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The Most Influential Movies Of The Decade
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The Most Influential Movies Of The Decade

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The Most Influential Movies Of The Decade

The Most Influential Movies Of The Decade
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A.O. Scott, chief film critic for The New York Times, wrote his first movie review for the newspaper in 2000. Almost a decade later he reflects on the thousands of movies he's seen since — and shares his list of the most influential films of the last 10 years.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

In January 2000, a newly minted film critic for the New York Times walked into a Manhattan movie theater, and A.O. Scott followed the likes of Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby into the dark as he settled in to watch "My Dog Skip."

(Soundbite of movie, "My Dog Skip")

Mr. HARRY CONNICK, JR. (Actor): (As Narrator) Skip died, daddy said. He and my mama wrapped him in my baseball jacket. They buried him out under the elm tree, they said. That wasn't totally true. For he really lay buried in my heart.

CONAN: Oh, wipe away those tears. Since then, A.O. Scott has reviewed thousands of movies - good ones, bad ones, animated films, documentaries, dramas, romantic comedies. As we approach the end of the decade and as Tony Scott nears the end of his first 10 years as a reviewer for the Times, he's compiled two lists of the best movies and the most influential movies from - well, whatever it is we're calling this decade. The aughts never really caught on.

But anyway, what picture from the last decade changed movies for you? What characterizes films in his decade? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. And you could join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later this hour, Katie Spotz joins us. The day before she flies off to Africa, she plans to return by way of the Atlantic Ocean in a robot alone. But first, the best and most influential movies from the last decade. Joining us now from our bureau in New York is Tony Scott, chief film critic for the New York Times, also co-host of "At The Movies." And it's good to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. A.O. TONY SCOTT (Chief Film Critic, the New York Times): It's great to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And I assume "My Dog Skip" did not make the most influential list?

Mr. SCOTT: No. I mean, it's certainly the most important movie in my life. I mean, as they say in the movie trailers, it changed my life forever because it was a very first movie that I saw as a supposedly professional film critic. And I had to, you know, organize my thoughts about them and present them to the readership of the New York Times. So, in a way, it's the most terrifying movie-going experience I've ever had, also. But, yeah. A lot have come and gone since then, and trying to sort it out is both a challenge - you know, it's a challenge and it's a lot of fun...

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. SCOTT: ...to think about the best...

CONAN: Are we far enough removed from the films of this decade to sit back and have the kind of clarity to say, oh, the '30s MGM musicals or the '40s noir pictures or...

Mr. SCOTT: No, I don't think - yeah - because a lot of those judgments about the past came much later on. So that, you know, just - if you think about examples of movies that we now think of classics of those earlier eras that were ignored or even flops - you know, "Bringing Up Baby" was, when it came in the '30s, was savagely panned by Frank Nugent, my predecessor at the New York Times, and was kind of a flop, as was "It's a Wonderful Life." "The Wizard of Oz" did okay when it came out in 1939, but it wasn't until 20 years later when it started showing up on television that it revealed itself to be this wonderful, timeless classic.

So, you know, I think there's still some work to be done of sorting it out and separating the kind of the hype or the immediate box office success from what really matters. And eventually, we'll see that "Jackass: The Motion Picture" was really the great...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Absolutely.

Mr. SCOTT: ...cinematic milestone of the...

CONAN: The was a thing that really established the pattern for the future. One thing you can say is that this has been a golden decade for animated films, including one that told a story about love and robots.

(Soundbite of movie, "WALL-E")

Ms. SIGOURNEY WEAVER (Actor): (as Ship's Computer) Three, two...

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of computer sounds)

Mr. BEN BURTT (Actor): (as WALL-E) Aaagh!

(Soundbite of rocket engines)

Ms. ELISSA KNIGHT (Actor): (As EVE) WALL-E!

(Soundbite of rocket engines)

CONAN: And a testament - as wonderful as the animation was, almost as much to music and sound effects.

