The 40 Year Old Virgin
Runtime: 1 hr 56 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco
It many ways I suppose The 40 Year-Old Virgin is the birth of the bromantic comedy.
Review by: shaunhenisey
Added: 7 years ago
"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot?
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.
Each prayer accepted and each wish resigned.”- Alexander Pope Now here is a love story! Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by the extraordinary screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, is a one of a kind modern love story. It is always unconventional- there is never a non-original moment in the film. It is this that makes is so special. What would you do if you could erase a loved one from your memory? If the loved one died, or left you, or broke your heart would you want to forget they ever existed? This is the central question posed to both Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet- in her best performance). Clementine is angry at Joel, you see, so she decides to see Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) at Lacuna, Inc. and have her memory erased. Joel of course finds out about this, and decides he will show her. He chooses to erase his memory of Clementine. But what happens if he decides halfway through the procedure that he changed his mind? The themes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are, well, eternal. Love, loss, relationships, and the importance of memories are explored in heartbreaking detail in this film. Carrey gives his best performance here. He is subdued and relaxed, there is never a moment when the Jim Carrey that bends over and talks out his ass enters the scene. Kate Winslet is magical, as are all of the supporting performances by the likes of Kristin Dunst, Elijah Wood, David Cross, Jane Adams and Mark Ruffalo. While I do not consider it Kaufman’s best work, a Charlie Kaufman screenplay is the equivalent of Shakespeare. This is a film that is in good company. The best love story of the decade. 21. The Departed I love being in familiar territory. Watching The Departed is like putting on your favorite hooded sweatshirt. It is always comfortable, it is cozy, and fits just right. Martin Scorsese (the greatest living American director) returns to form in The Departed, but instead of cruising down the mean streets of New York City, so carefully examined in Scorsese classic’s Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and Goodfellas, we take on new city- Boston. The villain is Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a mob boss that doesn’t really pretend not to be a mob boss. The other villain is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), the member of the State Police on Costello’s payroll. Then there is Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), the undercover cop that is forced to be a criminal. But wait! There’s more. You see, Costello is also sort of a cop too… but I am getting ahead of myself. The Departed is about the roles in which we give ourselves. There is a tagline on the poster. “Cops or Criminals. When you are facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” The tagline desribes the entire film. Each character is in a role that they don’t want to be in; their role is that of the rat, the informant- the most dishonorable role any person can ever posses, at least according to the mob. Scorsese has not been this great in years. From the opening sequence, featuring the Rolling Stones “Gimmie Shelter” (a staple of Goodfellas, Casino, and his recent Stones documentary Shine a Light) we know that we are back in a place that will make us happy. We smile, put our feet up, and watch the movie in all of its Roman Catholic symbolism glory. When it comes to Catholic guilt, there is no one better than Scorsese. It seems fitting that the film ends the way it does. After all, who wants a rat in their home? I would be a liar to say that I didn’t tear up a bit on Oscar night 2007, when The Departed won for both Best Picture and Director. Our greatest director has evaded the top prize for years. Seeing him with a statue brought a joy to my heart. 20. Children of Men Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is one of two great science fiction films of the decade (the other one is coming up). The opening scene, in which our hero Theo (Clive Owen) learns that the last child born on the planet has died before nearly escaping a terrorist bombing, is among the best pre-credit sequences of any film. The merits of that scene alone could have set the film up for failure (after all, if your opening scene is classic, where do you go from there?) but the film continues on like a train to hell, stopping to pick up passengers on the way. The picture is dark and relentless. This is a world without hope. Civilization is aware it is on the brink of extinction, and there is nothing they can do about it. London is one of the only habitable countries on Earth, war and destruction has destroyed most other countries- including the United States. Theo learns from his ex lover Julian (Julianne Moore) that there may be hope. Theo joins her and discovers Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) a young girl that just happens to be pregnant. From this realization onward the plot is more or less a MacGuffin intended to set up one sensational sequence after another. Cuaron has created an utterly realistic world- this could quite possibly be what ours would look like in the end times. Characters have no motivation but a quick death, and some even want the apocalypse to come for religious reasons. Using a variety of filmmaking techniques, Cuaron directs Children of Men almost like a war epic. Characters flee from gunfire in long tracking shots, without cuts. It is all there, all real on the screen. This is one of the most technically solid films ever made. If you are a fan of hard science-fiction, you must see this movie. 19. 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 days There are few performances better than that of Anamaria Marinca as Otilia in 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days. Her performance is one of the most naturalistic I have ever seen. This is a great film about a harrowing subject- a black market abortion in communist Romania in the late 1980's. There is not a false note on any performances or the writing; every act in this film is within the scope of each character. This is not necessarily a film I want to revisit repeatedly due to the subject matter- but that does not mean it is not great. The Cannes Film Festival awarded 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days with the prestigious Palm D'or. Technically, the film is astounding. Entire sequences play on without the slightest cut. There is a dinner sequence in the middle of the film that lasts for nearly 20 minutes. Otilia has left her friend at a hotel. Her friend has just had an abortion by an evil man that also virtually raped both women out of coercision. Otilia is forced to leave her friend to meet her boyfriends parents. From the moment she sits down to the time she gets up from the dinner table, over fifteen minutes have passed. There are no cuts, it is all done in one take, with nearly 8 actors in the scene. This is not only masterful filmaking, but outstanding acting as well. The entire time the camera is focused on Marinca, as she twitches and ticks- knowing her friend may be dying. The political subtext of the picture is also profound. The film is not overtly political, but the subtext is. Abortion is illegal in the communist state, but so are many other things. We see glances of Otilia buying black market cigarettes, and she is forced to go into a field of study she has no interest in just to prevent herself from being forced to go to a work farm for women. In the end, this may be the one of the most feminist movies of all time. It shows the strengths, as well as the terror of independence. 18. Inglourious Basterds Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction, takes place in an alternate reality. It changes American history by rewriting the ending to World War II. Some critics and viewers have been vocal about this, going as far as to call the film sacrilegious. I say that, unless a movie is a documentary, it is always a work of fiction. It ends on the screen. That being said, if the characters in Inglorious Basterds were real, the war very well may have ended the way it does in the film. This is bold, electrifying filmmaking. Tarantino has never made a bad picture, but here hey surpasses himself. There are sequences here that work on so many levels that entire film class lectures could be given about them. Take for example, the opening sequence. A dairy farmer (Denis Menochet) is harboring Jews by hiding them under his floorboards. Col. Hans Landa (the magnificent Christoph Waltz) knows that they are there, but insists on conversing with the farmer anyway. They switch freely back and forth between English and French, and at two points the characters decide to light their respective pipes. The farmer has a corn-cob pipe, the colonel has a pipe that looks like the end of a mighty Nazi trumpet. It is in moments like this that we perk up and smile, knowing we are in a world that could only be crafted by Tarantino. The performances are all larger than life. Waltz’s Col. Landa is the best of the lot, but Brad Pitt and Melanie Laurent also shine. Pitt in particular, gives an incredibly skilled comedic performance as Lt. Aldo Raine, and his opening sequence is as beautiful as anything in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. We love these characters, even the evil ones. We know Tarantino is having a good time- after all, we are. 17. Donnie Darko There have been very few directorial debuts as ambitions as Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. The film is a wonderland of metaphysics, in which time traveling bunnies (at least, characters in bunny outfits) are harbingers of doom. Donnie (Jake Gylenhaal) has emotional problems. He is struggling to fit in at school and resents being the middle child in the family. He seems to live in a nice home and his parents