By Andrew Perez
In an age where global warming and pollution seem to be at their polemical high, Wall-E explains that there are some ideals that will last forever, even if the world may not. Thrust in a world that has been destroyed and is left with nothing but trash, Wall-E is able to find love with the most peculiar of species against the perils of sadistic, lazy world. Through Chaplin-like humor and a daring script, Wall-E catapulted the film to heights never before seen in animation. Well, you might say, many Pixar movies have already done this. Au contraire. Although many of the the studio’s other films have been excellent, none have been so poignant and relevant as the one that is the love story which a social conscious and equally matches the spirit of the times so vicariously.
In the 2000s Steve Soderbergh officially stepped out of the art-house and into major motion pictures. Fortunately, what could’ve turned to a watered-down product instead became the basis of his ability to create large yet aesthetically pleasing powerhouse films. Soderbergh, who has been hailed as “the poster boy of the Sundance generation”, released this telling story of the drug trafficking between the Mexican-American border(seems pretty popular, See #5) that not only earned him numerous Oscars, it cemented his place as one of the preeminent directors of the era. With top-notch cinematography that documented the lives of dealers, users, and the politicians who desperately try to halt both of them, Traffic never falls into the easy traps of being too preachy and outlandish. Instead the film offers excellent performances across the spectrum including Benicio Del Toro, who won his first Oscar, as well as strong cast from the likes of Michael Douglas and Selma Hyak. It all adds up to a realistic picture of the complex, ruthless scene of drug trafficking that is as impactful today as it was at the start of the decade.
8.Requiem for a Dream
The film that sent chills down every viewer’s back can be described in one word: disturbing. Yet, the power of this mind-piercing film is not just in its rugged demeanor, it is rather, in the glowing paradigms that run so deep throughout all 102 minutes of the movie. Everything from the film’s haunting score to its laser-precise editing adds to the mesmerizing story of a family which, ferverently strive for their paradise, but fall painfully hard to the power of addiction. However, despite the dark nature of the film, it refuses to cast judgment on the tragic figures of the story. It is glaringly evident throughout the movie that none of these characters were bad, in fact, they were all looking for the same thing we are all looking for: love. Yet, with Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant ability to tell stories, we find that the drive towards our dreams can lead to an addiction that can take hold of our very being. It is this carefully placed message along with the outstanding performances from Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connelly which make Requiem a film that extracts the most painful emotions of the human soul.
7. Before Sunset
Sometimes the best of movies are the most simple. In this memorable 2004 film, director William Linklaker (Fast Food Nation) tracks the day of two lovers who are 10 years removed from their first encounter and have stumbled upon each other in the city of lights. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine(Julie Deply), accentuate the beautiful backdrop of the city by delving into such rich topics such as aging, identity, and love. The true mark of the film lies in the chemistry between the two that carry the entire film which is essentially one entire conversation. However, Before Sunset, which runs 80 minutes long and was shot in a mere 15 days, never suffers from a lull as the two discuss the pressures and joys of life in which can only be so romantic in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
6.Children of Men
Hollywood really enjoyed seeing the world die in this decade. Films of the apocalypse were in abundance in the 2000s for many reasons: the Aztec calendar is ending, global warming, and the list goes on. Predictably, most of these attempts fell flat on their face and offered nothing except the invitation for another director to outmatch it. Well, to be perfectly honest, none of the films matter after 2006 for when Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron releasedChildren of Men, he created the ultimate end of the world film, but more importantly, he created one of the greatest films of the decade. With the remarkable use of the Steadicam, Cuaron displayed in real time just how mad the world could be in the face of a dying planet where no baby has been born in 18 years. Yet, the most gripping aspect of the film is its ability to show stunning tracking shots of an apocalyptic world that give the film a documentary style that allow the viewer to feel that they too are in the middle of this horrific land, battling for life.
