Essay Question: movies that embody the spirit of the 2000s

OFCS members ponder the question:

“What movie most embodies the spirit of the 2000s?”

Answers after the jump.

Christopher Null,

Wall Street. Unfortunately it came out in 1987, but its impact was felt the strongest 20 years later when we had to pay the price for all that ’80s excess.

Kevin Laforest, Montreal Film Journal:

Fight Club. It actually came out at the end of 1999, but with its depiction of an increasingly individualist and alienating society, of capitalism crumbling down on itself and of terrorism (it even climaxes with towers being blown up!), it embodies most of the horrors we’ve come to know too well over the last 10 years. Just switch the Ikea catalogue for online shopping!

Rob Gonsalves,

The Dark Knight, and not just because it was the biggest moneymaker — it sums up the entire paranoid decade. I’m as surprised as anyone that a Batman flick told us subtextually and not terribly reassuringly what the Aughts had been about for Americans — fear of an anarchic, wicked soul, and fear of what that fear might turn us into.

Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:

I’m totally going to cheat on this question. In a bad way, I think Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen represents the worst spirit of the 2000s. Modern CGI advancements have made literally anything possible. If someone can imagine it, someone else can create it on a computer. Hence, a lot of filmmakers are ignoring plot and characterization in favor of bombastic, soulless, attention-deficit “spectacle” (other examples: G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2012).

On the other hand, The Dark Knight represents the best spirit of the 2000s. Here’s a movie with tons of extraordinary special effects that are used totally in the service of plot and character development. By joining these things hand-in-hand, the movie also proves that something as conventional as a superhero flick can become a true work of art. District 9 is another recent example of this spirit being embraced.

Anton Bitel, Channel 4 Film:

Globalisation and the sense of alienation that is its corollary. A world where mobility is easier but at the same time borders are more fiercely protected. Rough justice, and paranoia about Muslims. An ever increasing gulf between the haves and have-nots. All this characterises the last decade, and it can all be found in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006). It is not my favourite film of the Noughties, but it is the one that most typifies the trajectories and tendencies of the last ten years.

MaryAnn Johanson,

It’s coming right at the end of the decade, but I think Up in the Air might best capture what we’ve gone through over the last ten years: All the structures that we built up, with deliberate forethought and presumed cleverness, that keep us separated from one another — everything from financial shell games that pitted the rich against the poor to responses to terrorism that were more about firing up bigotry toward entire groups of people than about dealing with a crime by catching and prosecuting the specific, individual perpetrators — are collapsing around us. But we’re incapable, it seems, of finding another way to live. Very depressing.

John A. Nesbit, Old School Reviews:

Increased use of digital technology in the 2000s has allowed more filmmakers to get their personal visions screened. This has inspired a plethora of provocative documentary projects during the past decade, yet I’d select Paris, je t’aime to represent the “spirit of the 2000s” since the loosely constructed film provides a sampling of 18 independent filmmakers.

Joseph Proimakis, Movies for the Masses:

Shortbus (2006) / Closer (2004)

For the latter’s sharp and bleak ruthlessness and the former’s orgasmic surrealistic optimism, in their depiction of our meta-metrosexual, neo-libertinistic era, where we sadly found that, even though the route of hyperbole, may be the fastest way to wisdom over human relationships, it also happens to be the most perilous one if you forget to pack your heart and soul along with your body in that suitcase.

Steve Biodrowski, Cinefantastique Online:

The film that most embodies the spirit of the 2000’s is Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge (2003). Its fragmented depiction of supernatural events, bordering on the irrational, perfectly captures the free-floating anxiety and sense of helplessness of an era when simply walking into the wrong building – whether it be a small home in Tokyo or the World Trade Centers in New York – can have fatal consequences.

Eric D. Snider, Eric D. Snider:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy did a lot of things that strike me as particularly “of the decade.” Filming the complete series all at once, rather than the traditional method of doing one at a time and hoping the box office justifies a sequel, was forward-thinking and sensible. Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance as Gollum was the best mixture so far of good acting and good computer effects, and set the stage for Robert Zemeckis’ Polar Express, Beowulf, etc. The fact that the trilogy was almost universally beloved, even by fans of Tolkiens’ novels, showed that you could please regular people and fanboys, something that filmmakers spent the rest of the decade trying to repeat. And the themes of the film — good vs. evil, decency vs. greed — while certainly not new, took on a new resonance in the post-9/11, War-on-Terrorism chapter of world history.

William Goss, Cinematical:

Call me a romantic, but I’d have to say that Once (2007) most embodied the spirit of the 2000s by demonstrating how art can bring people together (a notion as timeless and universal as they come) and how today’s technology can help someone tap into the potential of creating and sharing something personal and true with an audience as they never could before.

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