The Decade in Film: Crime, Crimefighters, Crime, and More Crimefighters

The Bourne Effect

The Bourne IdentityThe spy for the 21st century was not James Bond, but Jason Bourne. The grittiness, global perspective, and moral quandaries of the Bourne triology (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum) instantly rendered James Bond moot. In following with the general post-9/11 trends, the Bourne films did not present the now-outdated black and white world of evil master criminals with the unquestioning moral righteousness of the government agents, but rather a corruption-from-within trope that proved much more relevant. A refashioned reboot, starring new 007, Daniel Craig, went back to the beginning with Casino Royale, and was a direct response to the success of the Bourne films. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Crime, Crimefighters, Crime, and More Crimefighters”

The Decade in Film: True Stories and Those Based on Them

The Biopic as Classic Narrative

Joe Strummer: The Future is UnwrittenThe biopic has always been a Hollywood staple, and has traditionally been treated as a sweeping epic: one whole life’s story. Over the years, what was once a glorification, or even blatant excuse for hero-worship, produced warts-and-all critiques. As the last decade began, we were still watching our most beloved icons struggles against the first act of adversity, followed by the second act of inevitable struggles, character faults, and brink of despair, followed by the third act of redemption. It always seemed amazing that every life’s true story – Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Ray Charles in Ray, Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter, Muhammed Ali in Ali, Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, to name a few – could be tailored to a cookie-cutter formula. Only a few managed to break the mould, but they had to be almost subversive to do so, from the “po-mo” brilliance of the Bob Dylan-inspired I’m Not There (you can’t really call it a biopic), to Julien Temple’s fantastic documentary, Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: True Stories and Those Based on Them”

The Decade in Film: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Brokeback MountainArt has always lit the way for the great march forward. Hollywood, purveyor of popular art and entertainment, has always had to tread a careful line between progressive art and conservative entertainment. You need to push enough boundaries to stay relevant but be familiar enough not to alienate your audience. It is not surprising then, that the last decade has seen the careful balance between liberal and conservative. While many traditional story tropes were told in brilliantly new postmodern ways, we saw other conservative (as in traditional) storytelling devices, like the sweeping epic of Brokeback Mountain or the biopic of Milk, being used to tell very forward-thinking stories. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

The Decade in Film: The Epic and Science Fiction

Death of the Epic

The Lord of the RingsThe arrival of The Lord of the Rings arguably killed the epic. Virtually every traditional fantasy film – pumped out at a consistent rate in an attempt to duplicate The Lord of the Rings success – since has flopped. Think merely of other (mostly children’s) book adaptations, such as Eragon, Beowulf and The Golden Compass. The Chronicles of Narnia are still being churned out, but they lack the pervasiveness into the mainstream subconscious that something like The Lord of the Rings has. The old, familiar worlds of dragons and elves and knights were instantly rendered moot after Middle Earth. The epic formula has seemingly ceased to grab audience’s imaginations, other such epic flops include The New World, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, and HBO’s critically applauded but quickly cancelled Rome. As popular as The Passion of the Christ was at the time, it is largely forgotten and irrelevant now. The successes have been such films as Harry Potter and Twilight, which have taken us into a postmodern pastiche of fantasy elements – witches, wizards, vampires and werewolves repackaged for the 21st century. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: The Epic and Science Fiction”

The Decade in Film: The War Conflict Film

The War Conflict Film

The war film as a Romantic narrative is virtually over. While this slow decline began with Vietnam, it only really grew apparent with the Iraq war. The war that was always seen as most Romantic, the most justified in our self-righteousness, was World War II. The Nazis are still the go-to bad guys of the twentieth century, and while this still applies, we’re increasingly seeing them as fallible humans rather than evil autocrats. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: The War Conflict Film”

The Decade in Film: Introduction

Throughout the great interwebs are a million articles on the best films and best television shows of the decade. As arbitrary and meaningless as it is to divide human history into ten year periods, each decade’s zeitgeist doesn’t magically change over night as December 31st becomes January 1st. Attitudes and values evolve over time, and with the speed of global communication in the 21st century, that evolution is happening faster than ever. If we need to pin down a moment our current world became the one it did, beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s 9/11. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Introduction”

My Top Ten Films of the Decade

There’s been a lot of these lists floating around lately, obviously due to the impending end of the so-called Noughties. (Personally, I much more interested to see if that name sticks.) For something so recent, everyone’s list is bound to be different. We don’t have the benefit of time depth to lend an objective weight to the proceedings. We don’t have the hindsight of sixty years to realize how influential something like Citizen Kane became. We can’t know what films will stand the proverbial test of time to become the eventual classics our grandchild will moan and fidget through. We can’t know what blockbusters and Oscar-winners will simply drop from remembrance all together (although my money’s on Transformers and Crash, respectively). It’s simply too soon. Thus, I’m hedging my bets. Continue reading “My Top Ten Films of the Decade”