seem to love him very much, but Donnie is still angry and frightened for what’s to come. Things don’t get any better once he starts seeing Frank (James Duval), a six foot tall, creepy as hell bunny that tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. From this point on Donnie just doesn’t know what to do with himself. He draws inward, but Frank will just simply not stop showing him things. I will stop there. To spoil the pleasure of seeing Donnie Darko for the first time would be a sin. I will simply say that it is an experience that you need to stay awake through. I would advise you take some notes while watching with a friend. You will want to compare them when it is over. 16. Mulholland Dr. To this day I still don't know what the hell David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. is about. I just know that it is mesmerizing. It is like a giant puzzle, I know that somewhere, somehow the pieces are supposed to go together, but for some reason I just can’t get them to fit. This is a discussion piece if there ever has been one. Different people come up with different theories about the film. The only thing I was able to figure out was that Betty (Naomi Watts) is actually Rita (Laura Elena Harring), and that once the box is opened everything begins to change. But was everything already altered from previous acts in the film? And, who in the hell was behind that dumpster? These questions are maddening. All I know is that Lynch is either purely genius or purely psychotic, either way he has made a hypnotic film. The DVD case gives some clues to uncovering the film’s mystery: Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits. Notice appearances of the red lampshade. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again? An accident is a terrible event — notice the location of the accident. Who gives a key, and why? Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup. What is felt, realized, and gathered at the Club Silencio? Did talent alone help Camilla? Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie's. Where is Aunt Ruth? Yeah. I still can’t figure it out. Who cares? This is one dizzying, magnificent movie. The entire film plays like a dream. I have seen it probably six times and each time I watch it I peel back a layer- like an onion. The world of the movie rests on the tortoise, get rid of one tortoise and there is another. It is just turtles, all the way down. 15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Prisoner of Azkaban is the best film to date in the Harry Potter franchise. This is the movie that best translates the essence of the fantastic novels by J.K. Rowling. Directed by the brilliant Alfonso Cauron (who actually has more films on this list than any other filmmaker) it is the most visually arresting experience in the franchise. Perhaps it is ironic that the best of the Harry Potter films is also the shortest. There were storylines that were cut out for this movie but the experience is not compromised. What is important about an adaptation is how it works on its own merit and not necessarily the faithfulness to the source material. The first two films were great children's movies, but a little too saccharine. The remaining movies (with possibly the exception of The Half-Blood Prince) have been too staccato in the storytelling, causing a rigid and uneven experience. Prisoner of Azkaban does not have these pitfalls; it is a wonderful entertainment from beginning to end. Sure, there are times the acting is not great (these are children, after all) but the world is there on the screen, and the emotional payoff of the climax (Harry and the Dementors) is one for the ages. 14. Antichrist The most disturbing film I have ever seen, it will haunt you for days after seeing it. This film by Lars Von Trier is probably the most controversial movie on the list. It has acts of graphic violence and despair that are worse than anything seen in mainstream "torture-porn." That being said, Antichrist is a masterpiece. The emotions, as raw as they are, are very real. The performances by William Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are both worthy of Oscar recognition, though they will not receive it. You will never look at a fox the same way again. Von Trier has created a truly unique piece, and inverted world- and the results are unimaginable. 