5. No Country For Old Men
Set in the American-Mexican border, this 2007 classic adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel illustrated just how terrifying a killer can be. The silent presence of Anton Chigur controlled the screen with dominating diligence and horror while all other characters were simply at his mercy. A nightmare of a movie is quiet enough to narrow you in on every step, every move, but its scenes are as intense as any seen on screen. Whether on or off screen, Chigur makes his presence known throughout the film and to all those who cross his path. Guns, money, and drugs are the precursors to an almost overwhelming amount of destruction, but it is the omnipresent force of evil along with precise directing that guide Joel and Ethan Coen to their directorial zenith.
Friends on a bachelor trip, marriage, and wine spell disaster. Although this particular bachelor party may be less abrasive than a strip club, rest assured, its wild manner is cloaked behind the lush green fields of central California. Jack Lopate, a womanizer actor played by Thomas Haden Church, and his writer friend, played by Paul Giamatti, embark on a week-long wine tasting trip a week before Lopate’s wedding. Through insanely funnny dialogue and a comical blend of characters, this 2004 film showcased one of the decade’s best scripts. It is the film that made viewers everywhere reach for a glass of wine, though not Merlot of course.
3.There Will Be Blood
Critics of the movie said it had no point of redemption; I’d like to hear them say that to Daniel Plainview’s face. In playing the capitalistic demon, Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed man at his most rotten in the pursuit of power. To be fair, Plainview wanted oil, money, and isolation as well, but nevertheless, his mantra was clear: stop at nothing to get everything. Adopted from a 1927 Upton Sinclair novel, Oil!, director P.T Anderson took a century old story and morphed it into a tale that couldn’t be more relevant: the pursuit of the world’s most precious resource. Add a legendary score by Johnny Greenwood as well as burning images from the Texas landscape, (the same as No Country) and you have a brewing classic. In Anderson’s gem, the greed that drove the forces of evil was not just astonishing; it was captivating.
Finding yourself was never as fun as it was in Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical story of a teenager writing for Rolling Stone. Journalist William Miller made the most of a isolated childhood and followed his passion which ultimately landed him an opportunity to cover the fictional band, Stillwater. Through his struggles against the band, with his understandably concerned mother, and ultimately himself, Miller sees the things a 13 year never should: drugs, alcohol, etc. Yet, Miller never gets caught up and stays true to himself: a shy, focused teenager whose love for music surpasses all. The images of youth that refuses to die are so firmly etched into this movie that one forgets who exactly is underage and who just keeps the mindset. Despite, all of the debauchery, there is a sense that all of those involved are simply squeezing the most of life at a time where nothing is certain and everything is possible. It is simply a film that commands you to get out of your seat and live life to the fullest.
1. Lost In Translation
Japan! Fashion! Lights! And…boredom? Sofia Coppola’s work took more than just the superficial elements of the city when creating her 2003 classic. Rather, she looked to the country’s foreigners to comment on isolation in the physical and, more importantly, psychological sense. Throughout the film, Characters Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) express so much without saying at all. In fact, the film’s brilliance lies in its silence. In the Oscar-winning script, there is a enormous sense of longing that Bob and Charlotte try to express. This feeling is so painfully obvious to themselves, but discouragingly absent from the mind of those who surround them. And the striking contrast of the two is precisely what makes the movie work so damn well.
Both thrust in situations and places that seem so illustrious and fantastic, it seems irrational to their surrounding members that they would be unhappy. Hence, the unresponsiveness by their peers. Yet, instead of lashing out, their struggles have taken an inward direction. It is a common motif that is present throughout the film, but beneath the struggles of the two lie their greatest strength: a lust for connection that doesn’t die. It is a feature that gives the film its inviting quality. Alongside the ambient, moving sounds from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, Coppola created a film that wore its heart on its sleeve. Yet, it wasn’t a wallowing pity party that it easily could have been with a lesser director. Call it the anti-Taxi Driver for the fact that the isolation of Bob and Charlotte didn’t drive them into despair. Rather, they showed that even the most seemingly extraordinary people feel the most basic of human needs. Instead of a downer, it became a triumph. So whether the film was funny, sad, or frustrating at times, it always had the human element which was universal and at the same time, personal. A film that grasps all of these features and uses them with such emotion can only be called a classic and in 2003 Sofia Coppola created one for the ages.