So, for those of you not embroiled in Film Twitter, BBC recently released a list of the Top 100 Films of the 21st Century. The list was cultivated by having 177 top critics from around the world send in their top 10s of the 21st Century, and tallying up their votes.
It’s of course inspired roving controversy, as anything does when it gets put on the internet. People perceive slights against films and filmmakers and genres and generally yell because they didn’t see their favorites on the list. The nature of aggregation is compromise, so no one is going to get everything they want.
Also, it’s dumb to focus on what’s not there. It’s not there. Why not celebrate what’s awesome, what’s great that made it on the list, and celebrate film instead of getting into a pissing contest about it?
To that end, I’m going to discuss 5 films on this list that I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about and am pretty sure I’ll never get a chance to talk about again, minus a whole bunch of retro reviews. If you’re looking for something to watch off this list (besides the top 10), let this be your guide. The only order this is in is in the order of the list. Consider it otherwise unranked.
I’m also not going to give my personal top 10, because no one gives a fuck what a hyper-obscure film critic thinks. If anyone actually does, ask and I’ll leave it in the comments.
Anyway, movies are good. Let’s celebrate them:
86) Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
A master is still a master, even working with the brush of another. Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ 2002 ode to the films of Douglas Sirk and the 50s melodrama as a whole, is the work of a master. Beautifully constructed, Far From Heaven is one of the most sumptuous feasts for the eyes of the 21st century. Deep, rich coloration in a flourish of of filmmaking prowess, Far From Heaven is the kind of film you just want to get lost in for a while.
But Far From Heaven is also one of his best stories, the forerunner for his later masterpiece Carol. One of his most complete tales of that recurring theme of the outcasts of society and how they find love in a world that mistreats them, this is top to bottom a fantastic thing to watch unfold before you. It also has my queen Julianne Moore in what may compete for my favorite role from her, next to Amber Waves.
81) Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)
This is a hard fucker to watch. A horror film that unfolds without a single monster or moment of gore. Just one man letting his life fall apart due to the appetites he can’t control. The sexual Requiem for a Dream.
Fassbender gives the kind of performance that few actors could and even fewer would. Raw and powerful and completely without vanity, even when requiring his sculpted good looks and generous display of his Fassbender. It’s almost sickening to watch him do what he does.
Which is obviously helped by Steve McQueen’s tableau imagery. Every image a disqueting look, a bit of personal terror that churns and churns. Shame is a film of the lowest lows, and there’s something deeply and mindblowingly human in that.
53) Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
This movie is love. Overflowing with joy for the act of love and the act of making music and the act of art and the act of making movies. Baz Luhrmann created a soaring testament to how much he loves doing what he does and how much he loves sharing it with people. Dizzying, gorgeous and the kind of kaleidoscope that you can’t imagine coming from anyone else. If you don’t love this movie, quit trying to follow it. Let yourself get lost in another world and in a love deep and true. Not between our leads, but between Baz Luhrmann and the art of making art.
33) The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
Kidding. No one else needs to talk about this.
20) Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
Now standing almost as an elegy to talent that we lost and talent that we never appreciated, Synecdoche, New York is a towering song of the two men at its center. Don’t let me reduce it down to just that, it’s a beautifully depressive look into the lengths that people go to for creativity and the looming inevitability of death and what death will take from us and what we’ll leave behind. A staggering work that required immense talent at every step and by every wonderful person involved.
But it’s hard to let director/writer Charlie Kaufman and star Philip Seymour Hoffman leave your mind discussing this film. This is peak-Kaufman, in all his little complexities that often fly away under his larger structural conceits. A view of humanity that’s relatable and sad because of that. Mastery of storytelling. His first directorial effort solidifies that he’s one of our most important storytellers.
And Hoffman’s loss becomes all the more crushing in this film. Not just seeing him face down his own mortality, but seeing the raw soul that he shows underneath. Hoffman is incredible in this film, the kind of incredible I can only tell you to see, and not to read.
12) Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
I don’t feel like Fincher will ever really be able to top this one. That’s not a slight against his talent, few filmmakers working have more. But there’s a specific alchemy of passion and skill that may never appear again.
Zodiac is a grand scale Fincher story, one that seems deeply a part of himself. A story of obsession and perfection and darkness. Of an evil without a face and whether or not it matters that we could ever find one. Every aspect cogs in a machine, fitting perfectly together and amounting to something that seems powerless in the face of the world around it.
It’s a hypnotic work, one that makes you easily forget 3 hours pass as you watch it. Look at the image above. Look at the sheer blackness of the killer in that image, the way he looks transplanted even in the daylight. This is a film from another world! An absolutely unreplicable work.