5 Thoughts On The NYT’s 25 Best Films Of 21st Century List

Today, The New York Times released a list of the 25 Best Films of the 21st Century (so far) and unsurprisingly it has been met with both praise and criticism for all sides of the movie community. Here are their top 10 selections:

  1. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson 2007)
  2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki  2002)
  3. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood 2004)
  4. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013)
  5.  The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2006)
  6. Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
  7. Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, 2015)
  8. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
  9. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2009)
  10. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009

As always with a list (especially those concerning film), picks are subjective and a matter of personal opinion so while I have the utmost respect for A.O Scott and all those that worked on the piece, here are some quick thoughts on the list in general.

1. Inside Out is Well Deserving of a Spot.

In the 21st Century, Pixar has made some mind-blowingly fantastic films that have revolutionized the way we think about animation. No longer is it solely a medium for children but adults as well, veiled in their content are deeply mature themes and intricate subject matter that far exceeds most blockbuster films today.

Inside Out is perhaps the pinnacle of this which for a studio that has the history that Pixar does, this is quite the statement. Immediately people will bring up Toy Story 3 as the film to have made this list but to me, Toy Story 3 works especially well from those born in a super specific era that grew up (much like Andy) with the series.  For those who didn’t the feeling is not as strong therefore as a standalone film Inside Out gets the edge.

While the likes of Ratatouille, Up and Finding Nemo could make solid cases in their own right, Inside Out strikes me as the movie with the most depth, especially when you are touching on things like emotions which humans have spent large portions of history trying to grasp and express.  A concrete argument could be made for Wall-E – whose genius is still brutally underappreciated in its message on environmentalism or  The Incredibles – a superhero film that predates the current slew of movies in the genre and quite frankly is far better than almost all of its live action counterparts which I won’t disagree against considering the razor-thin margins between them but there can only be one. Solid pick by the times in this spot.

Javier Bardem No Country For Old Men

2. But Are They Really The Best?

As with any list, there will be snubs that vary depending on who you ask, but here are some notable selections I deemed questionable.

Inside Llewyn Davis > No Country For Old Men? – Llewyn Davis is a very very good Coen Brothers movie but No Country For Old Men is unquestionably the better movie from the brothers right? Javier Bardem is just magnetic in the No Country giving one of the marquee performances of the 21st century without question.

Boyhood > Moonlight? – I’m not going to argue with the personal connections people have made with either film but I think allowing both to take a spot on this list is controversial simply because they are so similar. If anything Moonlight deserves to be on here more than Boyhood for telling a story from a perspective that is rarely seen in a film. While Boyhood has its merits, Moonlight outdoes it in both execution of the passing of time gimmick and in its overall power. This though, I’ll admit is perhaps the most subjective as they both rely heavily on personal connection and that is unique unto each individual.

3. 40 Year Old Virgin Is Not The Most Culturally Significant Comedy Nor is it the Best

I appreciate the inclusion of a  pure comedy on this list because I think it’s important to encapsulate all genres but is the 40 Year Old Virgin the correct choice here?  While its presence as Judd Apatow’s breakout film and the movie that introduced some of the biggest stars in comedy (Seth Rogen, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd)  is unquestioned, I’d argue that as a pioneer of the raunchy comedy, it gets beat by Wedding Crashers that came out earlier that same year and movies like Old School and Anchorman which while tamer were released a few years before Virgin. Furthermore, the formula that the 40-Year-Old Virgin established was refined and (arguably) improved on by Apatow himself in movies like Knocked up.

Then we have movies like Superbad and Bridesmaids which took Apatow’s structure and directed it at different target audiences (in this case teens and women) both of which produced stars in their own right. Comedy is a tough genre to gauge on a number of levels but I am left questioning the 40 Year Old Virgin’s place on this list just the same.

Yi Yi Still

4. Foreign Representation is a Welcome Sight

Now increasingly more than ever the best films come outside of the United States so to see foreign films from all over the world represented is a welcome sight. Obviously, we could go into snubs ranging from notable omissions: In The Mood For Love (made BBC’s list but somehow missed out here) to Holy Motors to Y Tu  Mama Tambien to City of God etc but let’s not get too picky as there could easily be 25 worthy candidates on foreign films alone. Nonetheless, the inclusion of Yi Yi, Spirited Away and  Three Times are great entries hopefully providing some much-needed exposure to Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien to viewers that may not be familiar with them.

5. Mad Max Is Not The Best Action Movie Of The 21st Century.

I have never understood (nor seemingly ever will) understand the love affair for Mad Max Fury Road. Yes, it’s practical effects are impressive but that is extremely bloated by the fact that so many movies these days over emphasize CGI. Metaphorically speaking, that’s like saying every other President is great simply because the current one is so incompetent. Mad Max suffers immensely from a complete disregard for a plot and for all the credit it gets for the wild action, it is still not as impressive as a well-choreographed fight scene that is shot beautifully (as is the case with The Raid and its Sequel The Raid 2). For me, the distinction of best action movie cannot ride on effects alone and for that reason, the aforementioned Raid films are far more deserving.

What are your thoughts on the list? What’s in your top 25?Let me know below and stay tuned for Before The Cyborgs’ own list coming soon.

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