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Arts and Culture

The 20 Best Socially Conscious Movies of the Decade

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Posted on Dec 31, 2009

By Peter Z. Scheer

(Page 2)

13. “Syriana” (2005)
Confusing was a word a lot of people used to describe this movie, but that might have been by the filmmakers’ design. It’s as if writer/director Stephen Gaghan tried to take in the whole solar mass of the Middle East and ended up speaking in tongues about sheiks and oilmen and suicide bombers who all have their reasons. The source material, Robert Baer’s memoir about life at the CIA, shines through in the revelation that pretty much all American maneuvering boils down to oil profits.

14. “Milk” (2008)
If only gay rights activists would pay more attention to Harvey Milk, we would all be better off. The pioneering politician’s warning not to go looking in the closet for equal opportunity is as relevant now as ever.

15. “Waltz With Bashir” (2008)
This unique animated documentary is hard to pin down, but one word for it is breathtaking.

16. “Michael Clayton” (2007)
Fight lawyers with a lawyer. “Michael Clayton” really nails what’s wrong with this country—people simply don’t risk their asses anymore. So what if your employers are poisoning people? Are you supposed to lose your job and your Mercedes turning them in? Yes!

17. “The Queen” (2006)
It’s good to remember Tony Blair before the fall, when he was the wide-eyed young prime minister who fell for Her Majesty.

18. “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)
Oh my God, global warming is real? Can we do something about this? The Gore-bot has never been more expressive—or convincing.

19. “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005)
It took almost as much chutzpah to take on Joe McCarthy in the 1950s as it did to make a black-and-white movie in the 21st century. This film was less a condemnation of the blacklist than a bitch-slap to The New York Times and CNN and everyone else who kept the great Ed Murrow spinning in his grave in those early Bush years.

20. “Outfoxed” (2004)
Robert Greenwald’s timely-documentary factory scored an early hit with “Outfoxed,” a point-by-point breakdown of Fox News that didn’t just vent, but exposed the most popular news network’s most devilish techniques.


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By last_boy_scout, May 28, 2010 at 9:29 am Link to this comment

All these movies bring their messages quite straight-
to-the-point, but what about the movies with covert
“politically-conscious” motives? Like Ridley Scott’s
version of “Robin Hood”?

Seems like
people abroad are eager to find this kind of reasoning disturbing.

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By last_boy_scout, May 28, 2010 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

All these movies bring their messages quite straight-
to-the-point, but what about the movies with covert
“politically-conscious” motives? Like Ridley Scott’s
version of “Robin Hood”?

Seems like
people abroad are eager to find this kind of reasoning

Report this

By David Ehrenstein, January 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

How do I have a clue? BECAUSE I FUCKING ASKED!!!!!

I’m a journalist—not a doormat!!!!!

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By Stephen Glassman, January 24, 2010 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The cynicism and condescension displayed in some of these comments is disheartening and demoralizing.  The Lives of Others, Brokeback Mountain (slash romance for women?  and how does Ehrenstein have a clue about whether or not any of the crew on the film were or were not gay?), Children of Men, Why We Fight, Mysterious Skin…all relevant to the human condition.  If Herr Ehrenstein has no interest in films NOT about gays, then why has he tortured himself for the past 48 years being a film critic?  I’m a gay man who matured in the late 60’s.  I’ve seen a huge number of films during my lifetime.  I sat in a movie theatre in rural Minnesota when Brokeback was first released there and was expecting derision and/or horrified silence during and after the movie.  From a standing-room-only audience of gay couples, older hetero couples, young people and single men, I witnessed grace, respect and a depth of quiet emotion I’ve not seen before.  For me, it was the first time I felt that the struggles I have endured involving family, friends, co-workers MATTER.  The Lives of Others educated me.  So did Traffic, for that matter.  Many people go to films in order to learn about worlds and lives they know nothing about.  How many heteros have a clue about what it might be like for gays to try and function in a world that mostly considers them deviants?  Now that I’m past 60, I’ve come to realize that to the vast majority of folks in the U.S., the only point of view worth considering is one’s own.  How limiting and arrogant and truly American!

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By stephen geller, January 10, 2010 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve written films and novels for over forty years. Several years ago I
wrote/directed an Independent film that was a spiritual thriller, called MOTHER’S
LITTLE HELPERS. It wasn’t bought in the States, although Raifilm, Italy, bought it
for Italy. It’s as socially provocative as it gets.

