Friday, March 30, 2012

Final Best of the '00s Round-Up

So I've finally finished my Best Movies of the Decade countdown, but I figured I'd do one last post rounding everything up.  There are links to all the other posts in the series below, as well as the complete list of films in order below the fold.  In particular I wanted to list the Honorable Mentions that didn't make it on the list (because 60 just isn't enough, I guess?), and you can find them down at the bottom of this post, below the fold.  I also just like making lists of random things, and there are so many things you can make a Best of the Decade list about, so I've included two other items here as well, namely Best TV Show and Best Albums of the '00s.  Hope these are at least somewhat interesting.

The Best TV Show of the Decade: LOST (2004-2010)
I really don't watch that much television (in fact I have more and more aesthetic and moral issues about the whole thing) and I don't get HBO, so take this selection for what it's worth.  I watched Lost for years, viewing the first two seasons on DVD but the third through the sixth season on the designated nights on TV, living with the characters and the mysteries as I had never done with a show before.  It's the kind of show that inspires incredible fan devotion as it ranges from pop culture riffing to soap opera relationship drama to complex moral questioning amid a constantly shifting and evolving plot, all anchored to some of the best characters you'll ever see on TV.  Of course, it was a frustrating show as well, one that was constantly withholding things from its viewers, occasionally got mired in contradictory subplots, and ultimately refused to explain some of its core mysteries, eliciting a bit of a backlash.  I understand those who hated the ending, but I disagree with them.  I found the final episodes beautiful and emotionally satisfying, and I think they crystallized what had really been at the center of the series all along.

If there is a unifying theme to Lost, it is the human incapacity to create our own redemption.  Each major character comes from a flawed, broken home, and is consequently flawed and broken him/herself.  They come to the Island and are given a second chance: If they can only put aside their pasts and work together for the future, they could be happy.  But one by one, their pasts come back to haunt them, and they fail to find happiness for more than a few moments.  Desperately, they seek control, they seek complete free will, confident that if they could just have one more chance, with everything out of the way, they could finally make it right.  But it is not to be.  The universe is too big, too complex, and too cruel for them to ever be able to control it; they are lost in a sea of troubles, and the only constants they can find are in each other.  Each of them must learn to give up this search for control and certainty, to accept some things on faith and hope.  Ultimately, redemption can never be forced from within, only bestowed from above.  But grace can only be accepted by letting go.  That is, perhaps, what heaven is: a place to let go of all the hatreds, worries, gnawing insecurities, and tortured regrets that plague our earthly lives, and accept the people around us in love and gladness.  This grace is not earned, it is merely accepted.  That is what the final scenes show.

My Favorite Albums of the Decade
I have far less confidence in my musical opinions than I do in my filmic opinions, but I have them anyway and I think this list is pretty solid, so take it or leave it.  Albums are restricted to same release time span as movies.

1. Illinois (2005) by Sufjan Stevens
Honorable Mention: Everything else he did this decade, but especially Seven Swans (2004)

2. Funeral (2004) by Arcade Fire
HM: Neon Bible (2007)
3. Love and Theft (2001) by Bob Dylan
HM: Modern Times (2006)
4. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008) by Coldplay
HM: A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
5. How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb (2004) by U2
HM: All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
6. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) by Wilco
7. American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) by Johnny Cash
HM: American III: Solitary Man (2000) and American V: A Hundred Highways (2006)
8. Fleet Foxes (2008) by Fleet Foxes
9. I and Love and You (2009) by The Avett Brothers
HM: The Second Gleam (2008)

10. Day & Age (2008) by The Killers
HM: Hot Fuss (2004)
*   *   *   *

The rest of the Best of the '00s Posts:  Part 1: Intro and #60-55.  Part 2: #54-40.  Part 3: #39-25.  Part 4: #24-11.  Part 5: #10-2.  Part 6: #1.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Best Movie of the '00s: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

(be warned, this post is insanely long.)

 I grew up with The Lord of the Rings.  
The phrase may be overused, on any number of things, but in my case its absolutely true.  I grew up on it, and on every major version of the story, too. 
I must have been around six years old when I saw the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit, and I saw both the later Return of the King and Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings some time in the next couple years.  I’m not sure of the exact chronology, but I must have become conscious of the books at about this time--my parents had paperback copies on our shelves.  I read The Hobbit in second grade, and the complete Lord of the Rings in third grade.  The latter took me months--I kept getting distracted--but I was absurdly proud of the achievement for years.  By the time Jackson’s version of The Fellowship came out in 2001, I’d read the complete series at least twice, and by now I think I’m at five.  But it hasn’t been just some personal obsession--it’s a family and community thing, a shared devotion among friends and relatives alike.  I encouraged my brother and sister to read the books and was excited when they did.  I remember accompanying sixth grade homeschool buddies who dressed up as hobbits to the theater, and sitting next to friends who couldn’t stop repeating all the good lines in my ear.  I bought the soundtracks and listened to them dozens of times.  My family bought first VHS, then DVD and Special Editions of the films, and we’ve all seen them more times than we can count.  It’s like a culture.  The best illustration I can give is to recall a family reunion at Thanksgiving a couple years ago.  All of us cousins (20 of us?) went to the basement after growing bored with the grown-up talk upstairs and watched the Extended Version of Fellowship, arranged on couches and chairs and the floor and lying on top of each other, ranging in age from 3 to 20 and all rapt to the screen for a film every one of us had seen before.
I say this to clarify a point: There was never any question what my choice for #1 Film of the Decade would be.  Any other choice would have been dishonest.  This list is of movies that mean the most to me, and no other film (or trilogy) has come close to being as influential in my life.