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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!)

Rethinking “Closer”

Closer movie posterAs you know, Bob, I was sick in the previous days, and I had time to watch many films. I got a Clive Owen movie collection. I’m not his greatest fan, but luckily, I watched two great movies: “Gosford Park” and “Children of Men”. But the one that got me thinking in the past few days is “Closer”.

I know, I know. It’s not a type of a movie I usually enjoy. But it actually got me thinking about Patrick Marber’s play. And that one is a world for itself.

Closer: A play

On stage, I’ve seen “Closer” in a rudimental form- as a student exam play. Still, it was surprisingly captivating. I say surprisingly, because I strongly dislike work that deals with male/female relationships.

However, Patrick Marber’s “Closer” is brilliantly written. It’s perfect the way it is. No other words to describe it. The plot and the subject, in this sense, are irrelevant. Yes, the play is THAT good.

Don’t get me wrong. The subject still isn’t my thing. People falling in and out of love, cheating, jealousy… Not my cup of tea. The play is, in fact, dark and very unsettling. I found all of the characters disgusting, almost sick.

Still, the way it’s written (and planned) is amazing. We see some scenes from the lives of four people- only selected, key scenes. For example, we see the first (and the last) time each of them meet. We see them flirt. We see them break up. But we don’t see anything in between.

Also, we are not informed about the time passing between the acts. In one moment, a guy meets a girl. In the next, he is flirting with another woman- a year has passed. We must fill in the blanks, and since we never see the actual relationships- just the starting and breaking points- it’s sometimes shocking to realize what’s going on in between. Still, that’s the play’s greatest strength. It makes you focused and immersed in their world.

The other brilliant thing, of course, is the writing itself. Every line is there for a reason. The excessive profanity marks some strongest points in the play. Explicit language just make it all sound cruel, not passionate- which is, in my opinion, appropriate for the story and the characters in question.

Marber knows his way with words, and he knows how to spark an interest with the audience. We find ourselves constantly changing allegiance between the four characters. We sympathize with one of them in an act, but hate him or her in the next. It’s a constant emotional and intellectual battle. The result, like I said, is exhausting, not pleasant; the play doesn’t offer any clear messages or answers. But it’s captivating, amazingly written and makes a great experience.

The film

Closer movie castAs a movie, “Closer” is still interesting, but it loses some of its charm.

The main problem, I believe, was the fact they tried to stick way too close to the play (Marber wrote the script, after all). But what works on stage doesn’t necessarily work on film. Almost empty stage with only some hints of scenography, four people in total (with only one scene with all of them on stage at the same time)- it all suited the narrative. In the film, however, the proposed format doesn’t work that well. Sense of the time is different and, although I already knew the story, it was harder to keep the track on the time passed between the scenes.

The film, however, is not bad per se. The play was better, that’s all. The movie, on the other hand, has some strong points. The acting is very good. As someone who dislikes Julia Roberts and (a little less) Jude Law, I must admit I expected them to be distracting. They weren’t. Jude was convincing (yet, annoying) as Dan. Julia was ok- but nothing more-as Anna, and I do think her performance was the weakest. The other two, Natalie Portman as Alice and Clive Owen as Larry, were more convincing. Owen was particularly memorable, switching between sex-obsessed, moving, threatening and revengeful (mostly threatening though).

And when he shouts to Dan, near the end of the movie: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, wrapped in blood! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!” it is so powerful. The quote that could seem banal becomes one of the best you ever heard. And yes, he made “writer” sound like an insult. That’s acting.