With only four months left until we leave the awkward-to-say noughties behind, why is no-one yet talking about the annointment of the “best film of the decade”?

Waltz with Bashir: the unknown classic of this decade.

Despite terabytes of movie blog and opinion sites, all hungry for content, there’s precious little undercurrent for this film or that: no “camps” of bloggers waving the flag for Adaptation, There Will Be Blood, Ratatouille or even the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Quentin Tarantino this week listed his top 20 favourite flicks since 1992 (the year Reservoir Dogs was released) and even that didn’t spur a response narrowing things down to the decade.

It’s been a quiet 10 years for masterpieces: few Palmes d’Or winners received broad support, the list of the decade’s Oscar finalists was underwhelming and the multiplexes choked on sequels and remakes.

But here we are on the eve of the teens and there’s hardly as much as a shortlist out there. So what better place to start the conversation than here?

First things first: this opinion isn’t coming from an arthouse snob.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a lively hoot and I’m as revved up as the next guy for Avatar and Roland Emmerich’s 2012.

But the best film of the ‘00s is the 2008 animated Israeli docudrama Waltz With Bashir. No other film released this decade speaks for its time as well; nothing holds as many creative and artistic aces.

Little-seen in Australia, Waltz With Bashir is a quasi-autobiographical examination of respected director Ari Folman’s army service during Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon.

Then a conscript of 19, Folman was stationed in Beirut with the Israeli Defense Forces while a massacre of Palestinian civilians was conducted by an Arab Christian sect.

Over the course of the film, Folman (well, his animated avatar) speaks with his middle-aged friends who also served and pieces together flashbacks of the atrocity which, we learn, was carried out under the complicit noses of the IDF.

So what’s so special about Waltz With Bashir? What are all these ‘aces’?

For starters, it’s great art. That’s the obvious definition for anything that could emerge so poised and poignant from the Middle East conflict, one of the modern world’s most grotesque and frustrating stand-offs.

Voices from all sides of the troubles have attacked the film…always a good sign.

But Waltz With Bashir isn’t about causes. Besides, Muslims and Christians have also stood by while horrible things have happened. Who hasn’t?

It’s about individuals stranded in morally compromised situations far beyond their control, which neatly reflects the reigning political and social climate of the decade.

As an aside, Bashir’s also got the critical and awards juice – across the board raves, the Directors Guild of America documentary prize and - in a rare moment of relevance for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the Golden Globe for best foreign language film.

Skilfully deploying OMD and PiL on the soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

It’s animated. With a gorgeously evocative, almost neo-impressionist look – brought to life at the off-kilter rhythm of DIY Flash animation – Waltz With Bashir sits right on the cutting edge of visual chic.

Animation’s time came during the ‘00s, as the gold standard animation house Pixar (Toy Story, The Incredibles) continued to blitz the industry with a history-making run of creative and commercial success.

Robert Zemeckis and George Miller, masters of populists live action, also made films animated on computers, while smarty-pants indies gave the medium a shot of hip with the likes of Persepolis and the sadly overlooked Walking Life and Final Fantasy.

It blurs lines between fact and fiction. This was the decade when rationalism met pop fiction: Christopher Nolan’s Batman felt gravity, 007 got a motivation and The Office pushed the mockumentary form until you weren’t sure if Ricky Gervais was a real-life twat or not.

The ‘90s gave us the high-strung fakery of Scent of a Woman, Pulp Fiction, The Silence of the Lambs and Fight Club.

But in this decade real life came back to the movies, as much through the astonishingly true performances in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Vera Drake as the handheld rough-and-tumble of the Jason Bourne flicks.

So what better standard bearer for the decade than Waltz With Bashir, a docu-real war film where the director plays himself and ruminates on the persistence of memory?

It’s of then. It’s of now. Waltz With Bashir tells a story about boy soldiers in a well-equipped army fighting a war in the Middle East against an ill-defined enemy. Checked cnn.com in the last nine of so years?

The film’s numerous flashbacks to the ’82 Lebanon War (populated by younger and slimmer versions of Folman and his friends) also deliver plenty of ‘movie movie’ oomph as they recount the mad minutes of combat.

In both the panicky battle scenes and the reflective moments of middle age, Folman’s control as an editor and ability to deliver precision emotional thumps lend Waltz With Bashir its real edge.

Combined with the raw subject matter and intriguing visual presentation, the pic’s tucked-in storytelling gets an audience gasping and flinching almost in unison, from fade in to fade out.

And that’s exactly what the best film of the decade needs to do.

Most commented


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    • Mr Pastry says:

      08:06am | 21/08/09

      Never heard of it - but if you say its the best I’ll go along with that.

