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My top ten films of the 00’s

December 19, 2009

Over the past decade cinema viewers have been treated to a wealth of cinematic genius. The decade has seen the advancement in technology, including at the end, James Cameron’s fantastic 3D movie Avatar, which is set to change the face of movie going – allegedly.

There have been so many films that have peaked my interest over the past ten years. We have seen a surge in comic book adaptations, the rise and fall of M.Night Shyamalan (you go from The Sixth Sense to The Happening – that is definatley a rise and faaaall). We have seen the documentary film peak again, and love him or hate him we have people like Michael Moore to thank for that. Animation has risen again, not only with films targeted at all the family, but movies such as Persepolis which have been rooted at an adult audience.

So as is the tradition of the end of the year – and also end of the decade, I decided to put together a Top Ten list. The only thing is, none of the films are numbered in list of order, because I would have found that one hard to do.

Feel free to add your own list in the comments and let me know what you think.

Monster (03)

Monster (2003) Directed by: Patty Jenkins. Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern

Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and yet to become the character of Aileen Wournos, a woman executed in Florida for a series of murders on her “johns”, who suffered from an extremely traumatic childhood, Theron gained 30 pounds, wore prosthetic teeth, and wore a layer of mottled skin on her face to become Wournos.  Critics called Theron’s transformation an “embodiment” of Aileen Wournos, with many people astounded at the uncanny performance put forth. Although Wournos not doubt killed a number of people, the movie, told so sympathetically through Jenkins, shows the shocking and true story of Wournos who confessed to the six murders she committed but claimed that each had been in self defense. Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

30 days of night poster

30 Days of Night (07)

30 Days of Night (2007) Directed by David Slade. Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and Danny Huston

Based on a comic book series written by Steve Niles, 30 Days of Night, not only helped the waning comic book film series, but brought a new spin on the often camp Vampire series of movies. The film tells the story of a small town called Barrow in Alaska which for 30 days (and nights) succumbs to darkness, and draws the attention of a group of Vampires who come to the town to partake in a complete slaughter of it’s residents. The only thing that stands in it’s way are Sheriff Eben Olesen (Josh Hartnett) and Stella Olsen (Melissa George) who are also in the middle of a separation. An intelligent, understated movie, it’s darkness and tension avoids cliches that have crept in so many other horror movies and instead takes the viewer on a “brutal, vicious, nail biting intensity that grabs you by the hair, drags you through the street, and cuts off your head when you least expect it”. (Cinemablend.com)

Elephant (03)

Elephant (2003) Directed by Gus Van Sant. Starring: Alex Frost, Jon Robinson and Matt Malloy

Gus Van Sant took a bold move when he directed the crime-drama Elephant.  With it’s complete parallels to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, this was one of the first movies to properly address the subject matter of high school shootings. Using unknown actors and filming from the point of view of all of the characters that make up the day, it could almost have been a documentary or home made movie.  The film observes the comings and goings of the adolescents, showing the viewer what high school means to each of the characters in the film. It could just be an ordinary day in the average all American High School, but as Van Sant shows ordinary was what the days were on April 20 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 of their peers and a teacher.

Stark in it’s simplicity and revealing in it’s rich characterization, the film works on the direction of improvisation to achieve a realistic portrayal of emotion, happening and consequence.

United 93 (06)

United 93 (06)

United 93 (2006) Directed by: Paul Greengrass. Starring: J.J. Johnson, Polly Adams, Peter Hermann.

Unashamedly this is my third film in my countdown which is a movie based on or influenced by true events. United 93 chronicles the events of the aforementioned doomed flight of September 11th that came to symbolize heroism and sacrifice amongst the American people. Made with the full cooperation of the family and friends of the passengers, it takes an understated look at the events of that day, and of the people involved.  Much as Van Sant’s Elephant, the film is an honest portrayal of an event (as honest as it can be given no one knows directly what took place that day), with it’s desire not to create action heroes or use cliched plot lines and dialogue but to instead take the viewer on a personal journey into the last hours of a group of people who’s sacrifice possibly averted one more disaster that fateful day. Peter Travers of Rolling Stones magazine termed it as ‘one of the most moving films of the year’.

I class it as the film that those who took us into the War in Iraq etc should be forced to watch on loop until they understand the basic fact of humanity.

The Dark Knight (08)

The Dark Knight (2008) Directed by Christopher nolan, Starring Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

When Batman Begins came out in 2005, it symbolized a return to the original vision of one of the most beloved comic book characters ever written. In the 1990’s the character had suffered as movie by movie it became a camp parody of itself. Batman Begins brought the Dark Knight back and the sequel cemented the character again. The Dark Knight was the last film of actor Heath Ledger and was undoubtedly his best character role. As The Joker he brought a dark madness with calculating menace to the role. Christian Bale also continued to flourish as Bruce Wayne/The Batman, bringing back a tortured soul, a man at battle with his own inner demons of righteousness, normality and revenge. The movie earned Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the film earned much critical praise with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describing The Dark Knight as a “haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy.” Some believed that due to Ledger’s death the film had been overhyped but it is without doubt, in my opinion, that this was a movie that brought hope to the comic book adaptation genre.

