suspenseful than they otherwise would have been.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just watched my 20th film this of what was the best so far

I've been working on some posts and because they haven't been completed yet, i didn't post them yet. In the meantime, here's a list of the 20 films I've seen so far in approximate order of best to worst, and my attempt to do a short list of the best i've seen so far.

1. Up in the Air
2. Inglolriouos Basterds
3. Soloist
4. Star Trek
5. In the Loop
6. Up
7. Hangover
8. Funny People
9. Extract
10. Invention of Lying
11. Night at the Museum 2
12. Angels and Demons
13. Invictus
14. Proposal
15. Whip It
16. Julia
17. Wolverine
18. Brothers Bloom
19. Land of the Lost
20. Bruno

Rob Downey Jr., The Soloist-I will admit that because it was released before Summer, it stands virtually no chance of getting nominated, but there’s plenty to appreciate here. His role of a beat reporter was entirely without glamour and in the hands of many other actors, he would easily be upstaged by Jamie Foxx’s more showier role of a schizophrenic artist. Downey commanded attention through consistency. It was a solid character whose presence felt heartfelt and inspirational in every scene. He also
took on a real-life character and changed him significantly to alter the story while keeping the general spirit of the story alive.

Morgan Freeman, Invictus-I put Downey Jr. first because this was one was a little Oscar-baity. He’s Morgan Freeman playing Mandela, what are you going to expect but something sincere? It was probably technically perfect and a pretty good stretch for Freeman so I’d say he deserves a nom. It just moved me a little less than Downey Jr.

George Clooney, Up in the Air-For the record, I’m still pretty sick on all the Clooney love in Hollywood. He’s a good guy and good actor, but I’m so tired of all these mushy speeches about how he’s the reincarnation of Mr. Smith Going to Washington. Clooney is so overexposed that when I see him on the screen, I get pretty bored pretty quick. As a result, Clooney practically has to mix it up at this point to hold my attention, and that he did in this film. Reitman said iin an interview that he was looking to actually put Clooney in an emotionally vulnerable stage and have him fall in love, and he succeeded. Clooney played a character I could emotionally get behind in his mentoring scenes of Natalie and in his love scenes with Vera. You even felt that heartbreak when he finally got that 10,000,000th mile. Deserves an Oscar nom by a hair, in my opinion.

Jamie Foxx, Soloist-Foxx is usually always on my lists for films I wasn’t even expecting him to be on (Jarhead, Dreamgirls, etc.) and in the Soloist he played it just right. There was one particular scene that I felt was awkward in the wrong way and one scene after that, that didn’t entirely make sense with me (when he proclaimed Steve Lopez was like God, and went a little delusional with singing about how ballerinas are graceful and dance around) and detached me from the character.

(tie) Ricky Gervaise, Invention of Lying and Adam Sandler, Funny People- These aren’t serious Oscar contenders although I wouldn’t have been disappointed to see either of them as Golden Globe nominees in the comedy category. Sandler played moments of sadness very well and on its own would be worthy on my very short list, at least. Gervaise, himself, I admired for taking his comic persona and fine-tuning it just the right amount to meet the demands of this movie.

Actress: Because I don’t watch a lot of Jane Austen films, I always worry that I couldn’t possibly produce a list of 5 leading actresses but I managed 5.
Rachel Weicz, Brothers Bloom-Not a particularly good film but Rachel Weicz’ wide-eyed recluse who is discovering adventure for the first time is practically the only reason she holds your interest. She’s the stand-in for the audience as you’re watching everything unfold for her eyes and if she wasn’t taken in by what she was experiencing you wouldn’t either
Tilda Swinton, Julia-It’s a role reminiscent of Anne Hathaway last year in Rachel Getting Married: Essentially it’s a messed-up woman with addiction problems going nowhere in life. It’s not something I’d endorse for Oscar because it didn’t captivate me but relative to the other 19 films on this list, it’s good enough for 2nd here.
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal-Maybe I’m buying into all the hype of Sandra Bullock’s career comeback, but I do have to admit that while it wasn’t too much more than a standard rom-com role, I was reminded of how fresh Sandra Bullock makes a tired script and how challenging it might have been to pull that off with her increasing age and the number of times I’ve seen it done before..
Anna Chlumsky, In the Loop-As someone who lives in D.C., I see interns like Liza Weld: knows everything, ridiculously ambuitious, and underneath it all, probably a little unsure of what to do with their power.
Anna Friel, Land of the Lost-She’s in the absolute worst film I’ve seen this year. Sometimes you see someone play a role so charmingly that you have to applaud them for making due with a terrible script and leaving it unscathed

