10 YEARS, 10 MOVIES
DEC 27, 2009 – IF IT’S TOUGH ENOUGH trying to rack up movie memories from the year gone by, it’s near-impossible to dredge up recollections from a decade that just evaporated into the mind’s ether. Instead of a best-of list, therefore, here are ten films that resonated with me in some way or the other. Of course, I’m still beating myself up if I should have included Lost in Translation, Khakee, In the Mood for Love, Mulholland Drive, Caché, No Smoking, The Lives of Others, Subramaniyapuram, Before Sunset…
1. Hey Ram (2000): Kamal Hassan multitasked marvellously in this bristling meditation on memory, what it means to gain a purpose while losing one’s mind. The era was sumptuously recreated, but more importantly, every single authorial conceit was magnificently realised, especially in the way the film veers towards phantasmagoria as its protagonist inches closer to insanity.
2. Dil Chahta Hai (2001): 2001 was Aamir Khan’s annus mirabilis. If Lagaan was the sixer that landed on the Oscar stage, as Best Foreign Film nominee, Farhan Akhtar’s debut earned itself a worthier distinction. It birthed the über-cool multiplex cinema as we know it today. But historical distinction apart, it was also one hell of an entertaining ride.
3. Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001): This Haley Joel Osment (as a toy boy) and Jude Law (as a boy toy) starrer may not be Steven Spielberg’s most successful film (and I’m not talking in box-office terms) – but even its failures are fascinating. Rarely has mainstream cinema lunged for such a ruminative median between science and sentiment, elevated concept and enveloping emotion.
4. Talk to Her (2002): Almodóvar explored, briefly, the sympathetic side of stalking in Live Flesh, but with this shattering masterpiece, he gets completely into the mind of a man who just can’t take no for an answer. As shocking as the subject matter is, it’s even more disturbing as we begin to root for the “bad guy” to live happily ever after.
5. Devdas (2002): I’m in the minority when it comes to Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Where people express affection for the relatively naturalistic Khamoshi and claim he’s gone south subsequently, I feel his films have gotten better, and it’s with Devdas that he finally found his voice. That musical-fever-dream blend of cinema and folk theatre and performance art and the opera – it all began here.
6. Kill Bill (2003/2004): Quentin Tarantino named his production company after Godard (A Band Apart), but it’s Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black which inspired his most exhilarating ode to movie obsession. This gushing geyser of vengeance is simultaneously his most violent and most moral, filled with equal quantities blood, reflection and, needless to say, sublime conversation.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): You’d expect the combination of Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman and Jim Carrey to serve up something snarkily playful (and sneakily clever). What no one saw coming was the most profound love story of the decade – a dazzling, dizzying ride into the deepest recesses of our minds, where we store our most intimate emotional baggage.
8. The Incredibles (2004): Again, I appear to be in the minority here, what with the universal adoration for WALL-E and Up, both of which start strongly and threaten to develop into greatness before deteriorating into formula. Brad Bird’s bright amalgam of family and fantasy, however, is gold from start to finish. As bonus, the director voices the unforgettable Edna Mode, super-designer for superheroes.
9. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005): By no means a great film, or perhaps even a good one, but matchless in its significance to an entire generation of moviegoers. Towards the opera-crescendo finale, when Anakin Skywalker mutates into Darth Vader as Luke and Leia are born, I finally forgave George Lucas for The Phantom Menace.
10. There Will Be Blood (2007): With this thunderous marriage of capitalism and Christianity, Paul Thomas Anderson proved, yet again, that the heady days of the auteur weren’t a mere pipe-dream residue of the 1970s. Sensationally directed and acted, this tale of greed run amuck is the moral fable of our time, with set piece after stunning set piece of bone-rattling intensity.
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