design fashion film music art photography global notes life
2010: Lasting Impressions
life design music photography home us film art fashion global notes archive links
Lasting Impressions:
A Look Back at a Decade in Film
Marc Ingber
I was a senior in college the summer of 2004 when “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” came out in theaters. I don’t remember its release being a particularly significant event.
Though I was a college student, one of the movie’s targeted demographics, I never saw “Anchorman” when it was out in theaters and I don’t recall any of my friends seeing it either. There was little indication the movie’s lifespan in the collective American conscience would last more than a few weeks – basically until the next Ferrell or Vince Vaughn or Ben Stiller movie came along and replaced it.
But something strange happened. Unlike Ferrell’s “Blades of Glory” or ”Semi-Pro,” “Anchorman” seemed to find a new life on DVD and cable TV over the years and its stature grew to the point where many consider it to be one of the more memorable comedies of the decade.
It’s endlessly-quotable, ridiculous dialogue (“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal,” “Sixty percent of the time, it works every time,” etc.) have become popular party lines.  The UK’s “Times Online” recently ranked “Anchorman” number 62 on its “100 Best Movies of the Decade” list – right in between “There Will Be Blood” and “Spirited Away.”
Regardless of your opinion on “Anchorman,” this anecdote illustrates that sometimes the movies that end up being the “decade-defining” films are the ones that open to little aplomb, while many “important” films that open to critical acclaim and Academy Awards are forgotten over the years.
With 2009 winding down, many websites and publications are listing their picks for best movies of the decade. “Best” by definition is a subjective term, so there never is going to be a cut-and-dried method for determining the top movies of a decade.
Nevertheless, perhaps the optimal way to determine a film’s worth is to see how it fares against the test of time. Namely, is the movie just as good 10 or 20 years down the road - and just as important, but often overlooked - does anyone bother to watch it a decade or two after its release?
For instance, “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) won the Academy Award for Best Picture the year it was released, thus deeming it in one measure the best cinema had to offer that year. It’s unlikely the film has aged poorly in the sense of quality since it was released 11 years ago (depending on your taste for 16th-century Gwyneth Paltrow period pieces). But for a film that could have been considered one of the best of its decade, its lasting impact on the cinematic landscape has been virtually non-existent. It’s rarely been discussed or referenced at all in this decade and has largely been forgotten.
Contrast that to “Fight Club,” a film that was released the following year to mixed reviews and middling box-office figures, but has grown to become a cult classic and an entry on many “best of the 1990s” lists. A special 10th-anniversary edition of the film was recently released on Blu-ray and it’s still common to see “Fight Club” in DVD collections and on college dorm posters across the country.
Attaining cult status doesn’t mean “Fight Club” is automatically one of the best movies of the 1990s, but it is on a short list of films released that decade that have continued to make a cultural impact in the years following.
Looking to the modern relevance of past decades’ films is a good way of predicting which movies from the 00’s will define the decade in future years. Films such as “Gladiator,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Crash,” “Chicago,” “The Departed” and “Slumdog Millionaire” have all won “Best Picture” Oscars this decade. But it’s unlikely all of them will continue to have relevance to future generations. A couple of them barely have relevance now and the decade isn’t even officially over yet.
It’s likely some of this decade’s less mainstream, quirkier films will age just as well if not better than these Oscar winners – movies such as “Sideways,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Requiem for a Dream,” and “Memento,” among others.
A movie doesn’t have to be a cult classic to mark its territory in cinematic history. Mainstream fare like “The Dark Knight,” “Casino Royale,” “Inglorious Bastards” and “The Lord of the Rings” and “Bourne” franchises were all well-made films this decade that were big box-office hits for a reason.
In all honesty, a few of the Will Ferrell/Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller-led comedies that were all the rage five or six years ago still make me laugh when I catch them on cable. Which brings me back to “Anchorman.” No one would cite its cinematography as award-caliber or the supporting work of Paul Rudd as action news reporter Brian Fantana as a “tour-de-force” acting performance.
But for whatever reason, its over-the-top take on the world of 1970s TV news has struck a chord with many Americans as much as any other movie released in the 21st century and may come to define the decade as much as one of its “important” films. When was the last time you were at a party and someone started quoting lines from “Million Dollar Baby”? I rest my case.
This article can be found on p30 in Issue 1 of Vhcle magazine.
Marc Ingber is a journalist with
Sun Newspapers, based in Minneapolis, MN. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities and attended journalism school at the University of Kansas. His primary interests include rock n' roll, movies, food and drink, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins - probably in that order.