4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Leading the peak of the Romanian New Wave, Cristian Mungiu turns his government’s historic oppression into the pervasive, unseen antagonist of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, haunting the dangerous attempts of two women to secure an illegal abortion with a passive cruelty that lingers in long takes, and holds us in its tight, uncompromising stranglehold.

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Atonement (2007)

Whether Briony could ever find genuine redemption after irreparably destroying the lives of two lovers is the provocative question that she may never get an answer to, and in Joe Wright’s impressionistic camerawork and ever-shifting structure, we too find it eerily winding its way through Atonement’s formal puzzle of lies, truths, and alternate perspectives.

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Avatar (2009)

Avatar may not be James Cameron’s most consistently flawless work, but it is certainly at least his most purely ambitious, using innovative digital technology to serve his incredible visual artistry and immersive worldbuilding, both of which place this rich, ecological allegory among the most monumental achievements of genre filmmaking.

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I Killed My Mother (2009)

Though the title I Killed My Mother explicitly refers to Hubert’s lie that his titular parent is dead, it also becomes apparent that this is something she painfully experiences every single day, revealing a remarkably mature voice in 19-year-old director Xavier Dolan who radiates these complex character dynamics out into a neatly composed visual style and rhythmic formal structure.

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Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Random chaos defines Barry Egan’s world in Punch-Drunk Love, reaching out across his work and personal life to diminish his meek existence, and yet there is a balanced coordination across every level of Paul Thomas Anderson’s incredibly formal filmmaking in this offbeat romantic comedy that finds colourful, delicate harmony among the dissonance.

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The Aviator (2004)

Classical Hollywood filmmaker Howard Hughes is the tragic centrepiece of Martin Scorsese’s treatise on an industry that is both extravagantly pioneering and detrimentally obsessive, and in its Technicolor experimentations, The Aviator fully recognises both sides of this glamorous culture and the bright-minded pioneer it consumed.

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