(2009) Lone Sherfig - UK
This is one of those films where the beauty is in the details. The story itself isn't particularly new, but it's the way it's told that matters. It's about Jenny, a young British girl who, for the most part, is a model student and preparing to go on to Oxford. Along the way though, she meets a man who seduces her by showing her the world outside of what she's learned about in textbooks.
As Jenny, Carey Mulligan is absolutely charming and effortlessly believable in the role.She exudes such a natural charisma and likability, and in her hands, Jenny is an easy character to relate to. And as her suitor, Peter Sarsgaard nails a deceptively tricky role, and the rest of the ensemble cast is pretty damn terrific too. And much credit also goes to Nick Hornsby (who wrote About A Boy and High Fidelity) for taking a story that might have seemed run-of-the-mill and making it feel fresh through incredible wit (the film is unexpectedly quite funny at times). Though I though 2009 was a fairly disappointing year for film, this one was the one I kept thinking back to the most and was a pretty easy choice for my favorite film of the year.
(2007) Marjane Satrapi - France
Based on her graphic novels, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical tale about her childhood in Iran during the fall of the Shah, her school years in Europe and subsequent return to Iran is funny and stylish while not shying away from the horrors of what took place during those years.
While you may see more impressive animation from a technical standpoint, the simple hand drawn black and white animation employed here is no less striking. The film is incredibly faithful to the novels, retelling key moments in her formative years, which can be awfully disturbing at times while proving remarkably relatable at others. It's animation that's aimed squarely at adults and it was probably the most fulfilling animated film of the decade. And of special note for the subtitle averse... on the DVD, you can watch it either in French with English subtitles or you can watch it with English dubbing. While I'm not typically a fan of dubbing, it works just fine for this film.
(2008) Kurt Kuenne - USA
I mentioned earlier how some of the decade's best documentaries weren't exactly the most well-made films and that would certainly apply here. Kuenne is a novice filmmaker and it shows. It felt as though he didn't trust his audience enough to recall earlier details of the story, and he goes back time and time again as if to say "See! I used foreshadowing there!" and these amateurish tricks are the sole reason this one doesn't rank higher for me.
While I think many of us grew up seeing the violence in Northern Ireland on television and singing along with U2 ("broken bottles under children's feet, bodies strewn across the dead end streets"), I don't know how many of us were acquainted with the events of January 30, 1972, when the English military opened fire on a peaceful rights protest, leaving 14 unarmed protesters dead, and drastically changing the atmosphere in Northern Ireland for decades to come.
I think this one, for me, is hands down the coolest film of the decade )they might have been separated out into Volume 1 and Volume 2 for theatrical release, but I consider it all one movie). Tarantino's love of 70's schlock has never been incorporated into one of his films more effectively and his ability to pair music to images works perfectly here.
In a complete gear shift, A Lion In The House is likely to be among the most grueling experiences you can imagine, but so incredibly rewarding for those who seek it out. It's not easy material: it's a documentary that follows five families coping with pediatric cancer over a six-year period.
What I think I love about this film and why I identify with it is that it really spoke to those situations in life where I've felt a little bit like the outsider. And in Coppola's film, Charlotte, who's left alone in her Tokyo hotel most of the time while her husband is working very much feels like an outsider. She's immersed in a city she doesn't know, a culture she doesn't belong to, a language she doesn't understand.
And then she meets Bill Murray's character, Bob, and things click. While I've heard some feel it's a romantic spark or about a deep friendship, I think it's more about the kinship you feel when you discover someone else stuck in the same boat. You may not have a lot of things in common, but in that fleeting instant, you finally have someone who can relate to you in some way. I got the sense that Bob and Charlotte wouldn't likely ever meet again or keep in touch after the part ways. But for that brief moment in time, it's just great to have someone. And I don't think I've seen that sort of relationship really portrayed on screen so well. It's not about love, lust, or deep friendship. Sometimes, it's just about the comfort of not being alone.
Like the film itself, the main character, Hanna, is very guarded. We know right off the bat that there is a story there, but she's slow to reveal it. We know few details about her outside of the fact that she is an immigrant who wears a hearing aid and she selectively turns it off when she wants to ignore the world around her.
It's interesting that I have a difficult time summing up all the reasons I like this film in just a few short paragraphs despite the fact that it's a fairly simple story with a running time of about 1:25. I think it's in part because it brings a fresh perspective to a film about terminal illness. The main character, Romain is a bit of an ass, and learning of his impending fate doesn't really change that. Instead of finding a heart of gold and finding redemption, he only further isolates himself from those around him, tells no one but his grandmother of his diagnosis, and opts to spend most of his remaining time alone.