E-mail me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I’ll send it to you for free.
Love,

Stephen Geller

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By Alan, January 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for NOT including “Crash” on your list.  That is the one of the worst movies ever made, let alone win the best picture Oscar (I feel faint every time I remember that….).

Also, while the visuals of “Avatar” were truly breathtaking, the story and dialogue is crap.  I just hate it when filmmakers bash you over the head with their messages.

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By tomack, January 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

The real issue is not about which films should be on or off the list—everyone has an opinion about that…as can be seen by these posts. No, the real issue and challenge extraordinaire , is how to get these films, and others like them, in front of the eyes that NEED to see their messages.

The movie, the film, the cinema, is probably the most effective and powerful medium in the American culture. I wish I could say reading, but in my opinion that would not be true.

So, “how do we get em in the seats”? Perhaps more—many more—free movie festivals is part of an answer. Maybe a strong push by media insiders (and fans) to get more films like this on television.   

Maybe sites like Truthdig should show them—free.
Maybe we just drop them by airplane in little parachutes. 

It’s like another poster said today about the piece on why American Media doesn’t show more of war’s gruesome pictures—because they work.

Instead of serving ad money we should serve the people. But someone has to sacrifice at first because “free” aint free.

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By Luca, January 4, 2010 at 3:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Queen?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Please tell me that was an rogue entry/

Anyway, why should anyone need to remember Tony Blair “before the fall” when you can watch the “live” re-run of Blair called the Obama administration?

No, seriously: The only Top 10 list The Queen belongs in is the one about films about queens, which would be a dull list.

Thanks for the effort, anyhow.

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By Officer Krupke, January 4, 2010 at 2:04 am Link to this comment

I have to express my extreme disappointment in such
a list. To have such mainstream movies like
Brokeback mountain, who one reader pointed out that
obvious flows, and in my opinion a flat out stupid
film like Borat as thought provoking or independent
is just insulting to movies like zeitgeist or sicko.

“The Corporation” should have been in the top 5 with
no question.  For as much as Robert Scheer has
addressed them in his articles and when he bashes
them on Left, Right and Center for them to get NO
mention even after an author’s note is quite
shocking. The Corporation is by its very name
defines an independent movie. For it ask the very
famous question that all people of the left wing
knows, “If a corporation was a person, what kind of
person would it be?”

Of course with such a mainstream list, I guess the
corporation is too left-leaning and too ‘radical’ to
be on what claims to be, “The 20 Best Socially
Conscious Movies of the Decade.”

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By David Ehrenstein, January 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

I’d put Barbet Schroeder’s “Terror’s Advocate

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1032854/

on such a list.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 3, 2010 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

Somehow, nobody mentioned “The Lord of War”, nor the socially conscious (but not political) “He’s Just Not Into You”, or “Cold Mountain”.

Nor has anyone even THOUGHT of “The Lord of The Rings”, a battle of good versus evil on an eternal scale.

Why would ANYONE put “Borat” or “Brokeback Mountain” on such a list?

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By David Ehrenstein, January 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

I am merely trying to redress the balance, Elizabeth. Across the course of my 48 years as a film critic (and gay activist) I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been lectured sternly about how “homosexual themes lack universality” whereas heterosexuality is universal by definition.

That is complete and utter bullshit.

The flowering of gay and lesbian cinema, partcularly over the past twenty years, has been one of the most heartening developments in all my years as a carbon-based life form.

“Brokeback Molehill” is in no way any part of this. It was written by a heterosexual women and brought to the screen by heterosexual men. The only gay person involved in the project was the actor who played the rodeo cowboy who appears in one very brief scene. From start to finish it’s nothing more than “slash” romance for women.
REAL gay cinema means Gus, Todd, Greg, Andre Techine (whose “The Witnesses” is the best film made to date on the early days of the AIDS pandemic) and Patrice Chereau.

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By GregDiablo, January 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment

Another vote here for “The Corporation”.  Also Adam Curtis’ “Century of the Self”
and/or “Power of Nightmares” (which conclusively proves that al Qaeda is a
neoconservative myth) are both riveting docs with great music, too.  “Zeitgeist”
should get an honorable mention as one of most popular and engaging online
documentaries of the decade.

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By grumpynyker, January 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Track down Simon Moore’s Traffik and compare it to
Soderburgh’s.

