7 Masterpieces of the '00s You've Likely Never Seen

Our outgoing decade largely earned its nickname as The Zeroes -- 10 long years of generally underachieving, unmemorable and/or distasteful popular culture. At the movies in particular, in the wide swath between the '00s' milestones and low ebbs, some pretty fantastic material wound up swept away in the cinematic tide: A few cycled in and out of the festival circuit before veering off to DVD, another wound up in international limbo, and yet others were imported to the US for all-too-brief theatrical runs. But all of them are among the most significant efforts of their years -- or any years this decade, for that matter. Here's hoping the '10s are kinder; it all starts with you.

[In order of production date]

· Ken Park (2002)

Larry Clark didn't shatter any narrative ground with this glimpse of fraught skater culture, teen sexuality, broken families and imminent death; he'd been exploring the same themes for more than 30 years as both a photographer (Teenage Lust, Tulsa) and filmmaker (Kids, Bully), and his eye for tortured ennui hadn't really changed much by the time he and cinematographer/co-director Ed Lachman got around to Ken Park. But the increased presence of adults here -- all either perpetrators or victims of corrosive physical and/or verbal abuse -- made this effort the decade's ne plus ultra of generational nihilism. Its capacity for dark humor only compounded the accomplishment, with Lachman observing it all with typical precision. Despite its outrageous opening montage (below, NSFW) and James Ransone's infamous, explicit autoerotic-asphyxiation scene, Park remains unavailable in the US for one transgression only: Its co-producer failed to pay for music clearances in 2002. Just another reason why this decade sucked.

· The Best of Youth (2003)

For all the crap and schadenfreude encircling Harvey Weinstein these days, he deserves all the credit in the world for importing Italian auteur Marco Tullio Giordana's epic for something like a week in 2005. The story tracks the Carati family -- predominantly brothers Matteo (Allessio Boni) and Nicola (Luigi lo Cascio) -- from their young adulthood in 1966 through a series of political, personal and romantic struggles interweaving their lives with their country's own turbulent history. By the time Giordana closes Youth in 2002 -- six hours later -- you can't really help but feel privileged to witness the kind of storytelling on hand here. Easily located on DVD and only a few unfortunate wigs away from perfection, it's worth every ambitious, moving minute.

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  • troofire says:

    I saw two of the seven. Do I get anything? Ken Park is gutsy and quite remarkable. I saw it at a film festival where Clark appeared for a Q & A. The entire Pusher Trilogy is a work of genius. I can't recommend it enough. Better than anything American filmmakers turned out in the past 10 years.

  • Colander says:

    I got Ken Park off Amazon (from some Russian dealer or something--probs illegal, so I hope you don't believe I actually did this) and I've been recommending it to people ever since, although it is quite odd, and the opening scene kinda scares the crap out of me.

  • TedM says:

    I've seen 3 of the 7 films listed. Agreed that "Best of Youth" is damn near close to a masterpiece. For a while Sundance Channel was running it as it was originally seen in Italy -- as a miniseries. Watched it then and it still held up on the smaller screen.
    "Pusher III" was also a very good movie, but I would recommend seeing all three films in the trilogy back to back for the full effect.
    Have to disagree strongly with "Talent Given Us", though. I found it very painful to sit through -- something close to a vanity production. Couldn't believe the same director made "Starting Out in the Evening."

  • Dark A. Eye says:

    Maybe it's not obscure enough to make your list but my favorite film from the last decade was "The Lives of Others"

  • Michael Adams says:

    I scrape in with a measly 1/7.
    But that was for Zombie Honeymoon, which was pretty good, especially for Tracy Coogan. I do hope she makes more movies that are more widely seen.

  • My top 5 favorite zombie films in no particular order are Dawn of the Dead (1978 original), Fulci's Zombie, Revenge of the Loving Dead, Dead Snow, and Zombie Holocaust. As you can tell, I'm a fan of Italian horror. Love the classic 80s gut munchers. Day of the Dead (again, the original!) is one of my favorites too.