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Ten years is a long time for anything, but in today’s fast-evolving, technologically-driven world, the movie industry has experienced some of the biggest changes of all. From the cost-effective ways that allow just about anyone with a camera and editing software to make a professional film, to Pixar’s transformation into a powerhouse studio, to the return of 3D (again), technology has played a major role in the future of movies. The rules of the game may have changed, but the business stayed relatively the same, with certain fads (torture porn, penguins and vampires, oh my) overplayed like a bad Matchbox 20 song and summer tentpole films growing bigger in scope…and budget. In celebration of this ten-year anniversary, we’ve compiled lists of our favorite movies, characters, quotes and more, so grab some popcorn, sit back and relax as Bullz-Eye revisits the decade in movies.



Celluloid Heroes: Jason Zingale's Best (and Worst) Films of 2009

For film critics, the end of the year means only one thing: “best of” lists. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about the job, so when Bullz-Eye decided to do a decade-end feature in place of our annual retrospective, I didn’t let that deter me from putting one together anyway. This year’s crop of films was just as uneven as in past years, but while you might have had to dig a little deeper to find some real gems, there’s no denying that 2009 still delivered some truly great movies. Here’s a look at my ten favorite films, along with a few honorable mentions and a list of the year’s worst.

1. ""

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII revenge fantasy is every fan’s dream movie. Not only does it feature the director’s trademark dialogue (and plenty of it), but it also boasts a stellar ensemble cast, award-worthy performances from Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender, and some of the most thrilling sequences of the year. The German bar scene may feature QT at his nostalgic best, but the opening chapter is his magnum opus. That “Inglourious Basterds” can run for an additional 120 minutes and still be just as engaging is a testament to the film’s supreme quality.

2. ""

This Iraq war thriller is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen, piling on the tension so high that you’ll literally spend the entire film on the edge of your seat. Jeremy Renner is a marvel to watch as the bomb squad thrill junkie at the center of the story, but the real star is director Kathryn Bigelow, who takes an otherwise barebones script and transforms it into a series of memorable set pieces that continually upstage the one before it. But best of all, “The Hurt Locker” proves that female directors don’t have to make movies for women to be taken seriously in Hollywood.

3. ""

There’s a pretty good chance that “Up in the Air” would have moved up a spot on my list had I found the time to see it a second time, but as it stands, the Jason Reitman-directed seriocomedy is still one of the year’s best movies. Reitman may not get a lot of credit as a director, but between his funny and timely adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel and keen use of his actors, it’s pretty clear that he has a promising future in the business. George Clooney continues to charm the hell out of moviegoers in a role tailor-made for the veteran actor, while Anna Kendrick steals the show yet again in a performance that deserves to be rewarded come awards time.

4. “”

I’m surely in the minority on this one, but “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the best animated movie of the year. I love Pixar just as much as the next person, but while “Up” proved to be yet another excellent addition to the studio’s still-flawless portfolio, director Wes Anderson’s adaptation of the popular Roald Dahl children’s story is even better. From the spot-on voice cast and witty script to the incredible sets and wonderful costume design, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” has so many layers that you have to watch it several times just to soak up all of the rich detail that went into making the movie.

5. “”

Hipster indie comedies like “(500) Days of Summer” always look too good to be true, but despite my high expectations, Marc Webb’s directorial debut not only matched my expectations, but actually exceeded them. This fresh take on an old tale is funny, charming and features some of the most memorable sequences of the year (including the much talked about Hall & Oates-driven musical number), but while Webb’s music video background certainly helped in attaining the right look of the movie, it wouldn’t operate on such a high level without its two stars. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are extremely underrated performers, but it’s their onscreen chemistry that propels this movie into the upper echelon of the romantic comedy genre.

6. “”

The folks over at Universal and Fox are surely banging their heads for dropping the ball with that long-proposed “Halo” film, because director Neill Blomkamp more than proved his ability behind the camera with “District 9,” one of the coolest and most original sci-fi films in the history of the genre. There’s so much to admire about this movie (from the great story to the incredible special effects) that it’s really no surprise Peter Jackson had a hand in making it, but for my money, “District 9” doesn’t work without Sharlto Copley in the lead role. The fact that it was Copley’s first professional acting gig only makes his performance even more impressive, because his star-making role is the heart and soul of this instant classic.