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By Peter Z. Scheer, January 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Thanks to everyone for such a thrilling discussion and for suggesting such great movies. As I said in the piece, these lists are always imperfect and I knew I would end up leaving off deserving movies.

“Munich” should definitely be on the list, an oversight on my part. I love “The Lives of Others,” and just barely decided not to include it.

I was unfair to Mr. Moore, although, as I said, I would put all of his movies on the list. One need only read my rather gushy Truthdig review of “Capitalism” to know how I feel about that movie. The same could be said of “Avatar,” which several readers also suggested.

“No Country For Old Men” is a fabulous movie, but felt like a bit of a stretch to include.

I confess I’m not a huge fan of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” nor am I as in love with Alejandro González Iñárritu as many, many people. As ersatzthinktank said, “beauty IS in the eye of the movie goer.”

I find “Traffic” to be flatly racist at times. Mexico is a country so wretched in the film, it’s presented in an entirely different color, that of urine if I recall. Also, the absolute nadir of the movie comes when our misguided blonde white woman is caught in a sex act with a black man, a loaded set up if there ever was one. It’s been a long time since I saw it, and I think the world of Steven Soderbergh, so I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I’m not putting it on my list of “socially conscious” movies since, at best, I find it to be slightly socially unconscious.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” was another movie in someone’s personal list. I liked it, but I think it was a bit long and missed something. Speaking of missing something (and Che), I missed “Che” and shouldn’t have.

I missed a lot of movies, actually. And these things are so subjective to begin with. Which is why I’m really grateful that all of you smart and socially conscious people jumped in with your own picks. Keep ‘em coming, I need to fill out my Netflix Queue.

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By Elizabeth, January 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

David Ehrenstein and The Handyman: Gentlemen, please. This space is about good films, not snark and personal attacks. But David, that comment suggesting that if it isn’t about gay themes it’s irrelevant—again, please. It isn’t that we don’t care—I loved Milk, thought Brokeback Mt was so-so, except for the great scenery. But other dimensions of the universal liberation movement are critical as well—disability (Murder Ball), third world culture/issues (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Che, Traffic), the environment (Inconvenient Truth, Wall-E, Food Inc.), politics (Sicko), the economy (The Corporation), and much more. C’mon, we’re all in this together. Be nice.

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By bambudude, January 3, 2010 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Mr. Sheer, This is an interesting list, wide ranging and thought provoking. Unfortunately for some commentators the responsed were thoughtless provoking of others. As you suggestedd, add to the list or take some off, but it is a good list to start with. The films some folks suggested to be included, especially the one by Ray Duray are excellent.  It seems a waste of time and bandwidth to be bitching about what film or who shouldn’t be on the list or whose cause is more important.  Instead of arguing ad nauseum why not put together a list containing all the suggested film and forward this list to ANYONE who says “there don’t seem to be any good movies made anymore.” That’s my approach anyway. Thanks for the list, the suggestions and now on to the movies.  La lucha continua!

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By ray d, January 3, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Sin Nombre

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By David Ehrenstein, January 3, 2010 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

I rest my case.

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By jack, January 3, 2010 at 4:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

EW: If one is to change from one cause to another, I doubt a movie does it for
them.

Recently we did this http://www.LAMENTATIO.info/press.room.html - movie
coming in Feb. Before the premiere, several interviewers asked, “why do you make
political art?”

Answer: polemical maybe, but really it’s artistic documentation of the empire at
the precipice of its fall - a fall which may well take with it into an extended dark
age the entire civilized world - so the work is not for the living be for scholars
millennia from now - like the Iliad or Odyssey - politics is what people do to get something or change
something - neither is the purpose of this work.

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By Virginia, January 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What about ‘CRASH’??!!!

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By TheHandyman, January 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

By David Ehrenstein, January 2 at 2:07 am #


“The Lives of Others” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” have nothing to say about gay people, Diane. Why shoudl I give a shit about either of them?”

So why should we give a shit about Gays? It is people like you that some people don’t!

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By GW=MCHammered, January 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
http://www.oilcrashmovie.com
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-665674869982904386#

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, January 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

I stopped reading after “Borat,” and “Brokeback.” I found these two selections as being very supportive of ”… those who worry that Hollywood has gone into decline over the last decade.”

A cursory look at the list shows that Moore’s “Sicko,” and “Capitalism, a Love Story” did not make Mr. Sheer’s list.

