Time Out's 101 Films of the Decade – Part 1, with reactions from Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro and more…
Part One shows the breadth of Time Out's choices: everything from catty high-school ice-queens to floating kung-fu princesses, from a bolshy Manc club owner to a range-ridin' Western hero...
101. Mean Girls (2004, US)Directed by Mark Waters
Peering into the US high-school petri dish‘Preps, jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don't eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks…’ British audiences’ ongoing fascination with the American high school tribal system was amply rewarded with Tina Fey’s spectacularly snippy ‘Mean Girls’. Witty, thoughtful and viciously indecent, the film takes a smart central premise – a cynical, pseudo-anthropological take on high school competitiveness – and loads it with charm, spite, intelligence and some highly memorable one-liners. It came as no surprise when Fey went on to become the funniest woman in the world. TH
100. Casino Royale (2006, US/GB)Directed by Martin CampbellCheshire bulldog assumes mantle of world's smoothest manLet’s face it: James Bond was always overrated, the quips, the girls and the gadgets serving to disguise the absence of tension, the half-arsed plotting and the general despicability of the central character. That is, until ‘Casino Royale’: here, at last, is a Bond we can relate to, or at least recognise as human: a self-hating misogynist suckered by love, a slave both to a disinterested administration and his own unchecked nihilistic tendencies. That, and some of the most ferociously entertaining action sequences of the decade: the breathless building-site chase alone justifies the film’s placing on this list. THRead the Time Out review
99. Primer (2004, US)
Directed by Shane CarruthHeadscratching temporal twister made for peanutsMade for the kind of chump change you’d find down the back of James Cameron’s sofa, Carruth’s first – and so far only – film is a beautifully shot and finely crafted time-travel parable fashioned out of little more than a stainless steel fridge, a ping-pong table and a trip to the junkyard, and is set almost entirely in a two-car garage. But his obvious production wherewithal and blistering intelligence are secondary to the masterful direction that steers us past a babble of tricksy techno-jargon, around some increasingly mindbending chronological reverses and on through the temporal looking glass. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘I’m just off down the shed, luv!’ ALDRead the Time Out review
98. In the Loop (2009, GB)Directed by Armando Iannucci The f**king British are f**king coming!
Who would have thought anyone could have made such a fine art out of swearing? But Armando Iannucci and his team got it down to a tee with this big-screen reworking of their celebrated TV series, ‘The Thick of It’. So many TV successes have died a death in cinemas (have you seen Mitchell and Webb’s ‘Magicians’?) but much of the success of ‘In the Loop’ was down to the decision not to trash the shakycam aesthetic and backroom Whitehall chat in the hope of winning over audiences in Ohio and Nebraska. Tom Hollander was an effective addition to the cast as a ministerial fall guy, while the sight of Peter Capaldi potty-mouthing his way around Washington DC was priceless. DC Armando Iannucci on ‘In the Loop’: ‘We went to a lot of trouble to make it authentic. When researching the film, Americans told me each department, whether Pentagon or State, has its own jargon. In the lead up to a war, each makes sure meetings are brimming over with their jargon so the others don’t understand what’s going on but are too embarrassed to admit it. Also, the more I investigated politics, the more I was told about the swearing. But I wanted the swearing to be creative.’ Read the Time Out review
97. Persepolis (2007, Fr/US)Directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane SatrapiPunk's not dead in Satrapi's animated memoirWhen we think of Iranian films about female empowerment, a Kiarostami or a Makhmalbaf might spring to mind. The 2007 Cannes film festival offered the world another name to add to that list: Marjane Satrapi, already a celebrated graphic novelist/diarist in her own right who had brilliantly transposed her rebellious teenage antics to the silver screen with the aid of some slickly animated high contrast monochrome visuals and a propensity for self-depreciation as a mode of criticising the oppressive post-revolutionary Iranian government of the ’80s. Way to go Marji! DJRead the Time Out review
96. Daratt (2006, Chad)Directed by Mahamat Saleh Haroun The true cost of third-world war
When watching this wise and moving modern parable from the former French colony and west African state of Chad, it’s worth bearing in mind that soon after director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (‘Bye Bye Africa’, ‘Abouna’) started shooting in the Chad capital, civil war eruped yet again and threatened the safety of his crew as they continued to film. You’d never know it, though, from the quiet storytelling and subtle performances. As in ‘Abouna’, the absence of a parent hangs over ‘Daratt’, but this time we know what became of the father of 20-year-old Atim: he was killed during the civil war by Nassara, an ageing, weak man who is now a baker in the Chad capital. As the film opens, the radio declares a government amnesty for all war criminals, yet Atim’s blind grandfather responds by giving his grandson a gun and sending him to avenge his son’s death. When Atim finds his intended victim he hesitates, and rather than firing the gun in his pocket he takes a job and a bed from Nassara. Beautifully and simply photographed on location, ‘Daratt’ confirmed Haroun as one of modern Africa’s leading filmmakers. DC