7. “”

I was a bit surprised to see “Away We Go” on critic Lisa Schwarzbaum’s worst-of list, because Sam Mendes’ indie rom-com is filled with several great performances and some of the year’s biggest laughs. The film’s charm may have been lost on Schwarzbaum, but I loved every minute. Maya Rudolph is a welcome surprise in her first semi-serious role of her career, while John Krasinski continues to entertain as yet another variation of the Jim Halpert persona.

8. “”

The Coen brothers have been putting out some of their most impressive work during these last few years, and though “No Country for Old Men” will undoubtedly go down as their best film of that era, “A Serious Man” is a pretty close second. A low-key black comedy filmed with a cast of mostly unknowns, the movie modernizes the Book of Job with a surprisingly funny look at one man’s desperate attempt to find the answers to life in religion. This is one of those movies that you really need to see more than once, so before you discount its abrupt ending, you might want to give it another chance.

9. “”

Another film that probably won’t end up on many other critics’ lists, “Zombieland” is pure fun from the word “go.” Woody Harrelson has never been funnier than he is here, and between the whip-smart script from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, stylish directing from Ruben Fleischer, and a cameo-to-end-all-cameos by Bill Murray, and you can understand why Sony was so quick to greenlight a sequel. Better yet, the film was originally conceived as a TV pilot, so Reese and Wernick probably won’t be too hard up for ideas when it comes to topping the original.

10. “”

This is surely going to be the most controversial of all my picks, but the minute I finished watching Pierre Morel’s “Taken,” I wanted to watch it again. It’s a no-nonsense action-thriller that doesn’t waste any time in racing to its kick-ass finale, and though we’ve already seen this movie several times before, Liam Neeson’s commanding performance easily makes it the best of its kind. Think Jason Bourne meets “24” and you’ve got one of the most exciting moviegoing experiences of the year.

“” “” “” “” “”

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Celluloid Heroes: David Medsker's Top Movies of 2009

Celluloid Heroes: David Medsker's Top Movies of the 2000s

For better or worse, every decade has a couple of unique characteristics that serve as a convenient description for the period as a whole. The '70s had disaster movies and the explosion of auteurs like Scorsese and Coppola. The '80s had Spielberg, John Hughes, and the rise of the cheap slasher film. The '90s were all about the indie explosion (and more disaster movies). What will history remember about the 2000s? If I had to guess, I'd sum it up in four words: Attack of the Fanboys.

Take a quick look at the top ten grossing movies of the decade (using ): There are four "Harry Potter" movies, two "Lord of the Rings" movies, two "Pirates of the Carribean" movies, "The Dark Knight," and "Shrek 2." And don't forget the three "Spider-Man" movies, the two "Transformers" movies, the last two "Star Wars" movies, "300," or "Iron Man." Put them all together, and you have one mondo pile o' fanboydom, right there. The first movie on the list to feature an original screenplay is Pixar's "Finding Nemo" at #15, which brings us to the unofficial subtitle for the 2000s: The Decade When Everyone Ran Out of Ideas.

Ah, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. There were some original ideas out there, and on the flip side, some of those fanboy movies made as much money as they did because they were phenomenal pieces of work. As we continue our , I submit to you for your approval, my top ten movies of the 2000s.

I've still only seen this movie once, but so much of it is still imprinted in my mind. The final fight between Frodo and Gollum. Samwise kicking orc ass while carrying Frodo at the same time. That hellacious battle of Minas Tirith. And then, just when you think that Peter Jackson will let you take a breath, he unleashes another horrific shriek from those damn Fell Beasts. Yes, I admit that when Sam and Frodo had their tearful goodbye at the movie's end, I wanted to scream, "For God's sake, just kiss him already!" But there is a reason this movie won every single Academy Award it was nominated for. It's an extraordinary piece of work.

What began as an innocent look at the classic video game circuit slowly morphed into a tale of David vs. Goliath proportions, as unknown Donkey Kong wizard Steve Wiebe encountered a political shitstorm that would give Machiavelli pause. Billy Mitchell is my pick for movie villain of the decade, and worse: .