I’m sure there are other progressive lists that show “…the oughts turned out to be a vibrant decade for politically and culturally enlightened movies,…”

I’m less concerned with Hollywood’s “decline” than I am concerned with Mr. Sheer’s “decline.”

“Ain’t it a shame that common sense don’t make no sense anymore” (John Prine)

Not repression, just an opinion. I’m allowed to have an opinion… aren’t I?

Who’s going to be the first to offer that tired old crass cliche’?

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politicky's avatar

By politicky, January 2, 2010 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

I have seen all but 4 of these.  I’ll probably have to hold my nose to watch 2 that I missed.  I’ll also have to agree with Jerry Elsea’s comment that “Traffic” should have been on the list.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, January 2, 2010 at 9:01 am Link to this comment

Wonder how many open minded people are really influenced by any of these films? Just my opinion, but films of this nature seem only to bolster what exists, sort of like preaching to the chore.

If one is to change from one cause to another, I doubt a movie does it for them. (Maybe Harry Potter? People opposed to premise cause of the movie, see red and dig in even further. Tea Bag anyone! 

Reason is absent when fanatics and their causes are concerned. Admitting one was wrong, for some people seems less likely to be, than finding the moon made of cheese. 

If fanatics are so consumed with their cause to die for it, why would a movie (documentary)  change their mind, even if they did watch and understand it?

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By David Ehrenstein, January 2, 2010 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

I GIVE A RAT’S ASS LOUIS!!!! And I have spent the better part of my forty-four years as a film critic doing so.

Gay life is not an “optional extra” when it comes to political struggles.

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By Ray Duray, January 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm Link to this comment

Starting in 2004 I turned myself into a local film exhibitionist, sharing what I considered to be politically and socially relevant films with a concerned audience. A few of the films that I found worthy of attention that haven’t been mentioned so far include:

“638 Ways to Kill Castro”, this being the number of plots against Fidel Castro that the Cuban government was able to identify and stymie. Oh, by the way, anyone who thinks the CIA are effective assassins might get a different idea here.

“9/11: Press For Truth”, several of the family members of the victims of the 9/11 attack join up with a serious researcher named Paul Thompson to create what is truly one film in this genre.

“A Crude Awakening” is a historical study of the oil industry, the precarious balance of supply and demand labeled Peak Oil and some speculations about our possible future in a world of oil shortages.

“American Casino” concerns itself with the subprime mortgage market meltdown.

“The American Ruling Class”, a film my retired Harper’s Monthly editor Lewis Lapham is an entertaining look at how America is really run, of by and for the elites. 

“Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” is a gripping study of the 1970s Lefist gang in Germany and its ultimate collapse.

“Battle in Seattle” is a fictionalized version of the events of the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.

“Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” is one of the most entertaining political films of the decade. Atwater is portrayed as one of the most aggressive sociopathic and successful scam artists of the Reagan-Bush era. Truly an eye-opener about the utter cynicism of the political process.

“Che” by Steven Soderberg is a movie in two parts. I’ve seen the first film, regarding the rise of Che and Fidel Castro to overthrow the corrupt Batista regime in 1959. This is the hopeful chapter. I’ve not seen the second film about the demise of Che at the hands of the CIA and right in Bolivia eight years later.

“FLOW: For the Love Of Water” examines the coming crisis in water in the 21st Century. Resource wars, drought and mass migration should make for some interesting times.

“The War on Democracy”, a film by John Pilger examines the U.S.A.‘s imperialist relationship with several nations in Latin America.

“Playing For Change” is a delightful musical collaboration that is more of a celebration of our common humanity than anything else on this list.

“The Power of Nightmares”, a three hour miniseries by the UK’s Adam Curtis is an examination of the psyops of fear used by the authorities in the so-called “war on terror” to mold the opinions of docile citizens into acceptance of the imperial wars of our age.

“Zeitgeist” is an oddball mismash of three topics. 9/11, the roots of Christianity and a history of the Federal Reserve Board would not at first seem to be sensibly placed in one film. Yet somehow it all works, when we see the unifying theme of the vulnerablity of the public to elite suggestions and psyops is considered.

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, January 1, 2010 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

And Dave, man, are you always so unpleasant? Who gives a rat’s ass if the films Diane mentioned aren’t “about gay people”? The list is plainly titled “..Socially Conscious Movies of the Decade.” What about that don’t you get? Both of those magnificent films (“Pan’s Labyrinth” & “The Lives of Others”) have something to say that’s relevant to the social conscience. Pretty simple.

