I said this about “My Blueberry Nights” (2007), and it remains true: Wong Kar Wei often makes movies that are better than movies better than his. His sometimes kinetic, sometimes ethereal flicks are more often visual poetry than bricks-and-mortar narrative, but Wong and his longtime partner, insane Aussie cinematographer Christopher Doyle, often construct the most arresting and moving images in movies today.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “In the Mood for Love” (2000). Watch it. Hate it the first time you see it. Tell people Wong Kar Wei’s overrated. Watch it again. Realize it’s a masterpiece. Tell people it’s a masterpiece. Backtrack when they point out that you found it “overrated” not even two months ago. Tell them you were in a “different place” then. Tell everyone you told you hated it earlier that “you really need to see it twice to, you know, really get it.” Prepare for your friends to like you less.
BIGGEST MISCUE: “My Blueberry Nights” (2007)
GO-TO ACTOR: Tony Leung
FIRST PROJECT: The screenplay “Choi wan kuk” (1982), which translates to “Rainbow Cloud Song.” … It probably sucks.
UP NEXT? “The Grand Master” (2010), starring Tony Leung. A martial arts movie, I think.
Paul Thomas Anderson started out in the ’90s like a mini-Scorsese/Altman Jr. who filtered his own quirky stories through his filmmaking heroes’ sensibilities. “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002) ended all that, and “There Will Be Blood” (2007) is so shockingly good and original, it might not be completely idiotic to ask whether Anderson is on his way to becoming the greatest filmmaker of his generation with a career that becomes more Kubrickian with each new flick.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “There Will Be Blood,” which probably includes the best performance of the decade by Daniel Day-Lewis. And the best score of the decade by Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead. And the best bowling pin bludgeoning too. And maybe the best mining sequence, but I don’t watch too many movies about mining.
GO-TO ACTOR: Philip Seymour Hoffman
GOOD CALL: Knocking up “Saturday Night Live” vet Maya Rudolph
FIRST PROJECT: “Hard Eight” (1996), which is a very good movie, but one scene in particular is so good it wouldn’t have mattered if it sucked: when a matchbook explodes in John C. Reilly’s jeans as he’s waiting in line to see a movie. The strength of Reilly’s entire career can be distilled down to the look on his face when his pants explode. Serious.
UP NEXT? An as-yet-untitled ’50s period piece about a man (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who starts a religion with the help of a young guy named Freddie, a wanderer who begins to question his the belief system he embraced. Let’s face it: PTA is going to take a massive dump on Scientology. Prepare yourself.
Woody Allen is the most prolific, good director in Hollywood. Woody Allen has been working since, like, the ’60s. Woody Allen was brilliant in the ’70s and ’80s. Woody Allen was decent to good but kinda tanked a little in the ’90s. Then, in 2000, dude was probably like, “I’m probably going to die soon,” and started making really depressing movies, which he filmed almost exclusively in Europe. These turned out to be some of his best movies.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Match Point” (2005). If you walk through life clinging to fragile hope, I would not recommend seeing this movie.
BIGGEST MISCUE: “Small Time Crooks” (2000)
BIGGEST CASTING MISTAKE: Larry David in “Whatever Works” (2009)
SURPRISINGLY AWESOME PERFORMANCE: Colin Farrell in “Cassandra’s Dream” (2007)
GO-TO ACTOR: Scarlett Johansson (for now, at least)
FIRST PROEJCT: “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” (1966), which sounds like a terrible movie.
UP NEXT? “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” (2010), a return to London for Mr. Allen. Plus, it’s got Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts.
David Gordon Green’s first film, “George Washington” (2000), is so boring, he said he routinely fell asleep at the editing bay as he neared the finish line. While I wouldn’t say it’s exactly that boring, it’s definitely not “Die Hard.” It’s a bunch of kids wandering around, talking to each other. With some adults also. In fact, you’d probably find 10 times the drama in one of those limp-wristed Merchant Ivory flicks with Anthony Hopkins or whatever. I don’t even remember what happened in “George Washington,” but I remember scenes. And images. And the editing between some of the shots. And how all of it together, when conditions are right, can entrance you. But I wouldn’t watch his movies after 9 or 10 p.m. because you probably won’t make it through them. Regardless, the guy’s a genius. I’m not exactly sure of what though.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Snow Angels” (2007)
RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CAREERS OF: Actors Danny McBride and Paul Schneider, up-and-coming directors Jeff Nichols and Craig Zobel, writer/actor Ben Best and coveted cinematographer Tim Orr. And filmmaker Jody Hill by extension. All 0f them went to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem together. Pretty crazy. He also produced Nichols’ “Shotgun Stories” (2007), which is one of the best movies of the decade. And it features, thanks to Michael Shannon, one of the best performances.