Only Pixar could turn a story about a lonely robot into the most heartfelt movie Hollywood's made in years. The fact that this didn't win a single Academy Award for its sound work is disgraceful.

There's no other way to say it: this movie makes me giddy. Self-aware without being self-congratulatory, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deliver a smart and sincere love letter to American action movies while getting their Michael Bay swerve on at the same time. And you'll never hear the words "for the greater good" the same way again.

Not to be confused with "The Illusionist" - which, for my money, was vastly inferior - Christopher Nolan's tale of dueling magicians is an embarrassment of riches, from the characters to the scenery to the dangerous game of 'top this' that Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale perform up until the bitter (and I mean bitter) end.

"Kill Bill Vol. I" was an orgy of blood, and enjoyable though it was, I'll take the level-headed back half of the story any day of the week, which shows the Bride fighting to give her daughter the childhood she deserves - a normal one. This also contains one of the biggest '' moments of the decade when the Bride squares off with Elle Driver

Forever redefining the possibilities of a tracking shot - twice. How this movie failed to find an audience or the love of its peers is positively lost on me.

If there is a more devastating movie about addiction than this, I haven't seen it. Darren Aronofsky perfects that quirky blend of hyper-editing and sound - I love when he shows the sun before cutting to Ellen Burstyn and friends tanning, and all you hear is the sound of eggs frying - while coaxing four unforgettable performances from his leads. If this doesn't scare the loved one in your life off of drugs, nothing will.

The heart wants what it wants. There is no arguing or reasoning with it, and even if you could erase someone from your memory, odds are you're going to fall for them all over again, so don't bother fighting it. What a perfect backdrop for Michel Gondry to work his bizarro magic.

Fanboy wet dream or not, "The Dark Knight" is the superhero movie to end all superhero movies. Whip-smart, ruthless (he killed Rachel Dawes!), and relentless, "Knight" is literally a breathtaking experience. And God help Christopher Nolan when it's time to hash out a follow-up; from here, I'm not sure it's even possible.

Celluloid Heroes: My Favorite Posters of the Decade

Celluloid Heroes: Eight Musicals of the 21st Century

A funny thing happened this decade -- the once dying genre of live-action movie musicals seems to have returned to the movie repertoire. As the decade closes, I can think of exactly two major westerns, but I keep remembering musicals that I should consider for this piece (including the mostly well-regarded French musical "Love Songs," which I forgot to see before writing this,).

As a lifelong fan and a nearly lifelong tough critic of musicals, I love most of these films. However, this list is not so much a traditional "best of" and I've included one choice I definitely don't like. (It won't be hard to guess which.) These are musicals that I think contributed to the development of this polarizing and hard to pull off genre. They don't hark back to times gone by or try to recapture a past glory that will never return, but actually take us into the future. That's important now that musicals seem to have a future.

Earlier this year, the brilliant but often irritating Danish director Lars von Trier shocked hard-to-shock European festival audiences with graphic sexual violence in "Antichrist." Back in 2000, all he needed to divide audiences was some really intense melodrama and an approach to making dark musicals partially borrowed from TV creator Dennis Potter ("Pennies from Heaven," "The Singing Detective").

Featuring a literally once-in-a-lifetime lead performance by singer-songwriter Björk as a young mother ready to sacrifice everything to save her son's failing eyesight, "Dancer in the Dark" is maybe the most emotionally potent story of parental love I've ever seen. As a musical, it's strange and arresting.

Like the Potter television shows and movies and "Chicago," further down the list, the musical numbers take place in the mind of the lead character. In this case, however, it is particularly poignant as our heroine is a fan of musicals who, though she is gradually going blind, is attempting to appear in a community theater production of "The Sound of Music." Below, she musically confesses her situation to a smitten Peter Stormare (yes, the guy from "Fargo"). Lumberjacks or not, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" sure seems like a long time ago.

As the non-musical Pixar films became the dominant template for animation and the musical form lost its last apparent movie bastion, big studios began to experiment with musicals starring humans. Unfortunately for me, the first and still one of the most popular of this decade's high profile film musicals was Baz Luhrmann's beautifully shot, amazingly designed, dull-witted, and over-edited "Moulin Rouge."

