#6 Amelie (2001) Dir J-P Jeunet (France)
Released at the Toronto film festival, days before 9/11, this super-saturated, whimsical French romantic comedy took audiences away from the fear and drama of the real world and made it an international hit. Audrey Tatou stars as Amelie and her elfin looks gives her character the slightly mischievous and naïve traits needed to pull off the role. Unlucky in love, Amelie tries to play Cupid to those around her, and in the process finds the man of her dreams, a photo booth repair man. As with other Jean-Pierre Jeunet films (Delicatessan, City of Lost Children), he delights in the off beat and eccentric while delivering warm and funny stories.
#5 Shrek (2001) Dir A Adamson (US)
The giant green ogre, voiced by Mike Myers, is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the early computer animated features. As with the early Disney’s (Snow White, Pinocchio) this “new” medium was full of imagination and verve and the colour and humour promised something that a “real life” drama can’t deliver. Pixar are unlucky not to be included here as their golden run of Toy Story, Monster’s Inc. and Finding Nemo all presented through the mid 90s raised the bar on what to expect from “children’s” entertainment. But it was Dreamworks’ Shrek that married the elements of animated absurdity, “mum & dad jokes,” well rounded characterisations and a credible storyline, the best. Suffice to say they haven’t got close with Shrek II or III. The production values are first rate and Eddie Murphy (as the Donkey) and Cameron Diaz (as the Princess) give great supporting performances.
Japanese great, Hayao Miyazaki, likewise should mentioned for his artistry in continuing to produce hand drawn, animated features, the pinnacle of which was Spirited Away in 2001.
#4 Lost in Translation (2003) Dir S Coppola (US)
So what does Bill Murray’s Bob Harris whisper to Scarlet Johansson’s Charlotte ? If you think it matters then you have probably missed the point of the whole movie. So what is the point ? Bob is a fading film star, promoting whiskey in Tokyo for a vast sum of money, further isolating himself from his wife, back home in the US, and forgetting his son’s birthday. Charlotte has been married two years, has finished University and doesn’t know what to do with the rest of her life. Her husband is a celebrity photographer and is off on assignment in Japan. The setting of Japan is a convenient means to demonstrate their isolation. Neither character speaks or understands Japanese and so all of the other ‘noise’ in the picture is incomprehensible to us and them. Of course both characters would be equally lost were the film set in New York or Sydney, but those settings would have distracted us from the core of the movie. Bob and Charlotte strike up an unlikely friendship during their stay at the Tokyo Sheraton and this leads to the sharing of their lives where they feel that life is passing them by. Despite some of the more obvious set-ups for Murray to perform his “comedy,” such as the TV show appearance or the “Rat Pack” photo shoot, it is when Murray sings Roxy Music’s “More Than This” at a karaoke bar, does he deliver an awkward moment of self realisation.
Johansson plays her character with the right mix of maturity and playfulness. Writer and director Sophia Coppola won the equivalent of the Oscar’s encouragement award for Best Original Screenplay as the two characters contemplate the changes that lie ahead in their lives.
Bob’s whisper at the end of the film allows viewers to apply their own closure while the characters themselves step tentatively forward to address the next phase in their lives.