Mr. SCOTT: Yes. And to kind of old-fashion moviemaking in a way. Even though this Pixar movie was like all of them, you know, computer generated animation, it used a lot of the visual effects and sort of the camera language of classic cinema. So, it was like a Buster Keaton movie or a Charlie Chaplin movie. And was virtually, for about the first 45 minutes, not silent but dialogue-free. So, it was telling stories in pictures in a way the most old-fashioned and also the most newfangled way. And I mean, it was quite a decade for Pixar. I mean, there was "WALL-E," there was also "Ratatouille," "The Incredibles."

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SCOTT: "Finding Nemo," just an amazing string of...

CONAN: They didn't start in the aughts, but they certainly bloomed.

Mr. SCOTT: No, I think they bloomed and hit their stride. And I think also that this has something to do with the experience of how people - the phenomenon of how people go to the movies. That you've seen a lot of movies aimed at children and at parents to see with their children. I think that a lot of the - you know, apart from the action blockbusters aimed at teenage boys, the biggest share of the market and also the place where some of the most creative work has been going on has been in, you know, in family movies, in kids movies...

CONAN: Well...

Mr. SCOTT: ...that adults also, you know, go to see without children, that works somehow at all different levels of the audience and for different generations.

CONAN: We played a clip of "Shrek" earlier and you said there was basically a formula that had been developed, as we've seen as the hits stamped out one after the other.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think that the, you know, the Pixar movies are unusual and are distinguished for their artistry and their story-telling integrity. I think that the formula that "Shrek" kind of helped to advance and that other movies like "The Ice Age" franchise and, you know, a movie now like - from this year like "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" is - or "Shark Tale" or all these movies is, you know, you get some kind of loud, obnoxious humor for the kids and also some sweet, sentimental kind of lesson about being yourself and being nice to people and how everyone's different.

And then you put some pop music on the soundtrack for the grown-ups. And then also throw in a bunch of winking pop culture allusions to make everyone feel sort of cleaver and sophisticated and smart. So, that's the kind of movie for kids and adults that sort of splits the audience in a way. Here's some, you know, some supposedly grown-up, you know, nudge-nudge wink-wink humor for the parents and here's some, you know, bright colors and goofy characters for the kids.

I think the more interesting thing that Pixar movies or a more recent movie like Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" tried to do is get everyone somehow having the same experience being in the same story and bringing their own thoughts to it.

CONAN: Well, that movie you just mentioned, the Spike Jonze movie "Where the Wild Things Are," you describe it as a dark fairy tale.

(Soundbite of movie "Where the Wild Things Are")

Ms. CATHERINE O'HARA (Actor): (As Judith) I'm K-W.

Mr. MAX RECORDS (Actor): (As Max) I'm Max.

Ms. O'HARA: (As Judith) So, what's your story, why did you come here?

Mr. RECORDS: (As Max) Well, I'm an explorer and I traveled a lot.

Ms. O'HARA: (As Judith) Hmm.

Mr. RECORDS: (As Max) And I traveled by sea.

Ms. O'HARA: (As Judith) Right.

Mr. RECORDS: (As Max) I used to travel by air.

Ms. O'HARA: (As Judith) So obviously you have no home or family.

CONAN: No home or family.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: That's a fascinating movie because that is a very kind of -as you could hear from that clip, for people who haven't already seen it, very kind of like downbeat, melancholy, somewhat slow-paced movie taken from Maurice Sendak's great children's book which is, you know, something like 400 words...

CONAN: Yeah, and lightening fast.

Mr. SCOTT: Lighting fast and just all of these pictures. And Jonze and the screenwriter, Dave Eggers, have sort of teased out all of these interesting psychological implications. And it's very touching and it's very funny and it's very sad, you know. It's been a little bit controversial, which I think is always a good sign in a movie, that it's sort of divided. There are some, you know, kids who just think it's too weird. There are some grownups who just think it's way too upsetting for their kids. And it does, I think, hit adults, and especially parents, pretty hard.

I mean, I was at a showing of it in Brooklyn with my own kids, and you know, all of the young children were sort of, you know, giggling and squirming and having a good time, and by the end half the parents were just weeping their eyes out in the theater. Something for the whole family.

CONAN: You wanted the Xanax concession, yeah. Let's get a caller on the line. Let's go to Andrew, Andrew with us from Cleveland.