13. The Squid and the Whale The Squid and the Whale is one of the best movies I have ever seen about divorce, particularly the effect that divorce has on children. This small film, less than 100 minutes long and shot on a shoestring budget, has given me more to think about regarding the family dynamic that any other film in years. The film tells the story of the Berkman family. Bernard (Jeff Bridges) and Joan (Laura Linney), the father and mother, are both New York intellectuals. She writes for the New Yorker and is getting ready to be published, while he was a successful writer for many years but has recently become a washed out Junior College creative writing professor. She is cold and uncompromising, he is an arrogant ass. These are two people that do not need to be married. When they sit down their children Walt (Jesee Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline, the son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) both children immediately begin to take sides. Frank sides with Mommy, Walt with Daddy. There are the obvious dramas about murder, torture, disease, famine and war, and there are the true dramas, the realistic ones. All 4 members of the Berkman family are realistic people with realistic problems. Bernard loves his wife but is too arrogant to admit it. He is so caught up on himself, and even goes about giving his son horrible advice, going as far as telling him to have sex with his new girlfriend before dumping her, for practice. Joan has not always been faithful to Bernard, but loves him too much to let him go. Both children are terribly screwed up, yet we sense that they will grow up and do great things. In all actuality – they did. The film is written and directed by Noah Baumbach, based on some personal experiences he has. How much do you want to bet that Frank and Walt end up writing a movie someday? Who knows- it may be as good as The Squid and the Whale. 12. There Will Be Blood Daniel Day Lewis gives one of the most powerful performances in the history of film as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. It will only be surpassed by one other performance this decade. This performance alone cements There Will Be Blood as one of the great movies. Most magical is that this film has so much more going for it than just Day Lewis. The story is told such an elegant, straight-forward way that it is as if we are watching a documentary unfold. There have been many critics that have claimed that this film is a character study, however I feel that it is also one of the best epics of the decade. The oil derrick fire is on par with the fire in Gone with the Wind, and the rugged landscape of California creates a setting as majestic as any in a Sergio Leone picture. Paul Dano is superb as both Paul and Eli Sunday. The ending of the film is unforgettable; I will never look at bowling the same way again. This could have easily been in the top ten in any other decade. 11. Minority Report Minority Report, the best science fiction film since Blade Runner, is the best work that Steven Spielberg has done this decade. It is based on a Phillip K. Dick(Blade Runner, Total Recall) story, and is an outstanding combination of science fiction and film noir. The story stars Tom Cruise as John Anderton, one of the head officers in the future Washington D.C.’s elite Precrime unit. Using a group of psychic children (Precogs) the police have developed a way of preventing and prosecuting crime before it occurs. Even think about killing your wife, and within minutes a SWAT team will be at your door, placing a halo around your head, and sending you to prison. The system is flawless. Since its inception Washington D.C. has not had a single homicide. The opening sequence of the film shows the entire Precrime process. As a man that is about to kill his wife and her lover is escorted away, he cries and screams- “I didn’t do anything.” The moral and constitutional implications of such a system clearly escape the government as well as Anderton. That is, until Anderton sees that he is slated to commit murder in roughly 24 hours. From this realization on, Minority Report becomes a nonstop action picture. Anderton must flee from his own police force with retnal scanners and identity tracers everywhere. In order to get to bottom of the murder (which must be a setup) he is required to use all of the ingenuity he can find. The result is Spielberg’s most electrifying work, with special effects seamlessly blending into this detective story. I love this movie. There are moments of excitement, such as the thrilling sequence in which robotic “spiders” search an entire city block looking for Anderton; or, the fantastic sequence towards the end of the movie with John and Agatha (Samantha Morton- one of the Precogs) evade escape through a futuristic shopping mall to the tune of Andy Williams’s Moon River. There are many twists, turns, revelations and surprises; there is never a dull moment, nor should there be- after all we are in Spielberg’s hands. 10. Synecdoche, New York Click here to read Shaun Henisey's review of Synecdoche, New York. 9. Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. From its gothic and bizarre creatures, to the bleak realism of life during the Spanish Civil War, the film never misses a beat. The production design, sets, costumes and make up are all like something you have never seen before. These factors alone would make Pan's Labyrinth one of the best movies of the decade. What transcends the film from good to great is the story that goes with the images. The plot is as simple as a fairytale, but intertwined with the realities of war. Guillermo Del Toro, the director, has created a world in which fantasy and reality collide. Del Toro never explains anything. We are unsure if we are watching a pure fantasy picture, in which the supernatural elements are actually happening, or if it all takes place in the child's mind. Both are adequate interpretations of the film. Del Toro leaves it all open for us. This is not a film for children- this is an adult's fairy tale. Some of the images in the dreamscapes, in particular the Pale Man, are horrifying and beautiful at the same time. This is an older form of fairy tale- one that Lewis Carroll or The Brothers Grimm could have created. The juxtaposition of the fairy tale and the elements of war is also fantastic. Lopez plays Vidal as one sick and cruel bastard. He kills indiscriminately and is the very definition of an abusive parental figure. Del Toro has made one of the most artistic films of the decade. The fact that he wrote, directed, and designed many of the creatures himself makes him a true auteur. The boldness of mixing two genre's as completely opposite as a war film and a fairy tale could have resulted in one of the most uneven and ridiculous motion pictures ever. Instead it succeeds on every level. This is most unique and moving viewing experiences of my life; a masterpiece of world cinema. 8. Almost Famous "Here is a movie that makes me unconditionally happy. Watching it puts a huge smile on my face and a swell in my throat. " Click here to read Shaun Henisey's review for Almost Famous - right here at FilmNet.. 7. Adaptation. Adaptation boasts the best screenplay of the decade, one of the greatest of all time. It tells the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (a real person), Susan Orlean (a real person), John LaRoche (a real person) and Donald Kaufman (not a real person). I can only imagine the look on the studio execs faces when they read this screenplay. This is my personal favorite film on the list. Kaufman was asked to adapt the book "The Orchid Thief" by Orlean, a writer for the New Yorker. The book is comprised of "that sprawling, New Yorker Shit" and Kaufman developed writers block in the adaptation. He ended up writing himself into the screenplay, creating a fictional brother for himself, and fabricating an entire third act of nothing but fiction. The movie is the story of the adaptation, which is about our ability to adapt. I don't know if you can get much more Meta than this. What a work of stunning originality! Charlie Kaufman is the single most important screenwriter of the decade. His work has the complexity of great literature. He is clearly interested in the inter-workings of the human mind and the dynamic of human relationships; he is a true unique voice, and Adaptation is his best work. The credit to the film does not only go to Kaufman, the film was also directed by Spike Jonze. Jonze is a prodigy himself, only directing 3 films in the last 10 years- Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Where the wild Things Are. You need to only look at where these films are on my list to know what I think about them. He is a bold, gifted filmmaker, one with as unique of a voice as Kaufman's. The acting is also amazing. Meryl Streep, a National Treasure in her own right, gives one of her best performances here. She conveys the inner sadness of Orlean in her eyes and her actions. There is moment late in the film where Orlean is high and holding a phone up to her ear, trying to mimic a dial-tone, that is nothing short of spot on perfect. Chris Cooper won an Academy Award for his portrayal of John LaRoche, a backwoods hillbilly with moments of almost Zen like knowledge. His range in this film is astounding, going from the outright comical to the emotionally devastating. One only needs to watch the scene where he tells about losing his home and his wife, or the beautiful ride in the van- where he tells Orlean about the difficulty of adaptation. There are many people that dislike (even loathe) Nicholas Cage. I don't. He has certainly made some horrible career choices, but when he is on (and not doing a film for a paycheck) there are few actors that are better. Look at the way he plays both Charlie and Donald Kaufman. They are the same person, sometimes even wearing the same clothes- yet you can always tell them apart. They are two entirely different performances at all times on the screen. Cage could have won a second Oscar here- he is the glue that holds the film together. I could go on for hours about what I love about this movie. There are moments of sheer brilliance. The twists are outrageous, and the movie takes us places we would never imagine. It is a crazy, crazy, film- and what a marvelous thing that is. 6. Wall-E (and all those other Pixar movies...) I had to combine all six Pixar films released this decade under this one heading, out of fairness. Each one of them could individually be on this list; this is just not fair to the other films. No other movie studio has had this history of complete and total commercial success along with profound artistic quality. Just look at the names: Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up. Every single one of these pictures is a modern masterpiece. These are not just children's films- they are films that embody the spirit and warmth of the most important human