Yes, this musical fan is not a fan of the musical that's been credited with resurrecting the genre. Why? A couple of sequences work, but on the whole I expect the funny parts of a movie to make me laugh and, even more important, I like to see the movies I'm seeing. As far as I can tell, Luhrmann simply doesn't have the confidence in this film to allow us time to view the arresting images he's worked so hard to craft, nor does he permit time to actually see the hard work his dancers and actors put in. Editor Jil Bilcock is expected to do all the performing instead.

As for what Luhrmann and his arrangers did with the various classic songs they threw into a musical Cuisinart, the less I say about it the better. At the risk of sounding like a fogey (or a member of an 18th century Austrian court), too many notes. Way, way, way, too many notes. See if you disagree.

John Cameron Mitchell pulled off a tremendous coup in adapting his stage hit, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" into a film that, though something of a cult success, is still vastly under-recognized. The live "Hedwig" was essentially a rock concert combined with a one-person show, so turning it into a relatively conventional dramatic movie meant adding a great deal of new material. Working on a very modest budget and studying his Fosse, he crafted a new kind of music film that blended wondrous David Bowie/T-Rex-style glam rock composed by Stephen Trask, outrageous comedy, and some fairly searing drama with imaginative performance sequences and elements of more traditional musical theater. That same year, Todd Haynes' historical musical, "Velvet Goldmine," explicitly tried the same thing on a much larger, vastly less humorous, scale with a fictionalized story of the glitter rock era. It's actually a terrific movie in many respects, but it didn't have the needed emotional resonance or connect with an audience in the same way as "Hedwig."

Here, Hedwig, the lonely but unflaggingly flamboyant East German not-quite-transsexual victim of a badly botched sex change operation, experiences a wondrous musical rebirth just as the Berlin Wall falls. This, my friends, is one way shoot a musical number on a budget. It starts a bit downbeat and slow, but it rewards a little patience.

After "Moulin Rouge" became a surprise hit on DVD, it was decreed somewhere that most musicals should be over-edited ADHD extravaganzas. Largely because he had a brilliant adaptation by Bill Condon to work with, director Rob Marshall actually could have done a lot worse with "Chicago." It's a movie I like very much, even though it was so over-cut that I wondered if Marshall was trying to hide the fact that, as dancers go, and Richard Gere can't really be expected to be Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Since he shot his next film, the non-musical melodrama, "," in almost the same way, I'm still not sure.

Bob Fosse, easily one of my four or five favorite directors, basically invented the highly edited musical comedy sequence with his first film, 1969's "Sweet Charity." However, first and foremost a dancer and choreographer himself, he never lost site of the action even as he jazzed up the presentation in brilliant new ways. In adapting the choreography Fosse created in the seventies for the original stage show of "Chicago," Marshall loses something. Even with a group of first rate dancers, including , he can't hold a shot for more than a second. The miracle is the following signature sequence from the film still works, but I'm convinced it would be even better if only he'd laid off the cine-caffeine a little. ("Cell Block Tango" starts at 2:07.)

Things were pretty slow in the way of half-way decent musicals during the middle of the decade. Christopher Columbus's take on "" was about as uninspired as you would expect and had me wondering why anyone liked the original show. The freakishly candy-colored direction of Joel Schumacher, which we all remember so well from his Batman movies, was combined with Andrew Lloyd Weber's mock-classical dirges to make for a completely unwatchable "Phantom of the Opera" (I know this is true because I was completely unable to make myself watch more than a half hour of it.) Bill Condon's attempt at duplicating Rob Marshall's directing style on "" was a lot better, but still just okay except for truly first-rate performances by and some great singing by Jennifer Hudson. I had an excuse to skip "High School Musical" because it was only a TV movie at the time.

And then, from a San Francisco suburb this lifelong Californian had never heard of, came one of those rare surprises that makes this whole cinephile/film critic thing worthwhile. A collaboration between first-time director Richard Wong and singer-songwriter-actor-screenwriter H.P. Mendoza, "" builds on the low-budget inventions of "Hedwig" by adopting the traditional singing-for-no-reason musical to the zero-budget aesthetic.