ANDREW (Caller): Hi, Neal, thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Sure.

ANDREW: I'd say one of the exemplary films of 2010 would be Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," a gateway, of course, to the amazing "Dark Knight," but I think it really exemplifies the struggle for realism, and it also falls into that nice little niche of the ever-popular re-launch.

We've had a lot of these things looked at again in this decade under this lens of just this - it must be real, we must make this more - less fantastic and more real. And I think it's been a really interesting thing to watch in the movies.

Mr. SCOTT: I think that's a very good point. I mean, one of the things that's been happening as, in particular, digital technology and CGI has advanced is that it creates a greater possibility of realism in kind of fantasy-based storytelling.

So you know, you had at the beginning of the decade, the first three years, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy in which Peter Jackson was able to bring Tolkien's Middle Earth to life with a kind of vividness and realism that even a few years before would not have been imaginable.

CONAN: Not on that scale, certainly.

Mr. SCOTT: Not on that scale, and that's been going on - one of the movies that I mention in my piece, which is not, I think, often thought of as a special effects movie, was David Fincher's "Zodiac" because that is a movie which is using a lot, a lot, a lot of CGI, very, very sophisticated digital manipulation of photographic images and, you know, layering within the frame to create a vividly realistic sense of San Francisco in the late '60s and early '70s.

So you don't watch it and think, my God, what, you know, what eye-popping, fantastic digital effects, because you're entirely absorbed in the reality that the movie's creating.

CONAN: Let's listen to a clip from "Zodiac."

(Soundbite of film, "Zodiac")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Unintelligible)

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) A history teacher and his wife in Salinas.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all.

CONAN: We're talking with New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott, looking at the best movies of the decade, movies of quality and some, well, we just couldn't escape.

What movies have you watched that changed your view of the movies? What are the most influential movies of the decade? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. "Zodiac," "Lord of the Rings," "Gosford Park," "Where the Wild Things Are," just a few of the movies that defined the last decade in pictures, either because they were so good or because they changed the way movies were made.

A.O. Scott put together his list of top movies of the decade, movies of quality and movies of influence. We have links to those New York Times pieces at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

So what movie from the last decade changed movies for you? What characterized the last decade in films? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Tony Scott is chief film critic for the New York Times and also the co-host of "At the Movies." And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Jeff, Jeff with us from western Iowa.

JEFF (Caller): Yes, Neal. I'd have to say that the movie that did me the most of the last decade would have to be Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story."

CONAN: And you picked, actually, as one of the most influential movies another one, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, and he released three documentary features, which were all quite influential and made a lot of people mad and also - but a lot of people appreciated - "Bowling for Columbine" and then "Fahrenheit 9/11," and then just this year "Capitalism: A Love Story." I have four. I'm sorry, I forgot about "Sicko."

And you know, these movies established - I mean, he started with "Roger and Me," but these movies created - were very influential in the documentary field, in just - you know, we saw a lot of kind of advocacy documentaries, a lot of politically argumentative, kind of using the documentary form as an extension of, you know, talk radio or cable news or the op-ed page.

CONAN: You used the word agitprop.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, yeah, and I think that that's a very healthy thing. I mean, I find, you know, Michael Moore sometimes infuriating. Sometimes his movies are also really moving and really persuasive, but I think that every one of them has gotten an argument going that's been great.

I mean, one of the things that I love to do as a critic, the whole reason that I do it, is so that I can get into arguments with people about movies. I have a whole TV show where I just try to do that every week, and I think that when movies can, you know, reach a big audience and get them talking and get them thinking and kind of nudge them out of their complacency, that's a very good thing, and I think that, you know, Michael Moore, whatever you think of his politics or of his opinions or his particular films, has succeeded in doing that.

CONAN: Jeff, thanks very much for the call.

JEFF: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And there's another - at one time the documentary was thought to be, you know, as dead as "Nanook of the North." It's been a long time since these were actual moneymakers at the movies, but not only the big movies like the Michael Moore movies, but a lot of smaller films - and we have a clip here from one done by Spike Lee called "When the Levees Broke."