FIRST PROJECT: “George Washington”
BIGGEST SELL-OUT MOMENT: Green’s first movies essentially lost hundreds of thousands of dollars — which was a big deal because they only cost like $500,000 to $1 million to make. So, the dude needed a hit. He directed “Pineapple Express” (2008), which made more than $100 million worldwide. A sound business decision.
ANECDOTE! He doesn’t bring scripts on set, forcing actors to improvise most of the movie.
UP NEXT? “Your Highness” (2010), a fantasy about a lazy, arrogant prince and his more heroic brother who must complete a quest to save his father’s kingdom. Flick stars McBride, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman and James Franco.
Quentin Tarantino’s had a pretty spectacular run this decade. After six quiet years following 1997′s “Jackie Brown,” Tarantino returned with “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” an insanely entertaining kung fu movie. While I won’t say Tarantino is the best filmmaker of his generation (I think Anderson’s got him beat.), he’s certainly the most exciting. Most movie fans I know, including myself, get sort of giddy and annoying whenever one of his movies are coming out. I saw “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) twice, and I read the first 15 pages of the script a year before it was released just to whet my appetite. The fact that that’s lame goes without saying.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Inglourious Basterds.” While I don’t think he topped “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Inglourious” probably is his technical masterpiece. He’s a better filmmaker now than he was in ’94, and the proof is in “Inglourious Basterds.”
BEST CHARACTER: Nazi Col. Hans Landa played by German actor Christoph Waltz. It’s also the first Tarantino role to win an Oscar. Waltz is a polyglot and a very intelligent dude. He also carried Tarantino’s best scene of the decade — the first scene in “Inglourious Basterds,” in which he ferrets out Jews hiding in a French farmer’s floorboards. Masterful filmmaking.
FIRST PROJECT: “Reservoir Dogs” (1992)
MOST EFFECTIVE SURPRISE BIT OF CASTING: Kurt Russell in “Death Proof” (2007), the second half of the 2007 double feature flop “Grindhouse.” The choice of Russell was an interesting one that didn’t really reveal itself as brilliant or inspired until about 3/4 into the movie when Tracie Thoms’ character, Kim, shoots him in the bicep after he tries to run them off the road with his car. When Russell speeds away and pulls over to tend to his wound, screaming and crying like an elementary schooler as he pours whiskey into the bullet hole, you realize the hilarious risk Russell’s taking. He wonderfully undermines his entire performance in the film’s final 15 minutes, revealing the impotent, sniveling bully underneath his calculating serial killer.
BIGGEST MISCUE: Eli Roth. Eli Roth is a pretty awesome horror filmmaker. We dug “Hostel” (2005). We dug “Hostel: Part II” (2007) even more. But he’s not a good actor, and Tarantino’s movies stall a bit whenever Roth opens his mouth.
UP NEXT? Who the crap knows. Least of all Tarantino. iMDB claims “Kill Bill: Vol. 3″ is on deck with a 2014 release date. Tarantino’s also mentioned an old-school kung fu feature completely in Mandarin. He was also pondering a Vega brothers prequel to “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”
I have not seen half of Spike Jonze’s movies this decade. How many have I missed? Three? Four?
Nah. I missed one: “Where the Wild Things Are” (2009). This should come as a proper surprise. It certainly surprised me. Jonze has only made two movies this decade, the other one being “Adaptation” (2002), a stunning masterpiece. Several critics I trust have said “Wild Things” is its equal. Regardless, it feels like Jonze has made a movie every year, right? I mean, white people are always talking about him. He’s always on filmmaker lists and movie lists… I don’t know. That has to mean something. Dude made two movies.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: Uh… “Adaptation?”
WHY IS HE ON HERE? Because even with just two movies, Jonze has to be considered one of the most inventive directors in Hollywood. With “Adaptation,” he managed to make something that appeared structurally insane (on the surface) but turned out to be a simple story. It’s really a story about a man embracing life, and it looks like something so much more complex from the surface. He also does this better than Michel Gondry (with the exception of 2003′s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).
FIRST PROJECT: “Being John Malkovich” (1999)
UP NEXT? Nothing inked yet.
