For weeks, I have been compiling the list.
I’ve added and scratched movies, worked and reworked the list but find it a daunting task. Boiling a decade of movies into a short column and 10 favorites is impossible.
With 10 spots up for grabs you’d think picking the best films would be easy. Just go to my pick for the top movie of each individual year and one of them gets the prize.
It isn’t that simple. Time changes perspective and my views changed, too.
As I write this I have narrowed the list to 50 candidates. All of them worthy.
An industry out of ideas was got propped up by a series of successful franchises. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Batman made millions. James Bond and his spy cousin Jason Bourne did the same. J.J. Abrams redid Star Trek and reinvented a series. Johnny Depp swaggered through three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. One of them — the first — is terrific and the other two forgettable. Indiana Jones made a comeback as did The Terminator. Ending with more whimper than bang was The Matrix series and Star Wars.
Hardcore horror made millions. Saw became a chain saw that — by episode six — needed sharpening. We had more Friday the 13th and another Halloween and a couple of dozen chop-and-slash clones.
The staggering leaps in special and computer generated effects that began in the late 1990s took a huge jump forward in 2001 with the release of the first The Lord of the Rings. Special-effects artists never looked back. By late in the decade, the addition of three-dimensions to animated features and epics such as Avatar have permanently reinvented state-of-the-art and changed movies forever.
Effects are one thing. Great storytelling is another. The decade’s best films do what movies have done since the medium began — they tell compelling stories and pique the imagination. For a couple of hours, they transport us to other places and other times and entwine our lives with those of unforgettable characters.
Outside of the top spot, I’m not going to rank my decade favorites from one to 10. They’re all incredible movies, and it’s just too hard to put them in any sort of order. By the way, Clint Eastwood is the only director with two films on the list.
1. The Lord of the Rings: With the last film of the series, director Peter Jackson got his much-deserved accolades for blowing our minds with stunning effects and brilliantly interpreted and cast characters who literally transported us to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
2. Hero: An incredible story is often overshadowed by scenes that are among the most beautiful and innovative ever put on film. If I had to pick a No. 2, this would be it.
3.The Lives of Others: Duplicity, double-crossing, political manipulation, deep and detailed characters have some thinking this — not Lord of the Rings — is "the" movie of the decade.
4. Standing in the Shadows of Motown: No one knew that a group of 13 guys who played the instruments that made Motown’s artists millions. Their story is wrapped up in one of the most compelling documentaries of the decade.
5. The Station Agent: Great writing and acting highlight my favorite character study of the decade. The movie goes nowhere. It doesn’t have to.
6. O' Brother, Where Art Thou?: This reworking of Homer’s The Odyssey by the Coen Brothers is pure genius. One of the best times I had at a theater in the decade, and I had no clue I even liked hillbilly music.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Though parts two and three were iffy, Jolly Roger never flew quite so jolly as with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
8. tie — Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby: Clint Eastwood directed one and directed/starred in the other to solidify himself as America’s most important director.
9. Wall-E: Pixar produced a bunch of outstanding animated features. Their genius is summed up in that the best love story of the decade involves two robots whose only lines are “Wall-E” and “Eva.”
10. Once: This nice little ditty about a street singer and his muse cost nothing to make and included an incredible soundtrack.
If finding 10 best movies out of a couple thousand is hard, then picking 10 worst is impossible. So many candidates. So little space. Movies expected to be awful are eliminated, which include teen angst films, awful chop-and-slash horror and any romantic comedy in the decade with Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker or Matthew McConaughey.
In this column, I pick on those with big budgets, big stars and films that are supposed to be of higher quality. This decade’s top candidates include the second two Star Wars prequels and numbers two and three of Pirates of the Caribbean. The Wachowski brothers didn’t score many points with parts two and three of The Matrix and who knows why the bothered with Speed Racer.
I never did understand the attraction to Gosford Park. The murder mystery had 38 characters and the murder didn’t take place until you were throughly confused by the upstairs and downstairs characters and how they connected to each other. The studio gave me a chart to help track things but that didn’t help at all.
Add what I just listed to your list and consider it done. What we’re left with now is the very worst of the worst. I’m going with two films and only because the two are connected.
The worst movies of the decade are:
2. The Twilight Saga: New MoonA moping 108-year-old vampire falling in love with a 16 year-old girl and who stays in high school for 90 years just doesn’t make sense. The franchise is contrived, horribly acted and is replete with cheesy effects. Vampire movies should suck differently.
Fans of the series should also note that I am encouraged that there will be at least two more of them released sometime in the new decade. That will make my search for the worst of the next decade much, much easier.
That’s my list. What are yours?