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The Ten Best Movies About Insanity

Insanity is a common subject in film, and can be difficult to address clearly. Insane persons have a very unique and twisted worldview, and a director would need to know a lot about the subject to portray that view accurately. The following list is the ten films which, in my opinion, deal with the subject best. Note that there are dozens of others that could’ve made the list, and if you’d like to name some please leave a comment below.

10: The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining addresses insanity as a product of alcohol, and it is the only film on this list to do so. The book by Stephen King addresses it in a much clearer, more startling manner, but there is no denying Kubrick’s glorious cinematography and creepy vibes are just as effective. Jack Nicholson gives one of the best performances of his career as the mentally unhinged Jack Torrance, whose alcohol addiction and short temper invite the demonic forces of the Overlook Hotel into his head, and convince him to kill his family. Still as haunting as ever over thirty years after its initial release, The Shining remains a film which is a study more on things that lead to insanity, than insanity itself.

9: Rejected (2000)

Rejected, in case you have not seen it or even heard of it, is a 9-minute short film directed by Don Hertzfeldt detailing an animator’s descent into insanity through his short cartoons, which increasingly grow more disturbing and disgusting. I completely love the change of pace in this movie. The first few minutes are absolutely hilarious and completely random, but as the film goes on we begin to realize how sick and saddening it really is. The film’s visceral conclusion is poetically brilliant, an amazing representation of mental instability finally kicking into overdrive. The film isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a watch:

8: Inland Empire (2006)

Even if you’ve seen this, which surprisingly few people I know have, you wouldn’t expect to see it on the list. Sure, it’s easy to label any of David Lynch’s movies “insane” but you’d expect to see Mulholland Dr. on a list of insane movies, not Inland Empire, right? Well after hours and days of studying the film, I’ve determined that it has a much more effective and memorable stance on insanity than its more well-known predecessor. It’s about a woman, an actress (Laura Dern) who sinks into the role of a boozed ex-prostitute reflecting on her demented past with a spiteful attitude yet with no particular impulse to change. I’ve always thought it’s one of the best movies ever made (except for the whole DV-shooting thing, which I still don’t get), and I’m probably one of very few people who think that, but the reason it’s so difficult to understand is because insanity is difficult to understand. Lynch goes straight for the gut, heaving disturbing images at us and forcing us to confront them. I’m praying for the day when he makes another film, but if he doesn’t, this would be a fitting conclusion.

7: Citizen Kane (1941)

While labeling any one film ‘the greatest movie of all time’ is an incredible overstatement (though Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Dekalog comes closest), one can’t deny that Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane is pretty damn close. He plays the eponymous Kane, the ruthless patriarch of a newspaper empire (a character based on William Randolph Hearst, but who seems eerily similar to the Rupert Murdoch of today) whose greed and power are ultimately his downfall. In the end, as we all know, he dies, and on his deathbed all the regrets of his life flash before his eyes in an instant, and all he wishes for is the simplicity of his childhood (*wipes tear*). I don’t believe Kane was really insane, but for a few, fleeting, manic moments we see insanity in his eyes, in his attitude, and for Welles to display that so calmly, so cooly, is the artwork of a cinematic God itself.

6: Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

Werner Herzog’s astonishing breakthrough is one of many tales of maniacality fuelled by greed. Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) at first accepts his place as a secondary character before suddenly, shockingly and mercilessly usurping the position of leader. He leads his men on a lethal journey into the jungle in search of the mythological city of El Dorado, a place as incredibly difficult to find as any logic or reason in the film’s protagonist: very difficult. He’ll let his men die so long as he gets to his destination, and as they are ruthlessly picked off by natives and eaten by monkeys, he stands triumphantly, as if their rotting corpses are the fruits of his discoveries, the gold of El Dorado, and as if the long trek into the jungle will last forever, until ultimately his own life is taken by his second-hand desires and unstable tendencies.

