Friday, August 14, 2009

Defining Films

Recently, I was on IMDb when I noticed one of their suggested links asked, "What is the defining movie of the 2000s?" I was intrigued, clicked the link, and taken to The Popcorn Trick's blog (http://thepopcorntrick.blogspot.com/). I am impressed by his selections and his process, but the films that he has chosen I would not call defining, just great. The truth of the matter is, its simply impossible to define an entire decade by a single movie. The 2000s, as well as any other period in which cinema has existed, require a vast catalog of movies in order to be defined due to the complexities of the world we live in. For one film to define an entire decade, it would need to be beloved worldwide, critically acclaimed worldwide, and address issues that affect every individual in the world. No film can accomplish all of this. Instead, every country that creates movies would have its own set of defining films that encompass its audience's life experiences. For example, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 would not speak as powerfully to an Italian audience as it did to American audiences, but it could be considered a defining film of the 2000s in America. Though some films do cover universal themes, these are usually timeless ideas: they don't define a single time period, but rather the entire human experience. Even when you narrow the selection down regionally, you would still need a large library of films to define the decade. The Dark Knight could be considered a defining film in that it is a perfect representation of Bush-era paranoia and fear, with a terrorist whom you never really know much about to a hero who utilizes wiretaps to track him in the name of the defense of the public. Wall-E not only carries an environmental message (in my opinion, its more effective than An Inconvenient Truth), but also criticizes our consumerist culture, all the more relevant as the economy falls as big corporations swell to their breaking point. The Lord of the Rings series (Return of the King in particular) examines numerous themes of hope, friendship, and good-vs.-evil, and could be considered defining in that it was the epic of the 2000s, beloved by critics and audiences alike. The 2000s was a decade in which gay rights became a prominant nationwide topic, and no film better captured the debate better than one that internalized it rather than externalized: Brokeback Mountain, which treated a homosexual relationship as if it were as natural and beautiful as a heterosexual one. The 2000s, as far as America is concerned, is a decade marked by tragedy, loss, and dread. It was a dark period, and Hollywood reflected this in many of the films that were made. In defining the decade through film, one cannot choose just one film, but rather a large selection of films that encompass the political climate, economic status, and pop culture of our time.

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