Earlier this week, the BBC released the results of a poll of 177 film critics from 36 countries designed to come up with a list of the hundred greatest films of the 21st Century so far.
The results were -- as you might expect from such an endeavor -- controversial, with moviegoers, critics, and pop culture junky loudmouths like myself chiming in from around the internet to prove that we had something meaningful to say about the list.
There were, however, a lot of interesting choices in the list. More than most similar lists, it was international in its feel; it wasn't afraid to include recent movies, or big crowd-pleasers that often fail to gain critical praise; and it included a number of animated films -- a rarity for "serious" critics to put among the year's best pictures, let alone the decade's.
(I'm serious about the whole "including myself" thing -- you can see me and my Emerald City Video Podcast co-host Zach D. Roberts talking about the list in the video below.)
Mentioned in the video above is the fact that there's not only a superhero movie on the list, but that if you look closely, you'll notice that there are four comic book adaptations on in the list as a whole.
Editor's note: Updated to include Oldboy, which I knew was based on a manga but which I had forgotten was on the BBC list.
Which ones were they? Well, read on...!
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
The first comic book adaptation you will encounter on the list is #59, director David Cronenberg's 2005 award-winner A History of Violence.
The irony that Cronenberg has gone on to criticize comic book movies time after time hasn't been lost on anybody.
The film, which Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortenson considers to be the best of his career, sees the actor as a reformed gangster whose past comes back to haunt him after he kills two robbers in self defense.
The movie is based off a 1997 graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, published by DC's Vertigo imprint.
The comic is literally and figuratively black and white -- it's a fairly spare, stark book that deals with one man's past. In Cronenberg's film, he tried to add "color," depth and scope to the story, expanding it beyond the character's individual struggle and trying to say something about the role of violence in our society.
The film won, or was nominated for, dozens of awards, including a pair of Oscar nominations.prevnext
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Coming in at #45 on the list was 2013's winner of the Cannes Film Festival's prestigious Palme D'Or, Blue is the Warmest Colour. In 2014, the film took home the Best International Film award at the Independent Spirit Awards and swept a number of similarly independent-minded awards shows as well.
The film, based on the French graphic novel Le Bleu est une Couleur Chaude ("blue is a warm colour"), by Julie Maroh, is a three-hour, visually explicit lesbian love story that got only a limited release in the United States and was rated NC-17.
"For me the film is a great love story, and the fact that it is a great love story that made all of us feel that we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall invited to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning," Cannes jury president Steven Spielberg said when the film won the Palme D'Or. "We were absolutely spellbound by the brilliance of the performances of those two amazing young actresses and all the cast, and especially the way the director observed his players. We just all thought it was a profound love story."
The film was never nominated for Academy Awards, in part becuase the filmmakers refused to jump through hoops and release the film early, complaining that they would not have had to do that in order to gain eligibility if the movie was an American one.
Some supporters had held out hope that the two actresses Spielberg praised -- Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos -- would receive nominations for their performances even though the film was ineligible for the Foreign Film category but it didn't happen. Even beyond the Oscars and the rating, though, the film was not without controversy; its own stars and the graphic novelist who wrote the original story, herself a lesbian, all criticized filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche.
"[Kechiche] warned us that we had to trust him—blind trust—and give a lot of ourselves," said Exarchopoulos. "He was making a movie about passion, so he wanted to have sex scenes, but without choreography—more likespecial sex scenes. He told us he didn't want to hide the character's sexuality because it's an important part of every relationship. So he asked me if I was ready to make it, and I said, 'Yeah, of course!' because I'm young and pretty new to cinema. But once we were on the shoot, I realized that he really wanted us to give himeverything. Most people don't even dare to ask the things that he did, and they're more respectful—you get reassured during sex scenes, and they're choreographed, which desexualizes the act."
"We spent 10 days on just that one scene. It wasn't like, "OK, today we're going to shoot the sex scene!" It was 10 days," added her co-star Léa Seydoux. They also noted that they hardly knew each other prior to beginning the sex scene, which was one of the first things they had to film, and that they were largely subject to Kechiche's whims throughout production. "The thing is, in France, it's not like in the States. The director has all the power. When you're an actor on a film in France and you sign the contract, you have to give yourself, and in a way you're trapped," said Seydoux.
Julie Maroh, whose graphic novel was being adapted, also criticized the sex scenes in the film, saying that the film was shot from a very male point of view.
"It appears to me this was what was missing on the set: lesbians," Maroh wrote. "I don't know the sources of information for the director and the actresses (who are all straight, unless proven otherwise) and I was never consulted upstream. Maybe there was someone there to awkwardly imitate the possible positions with their hands, and/or to show them some porn of so-called 'lesbians' (unfortunately it's hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience). Because — except for a few passages — this is all that it brings to my mind: a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and me feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theater, everyone was giggling. The heteronormative laughed because they don't understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it's not convincing, and found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn't hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen."prevnext
THE DARK KNIGHT
The next comic book movie on the list is the one widely regarded as the best comic book movie ever made -- including by ComicBook.com's own readers.
Recently when the #7FavFilms trend took over Twitter for a couple of days, The Dark Knight topped the overall list of Twitter users' favorite movies. It's also the #1 movie in the ComicBook.com Movie Database.
Here's what my boss, Kofi Outlaw, recently had to say about the movie:
What's there to say about The Dark Knight that hasn't been said? It's an iconic piece of cinema that now belongs to history for so many valid and important reasons. And even though time threatens to march on and make the cinematic wonders of our past more and more obsolete with every new year (especially if Ben Affleck's Batman solo movie is everything it can be), for right now, The Dark Knight still reigns as king - at least with our esteemed readers.
Don't agree with these rankings? Then rate these films for yourself on our Comicbook.com User Database Page!prevnext
The top-rated comic book movie on the list is Oldboy.
Now, I'll admit: when this story first ran late last night, I had forgotten Oldboy was on the list, which is really a crime because it's a wonderful film.
Also, thank God, let's just acknowledge that the one on the list is not the Spike Lee version. As much as I love Lee's work (and his remarkable film The 25th Hour is deservedly on the list), his Oldboy is...not good.
No, the one that makes the list is a 2003 South Korean neo-noir film directed by Park Chan-wook, based on the Japanese manga of the same name written by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, and in 2008, a CNN panel named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made. While the film didn't get a ton of attention in the West when it was released, it was hugely successful immediately in South Korea and around Asia, being nominated for or winning dozens of awards. It was one of the top five highest-grossing films in South Korea that year, and has only grown in influence, popularity, and critical appreciation in the years since.0comments
In the West, Oldboy was a perfect example of the way the home video market used to help audiences "find" some films deserving of wider attention. Most American audiences saw it for the first time on DVD, but once it caught on, it became a cult hit, spawning additional home video releases as well as regular midnight movies-style screenings.
Among the many things you can say about the awesomeness of Oldboy, there's the fact that the corridor fight scene took seventeen takes in three days to perfect and was one continuous take -- setting a standard that would be copied by the hallway fight scene in the Marvel/Netflix Daredevil, among dozens of others.prev