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The 25 Best Films of the Decade...So Far

photo When New York Times film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott recently published their list of The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century So Far, it not only served as fodder for many a debate among movie lovers of all ages, but it inspired other critics to follow suit and put together their own lists. Who am I to break ranks.

Here are the movies that I think have been the best since 2000. Caveat: to qualify for my list, a movie must have been released in the United States between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2016 and be a movie that I have or plan to watch again. Let the debates begin!

1. The Social Network
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. The Departed
5. Inglourious Basterds
6. Ocean’s Eleven
7. 3:10 to Yuma
8. WALL-E
9. Bridesmaids
10. Kill Bill: Volume 2
11. Gladiator
12. Carol
13. The Grand Budapest Hotel
14. Almost Famous
15. Kill Bill: Volume 1
16. 40-Year Old Virgin
17. No Country For Old Men
18. Best in Show
19. La La Land
20. The Tree of Life
21. Mean Girls
22. Birdman
23. Lost in Translation
24. The Dark Knight
25. Gravity

A couple of other lists to round it out:

FILMS I RESPECT BUT WILL NEVER WATCH AGAIN:

Gangs of New York
A Beautiful Mind
The Hours
Mystic River
Million Dollar Baby
United 93
Babel
The Cove
Traffic
There Will Be Blood
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Precious
Lincoln
Life of Pi
12 Years a Slave
Room
Moonlight

BOTTOM 14: MOVIES I HATED, aka THE WORST MOVIES OF THE DECADE SO FAR

1. Requiem For a Dream
2. I Heart Huckabees
3. American Sniper
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5. By the Sea
6. The Counselor
7. Adaptation
8. Atonement
9. Vanilla Sky
10. Avatar
11. Open Water
12. Australia
13. AI: Artificial Intelligence
14. Pearl Harbor

Wonder Woman

photo I will admit I prefer the old-school approach when it comes to superheroes. I grew up with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and, of course, Adam West (RIP) as Batman and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman on TV. These movies and shows were not enough to totally suck me into the comic book culture, but they were enjoyable and memorable parts of my childhood. They were, on the whole, light and easygoing, low on special effects and high on personality and charm, and, more important than anything, they had an almost innocent quality about them; a quality that today might be called sentimental or cheesy. But all of this was part of their charm and arguably part of the reason the comic book culture is still thriving today.

I have to also admit, though, that I have also been able to embrace—and actually love—the more “modern” interpretations of the superhero movies as well. The dark and cynical The Dark Knight and The Watchmen stand the test of time for me, as do the snarky and fun Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool.
click here to keep reading Wonder Woman »

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 & Alien: Covenant

photo photo In case anyone was wondering, I did see Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and Alien: Covenant. So why didn’t I write about them? Well, maybe it was out of respect for their elders (they are both sequels) or maybe it was just a lack of inspiration. While Guardians of the Galaxy, v 2 was fun and a nice reminder of how much I loved the first one, Alien: Covenant was so depressingly disappointing that the last thing I wanted to do was write about exactly how depressed I was.
click here to keep reading Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 & Alien: Covenant »

The Zookeeper's Wife

photo Just when you thought there were no more horrible stories to tell about the Nazi atrocities during World War II, we get The Zookeeper’s Wife, a movie based on the best-selling book by Diane Ackerman, which tells a familiar (but still harrowing) story of civilians who tried to help Jews escape the Nazis, and also reveals yet another subset of victims of the Third Reich: animals.

I’m a huge animal lover, so I was resistant to see The Zookeeper’s Wife. The movie tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, a Warsaw couple who run the city’s zoo. When the Nazis invade Poland in September, 1939, the zoo is bombed and the animals are, well, obviously, “displaced,” one way or another. I was prepared for this, I tried my best to steel myself, but, even with my eyes closed for about 6 minutes, it was still quite traumatic.
click here to keep reading The Zookeeper’s Wife »

Personal Shopper

photo Don’t worry about Kristen Stewart. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Having earned international fame and fortune from the Twilight movies, she has now parlayed her Hollywood status into the ability to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. And the movies she wants to make, it seems, are small, stimulating and thoughtful. In other words, as un-Twilight as you can get.