David Fincher is probably the least interesting person on this list. He doesn’t really talk all that much about his movies. In fact, if you Google him, there aren’t that many photos of him on the Internet. (Though he did start to come out of his shell while promoting “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” .) He’s got a great beard though. It really works. In summation though, Fincher is mad dark. His movies are dark. Not only thematically. Like, aesthetically too. You can’t see shit sometimes.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Zodiac” (2007). Former Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter was tragically wrong about this movie, and Fincher was right: Sometimes the serial killers actually are the least interesting thing about serial killers.
GO-TO ACTOR: Brad Pitt, and who can blame him? Pitt killed it in Fincher’s “Seven” (1995). And he was nothing short of brilliant in “Benjamin Button.”
BUTTON SCHMUTTON: “Button” is very good, but the premise is too shallow and flawed to ever be great. It made a pantload of money, so of course it should have been made, but “Benjamin Button” was a poor story when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it, and Fincher really directed around the inherent writing exercise-like quality of the premise when he made the movie.
FIRST PROJECT: “Alien 3″ (1992) after directing a buttload of music videos for people like The Wallflowers, Madonna and Aerosmith, and I ain’t ever seen it because I ain’t even seen “Alien” or “Aliens,” which is a problem
UP NEXT? “The Social Network” (2010), starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake. The film is about the creation of Facebook. It’s also got Rashida Jones in a starring role.
I’m reading “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” right now, and all it really does is inadvertently illuminate the brilliance of Steven Soderbergh. He’s pulling off what those egomaniacal, drug-addled ’60-and-’70s-era filmmakers (see Dennis Hopper and Bob Rafelson, basically) were trying to do back then: make small, experimental films that pushed the boundaries and used new, lightweight technology. How do you do it? You make an awesome, big-ass movie (like “Ocean’s Eleven” in 2001) to make everyone their money, and then you go make a movie with no real actors. In a doll factory. In Ohio. And you call it “Bubble.” And you release it to theaters, DVD and pay-per-view on the same day in 2005. And you piss off a lot of theater owners.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: Wow. A toughie. It’s between “Erin Brockovich” (2000) and “Traffic” (2000). … We’ll go with “Traffic.” “Traffic” it is.
BIGGEST MISCUE: “Solaris” (2002), the Tarkovsky remake. I vaguely remember rating this three stars when I saw it. Regardless, I have no interest in seeing it again. Boring as hell. Also, I hear “The Good German” (2006) wasn’t so hot. You only get so much mileage when all you talk about is how old your film stock and cameras were.
GO-TO ACTOR: George Clooney and Matt Damon. Both appeared in five Soderbergh movies this decade.
THE TRILOGY FACTOR: I’ll take the Danny Ocean trilogy over “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” or whatever any day of the week. Soderbergh’s trilogy gets more deliciously ridiculous and subtly homage-riddled with each new film. “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) is a huge explosion of French New Wave-inspired gags, and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007) is a flowering cornucopia of the same stuff. And they’re funny as hell.
MOST EFFECTIVE SURPRISE BIT OF CASTING: Sasha Grey in “The Girlfriend Experience” (2009). Sasha Grey is a porn star.
FIRST PROJECT: “Sex, Lies and Videotape” (1989)
UP NEXT? “Knockout” (2011), starring Channing Tatum, about a black ops agent who seeks revenge after he’s betrayed.
Paul Greengrass puts you there. He was a documentarian with the BBC for some time, and he switched to fictional television and feature films, blasting onto the scene with “Bloody Sunday” in 2002 starring one of my favorite Irish actors, James Nesbitt, who could be kind of like the Irish Tom Hanks (if there could ever be such a thing). Then he got “The Bourne Supremacy” in 2004 and the rest is history. He’s one of the greatest action directors alive.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), which is easily one of the greatest action movies of the last 25 years. Like the “Godfather Part II” of action movies. Except it’s the third one in the trilogy.
MOST DEPRESSING MOVIE: “United 93″ (2006). I saw this with a girl I really liked at the time. When it was over I told her, “Nah, I don’t want to go out. I’ll just drop you off and go home. … Yeah, I just want to go home.”
FIRST PROJECT: A bunch of TV movies and episodes and then “The Theory of Flight” (1998), which I can’t imagine anyone saw.
GO-TO ACTOR: Matt Damon
BEST ACTION SEQUENCE: The car chase sequence in “Ultimatum” when Jason Bourne (Damon) hops into a New York City police car, drives it in reverse at, like, 60 mph while slamming into stuff, backs it off the top of a parking garage, gets in another car, catches it on top of a Jersey barrier, gets whizzed across the barrier by a rival agent and smashed into a bridge piling, causing the car to nearly shatter into millions of pieces. Bourne exits with a slight limp.
