So, after mulling it over for a while now, and here’s my list of my favorite movies of the 2000s. Mind you, this isn’t my opinion as to the “best” movies. Just movies that I loved, that I watch over and over again, that speak to me on some level, whether I like it or not. And despite my best efforts to really think about it, I decided at the end of the day that the movies that pop to mind first are the movies I’m putting down.
So here it is, unfiltered, in no particular order:
1. Before Sunset: Have you ever had those moments, where you reconnect with a friend or family member? You do this dance in the beginning, wherein you talk about nothing. Absolutely nothing. You’re talking a mile a minute, but really, you’re not saying anything. And as that conversation continues, everything you want to tell this person just builds up and you are so acutely aware of the fact that you’re bursting at the seams. There’s so much you want to say, whether it’s romantic feelings or just deep emotional confessions, but you just don’t know if you should or even can say it all. Until sometimes, when the moment is right, it all comes out. That’s what Before Sunset is. An absolutely beautifully directed and acted 80 minutes of perfection. The way that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spend 60 minutes, talking about everything and nothing, is a great depiction of how those two two people would reconnect after 10 years. It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, and most importantly for me, it was real. I always felt that this movie really got shafted in 2004 and Hawke, Delpy, and Richard Linklater never got their due. I also think the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies are an amazing discussion topic because everyone has a distinct favorite. I’ve come to conclude that if you like Before Sunrise then you’re still hopeful when it comes to love. Every single married person I know prefers Before Sunrise. But for those who wonder whether or not love has passed you by, Before Sunset is the movie.
2. Mean Girls: Tina Fey just nails it. It’s the Clueless of the 2000s but with more heart and, well, a moral to the story, I suppose. But that’s not really the point. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t quote Mean Girls, which again, is a credit to T Fey. And let’s not overlook the performances. Even right down to Amanda Seyfried and Lizzie Caplan, this movie was just perfect.
3. Love Me If You Dare: I don’t watch a lot of foreign films, primarily because if I wanted to read for two hours, I’d go read a book. I just can’t pay attention to the performances and the directing, or open myself up to the performances, if I’m reading the whole time. So it’s a shock that I even came across this movie, which introduced my sister and I to Marion Cotillard and more importantly, Guillaume Canet (yummers!). But I had read about the movie somewhere and was drawn into it’s basic premise: two kids grow up together and basically play truth or dare for the entirety of their lives. And the innocent game that brought them together when they were children morphs into a horrible tool for emotional blackmail as they become adults. It’s such an interesting movie and much like one of my favorite books, “Blankets” by Craig Thompson, I *always* try and get people to watch it.
4. Saved!: Talk about a movie that hit close to home. I was Jena Maloney, minus the pregnancy. A good Christian kid who completely bought into not only the religion of Christianity, but the church. And then certain events took place that caused me to really question my faith not just in the church but also my fellow Christians and I found solace in friends who accepted me for who I was and not because I could give a sermon that could make people cry every time. This movie captured all of that with dead-on humor. I mean, how can you hate a movie that has lines like this:
5. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2: I’ll never forget being in the theater for Volume 1 on opening night with SC and being the only two people in the theater doubled over in laughter. There’s just so much to love with these two movies. Lucy Liu, GoGo, the Crazy 88, the anime story, the coffin, the eyeball, and of course, the amazing scene between Beatrix and Bill at the end of Volume 2. It’s no Pulp Fiction, but it was still Quentin at his finest.
6. Juno: I unapologetically love Juno. I know everyone else hates it. They think it’s too clever, too twee, no one talks like that, blah blah blah. All true. But it’s my jam, nonetheless. I love the way Diablo Cody writes. I love the pop culture laden riffs and the precocious character of Juno MacGuff, a smart, strong, free-wheeling, independent kid who finds herself in way over her head. The scene where she breaks down in the van always gets me.
7. The Incredibles: By far my favorite Pixar movie, though I haven’t seen Up or Toy Story 2. I loved how subsersive it was: Parents, stop telling your kid they can do anything and that they’re special because if everyone’s special, no one is. The voice acting is fantastic and I loved so much that this wasn’t a fluff piece. More so than any other superhero movie, and this includes Batman and all those, I remember the dire situation the family found themselves in resonated to me. I got chills when Mrs. Incredible sat her kids down and informed them, with no uncertainty, that the bad guys would kill them. I respected Brad Bird for that.