(Soundbite of film, "When the Levees Broke")

Unidentified Man #3: I got about five feet of water. I lost all my equipment, all my tools. I had to buy new tools and things like that. The only thing I was able to save was my truck and my car, was the only two things that I was able to save.

CONAN: And this was something that took a form that had been left, I guess, to television, from time to time, and translated it back to the theater.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, although the Spike Lee documentary, "When the Levees Broke," was made for and first shown on HBO. But I think it is - it does count as a movie. One thing that changed documentary filmmaking was that it got cheaper and easier to make the films, with the transition from shooting on film to shooting on digital video, which got more portable, less expensive, and of higher quality as the decade wore on, so that, you know, where in the past if you wanted to go out and make a documentary, you'd have to spend the first five years of the project trying to raise money, you know, to buy film stock and to try to get the thing underway. Now, you know, you could at least go out and start shooting your film and telling your story and then go..

CONAN: Take it to Sundance.

Mr. SCOTT: ... get the money to finish it up. One thing I'd say also about Spike Lee: he made two, I think - "When the Levees Broke," you know, was - is I think the really, one of the great movies about Hurricane Katrina, you know, which was one of the big catastrophes of the decade. I think - he made another movie earlier on called "25th Hour," which I think is still, you know, one of the very best 9/11 movies.

It's not directly about the 9/11 attacks, but it takes place in New York just after them, and it evokes the mood of that moment with such uncanny specificity. I think that's really, you know, another one that years from now people will be coming back to when they look at this decade.

CONAN: Email from Seth in Portland: I want to vote for "Children of Men" as the most moving and powerful film of the decade. Many apocalyptic films, this one both entirely possible and worked as a parable. And here-here, I loved that picture.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, that's a really good one, and that too is connected to - well, it's connected to a couple interesting trends. I mean, certainly the post-apocalyptic - the disappearance of the human race is a big subject in the movies, you know, from "A.I." and "WALL-E," yeah, to "Children of Men," more recently to "The Road" with Viggo Mortensen.

CONAN: And "2012."

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, right, right, of course, "2012," "The Day After Tomorrow," and "Children of Men," also directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who one of the most interesting and kind of resourceful and protean filmmakers around. I mean, he first came to attention with "Y tu mama tambien," which he made in Mexico, which launched the career of Gael Garcia Bernal also, and he made the third and I think the best of the Harry Potter movies, "The Prisoner of Azkaban," and he was part of this really interesting group of Mexican and Spanish filmmakers who kind of went sort of between Mexico and Hollywood and, you know, had this production company that has helped to spark a revival of Latin American cinema.

So Cuaron in a way is an example of a sort of a globalization of moviemaking and sort of filmmaking across borders, going back and forth between Hollywood and Mexico and is just a prodigiously talented filmmaker for sure.

CONAN: Along with that line of the Latin American (unintelligible) you picked "Amores perros" as one of the most influential movies.

Mr. SCOTT: Yes.

CONAN: So anyway, let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and let's go next to David, David in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

DAVID (Caller): Gentlemen, good afternoon and thank you. I guess for me, it's probably more of an obscure film, but I thought that "Letters from Iwo Jima" to me personally meant a lot, and I was just curious your take on that.

Mr. SCOTT: That is just a tremendous motion picture, and I had a hard - I mean, I think I probably, if I had made a, you know, a list of just my - you know, a different list of my 10 favorites, I probably could have put four or five Clint Eastwood pictures on it. You know, the man turned 70 at the beginning of the decade and has had just an unbelievable run. I mean, not every one has been a masterpiece, but I would say he's made three films that are indisputably great - "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River," and then a bunch that are really, really good - "Grand Torino" being one of them, "Space Cowboys" being another, and "Flags of Our Fathers."

CONAN: "Changeling."

Mr. SCOTT: No, "Changeling" is actually a bad one.

CONAN: Ah, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCOTT: In my opinion. But "Letters from Iwo Jima" is just one of the most extraordinary, humane war movies ever made, and one of the best movies about military defeat and about leadership in a doomed cause that I think I've ever seen.

