Top 10 Films (Of Bee’s Current Mood)
In no particular order … otherwise this list would never get written!
So when we decided to write a synopsis of our top ten films, I thought the number was a good and healthy one. As I was saying it, I knew that 5 wasn’t enough. Well, it turns out, neither was 10.
There are a few movies that I really, really wanted to put on this list, but these are the ones that made the cut. Half of them I have seen only once and others would probably have made the list if I actually sat and thought about it long enough.
This is a painful exercise as you can feel so much judgment – these are by no means the best films ever made. But films, like music, become associated with a time, place and feeling, that vague sense of something in the corner of your eye. These movies currently reside there and I have to stop writing before I ruin it all again!
So here they are, my current Top 10:
1. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Synopsis: When Lars (Ryan Gosling) brings home a doll, Bianca (the Real Girl), and introduces her as his girlfriend, his family and the town play along with the delusion…until Bianca becomes the only person in the room making any sense.
Review: Above all, this film is about loneliness. And love. It somehow turns the hilariously absurd and potentially lewd into something soft and touching and beautiful. Gosling is perfect in this film, creating a character we would ordinarily dismiss but instead want to lovingly hold and comfort.
(This is Ryan Gosling returning to doing his thing. Before he shot to Notebook stardom, he was the arthouse world’s best pinup. Or maybe just my best pin up. But since everyone else discovered him, his films and roles are largely mediocre. This is the exception to the rule).
There’s subtlety, especially in the connection between siblings, which is riddled with guilt and resentment and some unshakeable bond. It showcases how people become lost when they are disconnected, how they bloom when we take them in, and how people really do care about one another but are trained not to show it. In the middle of all this is Bianca, the sex doll, who helps add that layer of absurdity and humour. Without a word, she’s able to turn this movie into an easy yet thought-provoking watch.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Synopsis: Joel (Jim Carrey) has found out that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has erased their relationship from her memory and decides to do the same…much to his regret.
Review: There’s a scene in this film that made me love it instantly. I was just going along for the ride, thinking about what an interesting concept this was. Then I reached the part where Clementine, teary eyed, shares a secret ache with Joel, who comforts her and assures her that she’s beautiful; then she disappears. Then he begs to keep that memory and decides that he can’t continue. Cue tears.
Jim Carrey is unbelievable – I have heard that comedy is more difficult to pull off than drama. If that is true (and I am inclined to believe it) then this comic genius is a drama god. I absolutely loved him in this film; even the great powerhouse that is Kate Winslet paled in comparison to Carrey. The story by Kaufman is exceptional; he does layered weird really well, not concerned about delving in too deep or escorting you right to the edge. I cannot praise this film enough. The story, the soundtrack, the supporting cast, the heartbreak… I really want to watch it RIGHT NOW!
3. Perfume: Story of a Murderer (2006)
Synopsis: An orphaned child, Grenouille, (played by Ben Whishaw) with a superhuman sense of smell grows up in his own world and learns the recipe to create the perfect perfume: combining 13 of the purest scents…extracted from women.
Review: When I first saw this, I was disturbed. Really disturbed. I didn’t know what to think, what to say, what to do. I just sat there for a while, turned off the tv and got on with my day. But it nagged in the back of my mind for months. MONTHS. Then I decided that I absolutely loved it. And I still haven’t watched it again.
The story is disturbing and compelling. Watching a protagonist that you don’t like makes for an interesting ride. I mean, you learn his history, you understand him. So when he goes on a killing spree, you feel complicit all of a sudden. And you are. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whishaw makes you want to run for the hills, yet also to take him with you because his motives are innocent enough, right?
The actors and designers are fantastic, creating a balance of dreaminess and reality. The juxtaposition is continued: the horror contrasted by the sensuality of the crimes; your revulsion and your wonder; your righteous protest to have it end vs. your deep desire to see what will happen next.
There is a book and I will get around to reading it one day…when I have the wherewithal to delve into the madness of a murderer.
4. Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Synopsis: An arranged marriage is about to take place and family members from all around gather to join the celebrations. As is common at weddings, there’s plenty of drama. Mishaps, family secrets and true colours are exposed for all to see. Then it rains.
Review: This film is one of those that I don’t seek to put on, but whenever I watch it I’m SO glad that I did. You meet a whole host of characters that just interact- as though you are invited to a large family lunch and are asked to partake.
The father (Naseeruddin Shah) is trying to create the perfect wedding for his daughter (Vasundhara Das), who is having an affair with a married man. Her cousin (Shefali Shetty) tries to make her see sense yet carries her own secret, which she keeps hidden for the sake of the family. A young man, who has grown up in Australia, is torn between two cultures. And a young maid captures the heart of the fast speaking entrepreneur.
This all takes place over a three-day party with everyone on top of everyone, amidst the colours and songs and food and festivities. It’s just an amazing time.
5. Fight Club (1999)
Synopsis: Two guys (Brad Pitt & Edward Norton) meet on the street and decide to fight. They enjoy it so much they start a club but it becomes too extreme and their link starts to splinter dramatically.
