9/11. Every American knows these words, and knows them well. That single day changed well, just about everything. It defined the decade one way or another, starting the war on terror leading to many thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars worth of military spending. The special effects have become so amazing that something like Avatar (2009) could be made, a film almost entirely CGI, yet still looking realistic compared to the people. By the end of the decade the uncanny value had almost been conquered, and it paved the way for new genres of film. Big budget franchises were the name of the game, as the industry became more and more profitable, and audiences got draw in further and further.
Donnie Darko (2001): The first film is a generic romantic comedy, a genre that was extremely prevalent during this decade. Some of the best reviewed films of the decade were deconstructions of this genre, and this, along with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, are some of the best of that type. A cult film which gained popularity through the roots of the internet; a surrealist film in an era which was just not quite ready. A masterful piece of film-making that inspired many, many indie films in the future, Donnie Darko is one of the defining films in its genre.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, and 2003): I don’t think this one needs too much explanation. The battle scenes created a new definition for epic, and as a successful adaptation of a famous book series it lead the way for many, many imitators, the worst of which was probably 2006’s Eragon. There’s no doubt the amount of impact LoTR had, quite probably inspiring another powerful trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean. The films themselves are not cinematic masterpieces, but the set pieces are suitably impressive, and suit the effects well, offering all the genre can really show, and demonstrating that an adaptation does not have to be bad.
Kill Bill (2003 & 2004): These films were one story released in two volumes, because of the initial 4 hour runtime. The two parts compliment as well as contrast themselves, with the first almost non-stop action, and the second having less than minute long fights, and an enormous amount of dialogue. The ending too is indicative of the decade as a whole, ending on a sombre note, as true victory is not really had, an interesting comment about Bush’s “Mission Accomplished”. It’s almost a case of ultra-violence, especially the first half, compared favourably to A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick and Tarantino can be compared, as both craft their films with such purpose, every scene necessary, and masterfully shot. Said to eventually be a trilogy, it will be a site to see when the bride rides again.
No Country for Old Men (2007): The Coen Brother’s only Best Picture, and it’s a doozy; the tale of a briefcase full of money, a recurring theme in the brother’s pictures. The film is shot very slowly, shots panning and deliberating, never rushing. Like the main antagonist, a personification of death, the film plods along, never ceasing, relentless in the pursuit of an obsolete goal. It is a film about predestination, and the avoidance of fate. The main character dies off screen. It shows that he is not important, that death waits for no man, and the protagonist and antagonist never actually meet. It is a very post-modern film, and that is the way that storytelling is going these days.
As for a defining film of the decade, I think the point to note is there was no one film. The decade changed so much, but nothing was consistent, every facet of life adapted to this new universe, and everything changed along with it. There are numerous documentary films that bare mention, An Inconvenient Truth bringing global warming to the masses on an unprecedented scale, Fahrenheit 9/11 dealing with the ever important issue of terrorism, and Thank You For Smoking further reinforcing the negative effects the industry has on everyone. But the defining film of the decade was in fact you, everyone. Youtube has made it so everyday videos get millions of views, everyone believes that everyone else wants to see what they have to say, or do, and sometimes they are right. So the defining film is home movies through Youtube, and everyone should feel very proud of themselves.
The days have passed where information was hidden from the public. With Wikileaks and twitter and blogs, all information is available to anyone with internet access. The world has changed, immensely, everything is different. People are connected more and more, and this has changed the way we look at life. Now a presidential candidate will be examined from every possible angle, anyone they ever met will be known and interviewed, and privacy is a thing of the past. Big brother is watching you, and he is very disappointed in you.