values. From The Incredibles depiction of the family unit, to Ratatouille’s analysis of cynical criticism, to Up's proclamation that life’s great adventure is the one right in front of your face; these movies are all modern classics. Walt Disney would jump in delight if he were able to see these pictures. We are extremely fortunate to live in this time. The 1940's and 1950's had only one Walt Disney- we have three: John Lassetter (Toy Story, CEO of Pixar), Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille). These three individuals are on the cutting edge of American film- creating an entirely new genre of film- the Pixar genre. This is not traditional animation, but event viewing. When a new Pixar film comes out everyone wants to see it: adults, children, and the elderly alike. The depth and scope of quality here is unparalleled. The best of the lot is Wall-E. This is, quite simply put, a magical motion picture. For starters, the animation is the best I have ever seen. There are parts of this movie, specifically the parts on the planet Earth that are incredible and photorealistic. Other sequences involving Wall-E and E.V.E dancing in space are majestic and beautiful. I remember seeing Wall-E at a matinee on opening weekend. The theater was packed; people were even sitting in the aisles. There were dozens of children in the audience, many of them very small toddlers. When this sequence came on there was not a cry or sound in the house. Everyone was engaged. The more I think about, the more I realize how special of a picture Wall-E really is. It shouldn't work. It is about a robot that cannot even speak. The entire first 40 minutes of the movie is the equivalent of a silent picture. When humans are introduced, they are fat, lazy and pretty unlikable. This is a pretty harsh critique of the American lifestyle, yet people are not worried, or offended, when they see Wall-E. They see it as the wonderful story that it is, and leave with the message. In the end, Wall-E is the same thing most great science fiction is, a cautionary tale against pollution, excess, laziness and consumerism. Wall-E risks his life for the plant of life inside of him- we can learn so much from this little robot. 5. Where the Wild Things Are Never in my life have I related to a movie more than when viewing Where the Wild Things Are for the first time. In his film, Spike Jonze has captured the essence of what it means to be a child. Growing up as an only child in a single parent household had a profound effect on me, and seeing this movie made me relate to the feelings I had in my youth, along with the feelings of countless others. Based on Maurice Sendak's classic book, Where the Wild Things Are gets to the heart of not only the stories content, but its subtext. This is a work not to be taken literally. The symbolism and meaning of the picture can only be felt though the eyes of a child, or at least those that can remember what those eyes feel like. Max (Max Records) is probably the most realistic child I have ever seen on the screen. He is not all about sitting there and looking cute while making comments that no child would make. He is a real kid- rebellious, wild, out of control, desperately seeking attention, more than anything wanting to be loved. His sister has outgrown him, and his mother (Catherine Keener) is too busy either working or snuggling up to her new boyfriend. In a fit or rage Max decides he does not need his mother anymore- and he goes to the place where the wild things are. The Wild Things are technically amazing. Created by Jim Henson's creature shop, they are large costumes with adult actors in them. The only CGI is used on the Wild Thing's faces. This is the kind of movie that could have easily been done in an animated format, or with fully CGI characters. Jonze is wise in rejecting these concepts. He makes the Wild Things have a certain depth and realism. The voice acting work is superb. James Gandolfini is the best as Carol, the voice of the head Wild Thing; or the voice of Max's raw emotion, if you'd like. Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O' Hara, Forrest Whitaker, Paul Dano and Chris Cooper also do exceptional jobs. Each Wild Thing is an individual aspect of Max's Id. They all represent his emotions, and being a child, those emotions have a tendency to contradict each other. The soundtrack from Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s) is sublime and beautiful. I have heard from parents that Where the Wild Things Are is too adult for children. Some have even called the movie depressing. I took my eight year old daughter to see the movie, and she understood every bit of it. She said it was sad- but that it was also very good. I fear that we live in a world where we may be trying to hide too much from our children. Where the Wild Things Are is a spiritual and emotional experience. It is cathartic- and you know what? Kids can handle that. This is a film that belongs on the shelf right next to movies like The 400 Blows, Stand by Me, and E.T. If there is one thing I am certain of it is that Where the Wild Things Are will be