Counting down the top 10 films of the first decade of the 21st Century.

Originally published in Mondo Magazine – February 1, 2010.

10. Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
In a banner decade for animation it’d be foolish not to represent the most honest and personal of the lot. For an Israeli filmmaker to plumb the depths like this and come up with so much pain and beauty, it’s a well-earned mention.

9. Good Night and Good Luck(George Clooney, 2005)
I didn’t think Clooney had it in him, but this attack on the detriment of having to watch your mouth struck just in time to see the Bush regime start to tumble. It likely wasn’t the cause, but probably the last timely protest.

8. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
For a man who writes women so well to hit at the core of male suffering is one thing. To nail it in such a lyrical, beautiful, playful, hopeful, and painful a way is an entirely different accomplishment. Unfortunately he hasn’t come close to this level since.

7. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)
Sometimes people have to get left behind. Sometimes a nation gets left behind. Somehow Alfonso Cuaron managed to make both points in what should have been the Mexican American Pie.

6. No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007)
I recently discovered what sets this apart from the Coen cannon. It’s a film completely devoid of humor. In a decade when so much went wrong, America’s best jokers got serious and delivered the decade’s best noir, western, shoot-em-up…

5. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2001)
Yes, the fragmented narrative has been done before but what I loved most about this film was the 15 minutes I sat in stunned silence after my first viewing, wondering how a filmmaker could possibly do that to his audience.

4. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
A Mexican makes a Hollywood film in post-apocalyptic London, about an international wave of infertility that causes terrorism, war, environmental destruction, and xenophobia. The premise, implausible in 2006; the aftermath, a possibility. And as hope is set adrift we’re reminded, “The c***s are still running the world.”

3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Every now and then, a maverick really focuses himself and pulls off a killer, epic narrative. And sometimes, one actor so dominates a film that you actually enjoy him destroying all resistance to his cruelty. When both happen in the same film, you have to take notice.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
When two creative geniuses team up, you get a movie that plumbs the human mind and heart in fast-forward while the film itself is rewinding. The counter-balance of two unbridled talents created a sum far greater than giving each free rein individually (see: The Science of Sleep and Synecdoche, New York).

1. City of God(Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
Many have tried to pinpoint the issue of the decade — media control, governmental irresponsibility, economic collapse, oppression, etc.

What marked this decade for me was that it was the decade the rest of the world pulled ahead of us in the West. The decade we realized that there are so many more of “them” than there are of “us.”

No film so completely gave us the flavour and the horror of being “them” than Meirelles’ opus.

An important look at a country too large to ignore anymore and one that, sooner or later, along with China, India, et al. will be a true world power. It’s not a kind, forgiving place, but it’s the reality for hundreds of millions for whom the power lies with those that just take it for themselves.

Think of it as the third-world Goodfellas.

It was such a punch to the cinematic gut that the Academy’s foreign body couldn’t handle the violence. A decision the directors, writers, editors and cinematographers would rub their noses in a full year later.

Well ahead of its time and the reason why everything from Pan’s Labyrinth to A Prophet to Slumdog Millionaire got to see the light of day.