Films that marked the past decade

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The Independent Culture

Films that have marked the past decade:

 

FAHRENHEIT 9/11, 2004

(Cannes Golden Palm winner)

Political documentaries made waves with the likes of Al Gore's eco-cautionary tale, "An Inconvenient Truth" or Spike Lee's account of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

But Michael Moore has been the most vocal in the genre, following up his polemic on gun crime with another unpalatable subject in "Fahrenheit 9/11", interviewing soldiers and civilians over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some called it manipulative and overly creative in the editing room, others held it up as an anti-war rallying cry.

Cannes gave it the top prize and it was the first documentary to collect more than 100 million dollars at the box office.

THE WHITE RIBBON, 2009

(Cannes Golden Palm winner; San Sebastian FIPRESCI Film of the Year; European Film Awards: Best Director, Film, Screenwriter)

Austrian director Michael Haneke is one of the rare auteurs who is now a household name after "The White Ribbon", a small-town tale of guilt, repression and the roots of evil set in Germany just before World War I and fascism.

Haneke's subjects are discomfiting: western middle class alienation, the corrosive effects of a mediatised world, and the complicity of Hollywood that desensitises audiences with spectacular send-ups of war and destruction.

"The White Ribbon" resisted all the tropes from the mainstream and appears on end-of-decade critics' lists, received the top prize at Cannes and is now Germany's candidate for Best Foreign Language film at the 2010 Oscars.

CRASH, 2004

(Oscars: Best Picture, Screenplay; BAFTAs: Best Supporting Actress, Screenplay)

A film about racial tension in Los Angeles touched a nerve in the United States at the time of its release, using a disaster to bring disparate people together and tackle grand themes.

The lowest-grossing film to win an Oscar this decade, the film was shot in less than two months, including some scenes in the director's home to keep within the small budget, none of which compromised the ideas.

It went too far, not far enough - dividing audiences and given the top prize in the industry, it was a troubling presence.

SPIRITED AWAY, 2001

(Oscar Best Animated Feature; Berlin Golden Bear winner)

Manga is no secret in Japan, but its animated films have not travelled internationally, until Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away".

The 10-year-old protagonist and parable on nobility or capitalism transposed to a family drama helped introduce the genre to international audiences more used to cartoons being light-hearted stuff for kids.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, 2000

(Oscars: Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Set Direction, Original Score; BAFTAs: Best Foreign Language Film, Costume Design; Golden Globes: Best Director, Foreign Language Film; Grammy: Best Soundtrack)

Asia arrived in the heart of Hollywood with Ang Lee's Qing Dynasty tale about a warrior in pursuit of his lost sword, which became the highest-grossing subtitled movie ever in the United States before Mel Gibson's Aramaic "Passion".

The Mandarin-language film mixed traditional aesthetics and subjects with choreography from the man responsible for "The Matrix" and its slowed-down battle sequences.

What international audiences were making and watching became vital to the industry as films started earning more in box office returns overseas than in the United States.

SHREK, 2001

(Oscar Best Animated Feature; BAFTAs: Best Adapted Screenplay, Children's Award; nominated for Cannes Golden Palm)

The tales about the fat green ogre have been the most popular animated character of the decade and established the 21st century recipe for popular family entertainment.

With Computer Generated Imagery, take comic books or toys for the story, pre-release lots of merchandise, use pop songs on the soundtrack and famous actors for the script to recite good morals and clever adult jokes - a recipe for success.

"G.I.Joe" and "Transformers" followed, Barbie, He-Man and Monopoly are expected. The company Pixar offered rivalry to Disney, with more nuanced fun in the same spirit, from "The Incredibles" to "Ratatouille".

WALTZ WITH BASHIR, 2008

(Oscar Best Foreign Language Film; Golden Globe Best Foreign Film; Cesar Best Foreign Film; nominated for Cannes Golden Palm)

Animation was not just about cat and mouse. "Persepolis" brought politics into the mix as a growing pains tale in Iran during the Islamic revolution and "Waltz with Bashir" took the use of animation in film a stage further.

Ari Folman, an Israeli soldier in the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war, charted the process of recovering his memories of fighting in the conflict when he had erased them from his mind.

He kept one piece of real footage for the last take and in doing so forced audiences to think about one of the world's main political conflicts and the impact of its representation in a media age.

AMORES PERROS, 2000

(Oscar nomination Best Foreign Film; BAFTA Best Foreign Film; Cannes Young Critics Best Feature)

This three-story narrative from Mexico City cross-cutting portraits of the capital's upper class and its hardcore street kids kick-started a distinctive Latino film presence on the international stage in the 21st century.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu borrowed much from documentary techniques in his camera work, but heavily stylized his film in the editing rooms, and constructed a complex, intertwining story.

"City of God" from Brazil's Fernando Meirelles was similar in style, though so coolly done it made drug-dealing and the Rio shanty towns appear seductive. In all, the result: the action thriller had found a new territory in the south.

WEST OF THE TRACKS, 2003

Wang Bing's nine-hour Chinese documentary following factory workers caught in the decline of the manufacturing industry in Shenyang's industrial Tiexi district gained international distribution and critical appraisal.

"West of the Tracks" also showed what could be achieved using digital technology: film-makers in countries where resources are more limited or conditions are difficult could still get their films made and screened.

The very different projects of Danny Boyle's apocalyptic "28 Days Later", or horror flick "Paranormal Activity," also proved that a mere high-definition video camera was enough to make films that would travel around the world.

HARRY POTTER, 2001-

Familiarity was top in producers' minds this decade: heroes old and new were wheeled out despite advanced age, including Indiana Jones, Rocky and Bruce Willis's "Die Hard".

In the same spirit and dominating gross-takings charts were new Batmans, Bonds and Star Wars, as well as successive installments from Spider-Man, the "Lord of the Rings" billion-dollar trilogy, and "Pirates of the Caribbean".

But a new boy on the block trumped them all: J. K. Rowling's boy-wizard Harry Potter had adults around the world reading the books alongside their kids and the films - six out of seven have been made - cashed in handsomely.

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