5: American Psycho (2000)

Can you remember the expression on your face when Patrick Bateman said, “I like to dissect girls. Did you know I’m utterly insane?” Or how about: “Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!” Or most memorably: “It’s even got a watermark!” They’re all lines representing the typicality and tiredness of his insanity, how it is so fully developed and fleshed out that it is not his soul that has been taken over, but his entire physical form. There is not one iota of sanity from Bateman in the entire film; strange, since usually all films about insanity have at least one moment when the insane protagonist looks momentarily normal. This is the beauty of Mary Harron’s representation of the character. He is insane to the point where acting sane would be insane, to him. This is very difficult to represent on screen, but Harron does it with ease, style, and a helpful handful of pop culture references. Bale embodies Bateman, to the point where it is difficult not to be reminded of Bateman every time we see him. Bateman is one of those characters that was probably always insane, but what makes it especially shocking is how physically similar he is to the film’s other characters, which suggests subtly that his insanity is normal, that he is not alone, and that it is typical of the rough, threatening shark-in-a-suit attitude which has become so stereotypical.

4: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Randal Patrick McMurphy is not insane. He is as normal as apple pie or cinnamon buns, and there is no reason for us to think any different? So why is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on this list? Because this is a list of films about insanity; dealing with it as a subject, not necessarily as characterisation. McMurphy is isolated in a world of supposedly crazy (“Creeps! Lunatics! Mental Defectives!”) people, but as the film passes by, we realize how we have completely overestimated the meaning of the word insane. Insanity does not necessarily mean dropping a chainsaw from fifty feet and hitting a prostitute splat on the head (see #5), it can mean something as simple as basic paranoia or just thinking in a different manner to what we would consider ‘normal.’ Insane is a stupid word. Literally, it would mean ‘the opposite of sane,’ but what is sane? Normal? What is normal? How can you factually define these words without using opinion? There is no way. Definition is supposedly fact, but opinion is a part of almost everything we say and mean, rendering the words ‘insane’ or ‘sane’ moot. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest deals with insanity as normality, determined by a group of probing doctors and physicians, taking notes and giving pills that have no effect other than to render the person in an almost catatonic state of ignorance. The film screams out against the system of imprisonment and the definition of insanity, and this is how it is a film which deals with the subject.

3: There Will Be Blood (2007)

Sure, milkshake metaphors and bowling-pin beatings warrant us to issue an insanity warning, but the film is so much deeper than that. Daniel Plainview, like Charles Foster Kane and Don Lope de Aguirre, is driven by greed. At first he is represented as a normal man, but his descent into insanity is shocking and unnerving. While not the best film to deal with the subject, it is definitely one of the most effective. Paul Thomas Anderson confidently directs his masterpiece, and Robert Elswit’s Oscar-winning cinematography perfectly captures the madness in his mind. The film’s harrowing final half hour is a poetically stunning final message about greed and insanity. I think it is brilliant that Anderson can so amazingly capture that insanity in 30 minutes, let alone two and a half hours. The final confrontation between religious faith and atheistic disbelief is like God and Satan bickering, except this time Satan wins. Seeing Plainview in a ragged, drunken state in the film’s finale, screaming lines like “DRAAIIIINNNNAAGGEEE!” and “I told you I would eat you!” is the embodiment of a loss of soul, dignity and care. At this point, it’s not even about his greed for oil anymore. All he wants now is to hate, to kill. Compassion takes effort, and he is lazy. Looking into Plainview’s maniacal eyes we realize that anything that is not hate and selfishness will never exist in there, and it is a sombre and haunting moment indeed. Gordon Gekko once said “Greed is good.” He was NOT referring to Daniel Plainview.