8. Once: This movie boils down to three moments for me: the image of Marketa Iglova dragging the vacumm cleaner behind her down the streets, the “Falling Slowly” scene at the piano, and the ending that saw them not end up together, but move on with their lives. The first brought the funny, the second the emotion, and the third the real. The scene at the piano so perfectly captured what happens when you find your musical soulmate and a part of you starts to fall in love. It’s a really heady and transcendent moment that can be fleeting, but in that 4 minutes, it’s a high I can’t explain.
9. Adventureland: I loved the music and the look of this movie. But it also caught me at a time when I was stuck at job that I hated and the only thing good about it were my co-workers. We found solace in each other, commiserating, with complete self-awareness, about our lot and our lives. Joel’s words summed it up: “Well we are doing the world of pathetic, lazy, morons.” Obviously I know that’s not true, but it sure felt like truth.
10. Love Actually: Is there a better Christmas movie that’s come out in th last 20 years? I dare say no. But calling Love Actually a Christmas movie is just wrong. It’s a rumination on love and the many forms that love can take. It’s another great discussion movie because everyone has a favorite storyline. Does it really surprise anyone that mine is Laura Linney’s?
11. V for Vendetta: The genius is Hugo Weaving’s performance. That somehow, despite the fact that the man wears a mask and makes zero facial expressions throughout the movie, he’s so fantastically charming and sexy. Also, it reintroduced me to fried egg sandwiches, which I’ve been eating non-stop ever since. With real butter, of course.
12. Wet Hot American Summer: Not many people have seen this one, but for better or worse I always use it as a test as to how good of friends I’m going to be with someone. Because there are only two kinds of people in this world: people who love Wet Hot, and people who just don’t get it. And I totally understand why people don’t get it. It just makes me sad. This movie is a comedy nerd’s wet dream: Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Janeane Garafalo, Zack Orth, David Hyde Pierce, and and of course, Christopher Meloni, who steals it. Also, how can you not find a movie that has an awesomely hot gay sex scene between Michael Ian Black and Bradley Cooper involving tube socks, a soccer ball, and a shed?
13. Gladiator: I have specific memories of watching this movie for the first time. I had come home around midnight after a particularly trying day at law school. I had rented Gladiator a few days before and it was due the next day. So I popped it in, thinking it would be a mindless watch, and laid down on the couch. About 45 minutes into it I was sitting straight up, literally sitting on the edge of my seat. And when it was over and I wiped the tears away, I cued it up to watch again. I didn’t get to sleep until 6am and I missed my classes the next day. But it was worth it. Beautifully shot, directed, and acted. It could have been a cliche, but Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe elevated it into an epic. Sure, people say it’s derivative of Braveheart, but I honestly couldn’t stand Braveheart, so Gladiator was perfect. Themes of loyalty, family, love, and true leadership. I cry every time I watch it. “Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once. Help us believe it again. He was a solider or Rome. Honor him.” Seriously, I’m crying right now.
14. The Royal Tenenbaums: What can be said that hasn’t already been said? It is movie-making perfection. Perfect use of music and each actor totally nails the tone and tenor of what Wes Anderson is trying to do.
15. Zodiac: I don’t like gory movies so I had put off seeing Zodiac until it came out on DVD, even though I *love* David Fincher. I feel like he brings an intelligence to the movies he shoots and I love seeing what new camera angles and shooting techniques he employs to tell the story. He employed amazingly creative camera work in Panic Room (which I loved) and I was sure that Zodiac would creep me the eff out. And it did. But not in the way I was expecting. Fincher took this story, of a serial killer in San Francisco, and instead of making it gory and gross in a psychological thriller way, a la Se7en, he simply made it cerebral. As we follow Jake Gyllenhaal around as he tries to untangle the web, we get sucked into the intellectual pursuit of the Zodiac killer, as opposed to a testosterone -laden cop drama. It was still creepy as hell, especially if you live in San Francisco, but it was so smartly done I walked away an even bigger Fincher fan.