UP NEXT? “They Marched Into Sunlight” (2013) about college protests of the Vietnam War in 1967
Everyone reps Robert Altman’s ’70s work, and that’s fine, and that’s logical. He made “Nashville” (1975) and “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971) and “The Long Goodbye” (1973), and that’s all well and good. In fact, had he not made those films, several of the more modern films from directors on this probably wouldn’t exist. (See Paul Thomas Anderson.) But Altman managed to make a surprising number of movies in the last decade that would have been a lesser filmmaker’s masterpieces. Plus, he died. So there’s that.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “The Company” (2003), which is also his most autobiographical movie. It’s about a Chicago dance company, but it’s also about filmmaking, and Malcolm McDowell’s portrayal of the company’s head is a pretty brilliant portrait of Altman himself — conniving, nurturing, brilliant and brutal all in one little directorial ball.
OTHER BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Gosford Park” (2001), which most people will probably say was his best of the decade. It certainly made the most money and won the most awards. And while it is a great film, it’s ironic and satirical. “The Company” has mad heart.
BEST SCENE: Again, in “The Company.” At the beginning of the flick, Altman pans across an empty dance room early in the morning to show an aging dancer in her 50s, practicing in front of a mirror with a balance beam. She has her toe above her head and as she reaches for the ceiling, a group of young, twentysomething dancers file into the room, taking their spots. In one tracking shot, the old dancer rushes off the floor into a back room and emerges dressed in work clothes. It’s clear she now works in the company’s front office. She hustles back to the front door and leaves, and in one shot, Altman tells you her entire life story, and the common story of any dancer — they all get too old to do what they love very, very quickly.
BEST CHARACTER: Guy Noir played by Kevin Kline in “A Prairie Home Companion” (2006)
FIRST PROJECT: It’s debatable, but we’ll go with “Countdown” (1968), which is about NASA’s efforts to reach the moon before the U.S.S.R.
UP NEXT? The continued comforts of his grave.
Christopher Nolan is what I guess I’ll call an impersonal auteur. The dude writes and directs, and he’s got a clear point of view, but his movies don’t feel personal. At least not in the sense that Woody Allen’s or Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies feel personal. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. Nolan likes to craft big, twisty thrill rides like the audacious reverse narrative of “Memento” (2000) and the heavy chaos of “The Dark Knight” (2008), and when his movies are over you feel like you’ve been attacked on one end by Garth Algar’s Suck Cut and proselytized by Christopher Hitchens.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “The Dark Knight,” the “Godfather Part II” of comic book films. An action masterpiece and one of the best action movies in decades.
STRANGELY FORGETTABLE: “The Prestige” (2006). I thought “The Prestige” was pretty awesome when I saw it. I remember thinking that. A lot of people saw it too. It made about $110 million worldwide. I don’t remember what the hell happened in that movie, and I have no interest in watching it again. It’s almost like “The Dark Knight” rendered it completely irrelevant.
GO-TO ACTOR: Christian Bale
FIRST PROJECT: “Following” (1998), an OK thriller on the whole but remarkably impressive if only for the fact that it was made for $5,000
UP NEXT? “Inception” (2010), which looks like it might just tear my face off
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden feel like two hipsters living in the apartment next to you in, like, fucking Bushwick. Except, unlike most hipster artists, Fleck and Boden don’t give two shits about the hipster aesthetic, which seems to ruin everything it touches these days. The husband and wife team make real art, starting with “Half Nelson” (2006). They even got Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination on their first feature. They even made a sports movie. I’d love to see The Avett Brothers make a sports movie. They’d look like dickheads.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Half Nelson,” which might also feature one of the top 10 performances of the decade as well
NEOREALISM! There’s probably no one better at placing non-actors in starring roles — and I’m not talking about singers and dancers and people used to the spotlight. I’m talking about non-actors. As in Joe Schmoes straight off the asphalt. See Shareeka Epps’ performance in “Half Nelson” and Algenis Perez Soto in “Sugar” (2009).
BEST SCENE: When Dre (Epps) sells drugs to her teacher (Gosling) in “Half Nelson.”
STRANGEST THING: I have no idea how a husband and wife, which they are, can make a movie together without one of them ending the other’s life.
