Monday, December 14, 2009

Hammervision's 10 Best of the Decade: No. 1


On December 31, 2006, I saw Children of Men in the theater and, having been blown away, instantly declared it the best movie of 2006. Three years later, and after several more viewings, I can confidently say it is the best movie of the decade. The filmmaking in Children of Men is revolutionary and jaw-dropping, and stands head and shoulders above everything else. It is the defining movie of the decade not because of story (tight and spare), or acting (excellent, but nothing Oscar-worthy), but because it pushes the film medium in new and exciting directions. You know how people always talk about Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all time? It's because of the direction and cinematography. Children of Men is to this decade what Citizen Kane was to the 1940s. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron with focused energy and clarity of vision, and featuring a handful of the most intricately staged, uninterrupted one-take action sequences ever filmed, the movie is a marvel. It has a fantastic and bleak sci-fi premise (the human race is on the verge of extinction because nobody can get pregnant anymore) that proves fertile ground for an exciting chase movie, with interesting themes and haunting imagery. There is a great and shocking death of a main character early on in the movie that's the best thing of its ilk since Samuel L. Jackson bought it in Deep Blue Sea (and before that, Janet Leigh in Psycho), and really keeps you on edge for the remainder of the movie's running time. Children of Men is pitch black in its depiction of society on the edge of despair, but it does offer a glimmer of hope in its story and is oddly satisfying. That satisfaction does not come from a "feel good" ending, which, here, is purposely kept ambiguous, but from the knowledge that you've just seen one of the greatest movies of this or any other decade.

So there you have it:

10. Mission: Impossible III
9. The Royal Tenenbaums
8. United 93
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
6. There Will Be Blood
5. Memento
4. Wall-E
3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
2. Moulin Rouge
1. Children of Men

Many of you guessed No. 1 correctly. Good job. Now it's your turn. What's your Top 10 of the decade? What one movie above (you can only pick one) has no place on a Top 10 list? What's the one movie you wish I had included? Where do we go from here - what do you want to see next? Worst of the decade? Best of the 90s?

And now a special shout-out to the runner-ups. These movies came awfully close to cracking the Top 10, and are equally deserving of end-of-the-decade recognition:

The Dark Knight
The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Minority Report
Catch Me If You Can
Inglourious Basterds
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
The Incredibles
The Departed

- John


At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hammer, you want a dynamic shift in filmmaking: "City of God". How about a new dimension including beautiful fusing of genres: "Crouching Tiger". C'mon man! I know it's supposed to be your personal best of, but I never thought that would only be for Hollywood films only.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Hammer said...

City of God is brilliant. But not a dynamic shift or anything. Just a scrappier version of the same film techniques used by Scorsese in Goodfellas.

Crouching Tiger has never done anything for me, man. Beautiful to look at, but sloooow as molasses.

If I were going to go the foreign film route - I'd have to choose Amelie over Crouching Tiger, easily.

Props for the City of God call though. Great movie.

At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Mags said...

The image that sticks with me from this movie is the billboard (graffiti?) Clive Owen passes that says, "Will the last one to die please turn out the lights?"

And I'm with you on both "City of God" and "Crouching Tiger." I'd pick "Pan's Labyrinth" or (personal favorite) "The Orphanage" over either of those.

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Andy N. said...

Just watched CoM for the second time last week. How about that awesomely wacky performance by Michael Caine?

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And along with a really great movie, one of my favorite soundtracks of the decade!!

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew this would be your # 1.

I remember being so mad when Clive Owen passed on being the new James Bond because of some movie he wanted to make instead. Turns out, this was the movie he was working on. And him passing on James Bond for this was the best decision of his career.

SPOILER ALERT (for those who need to see this movie)

The best scene (and you mentioned it) is when Julianne Moore dies. That was when Cuaron slapps the audience in the face and you realize this is no typical movie. He makes the viewer actually FEEL like they are in the car during that chase scene. We were on the edge of our seats for the rest of the movie, just afraid to move.

John, I could not agree more with this pick.


At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of making more comments about your popcorn tastebuds, I would like to know how many of these movies would make you ten or twenty best of all time list. I'm guessing it's not the top few in order as might be expected.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

Okay -first, I fully embrace my love of popcorn flicks, and feel that when Hollywood gets it right (which they do every so often), nothing is better. I'll take The Dark Knight over The Lives of Others every chance I get.

Second, not quite fair to pick on this list as being too "popcorn." The only true popcorn flicks on there are M:I3, LOTR, and Wall-E.

Third, picking a best of all time list is extremely difficult. Who knows if any movie from this decade would crack that list? I haven't given that serious thought yet, but off the top of my head, I'd imagine that the following movies would definitely end up on my list: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, Godfather Part II, Empire Strikes Back, Some Like It Hot, This Is Spinal Tap, E.T., Taxi Driver, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, The Matrix, Goodfellas, Back to the Future, North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, etc.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

Glad you liked the pick Brian. Still waiting for your Top 10.

