Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 3

Dedicated To
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010

Added 1/22/10

Hello and welcome to day three of the Electric Theatre’s 100 Best Movies of the 00s! If you're just joining us, check out Part 1 for numbers 100-91 and Part 2 for numbers 90-81. And now, let the countdown continue!

80. The Princess And The Warrior (2000)

If you went to see Tom Tykwer’s lyrical The Princess And The Warrior expecting Run Lola Run 2, you were probably disappointed. But check it out again and you’ll find a poetic fairy tale about fate, chance and love. It came as no surprise that after this, Tykwer was selected to film Heaven, the final screenplay by the late, great Krzysztof Kieslowski.

79. Michael Clayton (2007)

A throwback to the smart, sleek Hollywood thrillers of the 70s, Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton is so brisk and efficient that one could easily take it for granted. But there’s much more to the film than meets the eye. Gilroy’s script should be taught in screenwriting courses as a model example of the form, striking the perfect balance between the intricate details of its engaging plot and rich, fully developed characters. And the performances of George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson are nothing short of remarkable. Standing out in a small role is the late Sydney Pollack, no doubt a nod to the fact that Pollack himself likely would have directed this back in the 70s.

78. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

I hate the word “quirky” but it’s certainly an apt description of Wes Anderson’s odd, imaginative, funny but heartfelt boy’s adventure movie. Bill Murray is the perfect choice to lead this team of misfit explorers. Anderson has a knack for exploring family dynamics but his real gift is creating entire worlds unique to these on-screen families. Somehow, instead of distancing the audience, it bonds the family closer together and makes them seem more real. The aquatic world of Team Zissou is a wonder to behold and a pleasure to explore.

77. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Animation is a medium of limitless possibilities. Even so, Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, essentially a Japanese animated remake of John Ford’s 3 Godfathers, seemed like an unlikely prospect. Three homeless people find an abandoned baby at Christmastime and set out to track down the parents. Not your typical cartoon fare but it works beautifully. Full of laugh-out-loud moments and ultimately deeply moving, Tokyo Godfathers is one of the best Christmas movies in years, although its appeal is by no means limited to the season.

76. Syriana (2005)

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that Syriana is absolutely incomprehensible unless you already have a working knowledge of politics and the oil industry. Untrue. Everything you need to understand the film is right there on screen. But writer/director Stephen Gaghan trusts that you will pay attention. In a decade when most movies talked down to their audience, Syriana talks up. It’s all brought vividly to life by an exceptional ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Wright as a conflicted, corruptible attorney and George Clooney (yes, him again) as a past-his-prime CIA agent.

75. Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

I feel a little bit guilty about including this one on the list because if you haven’t seen it, you’re going to have a hell of a time tracking it down. Through film clips and narration, director Thom Andersen examines how the City of Angels has been portrayed on film through the years, from Laurel and Hardy to 40s film noir, from Chinatown to Blade Runner, from The Player to Volcano. Because of the unconventional (i.e., copyright-infringing) nature of the film, the only way you can see it is at a non-profit or museum. It’s worth the search. Yes, it probably means more to you if you’re familiar with the city but even if you’re not, it’s a funny and eye-opening look at how the movies have shaped our perception of the real world from the beginning.

74. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Road movies are a dime a dozen and Alfonso Cuaron’s breakthrough film shows just how shallow most of them are. Two teenage boys flirtatiously ask an older woman on a trip to an idyllic secret beach that doesn’t exist. Desperate to get away from her philandering husband, she takes them up on it. Beautifully shot by Emmanuel Lubezki and featuring three of the most gorgeous actors you’ll ever see (Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Maribel Verdu), this is a rich, sumptuous and sexy delight of a movie.

73. The Squid And The Whale (2005)

While there’s no shortage of movies with divorced characters, very few of them are actually about divorce. In fact, there are probably more movies about coping with the death of a spouse than with the end of a marriage. Noah Baumbach’s affecting, deeply personal movie deals with divorce head-on and does so truthfully and often painfully. Jeff Daniels is great in a largely unsympathetic role as a pretentious, insufferable college professor, as is Laura Linney as his wife who finally decides to leave him. These aren’t easy characters to like but they are easily identifiable and very, very real.

72. The Shape Of Things (2003)

I know a whole lot of people who absolutely despise this movie with every fiber of their being, which to me means that it’s doing something right. Paul Rudd plays an insecure, kind of schlubby guy who starts dating art student Rachel Weisz. She starts to suggest little changes to his appearance and lifestyle, which eventually begin to disturb his friends. Writer/director Neil LaBute started making some truly awful movies in the second half of the decade, notoriously the ill-conceived remake of The Wicker Man, but this one finds him doing what he does best: pushing buttons that are sure to provoke a reaction in you. I think The Shape Of Things is a brilliant dark satire. You might think it’s vile, knee-jerk misanthropy as its worst. Pro or con, I’ll bet your reaction isn’t half-hearted.

71. Traffic (2000)

It takes a consummate filmmaker to make a film as dense and sprawling as Traffic from careening wildly out of control. Fortunately, Steven Soderbergh is one of the best there is. With subtly color-coded cinematography and arguably the most extraordinary ensemble cast of the decade, Traffic takes a level-headed look at America’s War on Drugs, examining how the trade affects users, suppliers and police. It’s a thoughtful and sobering film by a prodigiously talented master at the top of his game.

The countdown continues in Part 4 with perhaps one of the strangest flicks on the list (and that's saying something). Yes, I realize tomorrow is Saturday and, with Mr. Bill Hunt suffering from one of the worst cases of Vikings fever in history, the Bits will not be updated over the weekend. For updates throughout the weekend, join the JET Facebook page. All JET fans are eligible to receive a hearty handshake from yours truly should we ever actually meet. Quite the deal!

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