    • Mary says:

      08:51am | 21/08/09

      I agree with the article. I saw the rave reviews on The Movie Show and then had to wait for 7 months until it was released here as part of the Perth International Arts Festival for a 2 week showing. What a disgrace! The movie should have been released everywhere and actively promoted. It was brilliant…good luck with finding it on dvd.

    • Bob says:

      09:21am | 21/08/09

      Well actually I have heard of it. So does that make you (or, to be fair, your headline writer) a condescending film w#^%r, or just wrong?
      These ‘best of’ lists are just subjective chat. Can we please quarantine them to when it actually IS the end of the decade?

    • Patrick says:

      09:30am | 21/08/09

      What the “best” film of the decade is, is of course purely a matter of personal opinion. A better question would be, which film or films have been the most “defining” of the decade.

    • Nino Martinetti says:

      10:13am | 21/08/09

      What is the definition of a best film? Some film win best Director but not best film or vice versa…strange?
      What is the best film of the decade in the West or the East? Since the early 90’ has been the most boring decade, and the film made during this time reflect that. No new ideas and a lot of remakes, historical epics, special effects and very formula shallow movies. The technical evolution has overshadowed the content. I haven’t seen the film mentioned above. I am going to do some research to refresh my memory…I’ll be back.

    • jane says:

      10:23am | 21/08/09

      I’m with Bob. Not everyone is a neanderthal who only reads reviews of Dane Cook movies. OMFG YOU ARE SUCH A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE, SAM!

    • Rohan says:

      10:39am | 21/08/09

      And for those of you who haven’t seen it, it is coming up on SBS on Tuesday 1 September at 10 pm.  Well worth watching.

    • Margherita says:

      10:53am | 21/08/09

      It is a fantastic film! Beautifully told. Artisitc, thoughtful and delicate. Watch it the instance you get the opportunity. Then you’ll know why it is a classic film of the decade.

    • Jason says:

      11:02am | 21/08/09

      Another movie about the chosen people ... meh, I’ll pass, thanks.

    • James Kristoff says:

      11:15am | 21/08/09

      The whole “You’ve never heard of the best film of the noughties” might be a tad over the top (it’s not exactly hidden on the shelves of retailer HMV, at least not here in the UK). I’m amazed though, as Mary said, that it received such a limited release in Australia. Well, okay, maybe not amazed, but disappointed nonetheless. So, who can we blame, the film distributors, the cinemas, or the audiences? I’m all for blaming the audiences personally, but then, I’m no expert in the commercial aspects of cinema.

      ...and given the tone of this article, it’s kind of ironic that the term “smarty-pants indies” is used, especially in regards to Persepolis - another brilliant film that many wouldn’t have seen. The point remains however, that Waltz with Bashir is marvelous in every sense of the word, and definitely one of the stand out films of the ‘noughties’.

      By the way, nice facial hair Sam. Very “indie”.

    • matthew says:

      11:46am | 21/08/09

      do what i did, move to europe where you get to see great films like this one and you aren’t held at ransom by a pathetic excuse for a film and cinema industry in australia

    • Andrew says:

      11:50am | 21/08/09

      yeah this is the best movie of the decade sure. the best film is the 2003 remake: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    • TR says:

      12:05pm | 21/08/09

      To those saying “there is no ‘best’ movie, its all subjective” don’t bother posting if you don’t want to be part of the discussion, there is no final answer as it is purely subjective, but it is fun nonetheless to discuss and critique the many movies that have been released this decade. I agree with Sam that it is interesting there hasn’t been much said of the movie of the 00’s.

      I would have to think a fair bit to remeber all the movies ive seen this last decade which have actually been made in the 00’s. Off the top of my head however the movies which for me have left a lasting impression would be Memento, Gladiator, Sin City, City of God, Wall-E, Crash, The Lives of Others, Spirited Away and Requiem for a Dream. Most of those are quite popular movies and rightly so i would think, i found that all of them delivered something unique and did it in a magnificent way.

    • Red says:

      12:11pm | 21/08/09

      Excellent film, and because it never got released anywhere that I was able to go and see it, and I couldn’t find the DVD for sale anywhere, I downlaoded it. I wish i could have paid, to support the excellent producers, but I tried…

    • Stefan says:

      12:16pm | 21/08/09

      Presumptious headline. Powerful film with a stunning ending. Best of the decade? Surely public support must be a consideration in such a subjective selection. But good for you for bringing Bashir to the attention of those who haven’t headr of it…

    • Mark says:

      12:31pm | 21/08/09

      I’ve heard of it and find the sweeping generalisation - “best movie you’ve never heard of” vastly patronising, arrogant and condescending.

    • Two Dogs says:

      12:37pm | 21/08/09

      1. Slumdog Millionaire
      2. Gran Torino
      3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
      4. Juno
      5. Michael Clayton
      6. Swimming Pool
      7. Syriana
      8. Lord of the Rings trilogy
      9. Solaris
      10. Sin City
      11. Wall-E
      12. Date Movie (joking just joking)

      See? There have been some great movies in the last decade. What has been missing is the buzz AROUND them. Don’t exactly know why.