2: Taxi Driver (1976)

Some would argue that Travis Bickle’s attitude was not insanity, but just tiredness. Then again, would you go and do what he did? No, you wouldn’t. Most would consider it sane not to go to such drastic measures, am I correct? Then that means what Bickle did was, by public definition, insane. But this is no time for argument. The image of Bickle with his fingers pointed at his head (“Boom! Boom! Boom!”) is him at the height of his insanity, breaking through all walls to rid his city of scum. The path to insanity is paved by Scorsese slowly, as an eventual downward spiral. This seems to be the most common way to track insanity (see #10, #9, #7, #6 and #3 on this list), and it works. Bickle’s character is a man we can all relate to; many of us can easily see ourselves doing what he does, but most of us just don’t have the insanity and conviction in our heads to actually proceed with the acts. Sure, if you saw a sadistic madman like Sport (Harvey Keitel) pimping and abusing the underage Iris (Jodie Foster), you’d want to do something, you’d want to stop it, right? Well this is where Bickle differs from everyone else; he actually does something, and it quite something indeed. He doesn’t report him to the police, he just goes right ahead and kills him because that is his mindset, the wasy he thinks, and what he considers the rational thing to do. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

1: The Hour of the Wolf (1968)

I don’t think there’s a single person who would ever read this article who will agree with me on #1. I am bracing myself for the “Hey, how can you put that ahead of Citizen Kane or Taxi Driver?” Well, as we all know, lists like these are opinionated so this is simply my opinion. Ingmar Bergman’s delve into the realm of horror film proved deeply influential (watch it back to back with Scorsese’s Shutter Island and you’ll see what I mean) and starkly terrifying. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann (Bergman’s two most talented collaborators, if I may say so) are a married couple living on an island whose lives are changed by the island’s strange inhabitants. They draw in von Sydow, humiliate him, trick him, and convince him he is losing his sanity. As the film goes on, this is exactly what happens. Any film can track an eventual loss of sanity, but Bergman punctuates it with a mixture of both subtle scenes of sanity loss and outright obvious moments of von Sydow losing it. The film is sporadic and shocking, unpredictable and unforgettable, and portrays the subject of insanity in a manner that is impossible to replicate, making the film not only powerful but unique and special, impossible to remake, fun to homage and incredible to watch.

Well, that’s my list. Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

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100 Things I Love About the Movies

Recently, John at The Droid You’re Looking For made a sequel to his hugely successful “100 Things I Love About the Movies” post, and being a fan of both posts, I’ve decided it’s about time I did my own. It was a very inspirational and thoughtful post, and if you read it yourself it might just make you want to do one of the same. For now, here’s mine:

1: Hi-hi-hi there, at last we meet.

2: The shaking fence in Evil Dead.

3: A rape depicted through the clever usage of a silent movie in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her.

4: Qantas never crashed.

5: Whatever you want, Leo Getz.

6: The stunning ending to Lars von Trier’s Dogville.

7: Dave. Stop, Dave. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it.

8: The best movie cut of all history in Lawrence of Arabia.

9: The theme that plays when we see the man with the Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West.

10: Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me…

11: The abrupt ending of Bonnie and Clyde.

12: I’m a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big bright shining star. That’s right.

13: The final perfect five minutes of Irreversible…

14: …and how The King’s Speech stole the music!

15: Ellen Burstyn’s monologue in Requiem for a Dream.

16: The hand emerging from the water in Deliverance.

17: The final half-hour of Audition.

18: Jimmy Schtewart.

19: The emotion and raw energy with which Kirk Douglas delivers this line in Paths of Glory: “I apologise to you, sir, for not informing you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man, and you can go to Hell before I apologise to you now or ever again!”

20: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera in Magnolia.

21: Blood Simple to True Grit and everything in between.

22: Hello… Hello, Dimitri? I… I can’t hear, could you turn the music down? That’s great, you’re coming through fine. I’m coming through fine, too, am I? I agree with you, it’s great to be fine. Now then, Dimitri. One of our generals… he went a little funny in the head… you know, funny. And he went and did a silly thing.

23: Tracking shots. All of them.

24: The Monty Python movies (“I fart in your general direction!”)

25: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life.

26: Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar.

27: Steve Martin in The Jerk.

28: Isabella Rossellini begging Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet (“Hit me!”).

29: In Heaven… everything is fine.

30: Did You Know You Can Use Old Motor Oil to Fertilise Your Lawn?

