Monday, January 4, 2010


Everyone and his mother (and brother and sister) is compiling “best of the decade” lists (and, yes, I know that, technically, the decade’s not really over yet) and I couldn’t resist adding my own to the mix.  Problem is a)  I'm not sure if we really need any more lists and b)  I can’t use the word best, since, really, how do I know what’s best and what’s not?

Let's start with my favorite movies of the past ten years.  If I don't totally bore myself (and you!), I'll follow up with books, television shows, music and, of course, comics.  No set number of selections here and no particular order.

1)  The New World
Director Terrence Malick’s lyrical and exhilarating meditation on the lives of...John Smith and Pocahontas?  No, I’m not kidding.

2)  Matchstick Men
The much-mocked Nicholas Cage gives a brilliant, touching performance in a brilliant, touching film.

3)  Catch Me If You Can
Spielberg, Hanks and DeCaprio come together in a movie that reminds us that Hollywood really can still make them like they used to.

4)  King of California
An overlooked gem, with Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood letter-perfect as a modern-day Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza daughter.

5)  Monsters, Inc.
I adored Pixar's Up and Toy Story 2 and thought Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride was a perfect little gem, but MI stole my heart:  it’s not just my favorite animated film of the decade, it’s one of my favorite animated films ever.  I watched it again recently and it’s every bit as good as I remembered.

6)  Lagaan/Om Shanti Om
Two of the most genuinely entertaining movies I'ver ever seen: 
Bollywood at its very best.  If you’re looking for restraint, try Lagaan; if you want pure Mumbai excess, go with Om Shanti Om.

7)  Enchanted
Enchanting.  Old school Disney magic with a new millennium twist.

8)  Wristcutters  A Love Story
The best indie movie you’ve never heard of.  Don't ask me how a movie about suicide and a grey, dismal afterlife ends up being so life affirming, but it does.

9)  Shadow Magic
The (fictional) story of the first Westerner to bring movies to China becomes a celebration of the power of both film itself and the human imagination.

10) Water
As far from Bollywood as you can get:  a devastating—and unforgettable—look at the treatment of women in India.

My favorite new director of the decade was Tom Tykwer.  If I had to pick one of his films for this list, it would probably be Heaven—with the great Cate Blanchette—but it’s more the collective impact of his work that has stayed with me.

And I suspect that, once the smoke clears, both District 9 and Avatar will stand as my favorite science-fiction films of the past ten years.  Star Trek fans, you may commence firing.

More tomorrow.  Maybe.

© copyright 2010 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. hello...
    matchstick men is a really underrated ridley scott film...and totally agree about cate blanchette!!!


  2. Cate Blanchette amazes me in almost everything she does, Vassilis. And we're clearly in agreement about Matchstick Men. It's a smart -- and ultimately very touching -- story and it features my favorite Nicholas Cage performance ever.

  3. Hi, interesting list. Catch Me If You, Monsters Inc, and Enchanted are really fun movies.

    Looking forward to seeing what your favorite comics, tv shows, books, and music are. :)

  4. All three of those films are entertainments in the classic mode, Daniel, and no one does that better (or, unfortunately, worse) than the Hollywood studios. I tend to gravitate to either those kind of classic films or oddball indies.

  5. I loved The New World. The story has emotional impact and the visuals are stunning. I would have felt as if I were in the past if not for a loud person behind me in the movie theater.

    Monsters Inc. is hilarious. I've watched it many times since it came out on theaters and it makes me laugh every time.

    I agree that Matchstick Men is great. It is one of those movies that didn't make a lot of noise, but that I just felt were great while watching it. I came out touched and it is on my list of movies to show to my wife.

    Catch Me if You Can is a fun movie. I liked it a lot.

    I was shocked by how good Enchanted was. I mainly rented it thinking my wife would like it, but I ended up liking it even more than she did. It is full of optimism and magic. I love how magic can inspire one to be a better person.

    Wristcutters is where I disagree. While I liked the movie, I didn't love it. I thought it could have been much better. But then again, after I saw the trailer I got very high expectations for the movie. I probably would have liked it more if I had not seen the trailer.

  6. WRISTERCUTTERS surprised me, Enrique (unlike you, I wasn't expecting much) and, more important, it stayed with me after I saw it...something that's become a rare occurrence for me. Plus, I love stories about the afterlife.

    One movie from 2009 that I loved but didn't put on the list -- because I want to see how it looks once some time has passed -- was DISTRICT 9. Absolutely the smartest science fiction film of the year. I also held off on AVATAR since I only saw it a few weeks ago. I don't know if it was a great MOVIE, but it was certainly a great moviegoing EXPERIENCE. And that counts for a lot.

    What were your favorites of the past decade?

  7. I also liked District 9 a lot. Avatar was another fun one.

    I hadn't put much thought on best of the decade in movies. My first two places are easy, as I had two favorites. After checking for movies that came out on the decade, some other choices were also very easy. Here's a tentative list:

    1) Laberinto del Fauno (Pan't Labyrinth). I love the interplay of magic and the real world in this movie. It created very strong emotions in me.

    2) Amelie. Another movie full of imagination. I love the optimism displayed in this movie. I've seen it countless times showing it to different people I care about. It always brings a smile to my face.

    3) Hable con Ella (Talk to Her). This movie had a big impact on me. I thought the story was very moving and I loved the movie within a movie. Fantastic movie.

