Some of the best movies from 2000-2011

Here’s a list of the most interesting films i have seen over the past ten years. I have only included films actually released during this time as I consider the reputation of most ‘classic’ films to be above the need for reiteration.

Citizen Dog (Thailand)


Some have called this film the Thai Amelie but its much funnier and less annoying and it doesn’t have Audrey Tatou fluttering her eyelashes and trying to be Audrey Hepburn. I don’t remember much about it to be honest, except for the scene where the guy and the girl sit atop a giant heap of plastic bottles. Its set in Bangkok,city of false dreams and real disillusionment.

Head On – 2004


This film, is so raw, so real and so moving. Akin is a German director who makes films about Turkish immigrants in Berlin. This is his most famous film. It contains some graphic sex scenes, some of the most explicit in a mainstream film that I have seen.

Spring, Summer, Autumn Winter…. and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom), 2003, Kim Ki-Duk, South Korea

Everything about the film works magically. There is a total absence of unnecessary plot. The dialogue is kept to a minimum. The film is told in pictures not words. The film is about Buddhism, and it shows the struggles of its protagonist to cope with the dictums of the religion. In fact, the film is about life itself and how far we must go to realise who we are.

My Blueberry Nights – 2007. Wong Kar Wai

I have no idea why this film got such bad ratings. The story is good. It looks great (cinematography by Chris Doyle) and the cast is beautiful (Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law). The one weak link is Cat Power who can’t really act. But you get carried away with the story anyway, and the film is full of memorable moments, like the blueberry pie of the title, and the jar of abandoned keys left behind by separated couples that Law’s character keeps on the bar in case they return.

The Host

The South Korean monster movie was a big hit in Korea. You may have noticed I like Korean films. There is a scene in this that’s really jarring. You’ll know if you’ve seen it. the family have been told that their son has been killed by the monster. At first they are devastated and grief-struck. Then something changes and before long some photographers arrive, The tension is broken and they start to laugh uncontrollably at a joke we don not understand. The film is loaded with similar scenes of horror mixed with humour.

Battle Royale – 2001


In a near-future, law and order have broken down. Schools have been taken over. Students from Japan have been selected to take part in Battle Royale, a fight to the death where the winner is the last man standing. They are given a deadly arsenal of guns, grenades and crossbows. The film is in no hurry to get rid of the pupils, instead it allows us to get to know them, form a bond, and then we must watch them die. It has an element of Greek tragedy about it, some of the participants become crazed furies, charging into death and being blown apart. Others attempt to stay alive as long as they can, but previous rivalries and arguments come between even close friends. In this nightmarish world, the  filmmakers allow one couple to survive. Tarantino cries himself to sleep at night because he didn’t make this.



Nicole Kidman has never been better than as Grace in Dogville. She plays a woman mysteriously arrived in a town and given refuge by its people, only for them to eventually turn against her and take away her freedoms one by one. eventually she is chained up, pulled around on a dog collar, whilst the men take it in turns to rape her. Towards the end, when James Caan turns up, I was literally on the edge of my seat when I first watched this. There is something so monumental about the film that takes away any ambivalence, it’s impossible to watch without being drawn in. The finale is simply devastating.

The Squid and the Whale


This is probably my favourite American indie (of recent times). Its a funny/sad film about a family whose parents try to ease the pain of their divorce on their children. The film has a very European quality, its very dialogue driven. I don not think its a mistake to say it has qualities similar to Truffaut or Eric Rohmer.

The Child

How many of you have seen this one then? The Dardenne brothers have won more Golden palms  (palme d’or) than any other director(s). Watch as a clueless young man attempts to sell his baby over the internet. It all goes terribly wrong. Its shot like a documentary, but unfolds like a classic thriller.

the child

Sunshine State (John Sayles)

‘If there’s a more acute film about ‘community’ in America, it’s yet to be made.’  – James Christopher, The Times



a great piece of ensemble film-making – even the minor parts are well developed and acted.

Last life In The Universe, 2003


In Bangkok, a librarian with yakuza connections finds himself involved with the messy life of a prostitute. This is a very wistful, elusive drama. The performances are effective and the cinematography (Chris Doyle) is stunning.