Brazenly getting around all the traditional problems with film musicals by taking a fresh, eye level approach to musical numbers and simply refusing to apologize for the fact that its characters have a weird habit of singing with an invisible power-pop band, "Colma" was also a musical version of maybe half the zero-budget indies ever filmed. A story of three eighteen year-old friends adjusting to adulthood and fraught relationships with lovers, family, and each other, it tends to drag a bit whenever the music stops. Fortunately, there's lots of very smart pop music by Mendoza, whose style recalls They Might Be Giants and Amy Mann. After a good-but-not-great opening, the film explodes with a true single-take wonder: an eight minute, two-song "oner" that is eight of most fun minutes of any movie of the decade as far as I'm concerned.

Unfortunately, I can't show you even part of that here, or any of Wong and Mendoza's other fine music sequences. However, some unembeddable clips can be found on YouTube. You can also read what I wrote about "Colma: The Musical" a couple of years back . But first, check out the trailer. It's pretty cool.

Of course, if you find making an old-school break-into-song musical a bit too much, you can always find a story about people who would actually perform music in real life and then simply not cut-away during the songs. You could call it the coward's way out, but if it was good enough for Bob Fosse in "Cabaret," it's good enough for anyone else. And no film in recent years has used this approach more effectively than this gentle semi-romantic drama about a pair of street musicians, both with strong attachments to absent lovers, who meet and find happiness together -- musically, that is. With a dash of "" and little bit of "The Commitments," "" cast quite a spell. Well, on me and a lot of people, but not everyone.

Still, even though the music by stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová is often haunting but not entirely my personal cup of ultra-laid-back modern folk, writer-director John Carney's warmly matter of fact approach to the simple pleasure of musical perfomance made this cozy, joyful, and poignant little hang-out movie impossible to forget. Sorry, I couldn't find any decent clips -- or even a trailer I liked -- online. Here, have a photo instead.

The risky but logical choice of having , a past master of non-musical stylization, adapt Stephen Sondheim's dark musical masterpiece, "," paid off in into a movie musical that was both unprecedented and old-fashioned, blending classical horror techniques going back to the 1930s with a straightforward approach to the musical drama and an awful lot of blood for a musical. Though I had concerns about casting two actors not especially known for their musical theater abilities in the lead roles, proved to be a strong enough singer and a great enough actor that it wasn't a problem; , if no Angela Lansbury, held her own rather and the supporting cast was first-rate. As for Burton, for once his genius with the design elements of the film was matched with some geniuinely great material.

The best part was that Burton had no problem keeping things simple and letting the drama and suspense just play itself out, as in this brilliant duet of would-be murder between Depp and Alan Rickman (a better singer than you'd expect) as the vile Judge Turpin. Here, Sweeney learns that revenge may be a dish best served warm after all.

Purists might scream, I suppose, that since it's primarily been viewed on the Internet, this effort by Joss Whedon and various friends and family members doesn't qualify as a movie. All I can say is that it has screened at the and it's never been on TV, and I say that makes it a movie, damnit. What, you interject, I already included this in my ? To that, I can only say, "posh!" and "balderdash!" and "who cares what you think little accuracy person?" Just be grateful I couldn't figure out how to shoehorn the musical "Buffy" episode in here, too -- 'cause I was thinking about it!

Okay, before I get any more carried away over-channeling Joss Whedon's sense of humor, I'll tell you that the real reason I'm including this is because I really do believe that, as much as any film here, the combination of DIY financing and highly professional talent makes "" one intriguing pathway to the future of musicals and, because of how it was presented, the future of entertainment in general. Moreover, the Whedon clan understands an awful lot about entertainment and, without resorting to fancy tricks they sell a very silly musical tragicomedy about a lovesick aspiring supervillain (played by musical theater pro and comedy genius Neil Patrick Harris) and fill it with social satire, shticky jokes, and sadness. In others words, if you simply commit you can tell just about any story.

There'll be a sequel to "Dr. Horrible," but perhaps its example is just as important. The future of musicals is wide open and anyone can make one. Sure, not everyone can make a good one, but anyone can try and more people should. It's a brand new day.