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By jack, January 1, 2010 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

then there was this - watch the whole thing - 45 min. - right here

http://amazing-visions.com/Pf_TF_files/TheFall-wDancers.mov

only won 4 minor awards - http://www.thefall01.info/ - but takes you where
Ferinheit 911 hadn’t the guts nor artistry to do

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, January 1, 2010 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment

Pretty good list but, as these kinds of things tend to do, I’d like to add & subtract a few. I’ve seen every one of these films but the absolute best film of 2009 doesn’t show up on your list or a single one of the comments below. The film is “The Cove” - I’ve never seen so many people so emotionally broken by a film. It’s devastating. Peter Traverse of Rolling Stone called it a cross between Flipper & The Bourne films. That’s a perfect description!

I agree with some of the commenters that “Avatar” should be here. Toss out “The Queen” or “Borat” to make room. Very nice to see “Children of Men” (and, yes, it IS a masterpiece) and the brilliant “Why We Fight” get some recognition. And “V for Vendetta” should be required viewing for everyone but it’s way too subversive (and elegant) for the masses.

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By David Ehrenstein, January 1, 2010 at 10:07 pm Link to this comment

“The Lives of Others” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” have nothing to say about gay people, Diane. Why shoudl I give a shit about either of them?

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By mandinka, January 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

ahhh peewee the liberal left arises from the depths

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By mandinka, January 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

Other than WallE every 1 of the films was a box office failure. As usual progressive movies FAIL

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By Rick Reno, January 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a great list of the top 20 communist-loser movies of the decade. God bless the Tea Party Patriots!

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By Mary Ann McNeely, January 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

“No Country for Old Men”, which despite the fact it takes place in 1980, was an accurate depiction of the Bush/Cheney era.  Anton Chighur, the uberpsychopathic killer, was Bush/Cheney.  As Tommy Lee Jones’ uncle tells him at the end, “You can’t stop what’s coming.”  And what’s coming is still with us in the form of Obama and the Democrats.

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By Neil W, January 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

AVATAR an incredible film both in it’s Social Message and it’s Special Effects.

+++ For the best impact try to see it at the Largest Screen IMAX theatre you can find. In San Francisco Bay area that’d be Metreon IMAX. Buy tickets on-line ahead or you’ll never get in. Hugely crowded but worth the hassle anyway. Go 60% to 70% up the stairs and sit at the center. I haven’t seen any PR but Word of Mouth is filling all showings. GO EARLY! 90 Minutes ahead of show time. USE BATHROOMS before getting in line as you’ll be in there 3 hours including the preshow. You will thank your Lucky Stars you followed this recomendation!!!

Some friends suggested the theme was absolutely taken from the American Indian worldview point. But, as an activist for years, and being accepted by Indians*** about as completely as a White man can be accepted in the Indian world, I find that the theme could have been from any number of indigenous people’s worldview. Or, it could have come from any number of concerned people and groups such as “Save the Planet” “Protect the Earth” “Protect Sacred Spaces” “Sierra Club” “Paul ‘Newman’s Own’  Foundation” “Annenberg Foundation” “Sacred Land Film Project” “Protect Glen Cove” “Longest Walk II” “Greenpeace”.

***Don’t worry about calling them Indians, that’s what they regularly call each other and it’s Not a derogatory identification. There is no unmentionable “I Word” like the “N word”, relax.

During the show, I found myself ducking little bits and pieces coming out of the screen and having a person moving 1 foot to my left even though I was in the 30th row back. I don’t have a clue how these effects were done or even know how to describe the effect except to say it sort of seemed as if it were various ‘layers’ done in PhotoShop except this was 3D PhotoShop!

GO see it even though tickets may set you back $17 inc. on-line service in a Large IMAX setting. Hold out for the Largest IMAX. Skip a meal or two, but GO.

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By Diane, January 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ve seen about half of the movies on your list. Of those, the one that would have been on the top of my list would have been “Waltz with Bashir.” I think I would have made a separate list for Documentary because it is such a different approach to story-telling. Two other movies that I would have included on my non-documentary list would have been “The Lives of Others” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” which were not only important as social commentary, but excellent, gut-wrenching cinema. Much better written and made than Brokeback Mt., Milk and some of the others. It’s true, sometimes a film comes along that may or may not be exceptional cinema which possibly changes world consciousness. Did Brokeback Mt help change minds, did “An Inconvenient Truth?” It’s hard to gauge those things. For me “best” means more than new, popular or even timely, but artistically superior. I think you could also put all of Michael Moore’s films from the decade on the list as they all showed exceptional courage and creativity.