31: That lucky occasion when you come across a really, really good TV movie (Indictment: The McMartin Trial)

32: Get away from her, you BITCH!

33: I am Death. I have long walked at your side.

34: The most striking and disturbing use of colour in any film, that of Sven Nykvist’s brilliant cinematography in Ingmar Bergman’s fantastic Cries and Whispers.

35: NOT LOVELY, LOVELY LUDWIG VAAAANNNN!!!!

36: The slow-paced and slightly comic final duel in Barry Lyndon.

37: The deadly silent arrival of Martin Sheen into Colonel Kurtz new jungle home, rudely interrupted by an obviously high Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

38: The first six or so minutes of Persona.

39: This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.

40: The haunting piano music that plays throughout the latter half of Kubrick’s fantastic Eyes Wide Shut.

41: A surprise cameo from the greatest stand-up comedian of all time in a non-comedy role in Lost Highway.

42: Tom Cruise’s finest hour:

43: The perfect opening shot of Apocalypse Now.

44: Bernard Herrman’s shrieking violins.

45: Black and White movies in the era of Colour.

46: The nameless dystopian city in David Fincher’s Se7en.

47: Uncomfortably casual nudity in Short Cuts.

48: Marge Gunderson.

49: Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

50: Bring Out the Gimp.

51: Norma Desmond’s delusions of grandeur.

52: The drug deal scene in Boogie Nights.

53: I only got two things in this world: my balls and my word. And I don’t break em for nobody.

54: Robert Downey, Jr. in Natural Born Killers.

55: The “train going into the tunnel” at the very end of North by Northwest, a clever albeit overused sexual metaphor.

56: Ricky Gervais. Always. Always.

57: A movie set entirely within one room (i.e. Buried)

58: Rob Brydon’s cameo in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

59: Nothing’s wrong with it, Tommy. It’s tip top. I’m just not sure about the colour.

60: I am Jack’s _____ ______.

61: Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, oh, and while we’re at it…

62: 80s high school movies. All of them.

63: The epilogue of Pink Flamingos.

64: Clerks. ‘Nuff said.

65: Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!

66: Silencio.

67: Earn this. Earn it.

68: The final shot of the rat at the end of The Departed.

69: Extended Director’s Cuts.

70: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

71: The inability of Jack Lemmon to be able to watch Grand Hotel in The Apartment.

72: Memorable last lines in Billy Wilder movies.

73: We’re a loving couple that doesn’t touch.

74: Sunday nights, where I put aside a few hours to rewatch one of my favourite movies, no matter what it is or how many times I’ve seen it.

75: The creepy hidden camera shots in Michael Haneke’s Cache.

76: Amelie’s strange games with random people in the film of the same name.

77: Go round mums, deal with Phillip, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.

78: Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure: “In the water, I’m a very skinny lady.”

79: Sidney Lumet. Rest in Peace.

80: The final shocking moments of Planet of the Apes.

81: The meaning of Roger O. Thornhill’s middle initial.

82: Martin Scorsese’s cameo in Taxi Driver.

83: Gregory Peck’s powerful courtroom monologue in To Kill A Mockingbird…

84: …and the uniquely different but still subtly similar version presented by a suprisingly good Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill.

85: Dustin Hoffman’s moving turn as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy…

86: …and the eerie subtle similarities between Jon Voight’s character in the same movie and Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.

87: Mr. Jingles.

88: I just wanted to hold the little baby.

89: You mean the man who inserted rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?

90: The stunning revelation at the end of Spoorloos (The Vanishing).

91: How quickly a director can take my interest, and how stunningly tight their grip remains on me within the shortest of times, and how it can last seemingly forever, as evidenced by my recent delve into the films of Ingmar Bergman.

92: Hit Girl.

93: Bill Murray waking up to the same nauseatingly repetitive jingle every morning in Groundhog Day.

94: Reese Witherspoon humiliating a disfigured Kiefer Sutherland in Freeway.

95: The little bit of low-budget masterpiece that was Sex, Lies and Videotape.

