Tag Archives: atonement

The Best Movies of the Decade (Part I)

It was a so-so decade in the film world. There were some really quality movies, but a lots of crap, too. Many endless franchises and sequels. But it was also a decade of films that became one of my favourites.

Hey! Where’s (insert a popular film)?

You’ll notice there are no some popular favourites on this list. “Dark Knight”, for example, didn’t make it even to honourable mentions; I was simply not that impressed with it (it was good, but not that good). Some others do not appear on this list because I haven’t seen them (and this especially goes for Mike Leigh’s “Another Year”, which sounds like something I’d really like). Also, I didn’t include those that were good, but didn’t make a personal impact on me. So like with any other list, this is more of “my favourites” of the decade: those that made a lasting impression or have a personal meaning to me.

The list

Quick statistics reveal most of these films are not American (but they are all western; I hate the fact I’m not really familliar with non-western cinematography :( ). Sorry to say, there are no movies with Gary Oldman (who I really like, but not most of his films), but there are two starring Clive Owen and Kelly Macdonald, and even three movies with Cillian Murphy. Some of the films on the list, sadly, suffer from hype backlash, but I still like them and believe they’re great.

10. Intermission (2003)

It’s one of those stories about life, told in a complex, humorous way. There are around 10 interweaving stories, including, but not limited to: a guy who regrets breaking up with his girlfriend, but is too stupid to say so, lonely young men and middle aged women, a girl with a moustache, a dirty cop and a wild kid who just enjoys throwing rocks at vehicles. And it all works beautifully and without much, if any, pretentiousness. Also, the opening scene kicks ass.
Personal story: There’s something about Irish movies (and, in lack of a better term, Irish mentality) that I really like. Life and people seem pretty similar to those in my culture, but here I’m not emotionally involved and I’m able to distant myself enough to truly enjoy and appreciate a work of art.

9. Children of Men (2006)

Arguably, one of the best directed and visually stunning films of the decade. The only reason it’s made to the ninth place only is the fact there’s no strong personal story behind it, if you don’t count intellectual factor. In so many ways, this film is perfectly shot, and the vision of the future (if it’s future at all) is memorable. The directing is perfect: everything seems so realistic. So many unforgettable scenes, with car chase and murder being one of them, but my favourite is the one in which they take the baby out of a building and for the moment, fight and gunshots stop, and everything is silent, only to be resumed in the next second. Such a powerful movie.
Personal story: Not much of it, except the fact I like good dystopian films. What I loved about this one is the lack of excessive pathos and the way it all seemed so realistic.

8. Atonement (2007)

This movie had an extremely difficult task: to be a decent adaptation of one of the best novels of the decade (Ian McEwan’s story is amazing beyond words). In a way, the novel is un-adoptable, because of the nature of the material. Still, it was a very good adaptation, and even Keira Knightley was decent. No matter what some people say, the adaptation was quite good; Joe Wright is one of those directors who know how to read the source material and see what’s the most important and the best way to tell it. Still not as good as the book, of course, but quite good.
Personal story: “Atonement” is one of my favourite books, and it’s not something that can easily be adapted for the screen (due to the fact it’s a book about writing). Still, I liked the way they did it. Also, the film is visually beautiful and the acting is quite good.

7. 28 Days Later (2002)

For many people, the best thing about this film is the fact it redefined the zombie genre. But it’s not something I care about. Zombies are irrelevant; it is a film about human nature. I like everything about it: the story, the characters, the sloppy, at times amateurish-looking editing, the music. It also has a few incredibly memorable scenes: the haunting beginning in the deserted London, and the mansion scene in which Jim goes batshit crazy in rage.
Personal story: Like I said, I’m a sucker for good dystipian films, but there’s more. What I loved about this film is the fact it appeared to be about zombies, but it’s in fact about something else (human nature). It’s the point in which it totally blew me away. I still prefer the alternative ending, though.

6. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

This was a decade of great animated movies, particularly the Pixar ones (Ratatouille being my favourite). But the best animated film of the decade is, hands down, The Triplets of Belleville (I haven’t seen Spirited Away, though). It’s a masterpiece. And it’s not just about the story itself or the animation. It’s the incredible atmosphere, so nostalgic and unique. And how did they manage to make a movie with almost no dialogues not boring or slow? A truly amazing film.
Personal story: There is a personal story behind it, about my husband and I watching this film for the first time (in early 2005).

Part two: Click.

Honourable mentions

Into the Wild, Sunshine, In Bruges, Ratatouille, Juno, Pride and Prejudice. (And probably so many I forgot to mention at the moment!)

The Best Movie Characters of the Decade

Remember I promised my “decade” posts? Well, it’s the end of December, so I guess it’s the right time for them. I guess most of them will be film related, not because I don’t read or listen music, but because the books I read and music I listen are, most of the time, created in the previous decades.

Oh, and btw, the decade started in 2001, so these all cover 2001-2010 period.

An important note: I put “the best” in title because it’s short… But it’s actually my favourite characters, regardless of their actual quality or the opinion other people have about them.

5. Joker

The best thing about “The Dark Knight” (and the only good thing about it, besides Gary Oldman with a mustache). And while a lot of the hype was generated after Ledger’s death, it would be unfair to say the character (or performance) didn’t deserve it. Joker was unique and a whole world for himself, and you could just feel there was always more about this character than meets the eye.

The best thing about him: The air of mystery, and the fact will probably never know the whole story, just add to the appeal.
The worse thing: While certainly memorable, one must admit part of the hype is due to Ledger’s death, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how much of an impact would character otherwise have.
Personal story: This is the only character on the list I don’t have a personal connection with; I put him solely because he’s really memorable on himself. The only thing I could share is the fact he made an otherwise overrated movie watchable for me.

