George Lang's top 10 movies of the decade
If the character of a decade is reflected in the mood of its films, then the 2000s, or the aughts, were about anxiety over a future that looks more and more like dystopia, and a desire to escape from our present into a sun-dappled rock ‘n’ roll past, the Middle Earth of our fantasies, the underworld of our nightmares or the clinic that can erase our inescapable failings. Strange days are difficult to live in, but the great art created during those times can far outlast the chaos.
1. “Almost Famous” (2000) — What is there to love about “Almost Famous”? To begin with, everything. Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiography about a teenager following a midlevel band in the 1970s is possibly the greatest film about rock ‘n’ roll ever made, but it is also about journalism, the quasi-religion surrounding music, the complications of family and the exquisite pain of first love. Every frame is true and believable as are the performances, especially Patrick Fugit as William Miller, the stand-in for Crowe’s real-life experiences, and Kate Hudson as Penny Lane, the queen of the “band-aids.” Anyone who does not understand why some people, present company included, cannot pull their minds out of rock ‘n’ roll must see “Almost Famous.” The film explains why the first notes of some songs cause immediate dopamine rushes. In the process, the film elicits a sustained one of its own.
2. “Minority Report” (2002) — Steven Spielberg understands that the future does not look like “The Jetsons.” It is far more likely to look and feel like “Minority Report,” a future-shock whodunit about the complications of government intrusion through a program that predicts crime before it happens, and its false implication of a high-level police officer, John Anderton (Tom Cruise). Like “Blade Runner,” the other great adaptation of a Phillip K. Dick story, “Minority Report” carries identifiable vestiges of current life and juxtaposes them with exciting and alarmingly feasible visions of days to come. Since “Minority Report,” some of the technological developments it predicted have come true, such as Microsoft Surface and elements of the iPhone. Ignore the rest of its prognostications at your peril.
3. “No Country For Old Men” (2007) — Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpiece took Cormac McCarthy’s allegory about the certainty of death and made it uncomfortably visceral and impossible to shake. No other screen villain of the decade exudes the controlled menace of Javier Bardem’s Anton Chiguhr, a hit man with almost supernatural skill at tailing his prey, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a day laborer who stumbles on some bloody drug money and immediately seals his fate.
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