Cinema Paradiso Club: Top 10 Films of 2004-2014

We are at the end of August, which means the end of the summer blockbuster season. With nothing to look forward to until the Oscar bait films of Mid-October to Late December and other than The Leftovers, there’s not much to be excited about on television right now either. This leaves you few options for entertainment for the dog days of summer. What a perfect time to look back at the past 10 years in films, to discuss in short what I believe to be the best made in this 10-year span. It’s easy to say that in the last decade, we have only been bombarded by superhero movies in which cities are destroyed over and over again. With its share of Batmans and Tranformers, the last ten years has had its quality too, with groundbreaking modern classics as well. I felt that this was a good opportunity also to show my taste of films if I am to write film reviews for Ashley’s blog once in a while. Although these reviews on my list may be short, I hope they make you curious enough to check out some of these film if you haven’t already. CINEMA PARADISO CLUB LIVES!

Honorable Mentions: The Social Network, Inside Llweyn Davis, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Toy Story 3, The Aviator, There Will Be Blood, Man on Wire, The Dark Knight, Boyhood, Before Midnight, Grizzly Man, The World’s End, 12 Years a Slave and Funny Games. Among many others.

10. Ratatouille (2007)

Hardly the first or second Pixar film to come to mind for most, but surely one of its best. Brad Bird, who also made The Incredibles with Pixar, brings a voice of his own to the already legendary studio with his two collaborations with them. In Ratatouille, Remy (voiced perfectly by comedian Patton Oswald), believes despite being a rat, that he is capable of the same fruits of joy as any human; to the point of bold and costly decisions he makes for his objective happiness. The film is naturally about our pursuit of making art and the price we pay to do so, whether it be in films, novels or cooking. And besides this is a food blog, I had to have one movie about food on this list.

9. Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher was already well versed in the serial killer film with the critical and box office success of Seven, but his return to the genre with Zodiac would be a quite different turn. Mostly taking place in San Francisco, also the site of a now classic Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo, which had a clear influence and shares parallels with this film. Most prevalent being the obsession for answers to the point of damaging effects on our lives. This gives Fincher the opportunity to show his own obsession for detail in his direction, while giving him a new maturity in his filming language and tone. The films lack of traditional climax or answers, making it a returnable watch for myself, constantly leaving the possibility for a few different conclusions on who the Zodiac killer might be.

8. Inglorious Bastards (2009)

It’s probably fair to say that the events surrounding and involving WWII have been covered in film more than any other historical event. More directly, the Nazi conflicts in Europe, which have been covered in all angles in films. Yet Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) is clearly unconcerned with your knowledge or preconceptions of the historical facts of the WWII. Instead, he is determined to play with the facts, while showcasing his amazing talent for words. Prying into our fascination of the war drama genre with his own love of genre films such as The Dirty Dozen, The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp and Sergio Leone films, he manages to give his own flare of the events. Tarantino shows his gift for words, in two classic suspenseful scenes that simply involve characters sizing each other up for truths. The added bonus of seeing Adolf Hitler brutally murdered in a way that we all wish he had experienced in real life makes it all together fantastical Tarantino film. Not to mention the breakout performance of Michael FASSBENDER!

7. Mother (2009)

This maybe one of the few films on my list that you might never heard of, being that it’s a foreign film from South Korea, that would be understandable. With that said, director Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Snowpiercer) is dealing in a very familiar genre to American audience, the “who done it murder mystery”. This “who done it” follows a mother seeking to clear her son of a murder she believes he was framed for. Although influenced by the Hitchcockian suspense films, brings a flair and sense of humor that can be seen not only in Mother but in Snowpiercer too. The last half of the film is terrifically paced, with an ending you wouldn’t expect.

6. Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Her) manages to turn a fifteen page picture book into gorgeous images of nature in the style of Terrance Malick with small scale personalized story that would almost remind you more of Michelangelo Antonioni than Spielberg. Jonze has managed in past works to show how to engulf the strange world of that particular story with his own nuances. Directing choices that easily appear to just be “quirky” or “weird”, run much deeper dealing with mature issues of identity and control. As a fan of Jonze’s work, I knew that he was not going to give us the usual adaptation that we’ve seen recently done to Dr. Seuss books such as The Grinch or Cat in the Hat. Those cutesy versions with overtly bright sets and clever kids with too many one-liners and a clear message that wraps up everything so perfectly. Instead, Jonze does something no modern live action children’s film ever has done. Wild Things gives us a true portrait of who we all were as eight year olds: selfish, spoiled, angry, deceiving, destructive and vulnerable boys and girls.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford (2007)

This allegory on our modern desires for fame and riches didn’t receive as high of praise as it should’ve upon its release. The stylized “western” was overshadowed by two other revisionist westerns that came out also in 2007: No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, which received the Oscar this film so dearly deserved. The films main focus being that of Robert Ford’s building and eventual destruction of the mythology of his hero Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Casey Affleck gives a great performance, as the naïve would be assassin Robert Ford, which is daring and heartbreaking, making an otherwise villain of the wild west, sympathetic for his errors. Showing us our own idiotic pursuits to build up undeserving celebrity heroes only to tear them apart in one form or another.

4. No Country For Old Men (2007)

This 2007 Best Picture winner brought the Coen Brothers (Fargo, Inside Llewyn Davis) back to form with a modern western meets cat and mouse thriller. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, who seems to share the same nihilistic worldview as the Coen brothers do, gives the template for this subtle story of America’s long history of violence. Along with Javier Bardem’s Oscar winning performance, Josh Brolin gives a terrific turn as the mouse in this film who isn’t as dumb as he appears. Along with Brolin and Bardem, the Coen Brothers once again find a cast of memorable characters, that play the fine line of mocking and admiring they’re cultural surroundings.

3. Take Shelter (2011)

Although it’s the number 3 film on my list, this is perhaps the film that I’ve recommended the most of all. Mostly because it’s the film that many people know little about, which is all the better for viewing this film. The character actor Michael Shannon plays Curtis LaForche a husband and father, who starts to experience what he believes are prophetic dreams of a possible apocalypse. Curtis isn’t sure if he is losing his mind or if these vision could be a true warning of the near future. The film isn’t interested in the possible end of the world but as much as how in which Curtis seeks to protect his family. With that said Take Shelter is just as much about the struggles of a modern man seeking to physically protect his family but financially as well in a chaotic world. With an ending that is leaves interpretation and room for debate gives it a lasting impression.

2. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

Like Bob Dylan’s discography this film resonates with me, as I grow older and more understanding of not only romantic love but also all forms of love. When I first saw it in theaters in 04’ I really enjoyed it but grew fonder of it as I begin to experience my own heartbreaks and second chances. Michel Gondry directs in a way that can be easily written of has high concept for the sake of it but everything as it’s place and purpose as we go deeper in the visual rabbit hole of Joel’s (played by Jim Carrey) mind. Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Clementine, the dreamy pixie girl gone mad is one of more original roles of a female lead in a romantic comedy. This film was a truly unique look at love that hadn’t been seen since Annie Hall.

1. The Master (2012)

Although, on any given day I could see myself changing the ranking of several films on my list, there’s one that I’m certain wouldn’t move for me at all. That being this recent masterpiece by writer-director P.T. Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in three terrific performance of they’re own. The film taking place shortly after WWII, deals in large part of the unquenchable thirst for all things that a man in Freddie Quell (Phoenix) a veteran of WWII desires. All you may have heard about this movie is it being that it was a fictional telling of the early days of Scientology, which is part of the story but at it’s core the film is dealing with man’s animalistic nature and attempts to subdue are violent. Joaquin Phoenix of performance Freddie is in my opinion is one of the greatest performances put on film. He brings everything in this performance and then some. The primal masculinity of Phoenix acting makes him freighting, funny and vulnerable in every scene.

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