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A Film In Images: Caché

The All-Time Favourites #10: Cachè (2005)

Ten Memorable Long Takes in Movies

5 Memorable Opening Shots in Movies

When I watch movies, I often look for great opening shots. These are the first things we see when the camera fades in from black and the film begins. A good director will often make a good opening shot to hook the viewer into the film, and here are five of my favourites, in no particular order:

Caché (2005)

The film opens with a deceptively simple stationary shot of the house of a wealthy French couple and their son. We soon release, in a perfectly Michael Haneke manner, that this is a videotape of their house recorded by an unknown person/s, who have then mailed the recording to the couple. A fantastic film which opens in an excellent manner.

Somewhere (2010)

Sofia Coppola’s newest film, and undoubtedly her best, is the excellent indie drama Somewhere. It opens with one of my favourite shots of all time, a shot quite similar to the opening of The Brown Bunny, except this shot is stationary and unmoving, a wise decision. If you find this boring and meaningless, then I suggest you watch the whole movie. If, after that, you still find it boring and meaningless… I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Oh, wow. Who could forget that awesome movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Obviously, a lot of people, as I was the only one in my family who didn’t doze off while the movie played on when I watched it when I was twelve after Stanley Kubrick died. From this magnificently epic opening shot and onwards, it catapulted my life into a realm of film and cinema. It’s so simplistic, yet so beautiful:

Boogie Nights (1997)

Steadicam, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Boogie Nights is easily number one. The opening shot actually really made me feel like I was cruising around the disco, checking out all the funky characters. Everything about it is perfect; the timing, the way it moves so rhythmically, and how awesome the seventies looked through the eyes of Paul Thomas Anderson.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video for this, which is sad, because the music is absolutely perfect in this scene, but let me cut it down to the bare basics. This is Stanley Kubrick being cheeky, which is something we very rarely get from the director, and is what makes the opening so unique. No one knew how to get an audience’s attention like Kubrick:

Now it’s time for…

Leave a comment with what you thought of my five choices, and name some of your own.

Thanks for reading.

Great Directors: Michael Haneke

Last night I watched Michael Haneke’s tremendous thriller, the mysterious and chilling The White Ribbon. It was Haneke doing what he does best, and it inspired me to write a post about this fantastic director, his lifetime and films.

He was born in Germany, and spent most of his life taking a keen interest in film and television. It wasn’t until middle-age that he finally began to direct feature films. His first was The Seventh Continent, based on the true story of a mass family suicide. It was the first of a trilogy of three followed by Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, two more films examining violence in modern society. It was with his next film, however, that he proved he wasn’t squeamish to presenting violence in an unsettlingly honest manner. Funny Games was released in 1997, and seemed to be a plotless film about mindless serial violence, though Haneke has said he prefers to have the violence ‘implied’ rather than seen. He was intent on getting his point through, so much so that exactly ten years later he directed a shot-for-shot American remake starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth.

The next movie, in 2000, was a character study, titled Code Unknown, starring Juliette Binoche and telling of a chain-reaction series of events. His next film, in 2001, was where he gained true fame (and notoriety). The Piano Teacher is a sexually graphic, violently suggestive and brutally stunning motion picture telling of sexual obsession and visceral self-harm. It won various awards, including Cannes Best Actor and Actress for its two leads, and sealed Haneke’s fate as a director of coldly beautiful movies with seedy underbellies.

He reteamed with the star of that film, Isabelle Huppert, for his next film, a post-apocalyptic vision called Time of the Wolf, made in France. The film was quite good, but noticeably less successful and screened at Cannes out of competition.

His next film is, in my opinion, his absolute unbeatable best. Caché (titled ‘Hidden’ in English) is his creepiest, slow-paced and most thought-provoking thriller. It tells of a couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) who are uneasy and frightened after receiving videotapes of their house from a hidden camera that seems to be impossibly positioned. It asks countless questions about human secrets and how we react to dangerous situations, as well as featuring cinematography and direction that are, in no exaggeration or hyperbole, a serious work of masterful art.

After the Funny Games remake came the Cannes success The White Ribbon, the film which prompted this post. Haneke shoots in black-and-white this time, and tells a gripping tale of mysterious events in a wartime village. Various characters begin relationships, and everybody is a suspect for committing the serious crimes. The film is very reminiscent of the movies of Ingmar Bergman, filmed in an eerily similar style and with an eerily similar plot. Imagine Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Fanny and Alexander.