At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no mention of the book this is based on???...The Handmaid's Tale is definitely worth the read if this is your #1 movie of the decade

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hammer, in reguards to whomever was so viehement in attacking my lambasting of your number 2 selection I want to point out in the past that I have disagreed with you a few times but we always agree to disagree and we are always quite friendly about our disagreements. That is fine. And for whomever that is if you look back and actually read you will see that I have put up my top ten and a few just off my top ten and they are suprisingly close to Hammer's. We disagree on the order I believe mostly and on a few movies in particular, so basically in the nicest way possible, shut up.

That being said, I really like this selection. I was torn on putting it in my top ten. I really love this movie and this it is just an amazing bit of filmwork. Like you I have recommended it to tons of people after seeing it in the movies. Clive Owen is great and the movie is just fantastic.

Hope you enjoy Avatar. There is enough hype and buzz and advertising tie-ins that it is sure to do well at the box office. Though, sometimes when things are jammed down your throat, like this one is, it can backfire. I mean good lord I can't even watch sportscenter without there being something about Avatar in Sportscenter, not during commercials, during the program. Very annoying. But Cameron has a proven track record, so I guess we will wait and see.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Jonah said...

That was tough. But here goes, Top 10 of the past decade:

10. Y Tu Mama Tambien
9. The Triplets of Belleville
8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. Children of Men
6. About A Boy
5. Spirited Away
4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
3. Lost In Translation
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
1. Amelie

We haven't gotten to talk film in quite a while, but nice picks. I admit it's a crime, but I still haven't seen There Will Be Blood and it could very well make this list when I do. Some extras that I wanted to squeeze in:

The Princess and the Warrior
Slumdog Millionaire
Michael Clayton
Moulin Rouge
The Departed

Hope you're well my friend. Thanks for the challenge.

At 8:32 AM, Anonymous G Von said...

John, here's my ten best. I realize I've only seen about 250 movies in the past ten years so many fine ones have probably stayed off my radar screen. Anyway, in my small pond these are the big fish:
10. Open Range
9. Star Trek
8. The Matador
7. K-Pax
6. 11:14
5. No Country For Old Men
4. Kill Bill 1&2
3. Memento
2. Sin City
1. Apocalypse Now Redux

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Jonah said...

Just saw Roger Ebert's Top 20 of the decade on his blog here:
and boy am I disappointed. Synedoche, NY? Really??? One of the worst movies I have EVER seen. Man it was awful, I have no desire to even attempt to revisit it.

But you interned with the guy. Maybe you have a different perspective.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous JP said...

When I told GVON about my disagreements with your best of the decade list, He challenged me to offer my alternative. So, with Ebert and Roeper's lists and my increasingly failing memory as my only resources, here goes, in alphbetical order. Almost Famous, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, Juno, Michael Clayton, Mystic River, No Country For Old Men, Sideways, There Will Be Blood and The Wrestler. These five titles were difficult to eliminate: Adaptation, Gran Torino, In The Bedroom, High Fidelity and 500 Days Of Summer. GVON's listing of 11:14 and Open Range gave me pause. The former could easily crack my top ten, while the later is a candidate for honorable mention. Checking out Roeper's worst 100 reminded me of my debt to film critcs. Without them I might have paid to see more than the 2 titles I saw from his list. And while 2012 was a guilty pleasure that I enjoyed, I am sure I was saved from many like The Whole Ten Yards due to a critics review. Maybe it is just my good taste as Battlefield Earth was the only other title on that list I've seen, on cable and just to bathe in the knowledge of L Ron Hubbard's empty reputation. keep up the good work in the new year, JP

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

JP - thanks for reading, and I enjoyed seeing your picks for best of the decade. Hard to argue with most of those: the worst you can say about any of them is "good but not great." I think Mystic River, as with all other Eastwood movies of the past decade, is highly overrated. The Wrestler is an awesome performance, and just a pretty good movie - nothing too groundbreaking there. And that last half hour of No Country kind of kills it for me. Still, Almost Famous, Sideways, Juno, and The Departed are all solid.

G-Von. I like that you had Star Trek on there, but question your sanity by having K-Pax there too. Open Range is an odd choice too. But showing some love for Kill Bill and Sin City forgives all. Thanks for sharing!

Jonah. Ebert must be crazy. Synechdoche, New York is the kind of movie that when critics recommend it and audiences actually see it, audiences think that critics are high-falutin', out-of-step idiots. Also, I need to see it again but what's with all the mad love for The Hurt Locker? It's a good film, no doubt, but people are treating it like the messiah. Sheesh.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous JP said...

Seems Jonah reacted to Ebert's Synechdoche review like I did to critics love for Magnolia. Cross that one off my list, heck, I can't even spell it without a cribsheet.


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