Screen Goddess Veronica Lake: 1919-1970

It  was a long, slow decline that took Veronica Lake from the 40 spy thrillers she made with Alan Ladd, to Flesh Feast (1970). But that was how it often was for stars of that era, on the top for a few years before retiring, only to return when very old for the money (it’s a frequent trajectory for actors who can’t resist the lure of celluloid.

Veronica Lake trademark ‘peekaboo’ bangs, her long blonde hair obscuring one eye. It was an artificial look that perfectly summed up the artifice of the time. 


It has been such an enduringly appealing look that it was immediately obvious which star Kim Basinger had been made up to look like in L.A. Confidential:


Kim Basinger as a Lake-a-like in L.A Confidential)

By this point it is clear how much the movies owe to Veronica Lake, and just how embedded her look is in the fabric of movies. She has been mentioned in  Manhattan, by Tracey, and scenes of her film This Gun For Hire are used as the film Goldie Hawn watches in Foul Play. That film is a wonderful summation of her talent in using her sexiness and likeability on screen to full effect. Her character is a dancer who gets caught up with Alan Ladd. In one scene she performs as a magician whilst singing Hocus Pocus  (as far as I know her own voice was used) and in another scene she performs as a mermaid in fishnets and rubber; its innocently sexy in a way only films of this period are. But its really the chemistry that she had with Ladd that makes her so notable. She has an upfrontness about her that few other actresses had. Watching that film, you get the real impression that you are watching two people slowly falling in love with each other. Its also a great thriller, with a story by Graham Greene. Lake and Ladd were together again in the Dashiell Hamnet story The Glass Key (by all accounts a very faithful adaptation) and The Blue Dahlia. 



I love this film so much


Lake appeared in another iconic film that inspired the Coen brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou, the Preston Sturges epic Sullivan’s Travels. The film mixed comedy with a more serious social realist element, the film-within-a-film had Joel McCrea making a film about the Depression. The film says much about the gap between making films for art or for entertainment’s sake, in doing so its become a work of art itself. Those looking for Veronica Lake glamour will be disappointed,as she spends most of the film dressed as a boy.

What else? 

Lake and Ladd were like two kids in a world for adults (they were both under five feet five). Her haircut was so popular that the government prohibited other women from copying it, fearing it would cause them accidents.

Her star waned after the war. She only made a few films after 1948, then filed for bankruptcy. By the time she made her last film, she was unrecognizable from the delectable satin moll who stole the heart of Alan Ladd and countless others.

Veronica Lake: “You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not have your eyesight impaired.”


What to write…..

This week’s been going in so many different directions, its hard to know where to begin.

I just started a new job at a school in Haringey. As a teaching assistant. I think I get on with the kids ok. But its hard to keep discipline. I get so stressed when I see even a few children being silly or not focusing in class.  I have a tendency to lose my temper very quickly and I start screaming or barking orders at them. Its not nice. i’d rather it was different, but the school day is so structured and every minute of the day is taken up with timetabled activities. I have to say that on the whole, even when children are being disruptive, they’re learning more than it might seem. Because children are like sponges. They take in everything around them without appearing to pay any attention. 

There was an autistic child at the school who couldn’t focus like the other the children when sat on the carpet when the teacher was talking to the class. yet when you asked him what the teacher had said he had perfect recall of what the teacher was talking about. I expect there are many other children very similar to that boy.

I went to Notting Hill yesterday (Sunday) for the Portobello Road market. I like that place a lot. I think its the most interesting part of London. You’ve got Notting Hill itself, part of the Borough of K & C, the richest area of London. Then you have the market area, all the way to Ladbroke Grove. There you can find some of the coolest bars, the most bohemian pubs, cafes and shops. Its easy to stereotype the area as only serving David Cameron types (peronally I like Cameron) and sienna Miller, but its the most egalitarian part of London. Maybe one day I’ll live there?

Smack Family Robinson

Theatre review

Smack Family Robinson at The Rose, Kingston

It’s  bizarre going to the theatre and watching a play that feels very much like a sitcom you’d find on Channel 4, specifically something close to the council estate drama Shameless.