Celluloid Heroes: Best British Imports of the Decade

Celluloid Heroes: Best Directors of the Decade

When it comes to making movies, it may be the actors who rake in the big bucks, but anyone who knows anything about the business will tell you that it’s the director who truly makes the film what it is. With the exception of the annual barrage of award shows, directors are never really given the attention that they deserve, so as part of our ongoing look back at the , here is a list of the best directors of the decade. Though I had originally intended to keep the list to just five names, it quickly became obvious that it would be impossible to do, especially when you consider just how many great movies each one delivered over the course of the last ten years.

Love him or hate him, Wes Anderson knows how to make great movies. Though he’s remembered more for his quirky screenplays than his ability behind the camera, Anderson seems to have a hand in every single detail of his movies, and that’s a telltale sign of someone in love with their craft. He also boasts one of the best stables of actors in town (Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, the Wilson brothers, etc.), and more recently, nabbed such in-demand actors as George Clooney and Meryl Streep to voice a couple of talking foxes in a stop-motion animated film that’s actually better than Pixar’s latest. Add to that one of the best comedies of the decade in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” the cult favorite “The Life Aquatic,” and the criminally underrated “The Darjeeling Limited,” and his place on this list suddenly doesn’t seem so unwarranted.

Sometimes working too much can have a counteracting effect, because while Clint Eastwood was able to bang out nine films over the course of the last decade, it’s his hit-and-miss track record that ultimately prevents him from finishing higher on the list. For every “Letters from Iwo Jima,” there’s a “Flags of Our Fathers,” and while films like “Million Dollar Baby,” “Mystic River” and “Gran Torino” are easily some of the best movies of their respective years, “Space Cowboys” and “Changeling” are some of the worst. His latest film, “Invictus,” falls somewhere in between, and that's only because he makes the subject material better than it is. Still, if there’s anything we can learn from a guy like Eastwood, it’s that sometimes less is more.

Apart from making three of the biggest movies of the decade, Peter Jackson also tackled a remake of one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time and a best-selling novel where the main character spends a majority of the story in heaven. If “The Fellowship of the Ring” hadn’t become a worldwide sensation, though, Jackson’s career could have gone down a very different path. After having been entrusted by New Line Cinema to shoot all three “Lord of the Rings” films back-to-back, Jackson returned the favor by delivering a worldwide sensation that kept the studio in business for a few more years (before merging with Warner Bros.), while making a name for himself as a visual maestro. That led to another pet project, “King Kong,” and eventually to a big screen adaptation of “The Lovely Bones.” Neither one is quite as good as the “LOTR” trilogy, but then again, neither are most movies.

The Brothers Coen got off to a great start in 2000 with the musical comedy “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” only to follow it up with duds like “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Ladykillers.” Of course, I’ve resisted from even mentioning “The Man Who Wasn’t There” because, although not exactly a failure, it had absolutely no impact on me. They eventually turned things around with the 2007 Oscar winner, “No Country for Old Man,” which was not only one of the best films of their career, but of the decade as well. “Burn After Reading” saw them revisit their quirkier side, while “A Serious Man,” although much different from their other films in that it doesn’t feature a single big-name actor, is the kind of movie that you need to watch more than once to fully appreciate. That could be considered a negative in this day and age, but it’s exactly that disregard for mainstream audiences that makes their work so memorable.

As the child of a big-time movie director, I’m not sure if it’s easier to succeed in Hollywood or fail, but Jason Reitman has quickly outshined his father’s legacy with three of the best films of the decade. Granted, it’s not a lot to judge by compared to some of the other directors on this list, but Reitman has proven himself more than adept at making movies – especially when he’s the one writing them. His 2005 debut, “Thank You for Smoking,” was a great adaptation of an already funny Christopher Buckley novel, while 2007’s “Juno” continued a trend of getting great performances from every one of his actors. Though he’s yet to be rewarded for his work behind the camera, “Up in the Air” shows an incredible maturity to his filmmaking that might finally net him a golden statue. Even if it doesn’t, though, that doesn’t change the fact that he makes the kind of movies that just about everyone can enjoy.