96: Dogme 95.

97: The Criterion Collection.

98: The little things in movies that so few directors really think to care about.

99: How movies affect my everyday life, the way I do things, the little idiosyncrasies that people rarely notice, and how I think and perceive things.

100: “I’m finished.”

The 3-Way Movie Challenge: “American” Movies

The 3-Way Movie Challenge is a competition between three movies that might be completely unrelated except for some purely coincidental link, such as today’s: They all start with the word American.

The Competitors:

AMERICAN BEAUTY    AMERICAN HISTORY X    AMERICAN PSYCHO

Let’s get going:

American Beauty (1999)

Love it or loathe it, you’ve got to admit: Sam Mendes’ Oscar-sweeping 1999 film is a masterpiece. It contains raw, powerful scenes of emotion, and a thought-provoking and disturbingly honest look at the seemingly normal suburban society in a manner that no film prior or subsequent could match. Spacey and Bening are superb in the starring roles, the cinematography is to croak for, and the screenplay contains some sublime and brilliantly written lines that your head will spin. The supporting cast are just as important as the leads as well, and Wes Bentley and Thora Birch are nothing less than extraordinary in their roles as disillusioned young adults. There is powerful emotion in this film, and a powerful opinion of society that is both shockingly correct and outrageously over-the-top. At least, it seems over-the-top at first until we realize how scarily similar it is to our own lives. Superb.

American History X (1998)

Edward Norton rocks the boat and then some in this graphic, moving film which once again tackles suburbia, but in a completely different manner and with a crucially different outlook and focus. Racism is common, and one in two people are likely to have racial thoughts, whether purposefully or completely accidentally at some point or another in their lives. Norton plays a man whose racism is like a virus that has taken him over to the point where he can’t determine the difference between a good and bad person altogether. Almost everyone is scum to him, and the director Tony Kaye makes sure the audience knows this. Some powerfully written scenes may slightly exaggerate the feeling of righteousness seen within the characters, but who cares? Either way it’s a movie that must be seen.

American Psycho (2000)

Patrick Bateman. Just hearing the words sends a shiver down my spine, and the above picture doesn’t do anything to console me either. He is a ruthless murderer by nightfall played brilliantly by Christian Bale. He likes rocking out to Huey Lewis and the News, keeps himself as healthy as a horse, murders the odd homeless person and (in the book) sticks the odd rat in the vagina (not a metaphor). Mary Harron directs with skill and pace the horrific tale of the coolest serial killer in history. Unless you’re a woman. Then he’s the complete opposite. But whether its misogynistic and sexist or not (which I believe it isn’t), you cannot deny how truly excellent this thriller is. Bale is given the role of a lifetime as he passionately portrays the killer in a way so that we can see into his mind and understand his world and what its like in the business in which he works where no one cares about anyone and everyone looks the same. Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard.

So there you have it! Short reviews of three “American” movies, and three of my favourite movies (though ironically, I’ve yet to see American Movie). And… which is the best? Well, you can watch them and decide for yourself, but for me this was extremely close between Beauty and Psycho. I’m going to have to go with the first choice, because of its social honesty and some really awesome, tearjerking monologues. Nothing gets me like a good monologue. However, I highly recommend you see all these films, and if you already have, tell me what you think down below in the COMMENTS!!!

Thanks for reading.

The 10 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

Before I begin this list, I would like to quickly note that most people consider the last “decade” to include 2010 (well, a large number of my friends do). This is correct, except when you consider that, technically looking at the Gregorian calendar, the “decade” began on January 1, 2001. Most people struggle to accept this and include 2000. Because I don’t want to confuse people, I’m including the year 2000, too, but 2010 movies don’t count. That’s a different list entirely. So anyway, let’s count them down, the Ten Best Films of the Decade.

