Back to IndieWire

Discussing a Decade: Critics Comment On The 2000s

Discussing a Decade: Critics Comment On The 2000s

Last week, indieWIRE published its annual critics poll, with a special question geared toward the best of the decade. Ninety-nine participants decided that David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” lead some 200 films that received votes in the category, with Wong Kar-wai’s “In The Mood For Love,” Edward Yang’s “Yi Yi” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” just behind. Many of the critics also included their written thoughts on the decade in film, and indieWIRE compiled a snapshot here.

The Results:
Best Film of ’09 | Best Film of the Decade | Best Lead Performance | Best Supporting Performance | Best Director | Best Documentary | Best Screenplay | Best First Feature | Best Undistributed Film

The Comments:

“For a number of good, obvious reasons, the rise of the radical Left, and its (de)evolution into factionalism and terror, is the sociopolitical phenomenon best served by the movies of recent years. To each national movement its own cinema, often produced self-critical fellow-travelers: Terror’s Advocate; Regular Lovers; Good Morning, Night; United Red Army; Hunger (and its analogue The Wind That Shakes the Barley). Hell, even Munich. Plus, if you live in New York, revivals of Ice, La Chinoise and Night and Fog In Japan (plus the whole of Lincoln Center’s spirit-of”68 series); and then the Weather Underground’s return to the nightly news, in the person of Obama pal Bill Ayers. All of which doesn’t quite make the flashy Baader Meinhof Complex—which plays every chapter of the Red Army Faction’s history for maximum dramatic expediency with no regard for matching tone and perspective scene to scene, so that it ends up lamenting the lost moral clarity of a revolution it initially dismissed as narcissists getting off on their superiority to society—this year’s worst film. Just the most self-evidently out of its depth..” – Mark Asch

“Christopher Nolan is the most unlikely director of the decade imaginable — someone without a distinctive visual style, but with a flair for building magic boxes inside his material so that it is always larger on the inside than on the outside..” – Donna Bowman

“The Chinese cinema becomes an aesthetic wonder and a moral force; Mumblecore (yes) directors and other brilliant young filmmakers emerge to re-establish independent cinema as a source of innovation in aesthetics as well as in practical modes of production; fierce old dogs learn daring new tricks.” – Richard Brody

“The world of film is alive and well. TV has sunk to reality shows. You do the math!” – Dwight Brown

“It was hard to limit oneself to ten films: there were so many films which gave me intense pleasure over the decade. And there are any number of filmmakers who came up with great films in the decade: Pat O’Neill, William E. Jones, Su Friedrich, Abigail Child, Heinz Emigold, Andrew Noren, Peggy Ahwesh, Lewis Klahr, Saul Levine… the list goes on. Though far less publicized (it makes one realize how crucial Jonas Mekas really was to the visibility of the “underground” during the 1960s and 1970s), these (and other) American “experimental” filmmakers continue to work with the utmost integrity and passion and vision, especially in an increasingly fragmented and marginalized culture which has been overwhelmed by commerce. May they continue and may their work continue to challenge us.” – Daryl Chin

“Although there isn’t a single film on my “best of the decade” list that I’m not very pleased to see appear there, I must confess that my tenth selection, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, would have just fallen off of the list, if I would have been permitted to include films that did not receive an American theatrical release (and, indeed, even then, some of my included ten barely did). But my original pick for second place was Philippe Grandrieux’s extraordinary (albeit very challenging) 2002 film La Vie Nouvelle (A New Life), which found no theatrical exposure outside of festival screenings.” – Travis Crawford

“There won’t be much love hereabouts, I’m guessing, for Christopher Nolan, my choice for Filmmaker of the Decade in a walk. In “Memento” and “The Prestige”—and also in “The Dark Knight,” to a lesser but still impressive degree (for a studio tentpole, anyway)—Nolan is working at a level of philosophical ambition that dwarfs nearly all of his contemporaries; I know of no two recent films that speak as profoundly to what makes us human, viz. our deep but mostly unacknowledged need for continual self-deception. But he isn’t a personal filmmaker (strike one) or a formalist (strike two), and he’s fundamentally more interested in ideas than in people (yer outta there!). So, no, these movies aren’t sensual or intimate or pointillist. Merely brilliant.” – Mike D’Angelo

