Best of the Decade (Jake) (Essay)

>NOTE: The following list is an effort to quantify and order the films of the recent decade. Most of the films I have chosen are figure-heads of their respective “type,” but I did not disregard a film merely because another of its “kind” already made the list (at least not on more than one occasion). Half of this list is predictable and, yes, down-right boring: at this point we know what was good and what deserves recognition at least if its just that, a nod of the head. However, I’ve chosen the few that stand out and emphasized them in an attempt to keep things at least somewhat interesting. I will be posting my top 10 two at a time for the next few days, followed by some notable mentions and other random awards of the decade. Enjoy.

10. Children of Men (2006): Alfonso Cuarón’s modern sci-fi masterpiece was a shock to the system, a social justice film as subversive in its technique as it was open about its message. Why this film was important: Re-educated us on how to make a sci-fi film: one without monsters or aliens or futuristic weaponry or psychological gimmicks; showcased for folks like Spielberg that technique and story are at the heart of making quality, AND entertaining, cinema.

9. Punch-Drunk Love (2002): Paul Thomas Anderson’s often forgotten Punch-Drunk Love was a trip all film-lovers should partake in. Starring Adam Sandler as a socially stunted, lonely and deeply tormented salesman, Barry Egan, the film was a sad and almost off-puttingly peculiar take on love. Barry is at first unwilling to put his vulnerable, never-been-touched heart at risk, but then, after getting a taste of the happiness love can offer, he becomes a love-drunk monster, always craving his partner’s presence and willing to go to any extreme to protect her and the future of their togetherness. The film was shot almost with a hazy filter, with pastel colors dominating Barry’s lonely and bottled-up existence intermingled with moments where only a kaleidescopic menagerie of bright colors rain over the screen, a visual pallet that lent to the film’s striking and compelling conversation on sadness and hope. Punch-Drunk Love was a film that stuck with you; it’s haunting sadness and dark comedy was poetic in emphasizing how love, in its rawest, most imperfect state, can sometimes be its most pure and beautiful as well. The film was able to show how love does not always have to be between two charming, attractive and well-adjusted individuals and is many times more meaningful between two people you’d least likely expect, in times when you’d least expect it to exist. Why this film was important: Ignited (without knowing it) a wild rash of off-beat, stylized, glittery films that the public would later devour, films that would become so popularized that they came to make Punch-Drunk Love look bad (Little Miss Sunshine, The Squid and the Whale, Juno); P.T. Anderson’s film did it well, so well that the 20-somethings with hemp belts that loved Rocket Science didn’t very much like Punch-Drunk Love, but those with taste did.


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