By Trevor Busch
Indulging one’s film obsession as temperatures begin to heat up and summer is around the corner isn’t probably the most recommended of activities, especially for Canadians whose limited flirtation with above-zero temperatures only spans a smattering of months.
While driving up the Vitamin D count and engaging in some physical activity aren’t going to do you any harm, when the sun sets and the couch beckons, warming up the Blu-Ray player isn’t exactly a cardinal sin — as long as you have the right selections at your fingertips.
On that note, here’s a smattering of some of my favourite titles from the 2000s, that decade of terror attacks and unnecessary invasions, of Harper-nomics and 21st century malaise. Let the blissful couch-lock begin:
28 Days Later (2002): Sometimes wrongly referred to as a zombie-genre film (technically it’s an “outbreak” film), this Danny Boyle classic brought the then-unknown director almost universal acclaim. Following the story of an evacuated Britain in the wake of the “rage” virus, the film is ironically often credited with reinvigorating the zombie genre of horror film.
Aeon Flux (2005): Charlize Theron in the title role of this sci-fi epic brought a poise and polish to the film that would have otherwise been a largely forgettable outing from the mid-2000’s. A box-office failure, Aeon Flux still has enough action and plot development, coupled with Theron’s outstanding turn, to make the film worth revisiting for fans of the genre.
Children of Men (2006): Depicting a bleak near-future world where mass sterility has heralded the end of the human race, this Alfonso Cuaron film is based on P.D. James’ popular novel of the same name, published in 1992. Children of Men received wide critical acclaim and was recognised for its achievements in screenwriting, cinematography, art direction, and innovative single-shot action sequences.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): Taking its title from a stanza in Alexander Pope’s poem Eloisa to Abelard, this romantic science-fiction comedy-drama directed by Michel Gondry uses elements of science fiction, psychological thriller, and a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love. Written by quirky screen writer Charlie Kaufman, the film features stunning roles by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, and has since developed a huge cult following.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004): Another plunge into the bizarre screen vision of director Wes Anderson, as usual the film features a huge ensemble cast, but was savaged by critics when first released. As any Anderson fan can tell you, though, don’t expect the usual Hollywood side of beef when entering a theatre to see one of his films. Bill Murray’s role as failed oceanographer Zissou takes dry and somewhat witless hilarity to new levels (even just looking at Bill Murray can be funny in my opinion) and really saves this film from being overly pointless, or too focused on Anderson’s visually stunning-but-flowery art-house style design.
The Ninth Gate (2000): If you’re a confirmed bibliophile, don’t pass up a chance to catch this hellish little drama. Hallowed director Roman Polanski crafted this Johnny Depp vehicle into an atmospheric descent into the occult, with the plot involving the search for a rare, ancient book that purportedly contains a magical secret for opening the gates of hell. Satan has nothing on you, Roman.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): Director Wes Anderson’s follow-up to his box office breakout Rushmore (1998), the film follows the lives of three gifted siblings who experience great success in youth, and even greater disappointment and failure after their eccentric father leaves them in their adolescent years. At times hilarious, touching, and emotionally grueling, all coupled to an ironic and absurdist sense of humour, The Royal Tenenbaums features another star-studded cast which rounds out the film and gives it gravitas when it otherwise might be lacking.
A Scanner Darkly (2006): “What does a scanner see? Into the head? Into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly?” This eponymous adult animated science fiction thriller film directed by Richard Linklater is based on the novel of the same name by renowned science-fiction author Philip K. Dick. A story of identity and deception in a near-future dystopia constantly under intrusive high-technology police surveillance, the film is visually stunning, if it does fail in some cases to approach the brooding mood of Dick’s original opus. The film was shot digitally and then animated using interpolated rotoscope, an animation technique in which animators trace over the original footage frame by frame, for use in live-action and animated films, giving the finished result a distinctive animated look.
Session 9 (2001): This creepy independent psychological horror film directed by Brad Anderson proves that choosing the right film location is sometimes nine-tenths of the battle. Following an asbestos abatement team as they encounter the supernatural in an abandoned mental hospital, it was filmed at the cavernous Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, which was partially demolished five years after the film was made. Although not a financial success, Session 9 was moderately well-received critically and is considered a cult film.
Jennifer’s Body (2009): One would probably be hard-pressed to find this campy supernatural horror black comedy written by Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama on anyone’s top 10 list, but for some reason it continues to resonate, and I can’t quite figure out why. Because let’s face it — taken as a whole, there’s a lot about it that was pretty awful. Critically panned back in 2009, admittedly most of the male persuasion were probably ameliorated by the show-stopping looks of strapping sex symbols Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried — regardless of plot, acting skill, or even dialogue — but there’s something else about it that keeps dragging me back for more.
Honourable mentions include American Psycho (2000), Avatar (2009), Bowling for Columbine (2003), The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), Gangs of New York (2003), Gladiator (2000), Gran Torino (2008), A History of Violence (2005), Juno (2007), Lord of War (2005), Munich (2005), No Country for Old Men (2007), and Solaris (2002).