10: Hot Fuzz (2007)

 

Edgar Wright’s follow-up to the smash-hit Shaun of the Dead has since become known as one of the best cop movies ever made. In my opinion, the best. Simon Pegg is hilarious as Sgt. Nicholas Angle Angel, a tough, experienced cop who we can easily see is good at his job, from his determined strut in the first take to guns blazing in the final half hour. He is good at his job. Too good. So good, he’s making everyone else on the force look bad, so he’s being transfered to the countryside before he can say “still a bit stiff.” In the town of Sanford, things seem to be uneventful and normal, but in reality there is trouble brewing. He is teamed up with Danny (Nick Frost), an obese but determined police officer who despite his poor fence jumping skills nonetheless enjoys his job and dreams of the action he sees in Michael Bay movies. As usual, Edgar Wright hits the mark, employing the same tactics he used in his previous film, and expanding his imagination in ways we could never have thought possible. Well done!

9: A Serious Man (2009)

One of the most honest, true and… well, serious movies of the decade is one of the Coen brothers’ best, even better than their Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. Revealing the true way of life of many people, and discussing life’s problems and how we deal with them in an interesting way, the Coens provide a thought-provoking analysis of suburban existence, like a Jewish American Beauty, whilst still staying flat, grounded, and keeping the humour dry. Witty acting performances from a cast of mostly unknowns as well as superb cinematography, music and overall presentation are all factors in the undeniable greatness of this modern classic, which must be viewed more than once. Stuhlbarg is excellent in his leading role and the Coens prove that even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, they still have the golden touch for originality, subtle humour and truthful observations of real humanity.

8: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

A controversial choice for some, but there is no way I could exclude this masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky. It’s a dodgy film with my friends: some like it, some hate it, some love it, some despise it. I am one of those who love it, and its not just for the way it tells its terrific story. Well, actually, it is. I’ve written an article about the music used in this movie, but I’ll sum it up by saying it works amazingly. The cinematography by skilled Oscar-nominated Matthew Libatique is top-class. Aronofsky knows how to set the mood, too, and this is another category where the music comes in. The film might seem a little too fast-paced for some, but the fast pace works effectively because these people are on drugs which make their lives fast-paced. There are so many ways in which Aronofsky communicates to the viewer what it feels like to be on drugs. At first, everything is fine, but quickly, things begin to go awfully wrong. I can’t easily think of anything scarier than the penultimate ‘meltdown’ scene, with God only knows how many cuts and music so awfully terrifying that we feel like we are in the Hell that drug abuse must be. And the final scene, oh! What a work of art! If ever a movie scene has made you cry, this has to be it. Requiem is a terrifically depressing film, but it must be seen.

7: Amelie (2001)

It has gained an enormous following and earned great fame, and rightly so. Jeunet’s La fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (did I get that right?) is a masterpiece. It is a very funny film, and almost all the laughs are just observations of contemporary life and how disturbingly easy it is to shake things up. That’s what the eponymous Amelie (Audrey Tatou) does. She sees the people around her, all with their own separate, different lives, and decides to change them. The results are arguably some of the most amusing consequences we could’ve hoped for. Amelie herself is searching for love, a love that when found, she is reluctant to accept. She is an intriguing character and Tatou plays her with grace, skill and knowledge. Whether she is helping or hindering the situations of her acquaintances, she is either way changing their lives, in some cases forever. Jeunet is clever, and inserts his vision into this engaging, thought-provoking film.

6: Amores Perros (2000)

A fatal car crash is the one intersection between three completely different, but thematically harmonious lives in this amazing, beautiful film from Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel). His two later films (just mentioned) also share some of the emotions and the general message that different people can affect the lives of others. 21 Grams featured a car crash, too, and Babel dealt with racism in a visceral, ugly way which stems from this original film. The three stories told all involve dogs (the title translates roughly to “Love’s a Bitch”) and they play key characters in the lives of the characters. A man enters his mutt into dangerous illegal dogfights to save up money and run away with his girlfriend. A vain supermodel is put in a wheelchair and cannot save her small dog who is trapped under the apartment. A strange, loitering man walks with many dogs across the street, observing. But via a car crash, all three lives change. The story is brutal, but brilliant. It is filled with emotion, and left me on the verge of tears at its end. This movie must be seen. The best foreign film of the decade.