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun on ‘Daratt’: ‘In a way it’s my personal story because I was injured during the civil war and lost my uncle. It’s a reflection of my story, but it’s also the story of Chad. What’s interesting is how the story connects with people more widely. The film is like a mirror, and people saw that the film was their daily story. It’s a parable not only about Chad but about all of Africa. Everywhere, civil war is lurking behind the door. There is never a strong sense of reconciliation; things flare up again every time. We have peace conferences and then, two years later, there’s civil war. The way to avoid this cycle is to find your own path.’Read the Time Out review
95. 24 Hour Party People (2001, GB)Directed by Michael WinterbottomAlan Partridge reincarnated as a mouthy Manc music mogulIt could have, should have been awful: self-indulgent Mancs go ape in a warehouse. But somehow Michael Winterbottom’s take on Tony Wilson and the Factory legend ended up being one of the decade’s most purely pleasurable films, a work of spectacular wit and invention boasting a surprisingly generous heart. There’s something here for just about everyone: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, in jokes for the music geeks, Coogan for the comedy fans, and a clear-sighted, unflinching take on the Ian Curtis story long before ‘Control’ attempted to turn him into a cross between Kurt Cobain and Jesus. THRead the Time Out review
94. Moolaadé (2004, Senegal)Directed by Ousmane Sembene An uplifting tale of anti-authoritarian rebellion
Sometimes where you see a film, and with whom, goes a way to explaining the way it welds to your memory. That was the case with 'Moolaadé', seen at the Barbican, with its Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene giving a talk, rather like a visiting head of state (his unofficial title was ‘The Father of African cinema’). At the heart of 'Moolaadé' is an archetypal woman rebel pioneer: Collé, who refuses to have her daughter circumcised and protects four girls who have run away from the ‘purification’ ritual. Set in a Burkina Faso Muslim village it’s brave and powerful, but also richly full of life, kids and music and stories. It was Ousmane Sembene’s last film; he died in 2007. CCRead the Time Out review
93. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, China/US)Directed by Ang LeeWire-fu for the masses‘I am the invincible Sword Goddess, armed with the incredible Green Destiny that knows no equal. Be you Li or Southern Crane, bow your head and ask for mercy.’ This one, sleek line neatly sums up the muscular poetry, swirling grandeur and lunatic violence of Lee’s glorious return to Chinese cinema after the frosty-bottomed melodrama of ‘The Ice Storm’ (1997) and coy Civil War romancer ‘Ride With The Devil’ (1999). Blending intrigue, windswept heartache and weirdo treetop chop-sockey into one majestic whole, Lee fashioned a truly timeless experience that charmed the art-house goons and sated the cineplexers. ALD
Michelle Yeoh on 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon': 'When I first met Ang Lee, he said, "I want to do 'Sense and Sensibility', but with martial arts". In the past, the action always overwhelmed the dramatic side. Asian audiences are very impatient, and producers and directors catered to that. The timeless stories of love, honour, revenge and betrayal were always there, but the filmmakers got carried away with the action.'Read the Time Out review
92. In Vanda’s Room (2000, Port)Directed by Pedro Costa
Costa's intimate tale of life in a Lisbon slumLike many others, I’ve worked my way back through Portuguese director Costa’s films (they're rarely seen in cinemas). He shot the last three in Lisbon’s slums, using residents as actors and a stripped-down production model that seems to suit him both ethically and aesthetically: cinema as a social project. Vanda Duarte, who also appears in his most recent, ‘Colossal Youth’, is an ex-heroin addict with a hacking cough and a wry sense of humour – not your average movie star, but a natural to the acting style Costa's films demand: epic, grandiose even, but uncannily intimate. At three hours, 'In Vanda’s Room' is unforgivingly slow but utterly mesmerising, filled with images as perfectly composed as still-life photographs. CC
91. Open Range (2003, US/GB)Directed by Kevin CostnerKev Costner's thunderous blast of prairie gunsmokeNot as lightweight as ‘Silverado’ (1985), not nearly as grim and ponderous as ‘Wyatt Earp’ (1994) - and with none of the treacly wampum of ‘Dances With Wolves’ (1990) either - ‘Open Range’ is Costner’s Goldilocks western: just right. There’s no revisionism here, no fancy camera angles or blow-dried whitebread squaws, just a gritty, age-old tale of the little guy coming up against big business masquerading as progress. From the title on down it’s a quintessential range western that relies on familiar characters in tested situations that lead to unavoidable – and in this case ball-rattling – gunplay, but it does all the simple things so well that it feels as fresh as a prairie wind. ALDRead the Time Out review
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