You can thoroughly blame Pajiba for this. I appreciate Dustin giving us the business for criticizing the Pajiba Top Whatevers of the Aughts by choosing our more questionable suggestions. I think it's hilarious. I don't care for being called out by other readers for something I planned on admitting immediately (my love of The Village), especially since it was exaggerated by way of Dustin's joke.
I don't rank, and I'd probably write a different list tomorrow. Here are some of the Top 10 Films of the Aughts in no particular order. All links below to IMDB pages.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Greatest musical of the decade? I'd say so. It's a highly energetic film with a compelling story and wonderful cast. John Cameron Mitchell's follow up feature, Shortbus, is also worth watching. He's very talented and one of the directors I wish would put out more regular work. If his animated feature ever gets off the ground, I'll be a very happy person. Once and A Mighty Wind are also up there for great musicals of the decade.
MirrorMask - A beautiful, disturbed fantasy film. Neil Gaiman struck gold with this project. Everything about the production is haunting. The story, about a pre-teen girl coming to terms with her mother's illness through a fantasy of her own devising, is handled with great sensitivity and insight. The original score and soundtrack, in particular, are stand outs. You'll never think of The Carpenters the same way again after the transformation sequence. And if you love weird fantasy, don't forget Paprika and Pan's Labyrinth.
Capote - A quasi-biopic about a larger than life writer that downplays the eccentricities and focuses solely on arguably the most life-changing moment of the subject's life? Yes, please. Capote is a subtle film with wonderfully nuanced performances and a tight screenplay. I knew the story and how it had to end, yet I still found myself in hysterics in the final scene. Director Bennett Miller does a standout job bringing all these elements together in a truly under-appreciated film. Don't forget the other great Catherine Keener performances of the decade: Where the Wild Things Are? and An American Crime.
The Queen - Speaking of biopics, let's get the other stellar one out of the way right now. The Queen is a lot more than an acting showcase for Helen Mirren. It's a thoughtful, funny examination of a difficult period in Queen Elizabeth II's life told through great visual metaphors and the slightest shift of expression on any given actor's face. The deer scene is the moment of the film, though the round table negotiation is hilarious. Bonus points issued for ample use of Corgies, arguably the cutest hunting dogs to ever cutely hunt game ever in the history of everything. For more great royal family action, don't forget to get a taste of The Duchess.
Noriko's Dinner Table - A sequel? Am I kidding? No, I'm not. Noriko's Dinner Table is technically a sequel, and a prequel, and a remake of bizarre Japanese horror film Suicide Club. Occurring before, during, and after the events of Suicide Club, the film focuses on how one family is changed by the mysterious online community that may be convincing people to kill themselves throughout Japan. The cast is stellar (the film wins all my acting awards, lead and supporting, for that year), the screenplay taught and thrilling, and the technical film making tight as a champion barbershop quartet. Don't worry if you haven't seen the original: Director Shion Sono intentionally wants the films to be a trilogy (though the third might not be made now) that never actually answer why people are killing themselves and how the world became so messed up. It's all about the journey. The film is classified as a horror, but I say it's anything but. It's an art drama, if you will. Just go with it. And see Suicide Club anyway: it's a hoot of a horror film. And for those sick of J-Horror: try Three...Extremes, the feature length Dumplings, and The Happiness of the Katakuris. Then get back to me on how the genre is just creepy long-haired girls.
There Will Be Blood - Another film overshadowed by the lead performance if you believe the awards bodies. I don't. There Will Be Blood is a towering artistic achievement. Aside from Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano giving two of the more compelling performances of the Aughts, Paul Thomas Anderson - director, screenwriter - advances the medium of narrative film making by refusing to stand by any of the conventions. The film is episodic with the only clear connective thread being the same characters appearing in the film. For a film called There Will Be Blood, there is an intentional void of violence. What does occur is short, brutal, and shocking, as it would be in real life. The film is more than the milkshake scene, which is, surprisingly, supposed to be funny in the film; it's an intentionally ridiculous moment in the life of a man who has nothing to lose at that point. Other films that handle violence in a surprisingly brutal way without showing that much? Hard Candy and Bug. Except Bug is rightly violent, but not excessively so.
Dogville - A great Lars von Trier film, or a greater one? Does it matter? It is so beyond what most films even aimed to achieve in the Aughts it's almost not fair to include on this list. Set on a chalk-marked soundstage so the viewer can see all the townspeople as the true setting, Dogville follows the destruction of a woman, masterfully played by Nicole Kidman, who only asked for some help. It's disturbing, it's brutal, and it's utterly rewarding for being so different. Lars von Trier may not understand America well enough to successful execute a cinematic criticism of the entire nation; he does understand how to make a great film. Dancer in the Dark or Antichrist could have easily occupied this spot and I recommend seeing all three, but not Manderlay - I cannot get behind killing an animal for a film.
The Triplets of Belleville - Speaking of innovative filmmaking, Sylvain Chomet's animated opus is one of the most original films you'll find this decade shy of Tarnation. An animated feature almost entirely devoid of spoken dialog? Wall-E, eat your heart out. The story is thin and only used as a vehicle for a splendid mix of traditional and CGI animated techniques, which themselves are simultaneously a vehicle for effective social commentary and a brilliant score. This might be one of my favorite original film scores ever. It's clever. It's challenging. And, most importantly, it's unbelievably catchy. Try to walk away without wanting to sing "Belleville Rendez-Vous" or "Cabaret Hoover" again and again. I dare you.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - I always love a film that can make me feel something. Nothing consistently played my emotions quite like Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Told almost entirely from the perspective of a paralyzed man who can only move one eye, the film is a testament to the power of filmmaking. Schanbel throws a lot at the viewer and it all hits hard. I feel like a broken record: the cast is great, the adapted screenplay thoughtful, and the cinematography top notch. Other great films not made in America? Vera Drake for certain. Speaking of Vera Drake, you can't go wrong with Happy-Go-Lucky, either. And I have to mention The Lives of Others somewhere, so it's not in English, too.
The Eye - No, not with Jessica Alba. I should slap you for that. I refer to the real film, the original, the masterpiece of the Pang Brothers from 2002. Is it possible for a film to be so inspired by other features that it transcends derivation into something unique? Yes, and The Eye is the proof. Featuring inventive practical effects, a great score, beautiful cinematography, and a pair of wonderful leading performances, The Eye is a film that always comes out in my discussion of how horror can have merit. It's so much more than a scary film and what the US remake did with the material sickens me. The real version is taut, intelligent, subtle, beautiful, and incredibly well made. In my dream world, any horror film not exhibiting these qualities would be sent straight to the DVD graveyard, never earning a real screening in a theater.
I think I lied today. I said I don't rank: that's a lie. The Eye is the clear winner of the Aughts for me. It's one of only three films I give a perfect score to (the other two being Rosemary's Baby and Jezebel). Yes, it's a horror film, but I was trying to play nice with Pajiba's no-foreign-film rules established early in the lists. That's the only reason I didn't rant and rail for it.
I feel good now. This was therapeutic. Now to save the link and slap anyone with it who tries to claim I think The Village is the bestest film ever.
Also interesting: my list is overwhelmingly skewed to 2006. I wasn't expecting that.