And with this post the list is ended. Sorry it’s been a couple of days later than I said it would, I’ve been a bit slack with the updating. Apologies. Anyway, without further ado, here are O&T’s top 20 films of the 2000s.
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The trilogy which dominated the decade had some great moments throughout all three of its instalments, but it was with 2001’s Fellowship that it hit its heady heights. I chose to include the first chapter because a) including all three as one film is a ridiculous cop-out, and b) I think it’s the best by a mighty big stretch. The sense of peril, the kinetic camerawork, the sheer craft on this film is awe-inspiring. From the opening in the marvellously created Hobbiton to its maudlin close, this really is a work of pure inspiration. While the latter two movies relied a lot on heavily CGI-ed set-pieces like Helm’s Deep or Minas Tirith, Peter Jackson’s 2001 film is much more preoccupied with the thrill of the chase – the Ringwraiths are positively terrifying – and the forming of the nine’s unlikely coalition. Setting up the story can often be the most boring part of a trilogy, but Fellowship never feels like an exercise in exposition, largely due to some very convincing turns from Ian McKellan and Viggo Mortensen. Add to this potent mix the claustrophobic and fantastic battle in the mines of Moria and you’ve got a recipe for a classic. Jackson made a blockbuster with an independent filmmaker’s mindset, and it paid serious dividends.
4. High Fidelity (2000)
The top 4 films on this list have all featured on the site before (check the inaugural top 5 movies ever posts if you’re a cheater), and High Fidelity is no different. The Stephen Frears-directed adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel of same name may have transposed the events from London to chilly Chicago, but it has lost none of its charm or humour. Rob Gordon, the film’s protagonist and serial fucker-upper/list-maker, showcases John Cusack in his finest role, running the full gamut of emotions in his roles of freshly dumped ex-boyfriend and snob record store owner. The comic combination of Jack Black and Todd Louiso as Gordon’s hapless employees is almost too good to be true, Black on irrepressibly brash form as mega-nerd Barry while Louiso finds the limelight even though his character Dick prefers to linger on the periphery. The scenes in Championship Vinyl are the best in the movie, but they are ably supported by fine work from Iben Hjejle as Rob’s ex Laura and Tim Robbins as general cock-end/hippie upstairs Ray, and a brilliant soundtrack. A movie about loving music more than your girlfriend? Almost certainly. A joy because of it? Definitely.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums (2004)
Wes Anderson has a knack for assembling casts, and with Tenenbaums he really knocked it out of the park. Hackman, Murray, Huston, Paltrow, Stiller, Glover, O. Wilson and L. Wilson (not to mention Alec Baldwin narrating) all feature, and it’s a testament to Anderson’s directorial skills that he keeps them all under control. His masterpiece shows the crumbling of the once-proud Tenenbaum family, ruptured since pater familias Royal (Gene Hackman, superb)’s departure. The twisted psyches of children Chas (Stiller), Richie (L. Wilson) and adopted daughter Margot (Paltrow) are endearingly screwed up, each having thrown away their manifest gifts to leave them floundering. Each of the family is fully fleshed-out and explored, so despite the massive list of stars the film stands strong, giving them each highly complex life stories and attitudes. The script, co-written by Anderson & Owen Wilson (who also plays Tenenbaum-wannabe Eli Cash) is bafflingly clever, and is scored by a selection of songs perfectly chosen by Anderson to suit the scenes. The Royal Tenenbaums is funny, erudite and unlike its titular family, pretty much flawless.
2. Friday Night Lights (2004)
Friday Night Lights is the best sports movie ever made, and its genius lies not in its realistic depiction of American football action, but in the fact that it’s not really about the sport at all. The Odessa Permian Panthers high school team carries the weight of expectation of an entire town, and the pressure placed on these young men’s shoulders is shown as unremitting and unfathomable. Led by head coach Gary Gaines (a superb Billy Bob Thornton), the team is expected to win the state championship, and it’s made abundantly clear that the town will not accept anything less. Peter Berg’s expert direction shows not only the game of gridiron in full flow, but also the personal strife of the players who, despite being 18 or younger, are treated like professionals. Berg’s film hangs on the performances of these young men, and with the lead trio of Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund and Derek Luke he found three men able to imbue their characters with real drive, real passion and real feeling. The film’s thrilling finale features one of the movies’ greatest speeches and a denouement deserving of the highest praise. Criminally overlooked by many, Friday Night Lights shines bright as one of the ’00s best.
1. City of God (2002)
Fernando Meirelles’ tale of Rio de Janeiro’s slums and their dwellers might be the bravest film ever made, and it’s also one of the best. Using a cast of nearly all amateurs and insisting on location shooting, Meirelles – himself a former inhabitant of the ‘City of God’ slums – combines tales from all corners of this society to weave a complex tapestry of human suffering, friendship and desire. Our messenger is Buscapé (meaning ‘Rocket’ in Brazilian Portuguese and played with unbelievable realism by Alexandre Rodrigues), who dreams of becoming a journalist and is never seen without his camera, snapping shots of the slums’ unremitting violence. The brutal gang war scenes, mostly consisting of armed children killing each other, do not flinch in their portrayal of the area’s savagery, and we bear witness to mass violence on a frightening scale. Meirelles handles the intertwining stories with a skill that may even better Tarantino’s and never shows a sign of letting up – in many ways City of God is a documentary, so although we watch these horrifying scenes from the comfort of an armchair, we realise that this is real life for many people. The complexity, craft and creativity of Meirelles’ opus lift it way above the average film, and rightly results in its placement atop this list. Quite simply a masterwork.