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By Crabby Lady, January 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This list would have been so much finer if you’d included a few facts to flesh out the movies, like the premise and the actors. I couldn’t figure out for a while which ones I’d seen and of the ones I haven’t if I’d like them—or not.

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By ersatzthinktank, January 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Amores Perros,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu in 2000 may be the best movie ever, let alone the decade.  But beauty IS in the eye of the movie goer.

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By Sims, January 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

pilgers war on democracy, Commorra about the mafia in Napoli. Brokeback MT no way!!

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, January 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

Just what I don’t like about “best of’s” lists is that they always are incomplete. How about separate top 20 lists for documentaries and other movies should help fill in those left out. You can divide them by years if you want to increase the list size too.

Saw “Syriana” (liked, wasn’t confused at all), “Wall-E”(like any good fiction covers more than one thing at a time) [we don’t live in an Aristotialian world of yes/no, on/off], Moore’s “Farenheit 911” (riveting and penetrating) & “V for Vendetta” (it was okay, the original author pulled his name, want to read the source material now.)

Moore’s work is all good and should be listed and there are others brought up by those here I agree with. We just need more lists!

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By Anita Beaty, January 1, 2010 at 11:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Certainly Sicko should be on the list, and maybe at the top.  Not Borat, not Children of Men, and not so many animated films.  Munich, Food,Inc., and even thant film about the mad internet killer, broadcasting the murders as hits drove the process—our worst human tendancies on view as lethal.

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By Per Fagereng, January 1, 2010 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How about “The Motorcycle Diaries” about Che Guevara’s early days?

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By Chris, January 1, 2010 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks, Peter Scheer, for coming up with a list to even start off a discussion. I can’t believe how many writers seem angry that you even tried! There are always going to be malcontents and people who attack everything Truthdig tries to do. Why on earth do they even go on the site I wonder,knowing they’re going to hate everything? Thanks for another year of interesting journalism…..

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By Mark Rance, January 1, 2010 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two more additions – PROFIT MOTIVE AND THE WHISPERING WIND inspired by
Howard Zinn’s History of the American People, and THE MAD SONGS OF
FERNANDA HUSSEIN, one of the prescient examinations of the politics of war in
Iraq. Both films by filmmaker John Gianvito.

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By David Ehrenstein, January 1, 2010 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

You overlooked the greatest of them all: Peter Watkins’ “La Commune (de Paris 1871)” (2000)

“Brokeback Molehill” is techinically “slash” erotica written by and for women. “Milk” is a very great gay film in that it goes beyond the historical specificity of its title character and right into the beating heart of gayness, about which NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT!!!!!!!

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By Commune115, December 31, 2009 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

What was so socially conscious about “The Queen”? You could have put “Traffic” or “Munich” in that spot, those films are much more relevant. Who gives a care about Tony Blair or some useless monarch?

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By Xntrk, December 31, 2009 at 6:19 pm Link to this comment

I love Y tu mama tambien, but when I think of movies from Mexico, the first one that comes to mind is Amores Perros, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu in 2000. It combines the grittiness of City of God with an assortment of love stories - some with happy endings, and some not. It is one of those movies that is so graphic, my first impulse was not to watch it - then I was hooked… It is probably not on PETA’s recommended list, but the love of dogs is one of the primary facets of the different characters.

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By D, December 31, 2009 at 4:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Borat? witty, but does not deserve to be on this list.

Also…Brokeback Mountain is technically about a gay
relationship…but it’s also so much more than that,
and I hate how other, sometimes more important aspects
of the film and the original short story (YES that’s
right it was originally a short story)are overlooked
because everyone pays attention to the man on man
action…truly, truly sad because there is so much more
to the story than that.

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By Kate, December 31, 2009 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For the last time, WALL-E is a romance surrounded by an ecological premise. The message was the love story, not the environmental theme.  Writer Andrew Stanton stated that himself.

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By Big B, December 31, 2009 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

Being a huge fan of the post apocolyptic genre I found Wall-E to be not only one of the finest films made last year, but one of the best ever. I think it will prove prophetic in the coming decades.