5: American Psycho (2000)

“Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard!” So screams Christian Bale’s chilling, unforgettable serial killer in the first half of this sick, twisted, brilliant thriller. He is talking to Paul Allen (Jared Leto), a business rival, as he murders him brutally with an axe in a darkly comic, disturbing scene. Patrick Bateman has since become a well-known name in the annals of movie psychopaths, and is in my opinion, equivalent to Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader… in fact, perhaps even scarier. Bateman speaks bluntly and hatefully of the people around him, and indulges in violence, sex and drugs often. Murder is his way of releasing energy, and he does it in various sickening ways, such as his “rampage” toward the end. He says earlier on that he believes his “mask of sanity is about to slip,” and slip is what it does. He murders, both creatively and plain disgustingly, as we are frequently introduced to a darker, scarier side of the shark-in-a-suit image we’re so often greeted with in movies. The business card scene is a funny and interesting scene in which Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards, and Bateman is angered when he is intimidated by those of his acquaintences. Everything in this movie is something that can set off Bateman into a killing spree. We are shown a true glimpse into the mind, body and soul of a serial killer. And it is marvellous.

4: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of sentences: Laura Dern is brilliant in her role as a disorientated and confused actress plagued by the curse of a film in which she is starring. A magnificent, epic masterpiece, but not for everyone.

3: Caché (2004)

 

Michael Haneke has always been one of my favourite directors. From Benny’s Video to Funny Games to The Piano Teacher and now, to this, a film which betters all its predecessors and completely changes the way we look at surveillance in movies and surveillance in general. The English title of this Cannes smash-hit is Hidden, which refers to various things in the film, most perceptively the concept of the hidden camera which films the outdoor surroundings of a wealthy family’s apartment. The camera sits stationary, filming their house as various people pass by in cars and on cycles, and as the family man (Daniel Auteuil) leaves and comes home from work. He is disturbed by the tapes, as is his wife (Juliette Binoche), but he believes that he knows who is responsible. The film is slow-paced and uneventful, but these tactics work brilliantly in making the movie the masterpiece that it is. There are some shots in which barely anything happen (the opening and closing shots come to mind), but these shots are pivotal to watch carefully and think about afterwards. The film asks a barrage of questions and will leave the viewer thinking for days afterwards. Any film that can do this (yes, Inception counts) is worthy of my favouritism (usually), and this film towers above the rest. A must-see.

2: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of short sentences: Mulholland Dr. is David Lynch’s masterpiece. The director has made so many great films (including Lost Highway, which I’m proud to announce I finally get!) but MD really sums them all up: dreams. It’s about dreams. It’s clever, manipulative, thought-provoking and engaging, everything a Lynch film should be, and more. The scene where Rebekah Del Rio sings Roy Orbison’s Crying in Spanish is forever engrained in my memory for so many reasons.

1: There Will Be Blood (2007)

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a straw…” I think you know where this is going. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is, simply put, the greatest film of the decade. He tells a breathtaking epic of a tale in which a great oil tyrant, to put it lightly (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to rob his friends and enemies and turn everyone away from him. He descends on a power-hungry trip of madness, murder and sick glee. He is terrifying and brilliant. Meanwhile, Anderson stands behind the screen examining and telling a tale he’s really been waiting his whole career to tell. I’m probably overusing the hyperboles, and this probably isn’t my favourite Anderson movie (if you’ve read my posts, you should know what that is), but the film is worthy of the excitement I hope I’m giving you about it. I was careful about watching this because it was a long movie about oil, but boy! Was I proven wrong! All the films on this list need to be seen, but There Will Be Blood is undoubtedly and arguably the best.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): No Country for Old Men, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Shutter Island, Memento, Irreversible, The Departed, Shaun of the Dead, Donnie Darko, Traffic, Dancer in the Dark, Borat, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The White Ribbon, Inglourious Basterds, and countless others.

Thanks for reading.