considered a classic for years to come. It will cement itself in history as a true work of art. 4. The Dark Knight A detective chases a psychopathic serial killer through the streets of Chicago. The serial killer will stop at nothing to cause as much chaos and damage as possible. The killer does not fear death. The detective bends many laws to apprehend the killer and, in doing so, looks into the heart of darkness itself. This could be the subplot of any great thriller, either in the medium of film and literature- the story of The Dark Knight, one of the finest films ever made, and certainly the greatest movie ever made based on a comic book. I use the phrase comic book lightly. The Dark Knight, at its very essence, is a police drama. Many have compared it to Michael Mann's Heat, and they are right on target. The serial killer just happens to be the Joker and the detective Batman. Batman is, of course, not a super-hero (he has no powers) so it is easy to relate to his struggle with evil in the world. He is the most complex of heroes; the character is worthy of high literature. The joker is the ideal villian, archetypical to a fault- an agent of chaos. In his film, Christopher Nolan has created a crime thriller with spectacular set pieces and blockbuster production values with the realism of a character drama between (for the most part) two people- the protagonist, Batman (Christian Bale), and the antagonist, Joker (Heath Ledger). It is the most simple of formulas, and it works brilliantly. The special effects are there- but they are all practical. The story is not necessarily epic, but intimate. This is the power of substance over style. You don't have to believe me. Just ask any of the people that made this picture the second largest grossing film of all time. The film is ranked so high on this list for one reason: Heath Ledger. As the Joker, Ledger gives the single greatest performance of the decade. His character is immediately recognizable to nearly everyone only a year after the film's release. His performance elevates every single scene, and when he is not on the screen we feel his presence. Ledger earned the first posthumous Oscar for his role, and I have little doubt in my mind that this could have been a unanimous decision. The Dark Knight was robbed of several other awards this year as well, including best picture. I guarantee you that if this picture was simply about cops and criminals- sans make up and costumes, The Dark Knight would have won best picture. Instead, it will have to simply reside on hundreds of lists such as this- near the very top. 3. No Country for Old Men With No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers created a perfect film. Every performance hits its mark. The Texas setting and time frame gives the film a sense of timelessness, and the characters are detailed with fine detail. The three leads, James Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem embody their characters so well that we completely forget that they are all relatively recognizable actors. There has never been a better examination of violence on the silver screen than in No Country for Old Men. It is truly to the credit of the author of the novel, Cormac McCarthy (possibly the greatest living literary mind today) and the Coen Brothers that this labyrinth work fell together so evenly on the screen. In the story of Anton Chigurh and his mass killing spree to recover some drug money, McCarthy and the Coen’s have crafted a tale that can represent all violence in the world, both currently and in history. Many have claimed to not understand the meaning of the film. "The hero died!" A friend told me, while discussing the film. "The lunatic just killed everyone off" she said. I replied with a simple, "Yes." The message of the film, though cryptic to some, resonates with me the most. There are no clean getaways; violence begets violence-it has always been this way. Things begin to look better- and then we wake up. 2. City of God The Cidade de Deus (City of God) is a section in the heart of the slums of Rio De Janeiro, and the film City of God presents the most harrowing depiction of life in a third world country I have ever seen. This may be one of the most dangerous places alive. Rival gangs wage war with each other- killing innocents, women and children alike. The majority of the time it is the children doing the shooting. City of God, one of the most energetic motion pictures I have ever seen, was expertly directed by the Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardner, Blindness) who is channeling the raw energy of the best Martin Scorsese films here. It has been said that City of God is basically Goodfellas as a foreign film- this analysis is both spot on and horribly off base. This film certainly packs the raw filmmaking energy and skill of Goodfellas, but the emotional payoff here is much more unnerving. There is no resolution, only continued violence and bloodshed. I have never seen a character so deliberately amoral as Lil Ze (Douglas Siva as a child, Leandro Firmino as an adult). He thrives on bloodlust, carnage and