    4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love how this story is told and I love the ideas the movie explores. Is it a good to erase sad memories? A bizarre romantic movie, but one of my favorites.

    5) Match Point. Woody Allen's return to great filmmaking. While this movie lost value in my eye after I saw Crimes and Misdemeanors later on (because I think Crimes and Misdemeanors is better with a similar story), this movie made a big impact on me. A lot of people seem to think that luck doesn't impact our lives, but luck impacts us all the time. This movie had that message, hidden around a murder mystery and romantic affair.

    6) Before Sunset. I loved Before Sunrise so I was looking forwad to its sequel. The way the movie can go in real time and not bore me at any second is astounding. I also love that while you can love or hate the actions of the characters, it creates very interesting topics to discuss. Which I did for days with my friends.

    7) Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The first 15 minutes of this movie were shocking. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone who couldn't move was incredible. The rest of the movie is excellent, but the beginning of the movie will be unforgettable to me. A House TV episode later copied this idea and had a great episode. This movie is fantastic.

    7) Lord of the Rings. I count the whole trilogy as one. If I had to choose one, I'd choose Two Towers, mainly because I thought that book was unfilmable. I enjoyed the whole ride of the trilogy and I've enjoyed it again with my wife recently. A great fantasy trilogy full of emotion and adventure.

    9) Little Children. I thought the pace of the movie was excellent and all the stories were interesting to me. I felt like I could understand the characters even though I had no relation to any of them. Great story and great story telling.

    10) King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. This movie is placed mostly to have a comedy and drama representation on my list. I love this movie about the competitive spirit among videogame players.

    I love comedies, but no movie jumped out at me to be included, I guess one that is close is "Dan in Real Life". My decades list would probably change if done on a different day, but I think the top 5 would be on any decades list I would do. They were my favorites.

  8. I loved both AMELIE and ETERNAL SUNSHINE, Enrique, and could easily have included them on my list. I could have included lots of other films -- including your choice of DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY which was an amazing film -- but I had to stop somewhere!

    As for some of your other choices: I appreciated the artistry of PAN'S LABYRINTH but I didn't love it the way so many other people did. I felt the same way about LORD OF THE RINGS. (Although I'm told that watching the uncut versions of all three films is a very different experience.) I'm a huge Woody Allen fan (I could list six or eight movies of his that are all-time favorites), but MATCH POINT left me cold.

    I've never seen TALK TO HER or BEFORE SUNSET; but I'm putting them both on my Netflix queue ASAP.

  9. I love these lists. I've seen three of your picks--Matchstick Men, Monsters, Inc., and Enchanted. I enjoyed them all. Of those Monsters, Inc. would be my favorite, but I liked The Incredibles even better. Incredibles would easily be in my top 5. It might just be my favorite superhero film, actually.

    At this moment in time, I'm thinking my number one pick for the decade is "Star Trek."


  10. Funny, David. I enjoyed both INCREDIBLES and STAR TREK, but neither one knocked my socks off (although I think TREK cleared the deck for a fantastic sequel, so I look forward to seeing where they go from here). If you haven't seen DISTRICT 9 yet, check it out. It's certainly the best science-fiction movie of 2009. Well, maybe not "best" -- as noted in the post, who knows what that is? -- but my favorite.

  11. I've heard great things about DISTRICT 9 and have been meaning to check it out. To be honest, I have a list of movies I've been meaning to see that's pretty long. With two young kids I don't get as many opportunities to watch films with heavy subject matter.

    I love that TREK found a clever way to revitalize the franchise without rebooting the old continuity. While I can't say for sure, I think THE WRATH OF KHAN was the first movie I can remember seeing in theatres. Needless to say the line "I have been, and always shall be, your friend" really felt like coming home again.

    I also think it brought back something that was lacking from the last two films, which was the heart, humor and optimism of the series. It couldn't have come at a better time for the world, either.

    It will be fun to see where TREK goes from here!


  12. I'm with you on that one, David. I suspect this will be one of those sequels that's better than the original.

  13. I could understand Match Point leaving you cold. It is kind of a depressing movie. When I saw it, I loved it and it made me want to check out more Woody Allen. Since Match Point I've seen about a dozen of his movies. This is one of the reasons Match Point is important to me, as it introduced me to a great filmmaker. But I agree that he has done better before.

    I think Pan's Labyrinth hit a personal spot for me. My grandparents fled Spain because of the Franco distatorship, so the story made a bigger impact on me.

    The Lord of the Rings was incredible in that it did things that seemed impossible. It is also a great movie to watch again. The Star Wars of this time (although I like Star Wars more).

    With respect to Before Sunset, you should watch Before Sunrise first. Some people like Sunset more than Sunrise, but I like Sunrise more. Plus it is kind of necessary to watch to understand the characters more in Sunset. "Before Sunrise" is my favorite romantic movie ever and it is a wonderful tale of love at first sight.

    I am sure you will enjoy Talk To Her. It is just brilliant.

  14. MATCHPOINT seemed like a retread of a much better Woody Allen film, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. But if it got you to become an Allen fan, Enrique, then more power to it. My favorites of Woody's films are RADIO DAYS, PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, LOVE AND DEATH, SLEEPER...well, I could go on, but I'll stop right there. Although I haven't been thrilled with much of his output in the past two decades, Woody's films of the 70's and 80's remain among my all-time favorites.

    I'll make sure to check out BEFORE SUNRISE before I watch SUNSET.