Supporting Actor: (this list is not yet fully formed)
Christophe Waltz, Inglorious Basterds-With Javier Bardem and Heath Ledger winning the last two years for being the worst of villains, I imagined before watching Christophe Waltz that he would be equally villainous. What I saw instead was an interesting man of contradictions: A Nazi who is a sophisticated man with a refined sense of manners. He’s not so much defined by his villainy as he is defined by being a worthy opponent to the protagonist.

Tom Hollander, In the Loop-The straight man in the middle of a scene of complete chaos is an always underappreciated role (see Jason Bateman, Arrested Development or John Ritter, Three’s Company). Hollander played it very well

Ed Asner, Up-I don’t usually feel that animated films deserve a shot for acting noms. I still don’t. He’s just #3 on my list because it wasn’t as good of a year for supporting actors as it was for actresses.

Matt Damon, Invictus-I love Matt Damon and think he has one of the best seven or eight bodies of work this decade for an actor (behind Depp, Blanchett Streep, Crowe, DiCaprio and Penn). He absolutely deserved nominations for Good German (over Ryan Gosling) or Talented Mr. Ripley (over Richard Farnsworth) or possibly Bourne Ultimatum (over Virgo Mortgensen). What’s done is done, however, and if we’re simply looking at the best five actors this year, I don’t believe he’s it. Other than donning an accent, there’s nothing particularly notable about Damon here except that he’s in a Clint Eastwood film and everyone in Eastwood’s films get noms. Still, Damon in a weaker performance is good for about 4th here.

Saul Rubineck, Julia-There was one perfectly delivered scene where Julia was accusing Rubineck’s character of sleeping with her when she was drunk, and he’s answering her in a way that is all at once alleviating himself of any guilt, blaming her for her illness, reaching out to help her, and avoiding the question entirely. It’s a scene that was one of the most memorable of my year, and wouldn’t have worked without him pulling it off so well.

Supporting Actress:
Melanie Laurant, Inglorious Basterds-Her character has many facets: Direct and uninterested when being approached by a German soldier smitten with her; uncomfortably nervous when approached by the man who killed her family; and empowered when she and her immigrant lover plot revenge.

Vera Farminga, Up in the Air-Without disclosing a spoiler, I’ll just say she’s a woman with a secret. You can measure how great of a job she does simply by noting that up until the big reveal, she has us looking the other way on first viewing and see the obvious on second viewing.

Zoe Saldana, Star Trek-I heard she was great in Avatar. Star Trek’s cast members are all great in replicating the original roles while reinvigorating them at the same time (something that is very hard to do). Saldanna’s might have possibly been my favorite performance of the cast. The scenes where she approaches Spock in the elevator (and we’re not even sure if they’re together) was a moment that resonated a lot.

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air-Something that I have no objection to taking home the Oscar. If the film is considered comedic, then she was the big scene stealer. She was someone who could be given a spinoff as far as I’m concerned. She had less moments in the script that she could take off and run with as Farminga did as far as I’m concerned.

(tie) Catherine Keener-The Soloist-Keener can make a big impression in a few scenes and make you want to see more of her.
Amy Admas-Night at the Museum-If they gave an Oscar to Cate Blanchett for channeling Katherine Hepburn, why not Amy Adams? Even though her film wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously for Oscar consideration, she was a fantastic homage to Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby.

Up In the Air (adapted)-Major changes had to made to the book including adding the two female characters. The spirit of the book which is about the transience of being permanently on business travel is also on display there very well.

Soloist (adapted)-From Steve Lopez's book, the film takes and adapts the two characters to fit a more cinematic mold

Inglorious Basterds (original)-I've always heard Tarantino had a knack for dialogue and that sounds most appropriate. Negative points for not making Brad Pitt's part much different than his comedic turn in Burn After Reading. Writing Dianne Kruger, Christophe Waltz and Melanie Laurent's parts alone do deserve big points, however.

In the Loop (adapted)-It was a great film, but it could have felt just a little more cinematic, so a few negative points for that.