UP NEXT? “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” (2010) about a clinically depressed teenager who gets a new start after he checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward
Judd Apatow was nobody. Then he made “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and suddenly became the most bankable comedy writer/director/producer in Hollywood. Go figure. For people who only have room for one potty-mouthed, bromantic filmmaker in their lives, he kind of replaced Kevin Smith. As evidenced by the core failure of “Funny People” (2009), he’ll probably never make a comedy as powerful as Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” but the dude is mad funny (and Jewish).
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Knocked Up” (2007), a masterpiece of comedy that ranks with the best of James L. Brooks and Woody Allen. Plus, politically and socially, it’s a pretty ballsy movie, regardless of personal politics. Hidden beneath its profane comedy, it’s kind of a pro-life flick that makes the only pro-choice voice a vain, middle-aged, wealthy white lady (Joanna Kearns) who tells Katherine Heigl’s character about how someone “took care of” their baby and has “a real baby now.” Only a few critics mentioned that when the film came out, and, to me, it was one of the most interesting moments in the movie. Not only did Apatow surge full steam ahead on an issue Hollywood, almost as a practice, avoids, he took sides. That takes stones; everyone thinks you’re Jon Stewart, and, as it turns out, you’re… kinda not.
GO-TO ACTOR: Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill
FIRST PROJECT: Apatow was associate producer on “Crossing the Bridge” (1992), one of Mike Binder’s earliest comedies, which probably means very little. So, we’ll go with “Heavyweights” (1995), which he co-wrote and executive produced. Solid. Ben Stiller kills in that movie.
UP NEXT? Nothing on the directorial slate, but he’s producing “Get Him to the Greek” (2010), starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, who will reprise his brilliant comedic role as Infant Sorrow frontman Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008). Sure to be a summer hit.
Sofia Coppola is a little like Spike Jonze in the sense that she only made two movies last decade: “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “Marie Antoinette” (2006). Oh, and they were married too. But she won an Oscar for Best Screenplay (for “Lost”), and she got nominated for Best Director, and both of her movies were at the very least quite good. (“Lost” is a bit of a masterpiece, and “Antoinette” is just maybe a little too ornate if not completely stupendous.) She might even be the closest thing the United States has to Wong Kar Wei insomuch as she tells stories that feel like they’re written on water. Scenes bleed from one to the next, and the movies tend to be about the distant, churning internals of her characters that she expresses remarkably well with, as it often turns out, ’80s pop music. In many ways, she’s the filmmaker her father always wanted to be. Seriously, dude said last year he’s only ever wanted to make movies like “Tetro.” The thought made me shudder. But she’s really good at it.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Lost in Translation”
GO-TO ACTOR: Closest thing she’s got to that is Kirsten Dunst who starred in “Marie Antoinette” and “The Virgin Suicides” (1999)
BEST ENDING: “Lost in Translation” for sure. Bill Murray as Bob says goodbye to Scarlett Johansson. Bob gets in a taxi. Bob stops the taxi. Bob chases Scarlett. Bob kisses Scarlett, whispers something to her we can’t hear. Bob gets back in the taxi. Cliched, classic and yet somehow never seen it like that before. And the Jesus and Mary Chain is pretty perfect.
BEST PERSONAL ANECDOTE: I once interviewed Jason Schwartzman, who is Coppola’s cousin, when he was on a press tour with “Shopgirl” (2005) directed by Anand Tucker. I knew “Marie Antoinette” was in post-production, so I asked him about it while he was sitting next to Claire Danes. I blogged about this.
FIRST PROJECT: “The Virgin Suicides” (1999), which I never saw
UP NEXT? Only my most anticipated movie of the year, “Somewhere” (2010), starring none other than… drumroll, please… Stephen effing Dorff, an actor who was sadly ignored over the last decade save for that fantastic Britney Spears music video where he shatters a vase against a wall and Brit-Brit dies in a fucking bathtub or something. In “Somewhere,” Dorff plays a fast-living Hollywood actor who must re-examine his life after his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up at his front door.
Welcome, M. Night haters. … Now get the fuck out. … Seriously. You’re just wrong. I don’t care how much M. Night Shyamalan screwed up with “The Happening” (2008) or how indulgent he got with “Lady in the Water” (2006), he racked up one masterpiece this decade with “Unbreakable” (2000), which could go toe-to-toe with the best comic book movie ever made, which is all the more remarkable because it’s not even based on a pre-existing comic book. He also made “Signs” (2002), which is awesome and insanely entertaining and rewatchable. I’ve seen it like 20 times. So has my sister. And my mother. You don’t argue with that kind of penetration.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Unbreakable,” which was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, which was perfect because “Unbreakable” stretched out what essentially is the first act in a standard superhero movie. You didn’t know that shit, did you? “Unbreakable” is basically a three-act one-act. He told MTV this year he’s writing the sequel. Thank God Bruce Willis doesn’t age really.