We are now eagerly awaiting the release of his newest film, Love, which I’ll be sure to see and review.

Leave a comment and tell me which Haneke films you’ve seen, and what you thought of them. You can see, from this amazing filmography, what a talented and brilliant director Haneke is, and I hope this will prompt you to check out any of his amazing films. He is one of few directors who, in my opinion, has never made a bad film. And that is quite something, indeed.

Thanks for reading.

10 Movies You MUST Watch More Than Once

I am a heavy believer in the power of ‘rewatching’ movies. I do it all the time, and with most of the good movies I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it changes nothing, but more often than not you are looking at the film from a different angle and you can pull things out of it that completely flew over your head the first time. Here are ten examples of films that completely changed for me when I watched them a second (or 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.) time:

The Brown Bunny

I thought I’d start out with this one first because it was really the inspiration for this post. Back in December when I first watched this, I gave it 4/10. Now it’s 7/10, edging on 8. Knowing the final end twist, the atmosphere of the film is completely different and scarily dark the second time round. Read my review here.

Inland Empire

Of all the films I’ve rewatched, I’ve never gained so much from each respective viewing as I have from David Lynch’s Inland Empire. If you can make it through the whole three hours, it’s definitely worth it. One of the greatest acting performances of the decade, as well as sweeping direction and a scary mood that is unbeatable. First Viewing Rating: 7/10. Second Viewing Rating: 10/10

Caché

Just like David Lynch, all of Michael Haneke’s movies deserved to be seen more than once, but none moreso than this Cannes smash-hit, which is one of the creepiest and most shocking movies I’ve ever seen. You will not believe how good Haneke is with a camera. He does it to the point where you’re unsure whether what you’re watching is an actual scene or taped footage. First Time Rating: 9/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

Eyes Wide Shut

The problem most people face with this film is the same as The Brown Bunny issue. They find it boring, the sex gratuitous and unneccessary, and the plot going nowhere. It’s very prejudicial and insulting to bring it down to those levels. This is a highly intelligent, scarily accurate and shockingly referential film. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

2001: A Space Odyssey

Like Lynch and Haneke, all of Kubrick’s films deserve a good rewatch, but none moreso than the above one and this, a stunningly beautiful, futuristically accurate (well, almost) and unbelievably brilliant motion picture. This is one of the lucky few pictures where everything is perfect, but of course that comes at a price: its complete inaccessibility to the average moviegoer. However, that’s nothing a rewatch can’t fix! First Time Rating: 9/10. Second Time: 10/10

A Serious Man

I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this movie at the theatre when it came out, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Then a friend told me I needed to see it again, so I bought the DVD and rewatched it and wow, just like with The Brown Bunny, that second watch has made all the difference. A spectacular film on a level of greatness halfway between insanity and truth. First Time Rating: 6/10. Second Time Rating: 9/10

This was the scene in A Serious Man when I finally realized, whilst watching it a second time, that I had completely underestimated it the first time:

The Godfather: Part II

This is a personal one for me, because when I first saw it, the night after watching its predecessor, I thought it was very good, but nowhere near Part I. I bought the DVD and chucked it on the shelf, knowing one day I’d have to rewatch it. The second time round, something happened. Something clicked, and it’s now one of my favourite motion pictures ever. Have you ever felt the click? It’s a marvellous thing. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

Dr. Strangelove

(Spoiler Alert) The great thing about rewatching this movie is that, when you see it the first time, you’re not as focused on the humour but more on how they’re going to stop their planes from bombing Russia. The second time, you know they’re going to fail so you focus more on them, rather than their situation. It makes the subtle humour much more visible and highly enhances the laugh factor. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time: 10/10

Memento

Like with the above, knowing the end twist beforehand makes it easier to focus on the filming and the style, which is something very well done, indeed. Mind you, this is a film you don’t really have any other choice but to rewatch as it’s so goddamn confusing. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time: 9/10

Any of the films of Edgar Wright

It’s hard just to pick one, so I’m going to class his entire filmography as one big movie, just this once. There is so much humour happening so quickly that it’s easy to miss some of the tiny jokes and even some of the great movie tributes that inspired them. SOTD View Count: 5. Hot Fuzz View Count: 6 Scott Pilgrim View Count: 3

So… what films changed for you the second time round? What films do you want to watch a second time? What did you think of my choices? Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

A Life In Movies

This is a post where I’m going to give a film for every year of my life. I got the idea from Red at Anomalous Material (read his post here), who in turn got it from Fandango Groovers. Let’s get started!

