Giant-Size JET #1 - The 100 Best Movies of the 00s, Part 7

Dedicated To
Theda B. Geer
1925 - 2010

Added 1/26/10

And so, we come to the Top 40 in JET's 100 Best Movies of the 00s. By now, you know the drill. Here's what has come before:

Part 1: Numbers 100 - 91

Part 2: Numbers 90 - 81

Part 3: Numbers 80 - 71

Part 4: Numbers 70 - 61

Part 5: Numbers 60 - 51

Part 6: Numbers 50 - 41

Here's what comes after...

40. Battle Royale (2000)

There have been plenty of movies that depict a dystopian future where the general populace is entertained by televised acts of violence but none of them are quite as sharp, ominous or wickedly entertaining as Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. Movies like this usually focus on convicted felons or volunteers duking it out. Battle Royale ups the ante by having a group of ninth-graders kidnapped, taken to an island and given a three day supply of food and water and one randomly selected weapon each. “Beat” Takeshi gives an iconic performance as the sadistic, stone-faced teacher who controls the battle. This is an endlessly fascinating look at reality TV, the epidemic of teen violence and society’s attempts to stem that tide that’s just as relevant today as it was ten years ago.

39. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

After splitting audiences into love-it or loathe-it camps with 1999’s Magnolia, it’s almost as if Paul Thomas Anderson sat down and thought, “Hmmm…now what can I do that’ll be even more divisive? I know! I’ll make an Adam Sandler movie! His fans won’t know what to make of it and my fans will be pissed that I’m even working with Sandler in the first place!” Remarkably, Anderson and Sandler blended in perfect harmony to create a magical, achingly romantic film. Sandler is better than anyone could have predicted as a lonely, henpecked obsessive-compulsive prone to sudden, violent outbursts of rage. Anderson’s story is dark and strange but he films it so beautifully, with the screen frequently awash with gorgeous color, that the overall tone is one of life-affirming optimism rather than cynicism or despair. Punch-Drunk Love is a gentle, poetic film and an astonishing achievement for all involved.

38. Yi Yi (2000)

If you look closely enough, one family can hold an infinite number of stories. Edward Yang’s intimate, multi-generational drama shows us all the complexities of life through the eyes of a middle-aged father, his young son and teenage daughter. It’s a film about life, death, ambition, love and the little things that bring infinite joy. Yang allows the film to unfold at a leisurely pace, clocking in at nearly three hours, but it never once feels too long. We’re seeing life captured before our eyes and life is never boring. Life is exhilarating and Yi Yi brings it into sharp focus.

37. The Triplets Of Belleville (2003)

Even the best animated films tend to rely on a traditionally “cute” style to win over an audience. Sylvain Chomet’s style is anything but cute, yet it’s every bit as charming and delightful as any Pixar movie. The characters are either angular and bony or amorphous blobs of flesh. And yet, they remain utterly beguiling. The story is fresh, original and wildly imaginative and Chomet delights in the challenges of allowing his images and music tell the tale for him. Nostalgic yet thoroughly modern, The Triplets Of Belleville brings a refreshing new talent to the world of animation.

36. Grizzly Man (2005)

The story of Timothy Treadwell, the animal activist killed by a grizzly bear in 2003, would have made a fascinating documentary in almost any hands. With Werner Herzog at the helm, it becomes something much more than a mere recounting of facts and events. Herzog’s fascination with Treadwell goes beyond simple curiosity. He wants to understand him on a deep, fundamental level and his frustration as his understanding slips in and out of focus is palpable. Herzog’s great gift, especially when making documentaries, is for placing himself within the story and communicating it from the inside out. With Grizzly Man, Herzog hit a new high, putting him and us inside the skin of a man whose obsessions and actions are almost incomprehensible.

35. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

There are two problems with putting comedies on a list like this. One is that comedy is notoriously subjective. If you didn’t think this movie was funny, obviously you’re going to think it doesn’t deserve to be on here. That’s fine and I’m not going to try to change your mind. The other is that comedies don’t often stand the test of time. This one does. Judd Apatow has made a smart, affectionate, well-observed movie full of identifiable characters, quotable dialogue, hilariously awkward situations and one of the funniest out-of-nowhere finales of all time. Steve Carell shines as Andy, making him a very real and eminently likable lead instead of the one-note caricature he could have been. There were an infinite number of ways for The 40 Year Old Virgin to go wrong. Judd Apatow found the one way to make it right.

34. The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters (2007)

I have about as much interest in video games as I do in turkey dinners. I enjoy both just fine but don’t need to have them more than once or twice a year. Seth Gordon’s wonderful documentary about two diehard fans competing to become the world champion Donkey Kong player transcends its subject matter by showing us an entire subculture populated by fascinating, unique individuals. Gordon frames the rivalry between reigning champ Billy Mitchell and challenger Steve Wiebe in classic underdog style. By the end, you’re guaranteed to be thoroughly invested in this story, feeling every setback and victory as keenly as if it was happening to you. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to remake this as a work of fiction and it probably won’t be very good. Even if it is, I can’t imagine it having more suspense, humor, pathos and heart than Gordon’s original.

33. La Comunidad (2000)

Alex de la Iglesia is a filmmaker of impeccable skill and boundless energy, yet he remains a cult figure even among the most devoted of film fanatics. I’m especially baffled that La Comunidad, a brilliant crime comedy reminiscent of the Coen Brothers at their wildest, didn’t make more of an impact. Carmen Maura stars as a real estate agent who discovers a fortune hidden in the dilapidated apartment of a recently deceased recluse. Trouble starts when she realizes that everyone else in the building knew about the money and had just been waiting for the old man to kick off before swooping in and claiming it. Cast with a large ensemble of Felliniesque faces and dotted with moments of hilarious and absurd black comedy, La Comunidad captures Iglesia at his finest.

32. A Serious Man (2009)

My choice for the best movie of 2009, Joel and Ethan Coen’s mood-drenched meditation on fate and religion is a haunting parable that demands repeat viewing. Obviously I haven’t had a chance to do that since writing about it last week but I look forward to the opportunity. In the fullness of time, A Serious Man may well turn out to be their most densely layered film since Barton Fink.

31. Children Of Men (2006)

Alfonso Cuaron had done extraordinary work before Children Of Men but with this, he rose to a new level. In lesser hands, this could have been a standard post-apocalyptic adventure. But Cuaron turns it into a spellbinding, provocative and thoughtful drama punctuated by extraordinary moments of electrifying action. He proves himself to be a filmmaker of boundless talent here. Children Of Men not only captivates the audience, it makes you want to revisit Cuaron’s previous work and watch it with renewed appreciation.

Only 30 more to go, including a few surprises, I hope. Although if you're beginning to suspect that Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning Crash will not be appearing, you might just be on to something.

Your pal,