My List of Best Films of the 2000s

Back in November (or was it October?), when I saw the first "Best of the Decade" film list online, it came as kind of a shock. The first decade of the new century? Over already? Do I really have to organize my thoughts about films of the new century in a decade-sized bundle so quickly?

Sorry, but I'm having a little trouble wrapping my mind around the number 2010 - still coping with the fact that we're in the 2000s, I guess. Even then, there's something hard to swallow about 2010 that the single-digit years of this century didn't have.

So much has changed since the turn of the last decade/century/millennium. When this century started, I worked at a New York area newspaper that just recently sold its presses and outsourced its printing to New Jersey. Newspapers themselves - and print media in general - suddenly seem so threatened and endangered as to be nearly irrelevant.

This decade has, by necessity, been viewed through the prism of the crumbling World Trade Center in September 2001. For a couple of years afterward, every film seemed to have a 9/11 subtext, whether it was there or not. It's hard to view the destruction of Hometree in Avatar and not be reminded of the images we watched over and over again on Sept. 11.

Similarly, this has been a decade seemingly defined by an unnecessary war, one that the 9/11 attacks became the excuse for. Yet none of the films - even the powerful Hurt Locker, which is as close to a hit as any of them (and only an arthouse hit at that) - seemed to compel the public to see them. Yes, the audience seemed to say, we allowed ourselves to be stampeded into this quagmire - so don't remind us by expecting us to watch movies about what was wrought in our name.

When this decade began, the independent film world was a thriving, vibrant concern. Ten years later, most of the tiny companies - particularly the boutique labels the various major studios had put together - have vanished, victimized either by the backwash of the economy, the blockbuster mentality - or both.

What we're left with is a filmmaker-unfriendly environment, one in which the search for the box-office home-run means that smaller films - which could be metaphorical singles and doubles, profit-wise - go begging, forced into the shark-like climate of what now passes for the independent film world. Filmmakers have trouble making ends meet when they essentially have to pay to get their films released and must rely on the still-nascent video-on-demand model for an audience.

Oh well, enough philosophizing and pontificating. We know what we're here for: a list. So here goes - my 10 best plus a bunch more I couldn't bear leaving unmentioned. Enjoy, argue - whatever seems to work for you.

1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03): This may be the most amazing feat of extended movie fantasy ever made - at once faithful to the books, intensely cinematic and magical, and full of the kind of heart and passion that great adventure films are supposed to have. Each was three hours or more long - and they could have gone on even longer.