“Most impressive run of the decade: Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, Friday Night, L’Intrus, 35 Shots of Rum … by the inimitable Claire Denis.” – Robert Davis

“Ten? How to narrow to 10. With a few exceptions, every slot presented its own version of Sophie’s choice. I found it too easy to fill almost the entire list with titles from the phenomenal 2004. It’s hard enough to determine what the best films of a single year are while you’re still in that year. These things can sometimes shift a bit as time goes on, and for that reason, I found it utterly impossible to include any films from 2009 in this list. Conceivably, a few years down the road, “Where the Wild Things Are,” “A Serious Man” or “Summer Hours” could easily supplant another title on this list, but right now, I can’t be that definitive. All I do know is these films have, for me, stood the test of time, and each (in their own way) explicitly represents the Aughts and my experience of them. And still … so much missing. “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville” both spent time on this list. A battle royale occurred between “The Incredibles” and “WALL*E” with the former just barely edging out its later generation relative. “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” “In the Mood for Love” and “Cache” still stare at me, expressing their desires to squeeze into a space on the list. I found no room for docs, and yet, I was blown away by “The Fog of War,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Promises” and so many others. If I was doing “most important/influential,” I likely would not have been able to justify to myself leaving off “Fahrenheit 9/11.” “I (Heart) Huckabees,” “Adaptation,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “The Secret Lives of Dentists,” “You Can Count on Me,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Almost Famous,” “Far From Heaven,” “Unbreakable,” “City of God,” “Kings and Queen,” “A Very Long Engagement,” “Trouble Every Day,” “Tarnation” … the list of great films, each of which had at least a momentary consideration for inclusion, goes even further. And I could never forget the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy nor the film I continue to call the best of 2005, “Batman Begins,” which proved a movie based on a comic book did not have to be a comic book movie.” – Aaron Dobbs

A scene from Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“My #1 film of the decade felt like the easiest choice on the list (the rest of which will undoubtedly be switched around in ten years’ time, or ten days’ time). Ousmane Sembene’s Moolaade ought to be a more famous title, even within the limited area of the foreign/arthouse world, having all the ingredients for a world classic: it’s the summing-up work of an acknowledged master; it takes up a serious social issue; despite wise treatment of said social issue, it is also a splendidly funny and human film; it manages to be a crowd-pleasing experience without sacrificing any of the formal attributes that make it a rigorously directed work. A classic, and the most visible offering from a decade that offered reason to be cautiously hopeful about the next era of African cinema.” – Robert Horton

“The decade’s essential films were made by Pedro Costa, Jia Zhang-ke, Lisandro Alonso, Albert Serra, Apichatpong, Raya Martin, Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porimboiu, Marco Bellocchio, James Benning, Jose Luis Guerin, Olivier Assayas, Kelly Reichardt, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jean-Marie Straub/Danielle Huillet, Ken Jacobs, Lav Diaz, Jean-Luc Godard, Carlos Reygadas, Adam Curtis, Miguel Gomes, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Lucrecia Martel, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, The Berlin School, Sharon Lockhart, Michael Haneke, Ousmane Sembene, Yu Guangyi, Nobuhiro Suwa and Jafar Panahi.” – Robert Koehler

“My list is extremely arbitrary and subject to change, but I hope that it reflects a decade of innovation on both the grassroots and blockbuster scales. The means of production have evolved and expanded to include a wide variety of methods, but the importance of artistic clarity knows no bounds — and, on a conceptual level, hasn’t changed much.” – Eric Kohn

“No other film came close to speaking for the state of the world and of the movies this decade than “The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein.” John Gianvito launched every cinematic missile, bullet and slingshot he had at an insurmountable object, a post-Cold War Imperial U.S. thoroughly alienated from itself. He goes beyond breaking down a desolate American landscape cloaked in Gulf War victory, but the cinema itself and its inability to redress — or even address — a state of national crisis: political, cultural, spiritual. His actors, almost all of them non-professionals, valiantly assumed roles more momentous than they could embody. And yet that gap between people in real life and on the screen became the implied subject. Their collective effort is an act of heroism that exposes just about every recent commercial American feature — including most of the product labeled “independent” – as market-calculated acts of cowardice. It’s a movie that cries out for the need to reinvent the movies in order to reclaim their relevance to our lives.”Jay Kuehner

