Thursday, 12 December 2013

My Top 10 Films Of The 21st Century (So Far)

I owe my love of film largely to my father, an avid Robert De Niro fan, who believed that the narrative arc of a film could teach his children all necessary life lessons. And I must say he was not far from the truth. Although his list of top 10 films would differ greatly from mine I would be remiss not to articulate just how much film lovers owe to their parents today.

Having been born on the outskirts of this new millennium - it seems the duty of educating my father on new age cinema has landed on me. (But don't tell him that).

And here goes my declaration of the best films created since the year 2000.

10. Never Let Me Go (2010)

That rare 21st century dystopian science fiction film whose demographic is not primarily eager teenagers. It emphasises the artistic rather the technical specifics of a potential future. This unique film details the short and purpose-built lives of clones Tommy, Kathy and Ruth which involves a central love triangle. They grow up to realise and inevitably fulfil their haunting purpose as organ donors.

Stellar performances from the main and supporting cast - with sweeping views of the English countryside and a thought-provoking and seemingly important plot. 

9. The Painted Veil (2006)

A provocative and intriguing piece of cinematic treasure - with sparse but impactful dialogue. The film entails the compromised relationship between a dry, exceedingly dull British doctor, Dr Walter Fane, and his young vibrant society wife, Kitty. In the film, the married couple travel to rural China where Walter hopes to contain the outbreak of a cholera epidemic.

Set in a beautiful exotic and fresh backdrop of an oriental countryside, the main cast gives insightful, memorable performances. This is no doubt Naomi Watts at her finest - the promise of a heartbreak is thoroughly delivered - and the score is appropriately haunting and mysterious. 

8. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

I have always found films that stray away from genre constraints absolutely fascinating. The type of film where there is great doubt as to which genre it strictly adheres to. The enthralling, riveting A Beautiful Mind confused, bewildered and enchanted me. One minute the film was easily distinguished as an intellectual drama film - the next, a crime flick - car chases, conspiracies and gun shots, and the next... a mystery.

7. A Single Man (2009)

This was just a film I happened to see on ABC television one saturday night. I had already missed the first 20 minutes, but that hardly seemed to matter because I honestly could not stop watching. A college professor preparing for his suicide one year following the untimely death of his boyfriend is indeed a compelling premise for a film. Prior to seeing this movie, I had never truly appreciated the subtle qualities of Colin Firth's supreme acting skills - but this film most certainly did the trick.

Set in the 1960s - this aesthetically pleasing, visually stunning film is an impressive adaption of the controversial Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name. Julianne Moore's representation of the extravagant somewhat irritable best friend breeds emotion in the viewer - as does the various, awkward, heavy encounters that George Falconer has with various people. 

6. Hugo (2011)

An advertising campaign that undermines its own film is a rare occurrence indeed. But that is exactly what the misleading trailer of Hugo did - it undermined one of the most charming and truly magnificent films of its year, of the millennium come to mention it. Disguised as a somewhat shallow children's film - this flick is anything but.

Hugo is quite literally a tribute to the founders of cinema. It is a story that grows in significance and never fails to fascinate. A highly original background story leads into a intriguing story and finally, links in to something more important than the viewer could ever have expected - a truly awe-inspiring and majestic sight. 

There is about 15 seconds of film where a box of cinematic drawings are accidentally sent flying around the room - probably my favourite 15 seconds of a film EVER.

5. The Poker House (2008)

An independent film, criminally ignored, boasts an incredible debut performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Filmed on a tight 20-day schedule, the viewer can do little but revel in amazement and absolute admiration of the director.

The Poker House is an artful recreation of true events - a one day look into the tumultuous childhood of a talented director who hits all the right keys in this painfully honest, gripping and ever-satisfying roller coaster. The talented Lawrence is endowed with the task of embodying Pretty's lost young self and executes this beautifully. Each of the characters is highly impressionable - from the charismatic and manipulative rapist, to the innocent and misplaced younger sisters and finally to the most interesting character of all - the protagonist's broken, uninhibited drugged up and heartbreaking mother (kudos to Selma Blair).

I also think that I could watch a young Chloe Grace Moretz sitting in a bar overloading her orange juice with cherries all day.