In that same stream, the film “9”, concerning a war ravaged world devoid of humans, but with the battle still raging between the now sentient weapons of war and a band of handmade burlap dolls was a surprise for me this year as well.

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By Tex Shelters, December 31, 2009 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

Where’s “Food, Inc”. and “The Corporation”?  These film took complicated subjects and make them intelligible for even neophytes to understand. And each movie give us action steps we can take while not being preachy.

Children of Men? A Masterpiece? Hardly. It’s confused and overwrought. Wall-E? Sappy Robot/cute drivel! Yes, yes, important message that reached a few. Borat? Funny but not worthy of such a list. Brokeback Mountain? It’s not even a great movie, period. Yes, gay sex. There are better more socially conscious movies for that. Oh yeah, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”. A much more worthy effort.

You could include “Sicko”, but I think one per director is good.

Good on you for including “Fog of War”.

Peace,
Tex Shelters

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By Matt, December 31, 2009 at 11:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think you’ll find that there is no message against obesity in WALL-E, unless you think all fat people get that way by spending hundreds of years in space and suffering from bone loss due to micro-gravity.

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By Mestizo Warrior, December 31, 2009 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

I would add at least two more to the list; SICKO a film by Michael Moore that exposes the REAL problem with our healthcare system (corporate greed).

Another film I would add is James Cameron’s AVATAR. A seemingly sci-fi fantasy flic that parallels what the multi-nationals along with our government has been doing in Third World countries for decades. The difference in AVATAR to reality is that the good guys win after uniting with other indigenous people, the indigenous animals and their higher power.

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By Brian, December 31, 2009 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Also, An Inconvenient Truth is a tricky one.  While well meaning and informative, I think time will show that this film was a bit of a blunder.

Everybody was talking about it, not so much because of the issue, but because it was Al Gore’s return to the spotlight after the 00 election catastrophe.  Gore put himself front and center in this movie, as narrator and director.  He even appeared on camera.  This made Global Warming synonymous with failed-bitter-democrat. 

For a fleeting moment, he had people’s attention, even those on the right side of the political spectrum, because of the strength of his argument.  However, it took no time at all for the knee-jerk rightwingers to assemble an attack.  What we have now is a bitterly polarized nation, vehement climate change deniers, and lock step doomsday climate change believers.  Sadly, a paltry few have even the slightest bit of knowledge in terms of climatology.

Had Gore worked silently, behind the scenes, and produced the same movie, the rightwing backlash wouldn’t be nearly as strong.  Now, people LOVE to call Gore a hypocrite and a liar.

In then end, I’m not so sure AIT didn’t do more harm than good…

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By Adam M., December 31, 2009 at 8:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cool list. I have seen most of these films, but I notice a few that I still need to view. Two very good documentaries are missing, however. “The Corporation,” (Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, 2003)and “Taxi to the Dark Side” (Alex Gibney, 2007), represent some of the best journalism of the decade.

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By sollipsist, December 31, 2009 at 8:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“How on earth did a major studio come to release such an anti-Establishment movie?”

You really don’t know? Well, first they eliminated the original author from the process, and then they castrated all the truly provocative elements to make it appeal more to coffeehouse liberals and Matrix fans. A love story and a happy ending were tacked on, of course. I guess we can only be glad no high-speed car chases were added…

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By Tim, December 31, 2009 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Horrible list.

Borat? You have got to be kidding me - what a crass, vulgar, horrid excuse of a film. It’s popularity speaks volumes about the abysmal ignorance of the American populace, though. Brokeback Mountain? Boring as hell - and I’m gay. Ang Lee is trying to be Tarkowski, and failing. V for Vendetta was juvenile trash.

“Children of Men” is the only good film on this list.

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By Brian, December 31, 2009 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hmmm, no The Corporation, no Food Inc.  I would put those films as being more socially conscious than Borat.  Not to bash Borat, I laughed my ass off, but c’mon…

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By TomSemioli, December 31, 2009 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

Excellent list, however I would also add an honorable mention to the late Aaron Russo’s essential “America: Freedom to Fascism.”

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By Jerry Elsea, December 31, 2009 at 6:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Traffic” (2000) is a widely honored look at the U.S./Mexico drug scene.  Viewed
from several angles, it is constantly compelling despite its considerable length (2
hours, 27 minutes).  Its omission from the list of 20 is a puzzlement.

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