Since the last Twilight movie imploded our box offices in 2012, Stewart has colored in her resume with almost nothing but independent/low budget/foreign films, garnering better and better reviews along the way. Her performances in movies such as Still Alice, Certain Women, Clouds of Sils Maria and Café Society finally led everyone to realize that this girl-who-was-famous-for-being-Bella actually had some depth—both to her acting and to her career aspirations. (Fun fact: in 2015, Stewart became the first American EVER to win a Cesar award—France’s Oscars—for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria)
click here to keep reading Personal Shopper »

T2 Trainspotting

photo It is the rare occurrence in Hollywood when a sequel comes out that actually feels right. Most, generally speaking, are churned out too soon and for all the wrong reasons, mostly money. However, when there is sincerely more story to tell or a legitimate desire to revisit characters, sequels do make sense. In the case of T2 Trainspotting, both are applicable. The sequel to director Danny Boyle’s 1996 indie classic Trainspotting is not only welcome, but, as it turns out, glorious.
click here to keep reading T2 Trainspotting »

Get Out

photo Public Service Announcement:
If you, like me, are really curious and interested to see the new movie Get Out because of its phenomenal reviews and record-breaking box office numbers, but are nervous to actually go to the theatre to see it because it’s a horror movie and you just don’t do horror, well, I’m here to tell you: Get In.

Get Out’s writer/director, Jordan Peele, just made history by being the first African-American director whose debut film crossed the $100 million mark in box office earnings. And it reached that milestone in just 16 days. A little film that cost only $4.5 million to make, has no big names in it and is labeled a “horror-satire” with shades of social commentary has already made $100 million dollars two weeks in? That’s almost as unheard-of as a $1.5 million movie by a black director, with an all-black cast and a gay storyline winning Best Picture at the Oscars. Oh, wait….

So Get Out is making history. That’s great, but that’s not even the best story about this movie. The best part about Get Out is….it’s really good.
click here to keep reading Get Out »

Logan

photo Old superheroes never die, they just fade away…. Or get recast so a whole new franchise can begin anew with a younger actor, ignoring all movies that had come before it.

One thing I will give to Logan, the newest (and last—we think) installment in the Wolverine series of films from the X-Men superhero franchise, is that 20th Century Fox actually lets its tentpole lead character get old. Wolverine is played by Hugh Jackman, and has been since he first appeared on screen in 2000 in the original X-Men movie. So that’s 17 years of the same actor playing the same character…almost unheard of in Hollywood, the place where they’ve replaced Spider-Man 3 times, Superman 7 times and Batman 5 times. And the fact that Hugh Jackman was already 32 when he first appeared as Wolverine meant that it wasn’t about attracting the young audience to the character and his story, but it was truly about the actor, character and arc. And that is definitely to be applauded.
click here to keep reading Logan »

20th Century Women

photo Writer/Director Mike Mills’ acclaimed 2010 film, Beginners, which brought Christopher Plummer an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, was, by his own admission, a movie about Mills’ father. Now, his latest project, 20th Century Women, is an homage to his maternal side. Starring Annette Bening in the role inspired by Mills’ mother, 20th Century Women is a tender, insightful and charming movie about mothers, sons, friendship and what the world was like in the time just before the internet, AIDS and Reagan shaped it. And, just like Beginners, Oscar may come knocking again, this time for Bening, who shines in perhaps the best role of her career.
click here to keep reading 20th Century Women »

My Top 10 of 2016

1. La La Land
2. Hell or High Water
3. Manchester By the Sea
4. Moonlight
5. Zootopia
6. Arrival
7. Sausage Party
8. Lion
9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
10. The Jungle Book

MY CURRENT SMART PICKS

Top 5 List:

My Five Favorite Films Directed by a Woman:

1. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
2. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
3. The Hurt Locker (2008)
4. Clueless (1995)
5. Clockwatchers (1997)

Rental Pick:

Lost in Translation (2003)

Favorite Trailer of the Moment:

Awesome Movie Montages and Lists: