6. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Theatre director Caden Cotard lives a bleak existence. His wife and daughter have left him, his therapist is more interested in promoting her book rather than helping him, and his body is shutting down due to a mysterious disease. Caden decides to head to New York City where he hires a group of actors and instructs them to live their lives in the constructs of a mock New York city.
Why you might love it: Synecdoche, New York is a film that doesn’t only benefit from a second watch but a third and a fourth and more besides. And that because there is so much to this film. Filled with small details that you don’t necessarily see on a first watch, Synecdoche, New York is a film all about the human condition and it never shies away from how bleak that can be sometimes. Masterfully written and performed, Synecdoche, New York is a film that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
Why you might hate it: Synecdoche, New York is a long film and it feels like long film. The film’s pace is at times snail like and drawn out beyond belief. The film is constantly trying – trying to be existential, trying to be surreal, trying to be clever. And it is hard work. Synecdoche, New York is a completely inaccessible film for many and it flaunts its pomposity with pride, sneering at you if you do not meet its lofty ideas.
7. Mother! (2017)
When uninvited guests arrive at their home, a couple’s relationship is tested by their new house guests who disrupt their tranquil and peaceful existence.
Why you might love it: When you begin to unpick what is beneath the surface of Mother! you really appreciate the intelligence and uniqueness of the film. Mother! is an example of one of film’s cleverest uses of an analogy. It is unbelievably dark, unsettling and at times incredibly hard to watch, and yet you cannot tear your eyes away from the screen. Mother! is a controversial film but shows perfectly how powerful and affecting that film can be.
Why you might hate it: At times Mother! is a slow and confusing film. It doesn’t make any allowances for the audience and often the story is lost in its own need to be ambitious. The camera work is often erratic, making for an unpleasant watching experience. Mother! also has some violent scenes which are highly disturbing and unpleasant. Overall, Mother! is not a film which is enjoyable to watch by any stretch of the imagination.
8. Crash (2004)
In Los Angeles, social and racial tensions cause a group of strangers to emotionally and physically collide. These strangers all come from different backgrounds and circumstances and find themselves all faced with dealing with prejudices – both other peoples’ and their own.
Why you might love it: Also known as the rightful recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards, Crash is a thought-provoking and intense film. Crash takes current issues and addresses them in a way that doesn’t shy away from the harshness and hatefulness of them and shows audiences the different perspectives of people that they may not usually consider.
Why you might hate it: Also known as the wrongful recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards, Crash beat favourite Brokeback Mountain to the top award. And frankly, there has never been a less worthy winner. Crash is a mess of a film that is full of tropes and stereotypes and is incredibly heavy handed. By the end of the film, the audience feels so despondent about life that it is not hard to see why Crash is a hated film.
9. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Successful, womanising playboy David falls in love with his best friend’s girlfriend Sofia. But before that relationship can begin, David gets into a car driven by his ex-lover Julie. Unbeknownst to David, Julie is suicidal. Julie drives the car off of a bridge which kills her and horribly disfigures David. After reconstructive surgery and the loving support of Sofia, David feels his life turning around. However, a series of strange incidents soon make him question the reality of his existence.
Why you might love it: A complex and thought-provoking film that merits a second watch to fully understand it, Vanilla Sky asks questions about morality and existence all whilst challenging the audience to unpick what has happened. There are some excellent visuals, including one scene which shows a completely deserted Times Square – a film moment that could more than fairly be called iconic.
Why you might hate it: Vanilla Sky was Cameron Crowe’s first non-original film and audiences didn’t thank him for it. Many found it cumbersome, others found it narcissistic and some just plainly hated it. The characters are weak and thus hard to care about. Penelope Cruz’s Sofia is not developed enough, and Tom Cruise’s David is too narcissistic to feel empathy for. As the film goes on, it becomes more of an incoherent mess.
10. Phantom Thread (2017)
In 1950s post war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril reign over The House of Woodcock who dress royalty, film stars and the prime of society. They are at the centre of the British fashion industry. Reynolds goes through a string of different women who provide him with inspiration and companionship but ultimately, he is a confirmed bachelor. One day he meets Alma, a young and strong-willed woman who begins to disrupt his carefully tailored life.
Why you might love it: Phantom Thread’s attention to detail is so intricate that the world of 1950s London feels imperceptibly real – you feel like you can almost feel the soft fabric and cloth that Reynolds works with. The film boasts stellar performances from all the cast and the characters are finely nuanced. Phantom Thread has an almost dreamlike quality to it and a beautiful score which perfectly reflects its haunting nature.
Why you might hate it: Phantom Thread, at one hundred and thirty minutes, would be deemed as a long film anyway but Phantom Thread doesn’t feel like a one hundred- and thirty-minutes film – Phantom Thread feels like a three hundred- and thirty-minutes film. The pace is excruciatingly slow, and it is a struggle to stay fully engaged. Phantom Thread is, when parred down to its simplest form, a film about an abusive relationship and well it’s just not that fun to watch.