Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best of the Decade: Sci-Fi Movies

Well, that was weird, wasn't it? This post was actually missing for a whole day. I had some connectivity problems last night and actually thought I'd lost the whole thing, but there was the title this morning, when I looked. Of course, none of what I had written was there. But I did save my list in a hand-written hard copy. Now I just have to try and recreate as much as I said about the half of through when it all went to hell. 

So, anyway - her's my list of the 10 Best Science Fiction Films of the past decade.

10. The Incredibles. (2004)

Pixar makes their first of two appearances on this list with Brad Bird's hilarious take on all things Superhero and Bond. If you spent the past six years under a rock, The Incredibles is the story of what happens when superheroes are forced to retire and "blend in." Hilariously dead-on in everything it skewers, The Incredibles is my personal favorite Pixar film. Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Bird himself as the Edith Head-inspired super costumer Edna Mode, The Incredibles is a delightfully addition to the genre:

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Charlie Kaufman and Michael Gondry (Being John Malkovich) collaborate again in this story of a couple (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who decide to wipe their memories clean of one another, only to find that doing so makes them realize how much they really mean to one another. Bizarre, funny and completely original, Eternal Sunshine eschews modern computer effects for in-camera perspective tricks, physical effects and clever editing to create a surreal, yet touching love story:

8. Donnie Darko (2001)

Writer/Director Richard Kelly's infamously puzzling take on time-travel and he nature of destiny tells the story of young Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal in his break-out performance) who is saved from being killed when a jet engine mysterious falls out the sky and into his bedroom, because he has been out sleepwalking. What follows is a grim and harrowing look at adolescence; madness; quantum theory; pedophilia and a 6 foot talking rabbit named Frank. The more times I see this film, the more I love it. The top-notch cast includes Mary McDonnell; Katherine Ross; Jena Malone; Patrick Swayze; Noah Wylie; Drew Barrymore (who produced); Maggie Gyllenhaal and the always wonderful Beth Grant. sadly, Kelly has yet to produce as good a film as his first:


7. The Dark Knight (2008)

When Christopher Nolan revived the Warner Brothers' franchise with Christian Bale cast in Batman Begins, I was dubious. I loved Memento, but I was still angry with Bale for American Psycho (don't get me started), so I passed in the theaters. When I finally saw the movie on DVD, I was sorry I had waited. The Dark Knight goes a few steps further and reinvents the superhero genre as a great crime film, with what may well be the maddest of crime bosses in film history, Heath Ledger's chilling Joker. Dark, grim and intense, The Dark Knight set a new standard for superhero movies:

6. Wall-E (2008)

Pixar strikes again with this love story about the last functioning trash collecting robot on earth, his pet cockroach, Hello Dolly! and an explorer droid named Eve. Taking a huge risk with a nearly dialogue-free first act, director Andrew Stanton delivers one of the most effective animated films of all time. A pure delight from beginning to end:

5. District 9 (2009)

My poor K loves a good Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror movie. She despises movies about man's inhumanity to man. Needless to say, she hated South African director Neil Blomkamp's feature debut, about of group of stranded extraterrestrials known locally as "Prawns," who are rounded up into a concentration camp by an uncaring corporation which is only interested in exploiting the aliens' weapons technology. When low-level schlub Wickus Van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is assigned to head up he ousting of the Prawn's from their slum in District 9, all hell breaks loose and Wikus literally finds himself caught between two worlds. For a low-budget and rather obvious commentary on Apartheid, Blomkamp's film is surprisingly original and effective, in no small thanks to a remarkable debut performance from Copley:

4. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan's most recent film is a massive mind f*ck about the nature of reality, Leonardo DiCaprio is Cobb, a man who specializes in stealing industrial secrets by invading his targets' dreams. When Cobb and his team are hired to implant an idea rather than steal one, an elaborate and complex plan is set into motion. Co-starring Joseph Gordon Levitt; Tom Hardy; Dileep Rao; Ellen Page; Marion Cotillard; Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy in a visual feast of a movie that some film-goers found just to complex to follow, Inception is my pick for Best Movie of 2010. IF MC Escher made movies, they would all look like Inception:

3. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
After the death of Stanley Kubrick, director Stephen Spielberg took over Kubrick's last project, an adaptation of Brian Aldiss' short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long." When a couple (Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards) find their son in what appears to be an irreversible coma, they "adopt" David (Haley Joel Osmet), a robot designed to imprint on his 'parents' like a real child. When their son wakes up, trouble ensues, forcing them to abandon David to his devices. David's consequent quest to become a 'real boy' is the rest of the film's focus. Jude Law is Joe, a pleasurebot who has been framed for murder and William Hurt is the scientist who designed David in his own deceased son's image. Critics in general hated A.I. when it first released, though I immediately took to the movie's story and tone. And for the last time, the beings in the film's final half hour are NOT aliens!

2. Moon (2008)

Sam Rockwell gives a simply astonishing performance as Moon miner Sam Bell, whose 3 year-stint is almost up when a problem arises which forces him to go out and inspect the mining equipment, where he makes a startling discovery: himself in a disabled moon rover. Sam soon wakes up inside the base, unaware of what has happened, but taken aback to find another version of himself. What follows is yet another great Sci-Fi mind-f*ck as Sam uncovers a conspiracy by an uncaring corporation willing to stoop to almost any level to make a profit.

1. Children of Men (2006)

Another movie K hated, but Q, Dale and I loved. Director Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of the PD James novel is set in 2027, in a world where no woman has given birth in a long time. Manly Clive Owen plays a former activist drawn back into the thick of things when he's recruited to escort a miraculously pregnant young woman to safety aboard a scientific exploration boat. Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and-up and-comer Charlie Hunnam also star in this brutal, heartbreaking and arresting film which features one of modern cinema's best continuous takes near the end of its third act. Not for the squeamish, faint of heart or the optimist in your circle of friends, Children of Men is a sobering tale of fascism and desperation that would make Orwell cry.

Please hit me up with your picks. I'm saving honorable mentions in this category, for now.

More, anon.


Sean said...

So what were they? I'm serious.

Stephen said...

We are on the same page with this list, although I only loved the first section of Wall-E.

I might add Serenity (2007).