This week, Gerry gives us his top five from 2003 – be sure to check out the entries for 2002, 2001 and 2000 if you haven’t already done so. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these so please get in touch with a comment or on twitter.
5. Finding Nemo
It’s not my favourite Pixar film, but that’s like saying Stairway to Heaven isn’t my favourite Led Zeppelin song – it’s still fucking good, it just happens to have been created by people who reach greater heights. Gorgeous to look at and full of charm, the storyline and characters are perhaps a little weaker than others in the stable; this, of course, still means that they are superior to the vast majority of animated films and lots of ‘normal’ films too. The voice cast is so outstanding I’m not even going to highlight anyone in particular. This film was a long time in the making (3-5 years) and it shows in the attention to detail. Gorgeous and, a decade on, firmly established in the pantheon of family classics for young children and former children alike.
The culmination of a growing mastery of epic fantasy over the preceding years, Jackson’s final installment is often derided for having about 27 endings, but that ignores the excellence that goes before it. It’s very hard for me to decide between the three LOTR films and I will continue to argue that they are one of the rare examples of films that, as a trilogy, are much greater than the sum of their parts. Still, a visually wonderful and enthralling film with iconic battle scenes and the closing of one of western narrative’s great achievements – what’s not to like?
Stylish, witty and chocked full of violence, Kill Bill is one of my favourite Tarantino films (and I really like Tarantino). Uma Thurman is great, the references are too numerous to count, and the story clips along at a lovely pace. This sums up what Tarantino is about for me – his encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema shines through, while his control as a director is superb. The result is just a really fun film. Slightly better than Vol 2 in my opinion, although I am quite eager to see the original cut of both as a (very long) single film.
Yes, Elf. The joint best Christmas film ever made (alongside It’s A Wonderful Life, obviously) which sees Will Ferrell’s Buddy as a human adopted by elves who goes to New York City to find his real parents. This is a film that can only be described as charming from start to finish. The supporting cast is pretty good all round, especially a short turn from Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones) as a ridiculous children’s author, but this is undoubtedly Ferrell’s film. This was a great year for Ferrell, with Old School close to making this list too. Most remarkable is David Berenbaum’s screenplay – his first – and the fact that, in his second proper outing as a director, Jon Favreau marked his arrival as a director with genuine potential thanks to his understanding the nature of Hollywood cinema magnificently. Honestly, it’s a Christmas institution in my household and I know it is for many of my generation – I challenge you to watch Elf and not smile, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
This is a remarkable film. The simple fact that it won seven Goya awards in 2004 (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars) including Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor and Lead Actress should indicate to you quite how much quality is bursting from every scene here. But let me make a disclaimer early on: this film is brutal. It depicts some dark depths as far as humanity is concerned. This most certainly isn’t one to watch on a romantic night in (trust me, I’ve watched this with my girlfriend) unless you’re in a very established relationship. It tells the story of Pilar and Antonio, a couple in the wonderful city of Toledo. The opening scene shows Pilar leaving him due to the abusive nature of their relationship, moving in with her sister, Ana. As she tries to rebuild her life, Antonio goes to anger management classes. Slowly but surely, they begin to interact again. We are presented unflinchingly with a troubling examination of abusive relationships, the powerful effect they have on the victim and those around them, and the strange irresistible pull of the abuser despite all the horrors they have committed. Luis Tosar’s Antonio is one of the outstanding performances of the decade, making the film worth watching for that alone. But this is truly brilliant in many aspects. In a way that European cinema seems to manage so much better than Hollywood, the characters are not black and white. This is no hero and villain affair. We feel sympathy where we ‘shouldn’t’, anger and annoyance towards those who are ostensibly in the right. Yes, Antonio is an awful human being but we see the sides of him that make Pilar still love him. We are exasperated at her lacking the strength to completely cut him off. This cuts to the core of Spain’s problems with domestic violence and is in fact sociologically significant, as it helped catapult the debate into the limelight after decades of awkward silence. A woman dies every week at the hands of her partner in Spain. Watch this and you will understand the horror of that experience, one that is unfortunately repeated in countless homes all the time*. But you will also understand a little more about people.
*The death rate for domestic violence in the UK is actually higher than this, but we don’t talk about it – perhaps we need to have films like Tyrannosaur reaching a much wider audience to stimulate debate? You know, get powerful dramas about the dark side of society on general release with big marketing? Accept that as a nation we are capable of appreciating more than CGI and loud noises? Just saying, Hollywood obsessed shitty cinema chains; you can do what you like with that suggestion. I suspect nothing and more ‘John Carter on 15 screens for a fortnight’ crap. Rant over.