GO-TO ACTOR: Um… himself, really. This was kind of a problem with “Lady in the Water.” He made himself a writer whose prose was destined to change the world. This did not improve his case with his many detractors, and it just made fans like me cringe a little.
BIGGEST MISCUE: “The Happening” for sure. Mark Wahlberg isn’t very good in it (though he’s not terrible either), and the whole plot is a little hard to believe. BUT… it’s a pretty awesome idea, and it’s worth watching. Who else is gonna chase an idea that essentially says that, at some point in the near future, plants terrified of being continually polluted, will revolt against the human race and poison us with gas? Oh. Spoiler alert.
BIGGEST OBSESSION: Alfred Hitchcock. There’s at least 10 standard Hitchcock shots in every movie. Or something that seems like it would have made Hitchcock chuckle when he saw it. Like that shot in “Signs” when Mel Gibson drops his flashlight in the cornfield, and, while rolling in the dirt, it catches the green foot of an alien as it slips back into the shadows, and you see Gibson’s stunned reaction shot, and it completely matches the audience’s.
FIRST PROJECT: “Praying with Anger” (1992), some movie about an American kid with Indian roots visiting India. See Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” (2006) instead. It’s essentially about the same thing, and even if it isn’t, I’ll bet money it’s a helluva lot better.
NEXT UP? “The Last Airbender” (2010). Google it. Watch the trailer. Can’t say I’m terribly enthused.
I wish I could say I’ve seen more of Olivier Assayas’ work. I haven’t. I’ve seen two flicks. And I know he’s married to Maggie Cheung, which I imagine is nice. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge. But he made “Summer Hours,” which has to be one of the best French films of the last decade.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Summer Hours” (2009). I may be a bit biased because I recently watched my mother, uncle and aunt go through the same exact predicament of the movie’s characters when my grandmother died early last year. I remember feeling a dulled shock and sadness when I realized no one in my family or extended family would likely have any reason to return to Moorestown, N.J., a wealthy, historic and picturesque town outside Philadelphia where I spent many summer vacations with my grandparents who built two gorgeous homes off Main Street, both of which are now owned by someone else. Assayas nailed what it feels like to witness that.
GO-TO ACTOR: I’m not sure he has one, but Cheung has starred in two of his movies, “Irma Vep” (1996) and “Clean” (2004), the only other movie of his I’ve seen. Cheung is stunning in “Clean,” which also includes Nick Nolte in a starring role. It’s also one of the most honest movie I’ve seen about addiction.
FIRST PROJECT: “Disorder” (1986)
UP NEXT? “Carlos the Jackal” (2010), about Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who created a worldwide terrorist organization and raided OPEC headquarters in 1975 before being caught by French police.
There are a whole bunch of dudes over at Pixar who are geniuses. I’m not a big animation guy, so I sometimes catch myself saying, “It’s a shame they have to draw their movies, because if they were filming real people, they’d be winning Best Picture Oscars,” which is the sort of comment that would probably offend Pixar employees who are very much big animation guys. Regardless, the strength of Pixar is not the animation. It’s the writing. The goddamned writing is great. Pixar exemplifies the age-old Hollywood mantra: story, story, story. Its crisp animation is the icing on the cake. But the cake is the writing.
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE: “Up” (2009). See my 2009 top 10 film list for more.
BEST SCENE: The 8-minute montage in “Up” chronicling the love affair between Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, and his wife, Ellie. Not work safe. Because it will devastate you.
RUNNER-UP: “WALL-E” (2008). We all love “WALL-E,” but “Up” very much one-ups it. I’d also mention “Ratatouille,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” all of which were made in this decade, and all of them essential viewing.
LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: “Up” was re-titled “Helium” in the Philippines.
DECLARATION: Film by film, Pixar Animation Studios is the strongest studio in Hollywood. They don’t miss. Everything is a smash, and it’s all wildly critically acclaimed. It makes sense they used to be owned by Apple.
FIRST PROJECT: “Toy Story” (1995)
UP NEXT? “Toy Story 3″ (2010)
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Clint Eastwood, Danny Boyle, Mira Nair, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Joe Wright, Mike Nichols, David Mamet, Wes Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, Ramin Bahrani, Alexander Payne