    • Sam Cleveland says:

      12:50pm | 21/08/09

      I didn’t write the headline, but I do consider it a corker: a tease and a challenge all in one.

      I wouldn’t feel offended if I read it somewhere, just curious.

    • Ninnanuam says:

      01:10pm | 21/08/09

      I don’t know, It was a good film with an interesting subject matter but the best move of the decade? I think it might be the best movie ive seen in the last 6 months, hell even that might be hyperbole.

      The movie has some minor issues with pacing but the thing that bugged me the most were the visuals.
      As someone who watches alot of animation I found the visuals annoying.
      It didnt look stylish, it looked cheap.  Anytime there was little movement on screen, such as the conversation at the bar , the film looked awful.

      Still bought it though.

    • Skye says:

      01:45pm | 21/08/09

      Anyone know where (if anywhere) the DVD is available in Australia?

    • Aramane says:

      02:21pm | 21/08/09

      Brokeback Mountain - enough said.

    • ninnanuam says:

      02:31pm | 21/08/09

      I bought it at JB

    • Darren says:

      02:32pm | 21/08/09

      To all the people saying “I have never heard of it”. What exactly is the relation between quality of film and the amount of money spent on publicising it? I could name a whole list of low quality films that recived mass publicity.

    • Pleuribus Snobbery III says:

      03:48pm | 21/08/09

      I’ve heard of it. But then I’m part of the intellectual set so that’s hardly suprising. It’s not *that* hard to get hold of it. My suburban JB Hi-Fi has a copy. In the ‘special interest’ or ‘world cinema’. I agree with the overall sentiment: many of these films seem to get a very short release cycle, if they’re generally released at all. My local “greater” union cinema has all the standard releases - remakes, re-imaginings, super-hero imbued theatrics but this sort of thing? I don’t believe it was released. I normally have to travel to Dendy to see anything like this. Shame….you’ve only got to see RottenTomatoes to see the next Hollywood marvel starring Ben Affleck and getting 20% to wonder why they can’t find room for something a little more ‘art house’ becoming more main-stream.

    • Skye says:

      03:48pm | 21/08/09

      thanks minnanuam

    • wellread says:

      03:50pm | 21/08/09

      Please!  “Waltz with Bashir: the unknown classic of this decade.” Do you guys get out much? Sure, it’s a good, solid, interesting movie but a classic of the decade, it is not.

    • smally says:

      03:55pm | 21/08/09

      Wow, so many people’s delicate feelings are hurt by the headline?
      Have any of you ever heard of hyberbole, or do you really think the author believes that absolutely no one reading this article has heard of the movie?

    • mike j says:

      04:30pm | 21/08/09

      Interesting that my simple comment that Jews making films about being Jewish is unoriginal doesn’t get published. I don’t think it’s a particularly fringe sentiment. Please change name of blog to PULLING PUNCHES: AUSTRALIA’S WEAKEST, MOST POLITICALLY CORRECT CONVERSATION. kthnx.

    • Stacey says:

      04:51pm | 21/08/09

      Two Dogs - are you kidding? There was MASSIVE buzz around almost all of those movies!  My Pick? If not the best of the decade, at least of the last few years, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, incredibly and underrated.

    • Harvey says:

      05:09pm | 21/08/09

      GEEEZZZ everyone take a chill pill!

    • ninnanuam says:

      05:20pm | 21/08/09

      Scrap what I said about it being the best film ive seen in the last six months.
      I forgot about District 9 and Let The Right One In.
      So its the third best movie ive seen in the last six months, and I have high hopes for inglorious Basterds.

    • Xmagine says:

      05:43pm | 21/08/09

      @ Jason - your comment is exactly why someone like you should see the movie.  I defy you to see it and after the ending images, come back with the same opinion.  It does no favours for the ‘chosen people’ nor the Leb Christians and is banned in Lebanon.  Would be my choice as #1.

    • Steven says:

      06:23pm | 21/08/09

      Brokeback Mountain wins for me.

    • Stefan says:

      08:01pm | 21/08/09

      btw - the DVD is available for hire at my local in west end brisbane - im sure those who cant find it just need to search a little harder

    • Steeve says:

      08:28pm | 21/08/09

      For sale on DVD in Hong Kong already. Also check Amazon.com

    • Jason Gordon says:

      09:07pm | 21/08/09

      You’re all wrong. The best movie of the decade is:


    • Dan says:

      11:47pm | 21/08/09

      I have heard of it, and seen it, and loved it. It’s a superb film, however I don’t think it was the best film of the year, let alone the decade.

