Tag Archives: gosford park

The Best Movies of the Decade (Part II)

The top five. Somewhat easier to choose, but equally difficult to put in order. Except for the number one.

So far, we have:

10. Intermission (2003)
9. Children of Men (2006)
8. Atonement (2007)
7. 28 Days Later (2002)
6. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

The Best Movies of the Decade (Part I)

5. Gosford Park (2001)

It is, arguably, one of the best Altman films, and certainly my favourite. To say I liked the directing, the ensemble cast, the camera work, would be a waste of time, because these things go without saying. But there’s more to Gosford Park than the technical perfection, and those are the characters: every single one of them. And the story; it really makes you think about the fall of the high class back in those days.
Personal story: There isn’t a particularly personal story about this, except the fact I loved the way story unfolded. What secured this film in the top 5 was Helen Mirren in one of her last scenes (“my boy, my boy”). I remember watching the movie at night, and I had to jump and sit on my bed while watching it. One of those perfect, unique movie moments.

4. Breakfast on Pluto (2005)

This film is horribly underrated, and it’s a crime. I really don’t understand why: it’s simply amazing. I guess some people thought the world didn’t need another Neil Jordan’s story about IRA and transvestites. What a shame; Breakfast on Pluto is a gem. And the true heart of the movie is Kitten. She is such a lovable, amazing, complex character. Her world is unique, and so is her story. She’s one of those characters who simply make a story interesting, and also make you want to hug her and protect her.
Personal story: I got really attached to Kitten, and not just because I think she was an interesting character. To me, she was real. She reminds me a lot on my grandmother (not the part about transvestites, but the way a person deals with the problems). She had the same obsessively optimistic view of the world, as a way of surviving the reality. She was sometimes over the top, and it was often both tiring and annoying, but it’s not like I don’t understand how it happened. So it’s easy for me to understand Kitten.

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This movie is haunting and wonderful on so many levels. Too bad it suffers from some hype backlash. Ok, maybe it wasn’t the best film in cinematic history as some people claimed, but hey, I do find it to be excellent. It was sure a great cinematic experience for me. And I’m one of those people who dislike films dealing with male/female relationships. But this one took an unique approach to it, or managed to film it an an intriguing way. This film just takes you, and once you realize what’s going on, you are fascinated. Definitely one of the best movies of the decade.
Personal story: I remember watching this movie with my husband in 2005. It was winter and I felt really strange, everything around (the streets, the buildings) seemed so strange when we walked out. I like when a movie makes me think about it long after the credits.

2. All or Nothing (2002)

Mike Leigh is probably my favourite director. I like everything this man ever filmed. His movies are like no other. And while he had some strong movies this decade (Vera Drake, for example), All or Nothing is the one that had the most profound effect on me. Arguably, it’s not one of his best works, and in a way, it offers nothing new; and still, it’s perfect, perfect.

The story is simple (yet full of complexities), and the acting is superb. There’s no such thing as bad acting in any Mike Leigh’s films, but I really loved performances in this one. This especially goes for Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville. I think I’d say Lesley’s performance was one of the best female performances of the decade. The woman is such an amazing actress, one of the best I’ve seen, and she was so good in this. Such an underrated movie and an underrated performance. It’s a shame. The film is not an easy watch (it’s Mike Leigh after all), but it’s so good.
Personal story: Like I said, Mike Leigh. I love this man’s work. I love the way he deals with serious, difficult subjects, and still finds hope. Almost all of his films have this note at the end, something that gives you hope. All or Nothing is not an exception. It made me feel good, and I am still not sure how, given the serious nature of the film. That’s filmmaking.

1. Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)

Where do I start? How do I start? My love for this film is profound, and I don’t care about the hype, or the hype backlash. It’s one of my favourite movies, and the fact it’s a really good film is just one of the reasons. I like everything about it, its tone, its quirkiness, its characters, its atmosphere, its story. Everything.
Personal story: Like I said, I love everything about this film. But it’s my favourite movie of the decade because it gave me hope when I was so lonely, and it was something I really needed at the time.

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.