power. At the beginning of the film the hero, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is a young boy that makes the wise choice of steering clear from Lil Ze (then known as Lil Dice). This is a wise decision. Ze is a psychopath from a very early age. When Ze and some friends rob a hotel, he goes back and kills every single person staying there. He is roughly eight or nine years old and has already killed dozens of people. The story is not just about bloodshed, but about doing the right thing. In the City of God this can be tricky. Rocket is a photographer for the local newspaper, a job he earned based on a mixture of luck and skill. Should he print pictures showing the face of Lil Ze? What about the corrupt police officials that he catches on film extorting and buying drugs? It is a decision he makes daily living in this world. I would be remiss if I did not mention The Runts. The Runts are the small children that inhabit the gang world of City of God- the majority of them are no more than 6. We see them killed, ran over, and kill others. They beat characters to death. In the City of God there is only one way to succeed- murder. This is an astonishing film. The subject matter, while extremely dark, is carried with jubilance by Merielles. There are moments of almost Dickensien in his quest to live and survive as a child in the darkest place on earth. His hopes and dreams, to be a successful photographer and get the girl, can be applied universally. We care about the character and want him to escape his world. This film is yet another example of how some of the best filmmaking in the world is south of our border. City of God is a masterpiece. It is a movie that should be seen by everyone, in every culture. It is the kind of movie that makes you empathize with others, and thankful for what you have. In order to realize how great we have it, sometimes we need a wake up call. The movie’s ending tells a simple truth- the City of God is all violent places. The guns are never put down, they just change hands. 1. The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings is the cinematic experience of the decade. For three years in a row the world was captivated by the timeless tale of Frodo and his trip to Mount Doom to destroy the one ring. Beginning with The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, Peter Jackson's trilogy soon became (and remains) the gold standard for Hollywood Epics. The three films combined were nominated for a total 30 Academy Awards, winning 17. Every single installment of the trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King) was nominated for Best Picture, with The Return of the King finally winning the prize in 2003; For the first time in history the Academy Awards had a clean sweep- a film that won every single award in which it was nominated. It would have been easy to be pretentious about this list. Certainly there are more obscure titles that I could have put in the Number 1 spot. This would have been a down and out lie. Massive popularity does not mean that this film is anything short of a masterpiece. The Lord of the Rings represents the pinnacle of the American Epic. David Lean (director of Lawrence of Arabia) would probably declare these pictures the greatest of all time. Jackson accomplished the impossible by making possibly the most faithful adaptation of a major literary work ever. While there are some scenes missing (albeit, fewer in the exceptional Extended Editions) all of the world created by J.R.R Tolkien is there on the screen. The characters are all fully developed and all of the spectacular special effects are done in the interest of the story. Many images come across my mind when I think about The Lord of the Rings. I imagine a boy reaching up and grabbing a tiny ring as it falls to his fingers. I think about a wizard, yelling at a demon at the top of a bottomless pit. I envision great battles, beautiful scenery, dragons, demons, Gollum’s, volcanoes and walking trees. I see elephantine creatures lumbering through a field, killing all in their path. I imagine giant spiders, all-seeing eyes, hobbits, dwarfs, princesses, elf’s, kings, and foul monsters. I hear the great score by Howard Shore and realize the majesty of the scenery. There is simply nothing like it. I know that there are some that have never seen these films. Many reject the movies simply on the basis that they are fantasy. Perhaps you think they are too long. My advice would be that a great movie is never too long, they are always just right. The series is not perfect, but it does not need to be. It is what it is, and that is the gold standard of filmmaking. Like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T and The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings is an instant classic- instantly identifiable to even those that have never seen it. It is a film that over time will undoubtedly be engrained in American culture. This is the kind of experience that people want to celebrate annually. The sense of wonder had left the movies for many years, and The Lord of the Rings brought it back.