      Jason, that was a disgusting comment to make. You definitely need to see the film.

    • Dana says:

      12:05am | 22/08/09

      So silly - the title isn’t condescending at all - like Sam said - sparks curiosity more than anything. Great movie that was actually recommend by Israeli friends who were very moved by it. Anyone seen The Visitor? That would be in my top 10 for the decade.

    • Jason Gordon says:

      09:30am | 22/08/09

      I stand by my decision naming THE HOURS the best movie of the decade.
      It has the best all round performances from the best actresses of our generation - Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore. It has the best score from the magnificent Philip Glass. It is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The direction by Stephen Daldry is pitch perfect, showcasing three generations of “Mrs. Dalloway” beautifully acted by everyone involved, and the stories are so seamlessly intertwined, it’s the masterpiece of our generation. Plus it was nominated for 9 OSCARs, including Best Picture and won one for Nicole Kidman, who is perfect in her role as the Virginia Woolf.

    • Jake says:

      10:23am | 22/08/09

      Oh come on…Waltz with Bashir is mainstream independent. Get your hand off it

    • McBain says:

      10:36am | 22/08/09

      My top 10 favorites from the Naughties would be

      10. Star Trek
      9. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
      8. Zodiac
      7.  Memento
      6. Kill Bill 1&2
      5. Gangs of New York
      4. The Departed
      3. LOTR Trilogy
      2. Oh Brother Where Art Thou
      1.  The Incredibles

      Only one persons opinion…

    • Phil Rawson says:

      03:41pm | 22/08/09

      Well I have seen this movie and the reason it is not talked about is because while it has a fantastic story, the damn film just plain unwatchable. It was like watching a 2 hr cut scene from a computer game. The animation is atrocious and down right tedious to watch. This is why not many people like it.

    • doughboy says:

      07:14pm | 22/08/09

      saw it a couple of days ago. Not sure what I was getting into. Thought it was anime but got blown away. A live action movie wouldn’t have had the same effect. Everyone over 16 should be made to watch it regardless of creed or religion. Might be less wars afterwards. Catch 22 for the 21st century.

    • Emily says:

      09:22pm | 22/08/09

      I’m a 15 year old girl and I have heard of this, im not ‘alternitive’ either so I dont know what your on about sir! smile I didnt go see it though because it looked sad.

    • Dan says:

      12:31am | 23/08/09

      Jason Gordon, although I don’t love Te Hours, I was actually referring to the Jason who said “Another movie about the chosen people ... meh, I’ll pass, thanks.

    • Glenn says:

      03:50am | 23/08/09

      Ahh yes, you probably haven’t heard of this movie. It’s a tiny little indie flick, if only you were as enlightened as me.

      *folds arms smugly*

    • Victor says:

      09:48pm | 23/08/09

      I saw this at the Melbourne Film Festival - it was SO boring and the crowd agreed..people were sh*t talking it as they left the cinema, it drags…omg, how it drags…

    • Alina J says:

      10:55pm | 23/08/09

      It seems a few on here are having a go about the headline, but Sam said he didn’t write it and if you actually read the story, it doesn’t have a condescending tone. It just points out the film wasn’t widely publicised. I hadn’t heard of the movie before this, but I’ll check it out when I can.

      BTW - Sam even said he liked GI Joe??? Obviously not a movie snob…

    • Cartoon Movies Suck says:

      08:57am | 24/08/09

      its a cartoon? you got the be kidding. That movies sounds as boring as bat sh*t and it’s a cartoon,, yeah right.. hahaha

    • Ivan says:

      10:02am | 24/08/09

      I don’t know if it’s the best film, but it’s certainly a great film and well worth watching. To all you ignorants out there that think that animation and ‘cartoons’ are the same thing, try watching an animated movie for once, they can be just as powerful.

    • Ami says:

      10:42am | 24/08/09

      I’ve seen it,
      Not the best film, rather an artistically crafted piece of pro-Israeli propaganda that downplays Israel’s role in the attrocity.

    • suzanne says:

      12:19pm | 24/08/09

      District 9 shits all over it. And Quentin deserves an honourable mention for his Jewish suicide bombers in Basterds ...

    • MarK says:

      02:56pm | 24/08/09

      I’m sorry you may cai to not be an Art snob,
      but your supplied Photo Screams it from the top of mountains raspberry

    • jill says:

      04:37am | 03/09/09

      thx sam for bringing bashir to my attention…thats why i love this site
      and seeing as everyone else is posting a fav, i must say that ‘inglorious basterds’ is pretty damn good but its still quite fresh in my mind so that might be why i rate it up there with the best of the noughties
      i do find the comments from people who are getting all worked up quite amusing so ty to all those out there with high cortisol levels
      btw sam i like ur photo smile keep up the great work


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