CONAN: You just wrote a really interesting piece about Clint Eastwood's career, in which you talked about revenge as a factor in so many of his movies, including the new one about - "Invictus."

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, in a way "Invictus," he's closing out the decade with a movie that's about the opposite of revenge or the refusal of revenge, where Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, comes to power in South Africa. Everyone expects, you know, that there's going to be some payback for apartheid. You know, a lot of the - his allies in the ANC want that, a lot of the white Afrikaners fear that, and he has to figure out how to reconcile people of his country who have been - which has been so divided and so hostile for so long.

So it's about figuring out an alternative, in a way, to revenge. So it both continues this idea in Eastwood's films and also takes it in a different kind of more conciliatory direction.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, David. And here's an email from Chad in Morehead, Minnesota. "Napoleon Dynamite" is worth noting for its interesting qualities, an anti-movie. Small budget, very sparse plot, don't seem to lend themselves to its enormic success. and it does talk about - you do talk about, among your more influential movies of the decade, the debut of the bromances, the Judd Apatow comedies that are hilarious and heartfelt. Here's a clip from "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

(Soundbite of movie, "The 40 Year Old Virgin")

Mr. PAUL RUDD (Actor): (As David) Are you a virgin?

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Andy Stitzer) Yeah, not since I was 10.

Mr. RUDD: (As David) It all makes sense. You're a virgin.

Mr. CARELL: (AS Andy) I am - shut up.

Mr. RUDD: (As David) How does that happen? That makes so much sense then. Look, he's a virgin.

Mr. CARELL: (AS Andy) Wait. You guys are hilarious. All right, all right, all right. Come on. Don't be mean.

CONAN: And don't be mean is what he says there. And that's kind of the heart of it. Don't be mean.

Mr. SCOTT: Yes. Don't be mean. Be crude, be immature, be obnoxious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Vulgar.

Mr. SCOTT: Be vulgar, be sexually anxious. But don't be mean. And yes, certainly, one of the great engine that drove comedy for much of this decade was the male refusal of maturity. You know, just the not growing up. And "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is a wonderful movie because it is, you know, very crude and obnoxious and also very sweet and generous, and I would even say wholesome, which is the Apatow formula that a lot of people have tried to imitate, that he gets, you know, kind of to the sweet spot of. How do you make these nasty, filthy, obscene movies that are also just so just sweet and decent?

CONAN: There is also in the decade not only his visions and other people, as you say, have tried to do it with more or less success. And he, in fact, had a problem with his own remake lately with "Funny People," which didn't quite work at the box office as well as a lot of people would have hoped. But nevertheless, visions by individual directors, and you picked two people who couldn't be more different. One of them, Mel Gibson for "The Passion of the Christ," and the other one, Tyler Perry, whose empire began with "Diary of a Mad Black Woman."

(Soundbite of movie, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman")

Mr. SHEMAR MOORE (Actor): (As Orlando) Just another bitter black woman, huh?

Ms. KIMBERLY ELISE (Actress): (As Helen) Excuse me?

Mr. MOORE: (As Orlando) I called you bitter, because now every man you meet is going to have to pay for what he did.

Ms. ELISE: (As Helen) You don't know anything about me.

Mr. MOORE: (As Orlando) I know I watched a man drag you out of the house and treat you like dirt.

Ms. ELISE: (As Helen) There. Now there's another story you can tell my cousin. And I'm not bitter, I'm mad as hell.

CONAN: And both those directors as unlike as they might seem and pictures as unlike as they may seem: A, very successful; and B, people who said, I'm making this picture whether you want me to or not.

Mr. SCOTT: Yes. And those both people who reminded Hollywood that there's a bigger audience out there and a more diverse audience out there than I think the studio executives sometimes think. I mean, Tyler Perry was very popular in African-American theater for years and years. He had all of these plays that, you know, travel to different cities in the country and would play to sellout crowds. And when he wanted to put one up on screen, no movie studio would back him.