4. Atonement (2007)

Beautifully shot and structured, Atonement no doubt distinguishes itself via its intensity and expertly portrayed sentimentality. In all its complexity and the significance of the smallest detail - this film is very difficult to describe. The first half is a very close and specific depiction of one fateful day involving a wealthy family and its visitors - the second half a scattered representation of the effects of that day on the rest of their lives. This distinctively poignant film was also accompanied by a marvelous score by Dario Mariolleni - ranging from the sordid melodies of a men's choir to the equally melancholias violin ballads.

The cast itself gave me many reasons to revel in this film - from James McAvoy to Saoirse Ronan to Romola Garai (a personal favourite of mine). Though not a particularly large fan of Kiera Knightely (I never saw any distinction in her performances) her best work is no doubt found in this film. However I have noticed that whenever Joe Wright collaborates with Knightley the result is usually success (e.g. Anna Karenina and Pride & Prejudice).  

3. Midnight in Paris (2011)

My respect of 21st century cinema stems largely from the existence and comeback of Woody Allen superiority. The enticing and ever original 90 minute film is a riveting depiction of the encounters of a young Hollywood screenwriter in Paris as he travels to the '20s era - you guessed it - at midnight. Not only does he, and thus you (the viewer), experience that glistening, glowing era in its fullest - pearls, drinks and lost accents, but the glorious Lost Generation. Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau - what more could you ask for? 

The film harbours an expertly and memorably crafted script which manages to somehow temporarily have me forget my upending disdain for Owen Wilson. Rachel McAdams facilitates and captures the evidently intended irritating qualities of a materialistic Parisian tourist. But what really reminded me of Allen's cinematic skill and ingenuity is the charming depiction of the Roaring '20s. This film is rich and full. The cinematography is quite frankly, breathtaking, and reason alone to give the film a go. 

Be charmed by Allen's vision of the Lost Generation, of the 1920s glory, of Paris at midnight. 

2. The Cove (2009)

The Cove is the only film on this list that I have seen only once. A tell-all achievement of this film is that it has somehow managed to recreate and redefine the genre that is the documentary. Characteristically, documentaries are often overloaded with tedious statistical or factual reference, involves a narrative arc that is barely there and recounts of repetitive and uninteresting events. The Cove by contrast, unveils unparalleled mysteries. The film is a mission and as a viewer you feel very much a part of it. Heartbreaking and empowering, riddled with fascinating background stories and the unforgettable finale.

Rightly nominated for an Oscar in its year, the doco drama entails a group of animal rights activists in their struggles to reveal the haunting reality of a cove in Japan. I will say no more.... A must-see and a must-love.

When you yourself have seen this film perhaps you may understand my inability to re-watch this controversial piece of cinema.  

1. Into The Wild (2007)

No film has affected me as much as the hardly subtle but passionately asserted Into The Wild.
This film captures the essence of humanhood in a story of a young intellectual college graduate whom dismisses the idea of society and reverts obsessively to a fantasy of living a life of solitude and simplicity in the wilderness of Alaska. It would be criminal to dismiss his journey as anything less than an odyssey exemplifying human wish - concluding in haunting irony.

The performance by Emile Hirsch is nothing short of magnificent - he is humorous as the main man was said to be, crazy, fun and in his finest moments - he portrays the infamous charm and ability of this man to form unlikely connections with others. The honourable mention is given to Hal Holbrook - his representation of the man who developed the closest relationship with the free-spirited McCandless brought tears to my eyes.

My love for the film resulted in my seeking out the biography responsible for its creation - a book which I have referred to incessantly and even used in my final English exam. The wonder that idealist Christopher McCandless has afforded me is boundless and director Sean Penn is wholly responsible for this.

Runners Up (Almost but not quite) :

1. Vicki Cristina Barcelona

All I will say is how can you not love logically presented polygamy?

2. Anna Karenina 

A radical reconstruction of an age-old celebrated piece of literature, fashioned into a splendid masterwork, stunning and distinctive set design, costume which exemplifies the attire of an emblematic era. All this compromised by an unforgivingly forgettable script.

3. Up In The Air

One of the most splendid scripts of the millennium

4. True Grit

Oh Hailee Steinfield what wonder

5. Revolutionary Road

Thought-provoking but occasionally dull

6. The Perks of Being A Wallflower

Finally, a teenage film which captures sentimentality without making me cringe


  1. Thanks so much for making me aware of The Poker House, a truly heartbreaking tale. That one rattled me to the core.

    And I love seeing The Cove here, one of my favorite docs of all time.

    1. No worries Alex! It was my pleasure. I try to promote it and suggest it to people whenever I can.

      Thanks so much for reading!