Funny People (original)-I had to respect it for integrating all that comedy and finding truth in so many funny moments.

Hangover (original)-It just won best comedy at the globes. It's a great movie that grows on me in time. I'm not going to knock it down

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air-Kept it at the right length and made what could have been flat material come alive. His chances of winning the Oscar might be significantly lower but has a good chance of winning as producer as well as screenwriter

Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds-Anyone could see that the film is artfully done so there's little convincing to do

Armando Ianoucci, In the Loop-The director went all handheld on us to give us an indie feel. It worked well.

J.J. Abrams, Star Trek-It's hard to establish a unique voice in your directing style as a director of a summer blockbuster when you've only done one film before. I think he set the tone for the revived franchised just right on his first go and that's really when you need it.

Mike Judge, Extract-I liked this film very much. It wasn't as flat-out funny as Office Space but it was interesting and its characters felt real. Bravo to him for following up Office Space with something that feels interesting in its own right but retains the charm of the original.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

If they made a perfectly measured best of the decade list

Previously, I made a top 50 of the decade list. This entry is if they came up with a way to measure every film critic in America, every film buff and every academy award voter and they came up with some perfectly weighted system to measure the best films of the decade, here's what I would imagine the results would be. indicate which films are too high or low on this list. Also, I am not including more than one of any film series. AGAIN, THIS IS NOT IN ANY WAY A PERSONAL OPINION
1. Lord of the Rings: ROTK, Peter Jackson**-The definitive blockbuster of the decade. It had the trifecta of cultural buzz, box office success and critical success.
2. There Will be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson *-Paul Thomas Anderson is a director with an increasingly more respected track record as his 90's films Boogie Nights and Magnolia have retroactively gained stature. "There Will Be Blood" has an Oscar-winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis who's considered by critics to be a rare gem (especially since he rarely acts in movies). It's a film that touches on the themes of capitalism gone awry so it gets points for capturing the zitgiest as well as for having a bold, artistic vision.
3. City of God, Fernando Meirelles + -The '00s were a decade when international films had more of a fighting chance of entering the American mainstream if they were good enough. City of God was probably the most universally acknowledged as brilliant among those films that were widely seen by American audiences. It also has the gangster genre going for it, which is one that always gets critical acclaim.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Gondry-If the best-of-the decade retrospectives are to be believed, you would think that Eternal Sunshine and Sideways were the two front-runners for Best picture in the 2005 Oscar race rather than Aviator and Million Dollar Baby. My theories as to Eternal Sunshine's retroactive rise in popularity: 1) Broken storylines have defined the decade well and Eternal Sunshine had a fragmented storyline that didn't invalidate the story (i.e. Vanilla Sky, Mullholland Drive) but provided enough spin on the conventional love story 2) It merged technology with storytellling so it was kind of the next level of storytelling in that way 3) It was the most love storyesque of the three Charlie Kaufman films 4) Michael Gondry, Jim Carrey, Tom Wilkinson, Kate Winslet all have high Q ratings at the moment. Gondry was famous for music videos and short films and film students eat that s--- up
5. Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee *-A love story between two guys that was slated for Oscar Gold. Has anything like that even come close to happening before? The performances in this film are already iconic.
6. Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan-It ignited a self-feeding euphoria of "Best film ever??!" talk when it ascended to #1 on the imdb. In its defense, it redefined and transcended the superhero film genre which is THE genre who's growth defined the decade. The film boasted sensational acting, sensational choreography, sensational sound-editing, a sensational score and a sensational adaptation making it primed to sweep the Oscars in a number of ways.
7. Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro-In terms of unquestionably innovative, this is it. The idea of taking the war picture and telling it from the point-of-view from kids and it was one of the three Amigos' films: 3 Mexican filmmakers all had big Welcome to Hollywood hits in 2006: Pan's Labrynth, Gonzalu's Babel and Cuaron's aforementioned Children of Men.
It was ranked #1 by metacritic for films of the last 10 years.
8. Wall-E, Andrew Staunton-This film truly transcended the animated film genre. It was bold enough to forego dialogue for the movie's first act and bolder still in choosing to make it's love story about two robots. It had a message but didn't come off as preachy.
9. Mulholland Drive, David Lynch +-Lynch's film had the entire audience (including the critics) simultaneously scratching their heads at the end in confusion, but one of the supposed strengths of the film is that everyone went "Huh?" in union leading to one of the few moments of universality all decade long. It wasn't just the "Huh?" and the fact that people still couldn't figure it out but Lynch's disfigured narrative was engrossing enough that it remains one of Lynch's most widely-viewed and popular works.
10. Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle **-An internationally shot film that was gritty and inspiring. Nary a bad review in sight and a near sweep at the Oscars. As it stands, the second most popular best picture winner behind LOTR. Boyle is a filmmaker for the 21st Century and this film's Best Picture award signifies a promising career that has rightfully blossomed since Trainspotting in 1996.