4. Juno

What is great about Juno is that she is, obviously, not a realistic character… Yes she does seem like one. Sadly, there are not many female characters like her in media these days, particularly not those who encounter the problems she had in the movie. Juno has a perfect mix of a tomboyish charm and femininity.
The best thing about her: She is unique, and yet, it’s easy to identify with her.
The worst thing: Hype backlash. While Juno is certainly an adorable character, she is not as great as people claimed at one point.
Personal story: I admit it, one of the main reasons I like Juno is… She looks and acts like me. A lot. (Minus the teenage pregnancy thing). Some people don’t notice this, but it’s really rare to see a tomboy character who is, well, chose to how tomboy girls really are. So yes, you could say I got attached to the character a lot.

3. Jack Sparrow

Hands down, he’s my favourite male character of the decade. The fact he’s played by Johnny Depp (who I admired and… admired (if you know what I mean) for more than a decade). Jack Sparrow was so beautifully over the top and he stole the show in a second (remember, Pirates of the Caribbean were supposed to be all about Will and Elisabeth!)

The best thing about him: He made the world realize Johny Depp’s greatness. Way too much, perhaps. (To the point I miss his earlier, indie roles).
The worst thing: Lame sequels. The character got old fast.
Personal story: It was the summer of 2003 and I was really lonely. It sounds pretty lame, but Johnny Depp in heavy makeup sure made me feel a little better!

2. Kitten

A transgendered orphan on a search for mother, love and acceptance, who gets to meet many people (IRA members are just for start), but holds onto her unique world. It’s impossible not to like Kitten and hope she’ll be alright. Sometimes you cringe at her need to ignore the bad things, but at the end, you can’t help but liking her.

The best thing about her: Her innocence and optimism. Admittedly, sometimes it’s way too much, but you can’t help but like her and hope the things would eventually turn good for her.
The worst thing: Breakfast on Pluto was a fantastic film, but it wasn’t for everyone, so not many people got to see Kitten.
Personal story: I am really attached to this character because she reminds me of my grandmother (minus the transgender part). My grandmother had the same optimism, born out of despair. A lot of bad things happened to her (both of her sons died, for example), so she just learned to shut herself from the horrors around.

She was always smiling and talking about stuff such as clothes and makeup (she loved pink and funny music). It was annoying, this optimism of hers, because she was often blind to the real world around her, but it’s not like one fails to understand how she came to be like that. So it’s impossible to watch Kitten and not to see her in the character.

1. Amélie Poulain

My favourite character of the decade. I could dedicate several posts to her and the impact this movie had on me.
The best thing about her: She is unique, maybe even quirky, but it’s easy to relate to her.
The worst thing: Once again, the hype backlash. After the initial praise for the film and the character, people got a bit tired of Amélie. But it doesn’t mean she’s not a fantastic character.
Personal story: I’ve watched this film in 2002, during a lonely summer. Watching Amélie gave me so much hope. I’ve never seen a movie character so close to what I really was, whatever that meant. So Amélie has a special place in my heart.

Honorable mentions: Briony (Atonement), Sinéad (The Wind that Shakes the Barley), Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings), Sherlock Holmes, Snape (Harry Potter series).

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I’m still stinky (and sweet?) so I have to take a shower before the BIG celebration (read: watching stupid trash TV series, such as “Wounded eagle”- don’t ask).

So, happy New Year, guys. May the hair on your feet never fall out.

PS-The best books of 2008 (well, at least to me, since I read them in 2008): Ian McEwan’s “Atonement” and Toni Morrison’s “Jazz”. They’re among the best books I’ve ever read. As for films, “Tropic Thunder” was brilliant in its weirdness, and I have to go with the “Atonement” again. Joe Wright is one of the few directors who actually understand the literature and how to transform its magic to the big screen. Best music of 2008? Hmmm… Now I have to think about this. Well, I guess I have to go with “Ken Lee” here.

PPS- I’ll try to update jefflion more often and add new things. :)

The power of writing: Atonement

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a really good book. I mean, I read a lot, but finding a quality book is not an easy task. Finding a quality book written in THIS millennium is almost impossible.

You could see why McEwan’s “Atonement” was a refreshing, a wonderful surprise. I read it a few days ago and I’m still under its spell… And impressing me- that’s not an easy task.
By the way, I haven’t seen the film yet (perhaps I will); some people say it stays true to the novel, but I don’t think you could really adapt such a story to movie screen, now can you?

McEwan’s “Atonement” is boring at times, which is one of the best things about it. I have a theory, you see. Some of the greatest works (novels, films) are painfully boring at the beginning. Just think of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “Atonement” has the same problem, but slow parts are, in fact, the best ones.

I love McEwan’s writing style, it’s really special. It’s… soft and nostalgic, but sharp and precise at the same time. And Briony T. character is well written, realistic and unique. It really touched me, this novel, because I was one of those weird child writers that are sometimes unable to perceive the world outside of their stories. No, wait, this sounds too weird. What I’m saying is, I know what is like to be 12 or 13 years old and lonely, writing your fifth novel, and every exciting moment in the real world around you inspires you to write. I was into mystery novels, and things such as small robbery at school (done by one of the kids, I guess) became inspiration to write a larger story, with detectives and conspiracies. Don’t get me wrong, I could always tell the difference between fiction and reality, yet, I enjoyed writing stories, because in stories, life was more exciting, people were honest and I was not just one of those uncool kids but protagonist of an important story.

What I’m saying is, I could understand the great power that writing could have to a teenager, and I love the way McEwan deal with questions about writing itself, its honesty and dishonesty, its power to affect the author and its strength to, well, messes up with someone’s life.

A great book, brilliant ending, I wish there were more novels like this one.