And he made the "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," introduced the character of Madea, played by himself, in fat suit and drag to - just one of the great comic characters ever. You know, the movies are not terribly well-made. They're sort of - the stories are kind of crude. They sort of clumsily shift between melodrama and comedy. But he knew his audience and he went out and found that audience and reminded Hollywood of something that it's been reminded of in the past and seems often to forget which is that African-Americans are a big part of the movie audience and, you know, want and deserve something that speaks to them.

A similar thing happened with "Passion of the Christ." With a huge audience out there...

CONAN: And talk about controversy.

Mr. SCOTT: Yeah. But also an audience underserved by Hollywood of, you know, of Christians, mostly Evangelical Christians, for whom this was a very, very important cultural touchstone. And Mel Gibson, you know, knew what he wanted to do. It was very controversial. I think some of the controversy was a little bit overdone. People thought there were going to be, you know, riots and (unintelligible) when it came out. But, you know, he also made a movie in two, three dead languages that, you know, grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. So...

CONAN: We're talking...

Mr. SCOTT: ...that, you know, in Hollywood's own terms is quite an accomplishment for sure.

CONAN: We're talking with Tony Scott of the New York Times and "At the Movies." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get Nadja(ph) on the line. Nadja calling from Cleveland.

NADJA (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi. Go ahead, please.

Mr. SCOTT: Hi.

NADJA: I wanted to say that Julie Taymor is one of my favorite film directors partially because I'm a theater person and I see so much of the theater. And I look at a movie like "Frida", for example, where she actually used the paintings of Frida Kahlo and then morphed them into, like, the actual actors. I think she's one of our genius talents.

And of course I also love Baz Luhrmann because I think his use of pop music and the way he creates the music soundtrack - I'm also a musician, so that's important, too. And then also the way he cuts films - very, very interesting. And so those are two of my favorites for this decade, at least.

CONAN: And referring back to the first, we have certainly seen - there have been a lot of female directors in the past, Tony Scott, but it seems this has really exploded in the last few years.

Mr. SCOTT: Especially this year, I would say. With - you have Kathryn Bigelow directing "The Hurt Locker," which is, you know, definitely...

CONAN: Getting a lot of marks and awards, yeah.

Mr. SCOTT: A lot of critics' awards, a lot of Oscar momentum. I think maybe the single-best fictional feature about the Iraq war. This was also, you know, a year where you saw Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia." And coming up at Christmas, from Nancy Myers, "It's Complicated" with Meryl Streep.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SCOTT: But it's been, you know - things have still not opened up in Hollywood at all. My colleague at The Times, Manohla Dargis, wrote a piece a couple weeks ago pointing out that, you know, while women are coming to the movies eagerly in large numbers and even though this decade, the heads of production at a lot of the major studios were women, things did not open up as much as they should have or could have for women filmmakers. And this was true also in the sort of in the independent sector where, you know, a lot of women who made very good first and second features, you know, had hard times advancing their careers. So, I think that the American movie industry still has a long way to go on that front.

CONAN: Mary Birdwell(ph) tweeted, most definitely "The Lord of the Rings" trilogies. Those films made fantasy legit and were done brilliantly.

(Soundbite of movie, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman")

Mr. STEVE HARRIS (Actor): (as Charles) Just another bitter black woman, huh?

CONAN: Oh, that's the wrong clip.

(Soundbite of movie, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman")

Ms. KIMBERLY ELISE (Actor): (as Helen) Excuse me?

Mr. HARRIS: (as Charles) I called you bitter.

CONAN: That was another bitter orc. The orcs were very bitter in that movie. But not just three fantastically successful movies, Tony Scott, but made all at the same time. This was a huge investment. And I think we've lost Tony Scott, too.

Mr. SCOTT: No, I'm here.

CONAN: Okay, there you are.

Mr. SCOTT: Do you hear me?

CONAN: Yes. We just a few seconds left, though.

Mr. SCOTT: It was a huge gamble to make all three of those movies at once and release them serially. And it - yes, it raised the bar for fantasy and also for, you know, franchise and multi-sequel entertainment, some of which has succeeded and some of which hasn't. I hope in the new decade maybe we can get back to smaller-scale and more realism to sort of throw into the mix with all the big fantasies.

CONAN: Tony Scott, thanks very much. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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