Tag Archives: mike leigh

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.

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!)