1987: Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick’s penultimate film is undoubtedly one of the best and most well-created war movies in film history. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Baldwin give the best performances of their career in this fantastic film.

1988: Spoorloos (The Vanishing)

George Sluizer’s flawless adaptation of Tim Krabbe’s fantastic novel The Golden Egg is also one of the most engaging films about kidnapping and the human mind and its reaction to grief. How much would you risk just to find out what happened to that inexplicably missing person, even if you couldn’t change their fate? A shocking ending left me breathless.

1989: Sex, Lies and Videotape

One of the most impressive and shocking debuts from a director is a champion of independant cinema and a film which deeply surprised me and shocked me with its brutally honest treatment of human emotion and relationships. James Spader is fantastic.

1990: Goodfellas

What else could I choose? Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece of gangster cinema is high up on the list of best films of the 90s decade, let alone the year. There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been said about this Scorsese classic.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme is a filmmaker who doesn’t get nearly enough respect as he should. I very rarely hear people talk about him, despite the fact he directed two of the greatest films ever made: Philadelphia and this. The definitive cat-and-mouse cop vs. criminal thriller, it crossed all boundaries into an area of its own.

1992: Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino’s first film is probably, all things considered, my favourite heist movie ever made. The dialogue is snappy and excellent, the plot structure is quick and perfectly paced and the acting is stunning, as well as a usual Tarantino soundtrack that is difficult to beat. What’s not to love?

1993: Short Cuts

Simultaneously my introduction to Robert Altman, the first Criterion DVD I ever owned and the beginning of an unending and continuous love of films with multiple storylines (see also, 1999 below), there were so many exciting and engaging elements to this great film.

1994: Three Colours: Red

Because this is such a tricky and expectant year, I thought I’d pick a film that no one else would pick. Kieslowski’s final film, and the conclusion to his fantastic Three Colours trilogy, this brilliant analysis of human behaviour, curiosity and relationships is simply stunning. And let’s not forget the astonishing ending. Watch the whole trilogy. Now. Please.

1995: Se7en

One of the first true thrillers I ever really loved, David Fincher’s famous cop vs. crim psychiatric thriller is gritty, ugly, but brilliant. Great writing, splendid acting and fantastic cinematography (Darius Khondji, we salute you), all lead up to a snappy and shocking ending which in itself demands required viewing.

1996: Fargo

“I guess that was your accomplice, in the woodchipper.” This was the first R-rated film I ever saw, and it has had a huge impact on the way I view films (especially thrillers). The amazing, subtle comedy and witty observations of Minnesotan attitude (“Minnesota Nice”) are key factors in the enjoyability of this clever movie.

1997: Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson catapulted himself to “big, bright shining star” fame with this two and a half hour long analysis of a rapidly changing industry, the key players involved and the little nuances of a changing time as the seventies became the eighties and everything changed. That’s right.

1998: The Big Lebowski

The second but not the last Coen brothers movie on this list, this endearing, funny story of mistakes, money, White Russians, Shomer Shabbas, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, The Jesus, floor-carpet urination and its unintended consequences, rich men and Mozart’s Requiem, Logjammin’, and of course, bowling is one of the cleverest films in terms of humour, ever made.

1999: Magnolia

If you’ve read my blog, 1999’s spot should be no question. A three hour masterpiece of interconnected storylines held together by stunning writing, flawless direction, a sweeping camera, great acting, epic music, and an ending of biblical proportions, it’s no question why this is my favourite movie of all time.

2000: Dancer in the Dark

Björk is fantastic in her acting debut as Selma, a near-blind woman saving up to save her son from the same hereditary fate. Lars von Trier, ever ready with a tool belt of DV cameras, a colourful imagination and swingin’ tunes, paints a touching, beautiful portrait of a life for the lesser fortunate, and a series of bad accidents which can lead to disaster. Warning, bring your hanky, this will make even the strongest of men cry.

