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The Answer Is Mind-Blowing in the Wind

Intelligent Creatures Inc.

I recently put together a list of my top 100 films of all time. Let me reiterate: I recently was all but unemployed. So between filling out applications and watching reruns of "The Twilight Zone," I put together a list of my top 100 films of all time. What I discovered was that 54 of those 100 films were made within the last decade. As a self-described film snob, I was not only surprised but also a bit horrified that my scope of cinema seems to be so small. So, with my head hanging down I tried to make sense of why I'm so biased toward recent films. Then it hit me. My true love for film started in the mid- to late '90s.

Before then, I didn't pay much attention to what was playing at my local cineplex, not anymore than the next guy. Any memories of walking out of theaters speechless at what I'd just seen or chattering away to whomever would lend me an ear started during this last decade. Unfortunately, I couldn't have that experience with "Star Wars" or "Psycho" or "Jaws." But I did have it with most of the films you are about to see on my top 10. That said, it was tough to pare down 54 excellent films to 10 that are the crème de la crème. So here's what I did: The 10 that I chose are films that I recommend to everyone I meet. That would be you.

Note: My original number three was "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. But for the purpose of this list, I couldn't in good conscience select a third of a story. So let me here state that the trilogy changed the way movies are made. The accomplishment in bringing this unfilmable book to the screen is in the details. The elvish in the swords and armor, the design of the Minas Tirith and the Mines of Moria and the depiction of Gollum is what brings this world to life. They are three of the few films that give so much, you can get lost in them. If you see a road that extends over the hills, you can be sure that the filmmakers have thought of what towns are down that road and what the people or creatures that live in those towns look like even though they will never be in the film. It is comforting to be in such capable hands.

Marco Duran's Top Movies of the 2000s

THE FOUNTAIN I'm still picking new things and new theories out every time I see this movie. I'm trying to reconcile the three — or is it two? — story lines. I'm trying to delve into the mysteries of the wonderful storytelling. I’m assisted by Clint Mansell's music, which is, as always, beautiful and haunting. He always adds so much to whatever film he is scoring. This film is cinematic poetry. There are motifs, repeated refrains and imagery that can very much frustrate as much as they illuminate. This is not a simple film. In fact, I've found it to be very polarizing. But to me, "The Fountain" is beautiful, both in scope and in execution. Sometimes a film comes around at just the right time, and you've had the perfect day to prepare you to accept it. Not this film. This one makes you work. It demands that you come to it with an open mind. It demands that you do more than skim the surface — that you dig into the symbolism;, peel away the layers in order to appreciate it at all. There is never a perfect day to watch this film, and yet it can always be the perfect time to watch it.

CHILDREN OF MEN This film feels like it was shot guerilla style. Everything in it feels so raw and unfiltered. That might be why my love for this film has grown every time I see those incredibly famous long takes. They show a creator's hand in an otherwise chaotic world. That is not to take away from the story (incredible and heartbreaking) or the acting (superb on all accounts and especially by Michael Caine); but my mouth waters when I see the ambushed in the car and the camera zooms around, doing things no camera ought to be able to. That is taken to the Nth degree when we follow Clive Owen for 15 solid minutes without a cut. I know there is digital trickery (blood spurts on the camera and, a few minutes later, it's gone) but, by gum, it still is impressive.

MEMENTO I saw a small ad in the paper one morning. It looked intriguing and had the address of a Web site, Otnemem.com. I took my girlfriend to go check out the film that evening. We spent the next week talking through the film, getting our characters confused, because everyone's name seemingly ended with a "Y": i.e. Sammy (Stephen Tobolowsky), Lenny (Guy Pearce), Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). This could have been a very pedestrian story running it straight, but cutting it into pieces and rearranging them into two different story lines that converge at the end elevated the whole thing to ingenious. I'm pleased that Christopher Nolan has proven himself with his subsequent films.

OLDBOY I heard about this film through a movie Web site. They were having a screening of it at the Egyptian in Hollywood. On a whim and on my own, I decided to go check it out. I was floored and was so upset that I had no one to talk to about it with. A month later, the film had a limited release, and I rushed my girlfriend to go see it with me. Afterward, we looked at each other, and her face expressed the same feelings I had when I'd first seen it. It's the look that I've seen over and over again on the faces of everyone I've had the pleasure of exposing this film to.

THE HURT LOCKER War films are not necessarily difficult to make, although films about the current war have not done very well or been very good. Most of the blame rests on filmmakers wanting to politicize their stories and make their antiwar opinions known. This film has no such blemishes. It tells the simple story of three very un-simple men and their job disarming bombs in the middle of combat. It is the most recent film on this list, mostly because I like to give films some breathing space after I see them initially, to see if they still work or if they have diminishing returns. I've seen this film twice so far, and I know I will watch it to I'm dust. I have not been on the edge of my seat through so much of a film since "No Country for Old Men."

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND I've loved Michel Gondry's kooky and wonderful filmmaking and his practical in-camera effects, through watching his music videos for Björk, the White Stripes, et al. On top of that, I've always enjoyed the utterly unique voice Charlie Kaufman brings in everything he's written. So putting them together was like chocolate and peanut butter. I had the opportunity to read the original script with the far different bookend that Mr. Kaufman originally wrote. What Mr. Gondry was able to make of it is enlightening both as a piece of fine filmmaking and as a warning to anyone who wishes to shun anything which may cause them pain or discomfort.

PRIMER Sometimes a film needs to be watched more than once to be comprehended. I've watched this film 20 times, read timeline charts and listened to the writer/director's commentary, and I still can't really wrap my head around it. To say that this is a smart film would be an understatement. This is the most scientifically accurate time-travel film, and may perhaps toe the line of not really being sci-fi. That the filmmakers were able to make such an amazing film with only a $7,000 budget cements what Hollywood ought to have figured out by now – it doesn't take a lot of money to make a great film.

CITY OF GOD I came out of this film feeling like I'd seen the best documentary ever. The news footage during the ending credits showing the real people whom this film was based on really kicked home that, wow, this incredible story actually happened. That the director hired kids off the street rather than proven actors is very gutsy as it is, but for him to do it for such an ambitious story and that they were able to pull it off with such brilliant gusto, it makes it all the more incredible. The emotional devastation this film with unproven talent wreaks on both the characters and the audience is amazing.

AMÉLIE This French gem came to me through a fellow cinephile. It is a testament to the joys that film can bring. It's chock full of very interesting and very quirky characters, most of whom could have films all their own. Instead, we stay with Amélie (Audrey Tautou), a sweet and slightly lonely girl looking for love and happiness in life. Her scenes of fantasy can make any humdrum existence feel exceptional again. The soundtrack by Yann Tiersen is amazing as well, filled with idiosyncratic noises such as typewriters and a bike wheel with a card in the spokes. Ms. Tautou, with her cute-as-a-button ways, makes even the most unbelievable of circumstances smooth and easy to swallow. It never fails to put a smile on my face. Expedia.com still owes this movie for its traveling gnome.

ALMOST FAMOUS I've always enjoyed the easy way that Cameron Crowe has brought difficult private stories to the screen. This, his most personal story, reached a personal best for him. Bands in the '70s have never been more relatable or more rock-'n'-roll cool. The music chosen to surround the groupies, the fictional band Stillwater and William Miller (Patrick Fugit) make it still my favorite film about music. It is often thought that the main story in this film is the relationship between Penny Lane and Russell Hammond. I would contend, though, that it is actually a love story to music and the lengths people will go to be a part of it.


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