Due to waning interest in the process of making lists, I’ve felt the compulsion to throw out a good four films that have helped define the decade for me, in no particular order, with no significance behind their numbering yadayada.
#2 – IN BRUGES (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
A fantastic British film that presents a fairy-tale portrait of Bruges (in Belgium for the idjits) while meditating on the inner complexities of Ray (Colin Farrell), dealing with ethics, morality, redemption…pretty much everything actually. It’s also bloody funny and eminently quotable.
In many ways a film of brilliant conversations, Martin McDonagh goes some way to knocking Tarantino off his perch. But In Bruges is more than this, with finely calibrated performances from Colin Farrell (long a figure of detraction to many) Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes (who gets to flex his Estuary English vernacular) who all deliver the wonderful dialogue with aplomb but also demonstrate the cracks beneath the world-weary veneer of the hitmen they are. Bruges looks heavenly, even if it would be more astute to call it purgatorial, with its flock of temptress’, daemons and strange grotesque inhabitants. Definitely not perfect, but it’ll get stuck in your head. The score is fantastic too.
#3 KISS KISS BANG BANG (Shane Black, 2005)
Wonderful, wonderful film that flew completely under the radar in the UK at the time of its release, but slowly (surely?) it will become a cult classic. Its dark, hilarious, playful and at times incredibly sobering. It does fall over its own plotting a little, but surely this is just because of the film noir it champions.
A comedic pastiche of the film noir of hard boiled detectives and femme fatales in showbizarre LA, it marries the very best of Shane Black’s previous work with the perfect combo of Robert Downey Jr. (still on his way up to the top) and Val Kilmer, who displays such a knack for comedy you wish he would do more. It’s hard to qualify such an unnoticed film as definitive of the decade, but it was certainly a bonus for Downey Jr, who looks to conquer all around from now until the end of time.
#4 The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
Becoming my own epitome of the flawed masterpiece, The Fountain is a woefully powerful film sometimes enamoured by its own grandiosity and at no effort to explain itself. Darren Aronofsky cemented his position as one of the most evocative and interesting directors to emerge in the 00s with 2000’s Requiem For A Dream, following his ingenious Pi in 1998, but this is an altogether more profound film.
The Fountain is a love letter to Aronofsky’s wife, Rachel Weisz, who also stars alongside Hugh Jackman. The film is an expansive affair that weaves its narrative threads with little concern for their significance until – BHAM! – Clint Mansell’s soaring score (the best of the decade, perhaps) kicks in and every little detail of Aronofsky’s story clicks together and makes perfect sense, and then doesn’t again. Its a mystery unto itself, but appears – on the outside – to be a story of grief overcome. Suffice to say, I will admire any film that includes Spanish Conquistadors, Rachel Weisz and an existential nomad living in a giant spherical globe, floating through the universe tending a dying tree.
#5 Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)
The Noughties were truly the decade when we went meta. Adaptation presents many different characters all at different stages of their career but all at the height of their powers – although Meryl Streep’s never wain. Charlie Kauffman continues his ascent as oddball auteur; Spike Jonze continues his as perfect mediator of Kauffman and vibrant director in his own right; Nic Cage is at his most bearable.
A film about the process of screenwriting, and by extension anything and everything, Adaptation is a cyclical maze of a film that, like The Fountain, leads you on blind until in one moment it all clicks and – voila – it all becomes clear. Kauffman makes his stuggle to craft a story out of flowers he simply thinks are beautiful thought-provoking while accessible, with Jonze arranges the pieces like a true master. Cage manages, quite successfully with his mumbling, bumbling performance of the Charlie Kauffman, to steady the narrative. He’s not quite as good as he is in Raising Arizona, but its the best he’s been since. It’s self-preservational message ends up skewing towards cliche Hollywood resolution at the end – but I think that’s the point.