1. Sideways – (2004) Alexander Payne. This is Paul Giamatti’s break out role as Miles the jaded teacher failing to cope with rejection as a writer and a split from his wife. He and old college buddy and sometime successful actor Jack played by Thomas Haden Church are a great double act. It’s funny in parts and horribly depressing in others, particularly when he visits his elderly mother with the sole purpose of stealing money to spend on their trip. Virginia Madsen looks nothing like her brother Michael you will be pleased to know.
2. Spirited Away – (2001) Hayao Miyazaki. Legendary Japanese animator Miyazaki says taking a child to the cinema should be a rare treat and when you do it should be a special film. Special this is, it’s almost impossible to synopsise as there are so many themes and all are heavy with Japanese spirituality but it’s stunning both as a piece of art and as a story. I think it shows kids there are great evils in the world but good people will stand up for them if they are in trouble.
3. Dead Man’s Shoes – (2004) Shane Meadows. I don’t know about you but most American horror films are pretty shit. This doesn’t feel it’s from the same genre but it has all the attributes for a good bum twitcher. Paddy Considine has never been better than in this as Richard the returning soldier. He oozes malevolence and a painful desire to seek revenge. Only at the end do you feel any sympathy for any of the bad guys, in fact the lines blur significantly during the film. Great support from Toby Kebbell and ex-boxer Gary Stretch. Meadow’s keep’s up his impressive record of raiding Emmerdale Farm for actors, Stuart Wolfenden who played Denis Martin plays one of the junior hoodlums Herbie and who’s demise is probably where we lose sight of right and wrong in the film.
4.Chopper – (2000) – Andrew Dominik. I have gone on record many times stating that comedians make great dramatic actors and this might be a stretch with Eric Bana but he did start his career as a stand up and what a debut this was. Set in the 1980’s Melbourne criminal underworld and Pentridge maximum security prison it’s not a film for the feint hearted. In fact it makes Reservoir Dogs look like The Tweenies. Actually, I’ve seen The Tweenies and Max the folk club paedophile, it’s pretty disturbing. He’s now reformed and has worked to educate the young to avoid prison and he’s also sold half a million books including some for kids would you believe.
5. Milk (2008) – Gus Van Sant. Further proof that Sean Penn has developed into one of the world’s best screen actors, what he was ever doing hooked up with that manipulative hag Madonna is a mystery to many. You know when you just don’t expect a film to end as it does; well this is one of those. I love the message the film delivers, the fact that so much prejudices had to be overcome to let gays thrive in the Castro District of San Francisco is a truly powerful story. I’m not sure I would have fancied living there then as certain scenes reminded me of when I lived on Battersea Rise around Gay Pride time but hey, what do I know I’m a repressed heterosexual Yorkshireman.
Five more which almost made it:
Watchmen (2009)– Zack Snyder. Best of it’s genre so far and Jackie Earl Haley is great in a well put together cast.
Without a Paddle (2004)– Steve Brill. Likeable twentysomething romp with Seth Green and Matthew Lilliard.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009) – Spike Jonze. Poetic, moving and thought provoking.
The Bourne Trilogy (2002-12) – Various. Out Bonded Bond forever. Bond should now be a 60’s period piece if it is to survive.
Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000) – Joel Coen. Mad as hell film with a psychotic John Goodman and Clooney doing funny.
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