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20 Years of Film - 2003

23rd June 2020

Posted in: Articles

Exploring our favourite films in the year 2003

In this blog series, George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team explore their favourite movies from the last 20 years.

Our selection of films may not be critically acclaimed or box office hits, but have stood the test of time as our favourite movies.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know your favourite movies from the year 2003 on Facebook and Twitter!


Filming Nemo - George's Top Pick

Dir: Andrew Stanton | Disney - Pixar

The detail from frame to frame is astonishing in this underwater adventure from Pixar.

The story follows clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) as they battle to be reunited, with a little help from regal blue tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).

Set in the Great Barrier Reef, Marlin, having lost his wife and all their other eggs in a barracuda attack, finds that his overprotective attitude is slowly pushing his son Nemo to rebel. When Nemo defiantly sneaks away from the reef toward a speedboat, he is captured by a pair of scuba divers and soon finds himself dumped into a fish tank in a dentist's office in Sydney. As Marlin attempts to chase down the boat, he bumps into forgetful, but friendly Dory, and she agrees to help him as they embark on a dangerous trek across the ocean. What follows is an epic escapade, as they travel thousands of miles to rescue him.

Nemo learns that he is to be given to the dentist's young niece, Darla; who has killed the majority of her previous fish. As he battles to get out of the fish tank, Marlin and Dory are hurtling towards him on a journey that finds them swimming with turtles, befriending sharks, jumping over jellyfish, being engulfed by a blue whale and being flown across Sydney, whilst in the beak of a helpful seagull.

The underwater environment, with sunlight coming through the water and hitting fish scales is breathtaking. Touching performances from Brooks (Marlin) and DeGeneres (Nemo) as mismatched buddies, as their voices bring these loveable characters to life. This dynamic masterpiece from Pixar is wonderfully crafted, with smart humour, jaw-dropping visuals and a beautiful score to accompany it. It’s an instant classic.


Kill Bill Vol.1 - Matt's Top Pick

Dir: Quentin Tarantino | Miramax

Director Quentin Tarantino delivers a stylish and ultra-violent homage to martial arts.

The Bride (Uma Thurman) is walking up the aisle, heavily pregnant, in a dress rehearsal for her forthcoming wedding, when her entire wedding party is slaughtered, leaving her in a coma. She wakes four years later, and sets out on a vengeful mission to find Bill, her former master, and his assassins to exact revenge.

The first target is Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), who finds her leading a normal life after the assassination squad had disbanded. Their fight takes place in Vernita’s kitchen, and after being interrupted by the arrival of Vernita's young daughter, The Bride slays her. The second target is O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), the leader of the Tokyo Yakuza, who she finds in the House of Blue Leaves restaurant. This bloody battle sees The Bride take on and eliminate the entirety of the Tokyo Yakuza elite squad of fighters, O-Ren’s personal army and bodyguard. As the fight moves to the Japanese garden; The Bride finally finishes O-Ren. The Bride finally finds out her daughter survived, and then continues on her journey to find her and Bill.

Spectacular action sequences and adrenaline-packed kung fu fight scenes. Pulsating from start to finish, this first volume from Tarantino is an incredible showpiece.



Dir: Patty Jenkins | New Market Films

This biographical crime drama, directed by Patty Jenkins, follows real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos and her story from childhood until her first murder conviction.

On the verge of ending her life, prostitute Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) meets Selby Wall (Christina Ricci), who soon fall in love. After being beaten by a client, Aileen kills him in self-defence, starting a chain of events that lead to her killing six other men. After confessing her actions to Selby about the first murder, she quits working the streets, but realising that they need money, soon finds her way back.

As their unhealthy infatuation grows, Wuornos robs and kills her victims; using the money she stole from them to support herself and Selby. After Selby reads in the newspapers about the string of murders, she confronts Aileen, who admits, but attempts to justify it. Once Selby becomes fully aware of her mental illness and instability, she leaves, and the police begin to close in on both. With Aileen's consent, Selby testifies against her in court, resulting in Aileen being convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.

Jenkins documents how Wuornos survived a brutal and abusive childhood, without her parents, whilst being homeless most of her life, surviving on the streets and living in the woods. Theron is completely convincing as Aileen Wuornos and virtually unrecognisable, delivering a fierce performance. Instead of glamorising her character, Theron manages to depict her vulnerable state and clear personality disorder, due to the torment of her childhood. Monster delivers a haunting performance and is a truly remarkable film.


Old School

Dir: Todd Phillips | DreamWorks Pictures

This comedy from director Todd Phillips follows three irresponsible adults as they revisit college life.

Oddly matched trio Mitch, Frank and Bernard are struggling with day-to-day life and are desperate to let loose, and have some fun. After Mitch (Luke Wilson) discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him, he moves to the fictional Harrison University in Upstate New York. Bernard (Vince Vaughn) takes the opportunity to throw a legendary housewarming party at Mitch's house, which proves to be very successful. Whilst attempting to adapt to married life, Frank (Will Ferrell) shows is his new Wife his dark side, becoming incredibly intoxicated and adopting the “Frank the Tank” persona.

Gordon Pritchard, the college dean (Jeremy Piven) learns of the huge party and after discovering Mitch is not part of the college, he informs him he must vacate the house because it's exclusively for campus housing. Using a legal loophole, Bernard proposes starting a fraternity, which is open to anyone, to meet the housing criteria. Mitch, Frank and Bernard begin to recruit various fraternity members of all ages and backgrounds. Pritchard plots revenge against the group by asking the student council president, to revoke the fraternity's charter. Mitch learns that his fraternity group can prove their legitimacy by completing various activities and academic exams.

Phillips brings some absurd humour, with flashes of genius. Old School is easy watching, with some highly quotable moments, which make it a lot of fun.


21 Grams

Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu | Focus Features

In a non-linear arrangement, Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s crime drama 21 Grams follows three lives on a tragic collision course.

Naomi Watts plays Cristina a grief-stricken mother, Sean Penn plays Paul, a critically ill mathematician with a fatal heart condition and Benicio Del Toro plays Jack, a born-again Christian ex-convict.

Cristina is a recovering drug addict and is living a normal life with a supportive husband and two children. Former convict Jack is using his newly found faith to recover from alcoholism and drug addition, working as a youth worker at the local church. One evening, when Jack is driving back from church, he kills Cristina's husband and children in a hit-and-run accident. Cristina's husband heart is donated to Paul and Jack is sent to prison.

As Paul is on the road to recovery, he desperately seeks out Cristina and the two form an unlikely bond, but upon Jacks release from prison, she becomes obsessed with exacting revenge and convinces Paul into agreeing to murder him. What follows is a tale of grief, addiction and revenge.

Although depressing, Iñárritu’s technique to interlace the various themes, alongside some powerful performances, provide a thrilling story.


Mystic River

Dir: Clint Eastwood | Warner Bros.

As the story begins to unravel, dark secrets rise to the surface in this mysterious drama from director Clint Eastwood.

Set in an Irish neighbourhood in Boston, 1975, three childhood friends Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon), and Dave (Tim Robbins) are playing Hockey in the street, until two men posing as a police officer and a priest kidnap and abuse Dave for four days. The main story is set twenty-five years later, now grown apart, they reunite after a brutal murder takes place.

Reformed convict Jimmy finds that his teenage daughter has been brutally murdered and together with criminal friends from his past, relatives and Sean, now a detective, they begin to search for the killer. As their investigation starts to gain pace and spiral out of control, some disturbing information comes to light and they start to suspect old friend Dave. Still haunted from the events of his abduction, he is confronted by Jimmy and confesses, but to what crime is he guilty of?

The scene shot by the Mystic River is emotionally charged and incredibly powerful. The vigilante justice was supposed to offer a gratifying end, but instead provides a tale of tragic misinterpretation.

This is Eastwood’s best work since Unforgiven.


Lost in Translation

Dir: Sofia Coppola | Focus Features

A young college graduate and fading movie star on very different paths find solace in one another in the unlikeliest of places.

This romantic comedy-drama from director Sofia Coppola focuses on Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) as they find themselves in the same hotel in Tokyo. Bill is taking a hiatus from the big screen and takes a multi-million dollar contract to promote Suntory whiskey in a series of advertisements. Charlotte is newly married and is accompanying her husband John (Giovanni Ribisi), whilst he works as a celebrity photographer in Japan.

Desperate to reconnect, as Bob calls his Wife, you quickly begin to understand that his Wife and children, due to his hectic lifestyle, no longer want or need him around. Bill feels disoriented with the work in hand, grappling with the huge differences in culture, style and or course language. As her husband shows her very little attention, Charlotte begins to feel neglected, contemplating whether she should have followed her husband to Tokyo and questions her marriage.

As they counter each other by chance, Bill and Charlotte begin to form a bond. After they initially struggle to make conversation, they find themselves drawn to one another, sampling the sights and sounds of contemporary Tokyo together.

During the various conversations with his Wife, hearing his children in the background shunning any opportunity to talk to him is heart breaking. Sweet and funny, this is a fascinating story about falling in and out of love, with an intelligent portrayal of a romance that never happens.


Phone Booth

Dir: Joel Schumacher | 20th Century Studios

Director Joel Schumacher offers a suspenseful thriller, set in New York City, in a stand off between a seemingly innocent member of the public and a sniper.

Colin Farrell stars as Stu Shepard, an arrogant publicist, who is caught out and held hostage by an unknown marksman. Stu is cheating on his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell), with Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes), who has no knowledge that Stu is married. Immediately after a routine phone call to Pamela at a phone booth in a busy New York street, the phone begins to ring. Out of curiosity, he answers and is told if he hangs up the phone, he’ll be shot.

The sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) convinces Stu that he has him in his line of site, upon shooting another man, who tries to force his way into the same phone booth. As the man lays dead, feet away from him, the police arrive, convinced that Stu is the killer. Stu must convince them that he is innocent, whilst receiving instructions from the unknown caller, leading to him baring his soul to both Kelly and Pamela, confessing his sins and fighting for his life.

A fantastic psychological with twists and turns, Schumacher brings a claustrophobic, nail-biting finale, all packed in under 90 minutes.



Dir: Park Chan-wook | Show East

This South Korean thriller from director Park Chan-wook is shocking, violent and not for the faint hearted.

Businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is arrested for drunkenness and taken to the local police station. From there, he is sedated and when he wakes, he finds himself in what looks like a hotel room, without any apparent reason, explanation or means of escape.

Delivered through a trap door, Dae-su receives a daily ration of fried dumplings as his only source of nourishment. In order to keep his mind and body active, he shadowboxes whilst also watching a small television, his only link to the outside world. As he is watching TV, Dae-su learns that his wife has been murdered and he is the prime suspect. He realises if he is ever going to leave, he’ll have to dig a tunnel out.

After 15 years, of imprisonment, Dae-su has seemingly managed to dig his way to freedom, before his captor, who has been monitoring him the entire time, sedates and finally releases him. After waking up, he is given money, expensive clothes and a cell phone by a homeless man. A local chef, by the name of Mi-do, takes him in. He then receives a phone call from his captor, who reveals his name to be Woo-jin. His ultimatum; if Dae-su can uncover the motive for his imprisonment within five days, Woo-jin will kill himself. Otherwise, he will kill Mi-do.

The stairway scene is an extraordinary single-shot sequence, weaving a hammer, charging through a crowded hallway filled with enemies. Oldboy is an audacious film, which is both sickening and mesmerising.


Cold Mountain

Dir: Anthony Minghella | Miramax

This epic war film by Director Anthony Minghella tells the story of a carpenter in the Confederate army, as he journeys home to reunite with the woman he loves.

Within Cold Mountain falls in the mountain region of western North Carolina, Inman (Jude Law) falls in love with Ada (Nicole Kidman), a preacher’s daughter, but before the romance can blossom, he must enlist in the Confederate States Army to fight in the American Civil War.

Three years later, Inman fights and survives in the Battle of the Crater, but badly wounded, he is taken to a local hospital. Upon receiving a letter from Ada, who has promised to wait for him, and pleads for his return, he deserts, embarking on a long trek back to Cold Mountain. On his journey, Inman is captured by the Confederate Home Guard, but manages to escape, before taking refuge in the woods. Ada is struggling to run the farm on her own, after her Fathers (Donald Sutherland) passing, and has several encounters with Captain Teague, the leader of the local Home Guard. When Inman eventually returns, they find themselves in a fierce gunfight.

A genuinely moving film with an incredible cast, featuring Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Renée Zellweger. Set amid a violent civil war, this tragic romance is painful but incredibly engrossing.



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