Quentin Tarantino is the kind of director that other filmmakers must secretly hate, because his movies are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. What’s so great about a Tarantino flick is that he takes a genre that most people might not usually be interested in and revamps them for a mainstream crowd. He also writes some of the most quotable dialogue in the business and has a knack for using actors whose careers have long been dead. David Carradine delivered his greatest performance as the titular character in the two-part revenge film, “Kill Bill,” while Kurt Russell was all sorts of vintage cool in the “Death Proof” portion of “Grindhouse.” Of course, Tarantino’s greatest achievement of this year came with the release of his World War II epic “Inglourious Basterds,” a decidedly more mature feature from the director that proved even Tarantino could grow up when the time came.

When your weakest film is the 2002 thriller “Insomnia,” you know you’ve had a great career, and Christopher Nolan’s only gets better with each passing year. Before directing big stars like Al Pacino and Robin Williams, however, Nolan made a name for himself with the mind-bending reverse narrative, “Memento.” Both movies were pretty big achievements for a young filmmaker, but they pale in comparison to what he accomplished with the Batman films. After successfully rebooting the franchise with 2005’s “Batman Begins,” Nolan struck gold again with the 2008 follow-up, “The Dark Knight,” when his highly-debated decision to cast Heath Ledger as the Joker paid off in spades. It’s actually quite surprising that Nolan has yet to receive an Oscar nomination for his work – especially with underrated gems like “The Prestige” to his name – because he’s easily one of the best directors working today.

Celluloid Heroes: Funniest Death Scenes of the 2000s

Celluloid Heroes: Best Characters of the Decade

There are a lot of variables that go into making a successful movie – actors, writers, directors, producers, and all of the other overlooked crew members – but even if everything is done exactly right, it doesn’t mean anything without a good character. And at the end of the day, that’s what people remember the most when they leave the cineplex. As part of our look back at the , I present you with a list of the best characters of the decade. Obviously, some cuts had to be made (notable omissions include The Joker, Batman and Derek Zoolander), so feel free to comment on which of your favorite characters didn’t make the cut.

The web-slinger would probably make a list of best characters in any decade-end review of comic books, but this is the first time he can even be considered for a movie list. Thank Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” for that, because without its success, there’s a good chance we may have never seen Spider-Man jump to the big screen. Sam Raimi definitely deserves credit for adapting the character without all the cheese of the 60s TV series, but it’s Tobey Maguire’s strong performance that really brings the character to life. Although many claim the second film to be the best in the series, we think that all three have their own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, Peter Parker may lose some of his appeal when he goes all emo in “Spider-Man 3,” but seeing Spidey rock the black symbiote suit was just as cool as anything he did in the first two films.

Say what you will about the deteriorating quality of the “Saw” films: Jigsaw is right up there with Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger as one of the ultimate horror icons. What makes him so different from the others, though, is that he’s a fairly regular guy (when he dies, he really dies) who isn’t so much a villain as he is someone who goes to radical extremes to get his point across. Though his argument that he doesn’t ever kill anyone could be debated for eternity, Jigsaw is still a pretty badass dude. Not only is he one of the most inventive baddies to ever grace the silver screen, but the fact that he’s doing all of this while dying from cancer is beyond impressive. Tobin Bell may never be remembered for anything other than his work in these films, but his limited appearances are so memorable that we wouldn’t really mind.

Though it’s difficult to think of anyone other than Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, it certainly could have ended up that way. You can go ahead and thank the comic book gods for interfering, because if Dougray Scott hadn’t gotten hurt while shooting “Mission: Impossible 2,” “X-Men” fans might have seen a decidedly different take on their beloved adamantium-laced berserker. And since Wolverine has since become the mascot for those films (even earning a mediocre spin-off of his own) that also would have affected the movie as a whole, which might have stopped the whole comic book movie revolution before it even began. Just think about that the next time you see Jackman in his role as the wise-cracking, cigar-chomping mutant, because without his charismatic, star-making performance, this list would look a lot different.

Undoubtedly the most controversial of my choices, I still stand by it for the simple fact that when “Napoleon Dynamite” fever caught in the summer of 2004, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t know about this curly-haired social reject from Idaho. That alone earns him a spot as one of the greatest characters of the decade, but it’s ultimately Jon Heder’s fantastically awkward performance that makes it official. Heder certainly made the most of his 15 minutes of fame by booking as many gigs as possible, but he never even came close to replicating the success he found as Napoleon Dynamite. Love him or hate him, Napoleon helped lead a geek chic film movement that has continued to grow to this day. Plus, you have to admit: even if you didn’t like the movie, you probably still laughed at Heder in that ridiculous getup.