2001: Mulholland Dr.

If someone asked me what the most accessible inaccessible movie ever made, I would complement them on the imagination of their question, and reply quickly with Mulholland Dr. It’s a simple enough storyline of a budding actress who moves to Hollywood and becomes caught up with a woman who can’t remember her past. The story moves along nicely, introducing more characters, and leading up to a finale which completely tricks you and beats any Christopher Nolan ending. Ever.

2002: Irreversible

Following his excellent film I Stand Alone, Gaspar Noe made another risky move, but turned the risk factor up to eleven. Graphic and extended rape and an equally graphic revenge sequence are part of the decoration of this Memento-like masterpiece which concludes with an uneventful but hugely emotional final scene on the grass in the park which is one of my favourite scenes of all time. Le Temps Detruit Tout: Time Destroys Everything.

2003: Oldboy

Quick action, a blindingly clever plot, and live squid consumption are just three of the many exciting and alluring things to be found in this excellent Korean thriller.

2004: Shaun of the Dead

A refreshing comedic break from the seriousness of this decade’s previous choices, Edgar Wright’s clever, observational ode to British humour and lifestyle, not to mention countless Romero zombie movies, is a smart and surprisingly hilarious film. The quick pace and delivery of the dialogue is a typical trait of British comedies (the early films of Guy Ritchie, particularly Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, are brought to mind) and is one of the various clever things which tie this rom-zom-com together.

2005: Caché

One of the strongest, most gripping, shocking and evocative thrillers ever created, Michael Haneke’s Caché is his masterpiece. It is the consequence of a career full of films examining secrets, violence and human behaviour. This film knocks all three out of the park with its spectacular observations of human jealousy and secrecy. Haneke’s directing is stunning, also, with countless stationary shots which continuously trick and deceive the viewer as well as a simple but thought-provoking ending.

2006: Babel

Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu wins us over yet again with the third and final in a trilogy of excellent films examining human behaviour through the usage of multiple storylines. Proceeded by the equally excellent Amores Perros and 21 Grams, it is a beautiful and emotional conclusion to a series of films which have skilfully examined racism and hatred, among other things. Those two are the main focus of this film, which is riveting for the entire run time of 130-ish minutes.

2007: There Will Be Blood

Undeniably and beyond a shadow of a doubt the best film of the decade, all things considered, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale of greed and self-destruction is portrayed through the innocent eyes of Daniel Day-Lewis, whose eyes turn scarily guilty as he plays a man whose inevitable path to pure hatred and selfishness is simultaneously shocking, riveting and absolutely breathtaking. Kudos also goes to Robert Elswit, whose Oscar-winning cinematography is a mighty and deserving feat indeed. I’m finished.

2008: The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky strikes back after a softer turn with 2006’s The Fountain and reconnects yet again with that inner cycle of human emotion. This time he conveys it through the usage of an awesome Mickey Rourke, whose portrayal of an ageing wrestler is heartbreaking, sympathetic and distancing, all at the same time. Thanks also, Darren A, for the perfect Bruce Springsteen song played in the end credits.

2009: A Serious Man

A film that grows on me even more with each viewing, the Coen brothers’ much-awaited film about Jewish life, existence, meaning and feeling is their most realistic one yet. Each Coen film exists in a warped universe of its own, but this is the first to really be… earthly, for lack of a better word. We look at this film and see the world around us, in a way none of us were expecting. Forget plot, forget excitment, forget fast-pace. This is a film about humanity and the imperfections we all possess, and how, in the end, it never really matters in consideration of the bigger things yet to come.

2010: Black Swan

If The Wrestler was about the inner truths and frustrations of the male psyche, Black Swan deals with the female one. Sense is senseless and sanity is moot in this brutal, explicit tale of jealousy, greed, anger and personality. It’s something Aronofsky does well, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the Oscar. Portman gives her career-best performance, haunted by mirrors wherever she goes and shadowed by a fractured personality. Excellent.

So there it is. A film for each year of my life. Whew. I wonder what 2011’s will be. That remains to be seen, but I think it’s safe to say each of these films is, in my opinion, the best of its respective year. But opinions change, and everyone’s is different. Leave a comment below with what you thought of my choices, and let me know what some of yours are.

Thanks for reading.

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 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.