And now the thrilling conclusion to my list of my favourite films of the past decade! The top ten! Starting with…
10. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino makes movies for people who love movies the way he does, and film studentslike myself are exactly his target audience. He fills every frame of his films with all the glorious (or inglorious, as the case may be) things that make cinema wonderful. Inglourious Basterds is a poem to this style of filmmaking: a movie about the movies for people who love the movies, rife with references to genre auteurs like Sergio Leone, and containing a plot which literally uses the power of cinema to rewrite history. Film is a weapon, Tarantino knows it, and Inglourious Basterds proves it. Basterds also contains twenty of the absolute best minutes of cinema ever created, as the introductory interrogation scene featuring Christoph Waltz’s positively brilliant performance as Col. Hans Landa is so perfectly constructed that you’re on your edge of your seat the entire time. I could ramble on and on about the complexities of this amazing movie, but I’ll stop here. Truly this is one of Tarantino’s best.
9. Bubba Ho-Tep
Anybody who knows me knows how much I love Bruce Campbell movies. Bruce has a knack for the tongue-in-cheek that no one else can match, and he manages to play both serious and slapstick material with a talent like no other. My all-time favourite Bruce movie will always be “Evil Dead 2”, but “Bubba Ho-Tep” is, without a doubt, the best movie Bruce has ever done. With excellent performances from Bruce and his sidekick played by Ossie Davis, “Bubba Ho-Tep” manages the seemingly impossible: it makes a story about an aging Elvis Presley (impersonator?) and a black J.F.K. (or maybe just a crazy guy) fighting a mummy in cowboy boots into a sweet, sad, poignant tale about the elderly. These are heroes in the twilight of their years, their glory days long behind them. Elvis’ interior monologues reflecting upon his life are genuinely touching, and the film is filled with bittersweetness as well as horror and comedy. It’s a movie that shouldn’t work at all, but ends up working magnificently.
8. The Prestige
Christopher Nolan is THE director of the decade, having burst onto the scene in 2000 with Memento (which appears later on my list). His filmography since then has been terrific, with the only real dud being the mediocre Insomnia. But we’re happy to ignore that in favour of his other works – the fantastic franchise reboot Batman Begins, and the likewise fantastic sequel The Dark Knight to name a couple. The movie that made me love this guy, though, was The Prestige. Now, I’m quite biased on this one, being a magician myself, but I like to think that even the non-magicians in the audience got something out of this movie. It’s got a stellar cast, some top-notch twists, a brilliant rivalry plot that’s loaded with the sinister and macabre, and even a third-act change of genre that will leave you reeling. Not to mention the fact that David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla. Simply terrific.
7. Shaun of the Dead
Oh man, do I even need to explain this? Not only is Shaun of the Dead a terrific zombie movie, but it’s a brilliant, laugh-till-your-sides-hurt comedy! So much good came out of this movie, I don’t even know where to start. For one, it brought Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost into the limelight. For another, it showed us that parody can also equal respect of the source material. It made the cricket bat a favourite zombie-killing weapon among nerds everywhere! As soon as the end credits rolled, this film shot straight into my pantheon of movies that are so good that every other entry in the genre will be compared to them. Does that make sense? How about this: when you saw Zombieland, you thought of Shaun of the Dead, right? That’s my point. Comedy + zombies = perfection, in my books.
Grindhouse makes it this high up my list because I feel like it was made just for me. It may not have hit home the way the other Tarantino or Rodriguez films of the decade did, but I think it’s one of the greatest things ever to be shown in theatres. It’s so hard to make an intentionally good bad movie, and both Tarantino AND Rodriguez not only succeeded, but surpassed every expectation I had. Grindhouse was not just a pair of films, it was a complete experience, right down to the phony trailers (one of which has spawned its own movie: Machete) and the ads for disgusting looking concessions snacks. This was one of those rare movies that had me cheering throughout it, and I only wish it had done better, because in a perfect world we’d have a Grindhouse double bill showing every Friday night.
4-5. Kill Bill, volumes 1 and 2
I consider these two films to, in fact, be one film split into two parts, and the two volumes of Kill Bill are two very different experiences. The first volume is a martial arts enthusiast’s dream come true. Tarantino revels in throwing all the best tropes of chop-socky flicks at the audience, and stylish touches like O-Ren’s anime backstory sequence give the movie a visual flare that’s really never seen outside of Tarantino’s movies. The whole thing builds up to one of the most bloody, amazingly choreographed fight scenes in cinema history, and one that will not soon be forgotten. The second volume of Kill Bill gives us everything that is wonderful and good about the spaghetti western genre, and even though the action is scant in volume 2, the few fight scenes are all terrific – particular the standoff between Beatrix and Elle in Budd’s trailer. I consider these films to be Tarantino’s magnum opus. He takes everything we love about the movies and packs it into four hours of pure gold.
1-3. The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King)
I count these three films as all being part of one giant, ten-hour movie, and therefore they occupy the top three slots of my list. Peter Jackson has pulled off something incredible with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in that he has not only managed to astound audiences visually with amazing special effects – everything from the forced-perspective camera tricks used to make the hobbits to the never-before-seen motion capture used to create Gollum – but he has also managed to condense some REALLY wildly written books into a coherent series of films. The technical and directorial skill it takes to bring such a beloved property as “The Lord of the Rings” to life on the big screen is nothing to be scoffed at. The Lord of the Rings is the Star Wars of the millenium, and will be watched again and again for many years to come.