“Best of the 2000’s” – An Introduction to a Joint Retrospective on the Past Ten Years of Cinema

The Best of the Decade Project is an ongoing discussion between Match Cuts and The Filmist concerning the finest films of the last ten years.

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So, 2010 coming up. The first decade of this new millennium is almost nearly behind us, anonymous reader. We just barely made it, folks – we inched through, but we’re still here. Whenever you do a reflection looking back on the previous decade, a little doomsaying is expected – it’s just tradition, I’m told. Still, goodness gracious. The ground nearly swallowed us up, back there.

It’s strange – I’ve always thought that you could measure the collective mindset by looking at what their contemporary fictional impressions of the near future were. The eighties, with their oil crises that have poured over into the nineties and now into our present, found solace in images of burned out wastelands and desolate highways, and wide open spaces dotted here and there with people casually feeding on other people. The oughts seem to have gone in the entirely opposite direction – overcrowding, no breathing room, people in cages right out on the street, mentions of special tribunals, terrorist kidnappings, and a less-silly emphasis on chemical war. And yet, much like the eighties, still there’s a sort of pervasive, cautious optimism – which, in the case of a few (like Cauron’s Children of Men), could even be called utopian.

So, in partial celebration of this, our coming out on the other side of the wasteland battered and bruised but still in one piece, Glenn Heath Jr. from that perennial MatchCuts and I have resolved to collectively count down our respective “top ten” films from this most turbulent decade – one marked by intriguing experiments in relatively untapped genres (The Dark Knight), an increased emphasis on socio-political metaphor (Children of Men, Happy Feet, WALL-E), and an unnerving, unflinching quiet (No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood). And all over, there’s an intriguing sort of formal urgency, even among the established auteurs and the ostensibly less ambitious genre efforts.

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Writing this introduction has really posed a problem, for me. I’m not quite sure why –  but, I mean, how do you even summarize ten whole years of cinema? I’m sure someone like Roger Ebert could rattle off something, no problem. But then, I’m only a humble Filmist — luckily, I’ll have help in this, from Glenn. And, beginning next Friday at the ten spot, Glenn with 2002’s Bloody Sunday and I with 2008’s The Dark Knight, we’ll be looking back at a period of ten years that, I’m almost certain that about twenty or thirty years down the road, historians are going to scratch their heads and remark, “well, how — strange.” And, for every film that we do highlight, there are at least four more that were just as worthy. Films like Spartan, Punch Drunk Love, A History of Violence, WALL-E and Shane Carruth’s Primer – as Glenn put it in his own illuminating introduction, “you are simply ‘essential.’ ”

It was certainly a trip, of that much we can be sure of – because we were there.

The Filmist (henryjbaugh)

Also,  as Glenn rightly states, this is meant to be an open discussion among film lovers and friends. Comments are more than encouraged.

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