11. Gladiator, Ridley Scott **-Not particularly ambitious but the direction, performances, and overall production values of the picture propelled it to a best picture win. Whether a genre film like Gladiator ages well is partially dependent on the genre's level of saturation at the time of relief. Fortunately, this Roman sandals epic captured audience imaginations and created both word-of-mouth and cultural resonance.
12. Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron **-Guys like Peter Travers at Rolling Stone and Jim Emerson at put this on their top ten list. EW listed it as one of 25 films that will remain a classic. I've seen it and I'm not sure why it was so great but it was unquestionably bold. Boldness of vision is a keyword I'm using a lot to describe what attracts critics to these films.
13. Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe-This didn't earn an Oscar nomination but retroactively it would have if critics were voting again. I've seen it pop up practically everywhere from the AV Club's list to Culture Snob to MSN Movie's list to name a few. I believe it's enhanced reputation over the years has come about because after this film, Cameron Crowe didn't make a good film again. Elizabethtown (which I personally liked) was panned for being a little too eager to tug at the heartstrings and Vanilla Sky was somewhat of a mess. The film has aged well and is the epitome of Crowe's personal touch.

14. Departed, Martin Scorsese **-Scorsesee tried hard to get an Oscar with every film he made this decade and this struck Gold. Whether it's ambitious as his two prior films, this was universally considered a crowd-pleaser. It was also a higher grossing movie than Aviator or GONY.

15. Hurt Locker, Kathyn Bighelow**-The 2000s were far more war-filled than the last two decades and the struggle to translate the conflicts from that war onto the movie screen were

16. Traffic, Steve Soderbergh*-Among films complex enough to be able to win big raves in the short-term and still feel like a work of art ten years later, this makes the list. Soderbergh won best director and Stephen Gaghan (director of Syriana) won best adapted screenplay and if they were to revote 10 years later, my bet is they would still win. Making an star-sprinkled ensemble piece that's more than the sum of its parts is rare to pull off (With so many stars appearing for narratively irrelevant cameos, I'd argue that even The Player falls short of this mark), but Traffic makes it work. Unfortunately, Soderbergh would do the exact opposite (making a movie for little reason other than the fact that high profile stars agreed to be in it) with Ocean's 12.
17. The Pianist, Roman Polanski*-Polanski's deeply personal film about art's power to heal tragedy scored some unexpected awards in the best picture race of 2002. It's a film with fairly universal praise.
18. Spiderman II, Sam Raimi- Before the Dark Knight, Spiderman II rewrote the rule book on sequels. Following up on a film that shattered records, Raimi and the filmmakers amplified the narrative by adding new angles (Spiderman's choice to be Spiderman) and revived the Superhero genre by keeping the action grounded in reality. It's a format that has been used in most of the superhero genres this decade. In short, it's been a big influence.
19. Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood*-This has undoubtedly been the decade of Eastwood. His boldest directorial effort was telling a war story from the point of view from both sides. Whether this film changed the landscape of cinema like Unforgiven did or not, it won critics and audiences over. It was named the National Board of Review's best film of the year and made a lot of top ten lists.
20. No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen **-It's not one that I particularly felt was worthy of best picture. Fractured endings are popular and the Coens, despite some inconsistency this decade, have overally come out of the aughts at the top of their game.
21. Lost in Translation, Sophia Coppola *-As Roger Ebert put it, this was a different kind of film that required the viewers to be patient and let love unfold at real-life pace. In a crowded year, the film eked out a best picture nomination and won a screenwriting Oscar for Sofia Coppolla
22. Memento, Christopher Nolan-The film's method of telling a story was a game changer at the time and the film holds up just as well now. Adapted from a short story by Nolan and his brother, this film was the world's first demonstration of Nolan's genius for telling a complex story and putting it to film. Curiously, Guy Pearce never got himself a slot on Christopher Nolan's preferred actor list for later movies