Saw (04)

Saw (2004) Directed by James Wan. Starring: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Leigh Whannell, Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell.

Undoubtably one of the movies that started the resurgence of the unforgiving horror movie genre, although at the end of the decade, with five sequels to date, it is time that Jigsaw was well and truly put to bed. Accused by some of being a “cheap snuff film”, the movie was a testament to the twisted imagination of Wan and Whannell, who also starred in the movie.  Taking the simple premise of two people having to adhere to the “rules of the game” in order to facilitate their escape, the movie and it’s subsequent sequels have specialized on bringing the audience in, by seeing just how far someone will go, just what manner of self mutilation someone will inflict on themselves in order to truly value life.

The ‘traps’ in this first film and it’s sequels are without doubt some of the most sickening on screen, but whilst car crash voyeurism, each has been articulated in a way that shows just how well thought out the movie and premise were. The movie has also cemented Tobin Bell as Jigsaw, as one of the best movie villains in recent years and added “I want to play a game” into the annals of movie history.

Kill Bill (03)

Kill Bill (2003) Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Lui, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, David Carradine

A two part movie, Tarantino returned to the fore, after a six year hiatus, with this homage to Japanese Chanbara films, exploitation films and Italian spaghetti westerns.

Written in collaboration with Uma Thurman, whom Tarantine called his ‘muse’, the film tells the story of “The Bride”, an assassin with the Deadly Vipers, she leaved them and her lover – Bill (Carradine) – in hopes of raising her unborn child away from the violence. Bill disagrees and sends the remaining Vipers to kill The Bride. Unfortunately they leave her for dead and when she wakes from her coma several years later, her sole aim is to inflict a “roaring rampage of revenge” and “Kill Bill”. Unapologetically violent, albeit with a true homage to previous genres Tarantino sought to emulate, the film is slapstick in it’s bloodyness, darkly and richly comedic and a tour de force in well constructed fight sequences, witty and clever dialogue and genre sampling.

Cloverfield (08)

Cloverfield (2008) Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, T. J. Miller, Odette Yustman.

Taking a leaf out of the book of movie making that The Blair Witch Project adopted, this sci-fi horror movie is filmed from a first person prospective and follows a trio of friends caught up in Manhattan as a creature lays siege to the city. Inspired by the Godzilla movies the movie is an homage to the Japanese creature feature movies, whilst acknowledging the social networking age we love in. From it’s first person prospective it allows people to be caught up in the claustrophobic action, become a part of the group, and to allow their imagination to make up much of the movie’s villain to which we only get fleeting glimpses of.

Without doubt a love it or hate it movie, although after a couple of viewing the film lacks the same impact of it’s initial viewing the film is still a great in my opinion, and works as well as The Blair Witch Project although does not have the same viral impact that the aforementioned film benefitted from.

Children of Men (06)

Children of Men (2006) Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Huston.

A post apocalyptic British movie, adapted from P. D. James’s novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of a world rocked by a disease that has seen almost twenty years of human infertility, with an acknowledgment that in one hundred years, the human race will be wiped out. With the world in chaos the United Kingdom is one of the last countries with an organized government and as such many are trying to find solace on it’s shores, which has led to the setting up of various immigrant holding camps.

Then on the same day the youngest member of the human race is assassinated, one man finds out via his ex-wife – also leader of a resistance group, that a woman in an immigration camp is pregnant. She must be found safe harbor away from the UK away from activists who wish to use her as a political tool and those within the government who kill refugees on sight.

Taking many references from current world events, it is a movie that seeks to find hope out of despair.  Bleak in it’s overall outlook, it encourages the viewers to make up their own minds about whether they see the ending as hope or despair.

28 Days Later (02)

28 Days Later (2002) Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Huntley, and Christopher Eccleston.

Another British post apocalyptic movie, this was directed by Danny Boyle, famous for his movies Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, gritty movies unapologetic in their stark story lines and characterizations. Following the accidental outbreak of a virus which has some parallels to the T-Virus in Resident Evil, this film depicts the breakdown of society and survival.

Famous for it’s scenes of a deserted London, Boyle’s movie spawned a sequel in 2007, but it is the original that stands up for it’s stark and often brutal portrayal of human breakdown. Although not a zombie movie, it does have some parallels with George Romero’s Dead series although Boyle has tried to distance himself from this. Efilmcritic.com called 28 Days Later “raw, blistering and joyously uncompromising”. The film also features a fantastic soundtrack by John Murphy.

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