Review: There is something primal about fighting. About hurting and bleeding and surviving. These guys, disaffected and disjoined from life and society, find their own way to connect and to feel alive. This film is not only about the madness of Tyler Durden (Pitt) but the madness of the world, the disconnect of the world. Which is highlighted in perfect allegory with the disconnect between Norton and Pitt.
The two of them are both powerhouses and together have great chemistry. Throw in Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) who is busy attending Cancer Support Meetings just to feel better about herself, and you have a dark, twisted, rollicking ride. Full of hidden and curious moments, the question is…if you haven’t seen this yet: why?
6. The Princess Bride (1987)
Synopsis: Grandad (Peter Falk) reads his Grandson (Fred Savage) a story about Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her dashing true love Wesley (Cary Elwes) and their adventure which features pirates, giants, witches, torture, sword fights, revenge…
Review: I love this film. I watched it when I was a kid. I loved it then. I even named my cat Wesley. My friends and I would play out scenes. And when I watched it again as an adult, I liked it just as much. It still makes me gush. GUSH.
The adventure, the fantasy, the romance, the jokes. This is one of those rarities that survives childhood. It is just so damn good. Everything about it. Everything. If I start getting into the story line now this will go on and on. If you’ve seen this film, you get it. If you haven’t, I feel sorry for you. I honestly do.
7. Transamerica (2005)
Synopsis: Bree (Felicity Huffman) is a transgender woman on the verge of having her final operation when she receives a call from her alleged son Toby (Kevin Zegers). Her psychiatrist (Elizabeth Pena) will not sign off for the operation until Bree has sorted this out.
Review: Exploring family dynamics in trying circumstances is one of my all-time favorite movie themes. And these circumstances are certainly trying. Distrustful obligation turns to mutual dependence which turns to an apprehensive bond.
Felicity Huffman plays a man playing a woman. She’s brilliant, really awkward in her skin and painfully vulnerable, while Kevin Zegers is confused, irritating and endearing (and those blue eyes…). Together they make an odd pair, constantly challenging each other’s lives to fit in. A great road trip and a great journey.
8. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Synopsis: Fragments of loosely connected stories are shown like vignettes for the audience to enjoy separately and as a whole. Stellar performances from Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta (this was his comeback – remember when he disappeared? We will forgive Tarantino for this because he was awesome in this film), Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Keitel and of course, Tarantino himself.
Review: So surely everyone has seen Pulp Fiction, and I think most would agree it’s pretty f#@king cool. It did things differently; the dialogue is just so natural, and seriously funny!
I watched it again a few years ago and remembered how funny it was. Of course, it’s violent and weird and verges on the disturbing, but it’s hilarious too. And I’d be so bold as to say that it is probably the highlight of most of those actors’ careers.
9. Amelie (2001)
Synopsis: A young French girl, Amelie (Audrey Tautou) grows up in a world of her own and decides to anonymously change the lives of others around her with dreams and love and other wonders.
Review: Amelie is one of those films that will fill you with such nostalgic romance and contentment that you really cannot help but sit back and enjoy the ride. All the characters and caricatures are played to perfection and become so lovable and so colourful that you really don’t want the experience to end.
But there is the underlying hint of sadness that gives the film more gravitas, so it isn’t so dismissible as, “oh, what a lovely film”. It makes me want to cry as much as it makes me want to laugh. But not nearly as much as it makes me want to go sit at a café in Montmartre and be completely taken up by its spell!
10. Mommy (2014)
Synopsis: A single mother at the end of her wits has to take charge of her teenage son who suffers from ADHD. They make friends with a neighbor who has her own broken story but the three of them somehow make it work. Until it doesn’t. With devastating consequences.
Review: I watched Mommy at the Dubai International Film Festival. It was the worst thing I could have done because all I wanted to do was sit and cry for about 30 minutes. But I had to act like everything was normal and my heart was still in my chest. I managed to make my way home, somehow!
It isn’t as bad as I make it (I have a knack for being over-dramatic) but it does go for the low blow. Everyone in this film is flawed and the characters aren’t that likable but you cannot hate or blame them for their problems. In fact, you begin to see cohesiveness and progression and all of a sudden you love everyone for overcoming these problems.
In drama class I remember learning that comedy and tragedy are based on the smile and frown. In comedy, things will start well, get worse, the protagonist overcomes obstacles and then things are great. Tragedy is the opposite. The protagonist powers through, things improve until they’re great then something happens and it’s a quick spiral to the bottom.
The last 15 minutes of this film are so powerful. Director Xavier Dolan really composes the ending perfectly. It took me days to move beyond it; it is the best use of music and scene composition I have seen in a long time. A hard film with a powerful finish.
Erik the Viking (actually this should be on the list… dammit), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Natural Born Killers, Chocolat. This could go on…
But I won’t, for now. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out 10 of Sam’s favourite films here and feel free to leave a comment below as well.