23. Avatar, James Cameron
24. Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky
25. Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson

26. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee *
27. Moulin Rouge!, Nicole Kidman
28. The Incredibles, Brad Bird
29. Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes
30. Chicago, Rob Marshall **
31. Little Miss Sunshine, Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton *
32. Grizzly Man, Warner Herzog
33. Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Gore Verbinski
34. Munich, Stephen Spielberg *
35. Up in the Air, Jason Reitman *
36. Borat, Larry Charles
37. Juno, Jason Reitman *
38. Casino Royale, Martin Campbell
39. Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore
40. Prestige, Christopher Nolan
41. In America, Jim Sheridan
42. Michael Clayton, Tony Gileroy *
43. Hotel Rwanda, Terry George
44. Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese *
45. Gosford Park, Rob Altman *-Altman had some struggles finding audiences in the 80's and some of the 90's, but he has a strong base of admirers and with his last few films before his death in 2006, he further cemented his legacy as one of the legends of film. Godsford Park scored Altman his 5th Oscar nomination for director and was his 3rd film to be nominated for best picture.
46. 25th Hour, Spike Lee-25th Hour is making its way on some end of the year lists for the wrong reasons as far as I'm concerned: People are making too much of it as an allegory about 9/11 but some people (like Roger Ebert) just acknowledge that it's an excellent film
47. Mystic River, Clint Eastwood*- This film would have won the Oscar for Eastwood if that pesky sequel Lord of the Rings wasn't in the way. It was an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel that audiences found stirring, well-acted, and emotionally resonant. It basically marked the rebirth of Clint and might have been overshadowed since by Million Dollar Baby, Letters, Changeling and Gran Torino, I've seen it sneak up on a few lists.
48. Talk to Her, Pedro Almodovar+- This list needs more foreign films and Almodovar is hard to ignore with his success in Volver, Bad Education, and
49. Little Children, Todd Fields-Fields made a couple of melodramas in this film and In the Bedroom that critics found quite effective
50. 21 Grams, Alejandro Inarritu Gonzalu-A.I.G. had 3 successful films. Amores Perros was entirely in subtitles so it had the most indie cred. Babel was the most well-publicized film because it got the Oscar nom. 21 Grams was the happy balance in the middle.

+=Best Director nom without a best picture nom
*=Best Picture nom
**=Best picture winner
Also under consideration: Dreamgirls, Bill Condon; Into the Wild, Sean Penn; Up, Pete Doctor (animated); United 93, Paul Greengrass; Bourne Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass; Crash, Paul Haggis; King Kong, Peter Jackson; Constant Gardener, Fernando Meirelles; Ray, Taylor Hackford; Blind Side, John Lee Hancock; Milk, Gus van Sant; Match Point, Woody Allen; Amilie, Jean Pierre Juenet; Big Fish, Tim Burton; Blood Diamond, Ed Zwick

Also, by year:
2000: Gladiator, Almost Famous, Traffic, CTHD, Reqiuem for a Dream
2001: Mullholland Drive, Moulan Rouge, Royal Tannenbaums, Momento, Godsford Park, (Amelie)
2002: City of God, Pianist, Far From Heaven, Gangs of New York, Chicago, 25th Hour, Talk to Her
2003: Lord of the Rings, Lost in Translation, Pirates, Mystic River, 21 Grams, In America,(Big Fish)
2004: Eternal Sunshine, Sideways, Spiderman II, Incredibles, Fahrenheit 911, Hotel Rwanda, (Ray)
2005: Brokeback Mtn, Munich, Grizzly Man, (King Kong, Crash, Match Point, Constant Gardener)
2006: Departed, Children of Men, Pan's Labrynth, Letters from Iwo Jima, Casino Royale, Little Miss Sunshine, Borat, Prestige, Little Children (United 93, Blood Diamond, Dreamgirls))
2007: There Will be Blood, No Country, Michael Clayton, Juno (Into the Wild, Bourne Ultimatum)
2008: Dark Knight, Wall-E, Slumdog Millionaire (Milk)
2009: Hurt Locker, Avatar, Up in the Air, (Up, Blind Side)