the decade in film: 2003-06

The end of a decade brings out the End Of Decade lists. I have little qualification to talk about the Best Movies of the Decade. Better critics than I have already put their lists together; I could only re-arrange the order.

So the following list does not contain the Best Films of the Decade. But it has films that all meant something to me, personally. Call them my Signature Films of the First Decade of the Second Millennium. Or something snappier.

Part Two: The Post College Years: 2003-06

In 2003 I saw the first film that I got in an Internet argument over: Kill Bill. A combination of what I liked least about Quentin Tarantino’s style (not knowing how, or when, to edit) with what I liked least about samurai movies (gushing blood) made for an appalling ninety minutes. Strangers told me I was a barbarian for not picking up on, or appreciating, all of Tarantino’s subtle references. I knew they were references, guys; that doesn’t make the film any good. Still don’t like it.

I joined Netflix in late ’03. Netflix deserves its own special chapter in the history of film in the 21st century; what it’s done for the at-home viewing experience is nothing short of remarkable. I remember waiting for Catch Me If You Can, my first Netflix movie, with uncertainty. Was it going to show? Would it be in watchable condition? Netflix was new enough at this point, remember, that it could have all been a complicated scam or a poor business model. Today, as the dominant platform for watching DVDs at home, it’s hard to imagine a time when this was in doubt.

(Catch Me If You Can: diverting, not great)

Netflix exposed me to the best (Lawrence of Arabia, North by Northwest, Collateral, The Italian Job) and worst (Terminator 3, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Italian Job) that the last seventy years of film had to offer. It’s made me a more sophisticated student of film. It’s also given me plenty to blog about.

Finally, this was also the period when big-budget superhero flicks came back in style. With Spider-Man and X-Men opening the door earlier in the century, DC waded in with their heavy hitters. I saw Superman Returns on Independence Day in 2006, giving it a B for effort and a C-minus for output. I debated its merits and failings with Matt McG. at a rooftop barbecue later that afternoon. “It would have been a much more satisfying movie if Batman showed up on that Kryptonite island,” I remarked.

I was hearkening back to my memories of Batman Begins in 2005: a more mature and satisfying look at the superhero movie than I’d ever seen. Batman Begins was innately satisfying to me because it used the conventions of Serious Film – clever cinematography, good pacing, characterization, dialogue – to tell a story about a Comic Book. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was good, sure, but it still had the flamboyance of a comic book splashed on screen. In the hands of Chris Nolan, however, you could believe that this Batman guy was real.

Part three on Friday, if I feel like it.

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