This is the first revival of Richard Bean’s first play since the astonishingly successful One Man Two Governors played to packed audiences on both sides of the atlantic.

Smack family Robinson has been given a local feel in this adaptation, the play is deliberately set in Kingston and is liberally peppered with references that only locals would know about. All the mentions of Bentalls shopping centre and Canbury Gardens makes the play somewhat parochial. It’s a shame that they saw fit to tailor the play so slavishly to a particular audience.

But how they love it! It’s a fun enough play, certainly well written. They’re a family who let the son inject heroin on the living room sofa as long as he takes his shoes off. The mother has access to the porn channel. Dad used to be a roadie in the sixties, his one regret from that decade is supplying the drugs that killed Jimi Hendrix. Smart daughter goes to college with a hope to be a manager but suffice to say she ends up working in the family business. Its all remarkably  good –hearted knock about stuff. If these are what drug dealers are actually I don’t know what we have to fear.

Verdict: a funny play, a good night out if you live in Kingston. The play will be baffling for anyone else.

First month in London

so it’s been a month since I left the leafy Surrey ghetto for the mean streets of London nd I wanted to write a bit about how its been going,

Why London?

I moved out of my rented house in Cobham because I felt like my life was going nowhere there. i wanted to experience London first hand by living there.


I now live in my friend’s flat in Westferry, a ten minute walk from Canary Wharf. Its also near to Mile End and Hackney. I think its a really cool area. You’ve got the typical rough looking East End streets of Limehouse and Poplar, but also the ultra modern Metropolis style buildings of Canary wharf. I’ve had a fascination with this side of London since i saw Bob Hoskins as a gangland boss in the Long good Friday. Suffice to say, the area’s been completley renovated and there are no signs of its criminal past.

Sometimes if I’m up early I’ll walk over to the Crisp Street Market. Its a good place to buy interesting Asian fruit and veg that you don’t see anywhere else.

I’m a swimming nut, and I love the fact that you find public swimming pools everywhere in London. The one i frequent most is the one near Shadwell. however I’ve also been to the one near Mile end and the lovely outdoor pool at the Oasis centre near Holborn.

Limehouse has some great pubs. I like The Grapes on Narrow Street. You can go out the back and be looking directly at the Thames, the scenic side without the rubbish. Occasionally you hear the Clipper speed past, otherwise, it might as well be as it was in Dickens’ day.

At Canary wharf there is a museum of the docklands, its worth a visit, but the politically correct captions start to get tiresome quickly.

I thought that the cinema would be expensive but its not really. There’s a totally cool arthouse place on Stepney highstreet (Genesis Cinema). They’re always doing some really cool special screenings of obscure Italian horrors as well as most new releases.

My favourite pub has to be the Old Blue last in Shoreditch. Its owned by Vice magazine(the somewhat porny free magazine, usually sold on ebay) and they often have live music. Its a great pub in itself and always seems to be full of the right mix of trendy locals and some business types.


The Sunday market at Spitalfields and Brick Lane is rammers. you can find so much vintage clothing as well as food from anywhere else in the world, unfortunately there is no seating anywhere to be found, so most unfortunate customers end up sitting on the pavement, hardly conducive to good dining. If you hang around long enough, you normally find you have enough free samples to make up one whole meal anyway.

Casual sex

I am not sure where straight Londoners go for random encounters. Maybe they book them online… I haven’t had any random sex and I’m getting worried. what’s the point of living in the world’s greatest city if you can’t meet strangers for sex?

the tube

I spent a week trying to travel by tube before I realised its much quicker to go anywhere on foot/cycle/scooter. The tube is often horribly overcrowded and sweaty. There are much pleasanter ways to see London.


Aside from Broadway, London is the world’s greatest theatre destination. Its getting harder to find tickets for smaller plays at venues such as the royal Court and the Donmar warehouse., but there is something to be said in going out on a fine summer’s evening to watch some electrifying theatre with Helen Mirren/Gambon or Vanessa Redgrave.

Free stuff

there’s loads of it. From the free museums and art galleries, to all the concerts at the South Bank. London is a boon for people who don’t necessarily want to pay for their culture.

Right, that’s my highs of London so far. enjoy discovering them, or maybe you feel like finding some of your own?