“No other film came close to speaking for the state of the world and of the movies this decade than “The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein.” John Gianvito launched every cinematic missile, bullet and slingshot he had at an insurmountable object, a post-Cold War Imperial U.S. thoroughly alienated from itself. He goes beyond breaking down a desolate American landscape cloaked in Gulf War victory, but the cinema itself and its inability to redress — or even address — a state of national crisis: political, cultural, spiritual. His actors, almost all of them non-professionals, valiantly assumed roles more momentous than they could embody. And yet that gap between people in real life and on the screen became the implied subject. Their collective effort is an act of heroism that exposes just about every recent commercial American feature — including most of the product labeled “independent” – as market-calculated acts of cowardice. It’s a movie that cries out for the need to reinvent the movies in order to reclaim their relevance to our lives.” – Kevin B. Lee

“I really struggled with the final two slots, because I love “Colossal Youth,” “Inland Empire,” ‘In Praise of Love” and “The New World.” I would have felt fine putting any of those on the list, but that had the most profound impact on me, so much so I remember precisely the first time I saw each one.” – Patrick Z. McGavin

The most surprising and welcome New Wave of the decade has been the resurgence of Romanian cinema in the post-Communist era. With the exception of occasional talents such as Lucian Pintilie, Romanian cinema had little impact outside its borders before the current decade. Yet Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu, and Corneliu Porumboiu are among the most talented directors working anywhere in the world today. The new Cristi Puiu film is one of the most eagerly awaited films of the upcoming year.” – Richard Porton

“This was an excellent decade for me to grow through pubescence and learn to immerse myself in film comprehensively. Golden age, seriously.” – Vadim Rizov

“If “The Wire” were eligible for this list, it would have been my number one pick. Settling on just 10 movies from the past 10 years is an insanely difficult task, as I would have loved to included the following films and so many more: “Zodiac,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Werckmeister Harmonies,” “Gaea Girls,” “25th Hour,” “In This World,” “Gerry,” “Bloody Sunday,” “35 Shots of Rum,” “Great World of Sound,” “Children Underground,” “Shotgun Stories,” “Frownland,” “Lilya 4-Ever,” “Kings and Queen,” and I don’t want to stop there but I will! Be sure to keep reading www.HammertoNail.com in the coming days and weeks, as we continue to unveil filmmaker reflections on the decade that was in addition to our own Best of the Decade list, which distinguishes itself from the rest by concentrating on American narratives that were produced for one million dollars or less. Politically this decade was a menacing pile of bunk, but cinematically, consider me a big ol’ fan.” – Michael Tully

“Not a good decade. Aside from the 1990s perhaps, the weakest decade since the turn of the 20th century. Social traumas, not yet understood, account for much of that. We are on the eve…” – David Walsh

Cowardice, cliques and herd-mentality thinking have destroyed criticism–if not damaged democracy–but good films get made anyway. Good luck finding them.” – Armond White

“The lockstep decline of both independent studios — and venues for the independent journalists who champion their films– is bad news for everyone” – Stephen Whitty

“There is still great work being done–but it is being done by auteurs who forged their reputations in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, largely. The meat-and-potatoes business of picture-making…the business side of thing, the place where artists were long able, to use Martin Scorsese’s memorable phrase, to “smuggle” ideas into genre work…this is an arid zone. There is almost nothing on the studio programmer map that an intelligent adult can sit through, much less think about or discuss. There are the Smarty Arty Folks, and then there is a great desert. And it would seem that divide is only going to get vaster.” – Matthew Wilder

“While everyone correctly predicted we would crave comfort cinema after 9/11 (“Paul Blart” anyone?), who could have predicted our ever-growing desire for apocalyptic mayhem and old-school horror?” – Susan Wloszczyna

The Results:
Best Film of ’09 | Best Film of the Decade | Best Lead Performance | Best Supporting Performance | Best Director | Best Documentary | Best Screenplay | Best First Feature | Best Undistributed Film

This Article is related to: Uncategorized