They made three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies for a reason, and while money was certainly a big factor, Disney never would have made a dime if they hadn’t trusted Johnny Depp’s risky portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. Though you can understand why a studio would be hesitant about their lead actor parading around like a gay pirate doing a Keith Richards impression, it turned out to be the right call. Depp’s hilarious performance as the boozy Capt. Jack not only earned him his very first Oscar nomination, but it convinced Disney execs to completely redesign the classic “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme park attraction around the character. Many people in the industry thought it meant a pirate renaissance was just around the corner, but thankfully, no one followed through. And wisely so, because there’s no way you can top Jack Sparrow.

UK movie magazine recently ran a similar feature on the best characters of the decade, and while I agree that Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” deserves to be represented in some form, I was surprised to see Aragorn selected instead of Frodo Baggins. Not only is Frodo the heart of the story, but he’s the reason there’s even a story to begin with. Anyone that accepted the role had to know they would forever be associated with the famous hobbit no matter what they did before or after, but Elijah Wood embraced the situation completely, and in doing so embodied everything that Frodo is supposed to stand for. He may not have any of the great lines or partake in many battle sequences, but Frodo will always be the face of “LOTR.”

You could probably swap Jason Bourne for James Bond with little argument, but while Bond is certainly the more iconic of the two characters, Bourne had a much bigger influence on the decade, including Bond himself. Plus, it’s not like we don’t know what to expect with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, but Matt Damon surprised moviegoers everywhere with his performance as Robert Ludlum’s title character. The actor had never even thrown a punch in a movie, much less carried an entire action film, and yet Bourne quickly rose to popularity as this generation’s action hero of choice. That’s not to discount the appeal of 007 (Bourne is neither charming nor has any of the fancy gadgets), but when you’re constantly on the run from trained assassins, there’s really no need for the former. As for the latter? Well, everyday household items seem to work just fine.

The Boy Who Lived was already a pop culture icon by the time the first movie was released, but in these past nine years, Harry Potter has become one of the most popular movie characters of all time. One of the reasons the character has continued to thrive is because J.K. Rowling did such a great job of giving the character room to develop throughout the course of all seven novels. That same approach has been taken with the movies as well, and while it certainly helps to have different directors offering their varied interpretations of the character, Harry Potter’s success has always hinged on the performance of the actor playing him. Though director Christopher Columbus could have never known that Daniel Radcliffe would grow into such a promising young actor, it certainly helps that he’s been able to handle the material. The same can be said of Harry’s partners in crime, but although Ron and Hermoine are just as deserving to be on this list, leaving off Harry would be like choosing Han Solo over Luke Skywalker. It might make sense, but it just wouldn’t feel right.

After a six-year break from the film scene, Quentin Tarantino returned to the director’s chair in 2003 with a character so awesome and shrouded in mystery that she was simply referred to as The Bride. The brainchild of Tarantino and Uma Thurman during their time together making “Pulp Fiction,” The Bride was the kind of empowered female role that Joss Whedon only wishes he would’ve created. No offense to Buffy, but The Bride has better weapons (a Hatori Hanzo sword and a steeled determination) and better outfits (that “Game of Death”-inspired jumpsuit is practically an icon all its own) – not to mention Thurman’s unique blend of physical masculinity and sensual femininity that made her both a menacing threat and an alluring piece of eye candy.

Edgar Wright’s 2004 film, “Shaun of the Dead,” is a lot like Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy in that the movie doesn’t work without someone they can relate to cheer on. And although Shaun isn’t as big of a dimwit as Ash, he’s also not the brave leader that he tries so hard to become. Simon Pegg’s hilarious performance as the record-throwing, cricket bat-wielding hero might not compare to more mainstream icons like Harry Potter and Spider-Man, but it’s that Everyman quality that makes him so appealing. After all, who would have thought that hiding out at the local pub might actually work? And if he can take on an army of the undead with an unhelpful best friend at his side, then so can just about any slacker.

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