Friday, March 12, 2010

My Favorite movies of 2009 (so far)

This was a pretty bad year for movies overall, but there are some decent diamonds in the rough and a few classics.
Without further ado I will do my best to write about my opinions on my favorites, and some comments on movies I did not particularly enjoy:

1) The best movie of the year is simple to remember. The only movie I walked out of the theater and couldn’t stop talking about. Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds may have been perfect. I wrote a little bit about the movie previously here, but now that the Oscars have come and gone, with the Basterds only winning one award for Christoph Waltz’ amazing portrayal of the Jew Hunter but if people haven’t seen this movie in it’s entirety, they are missing out on one of the most fun movies of the decade. I was surprised by how much of a foreign film this movie felt like, and I say that in a good way. The movie is broken up in five chapters and each one really does stand alone. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised anymore that Tarantino told a bunch of loosely related stories in one film since that’s pretty much all he ever does, but this one really feels different.
The opening scene featuring Waltz and a guy that looked like Jean Reno but wasn’t Jean Reno was the single best scene of the entire year of any movie I’ve seen. The tension during this scene was so strong and it felt like it went on so long while really absolutely nothing happened. The camera slowly panned around the table looking at these two men and every time it got close to a window, I was sure we were going to see the three daughters either dead, or with knives against their throat but this never happened. It was the possibility that it could that kept me on the edge of my seat, and this was all in the first 10 minutes of a three hour movie or so. It didn’t let up for a second and I enjoyed the ride. I look forward to watching this movie again and again as I’m sure, like other Tarantino films, it will only get better with multiple viewings.
2) Inglourious Basterds is heads and tails better than any movie I’ve seen this year, if it gets an A, the following movie would get an A-. District 9 is probably my next favorite movie I saw. Going in, I knew absolutely nothing about this movie. I found the special effects great, the social commentary fantastic, the style of having an almost documentary feel and I really could believe this world that was created. It showed how if aliens ever did come to this planet, I feel this is one of the best portrayals of how we would treat them. The last third of the movie did fall apart a little bit and devolved into a typical action film, but the characterization of Christopher Johnson really helped keep me interested. The movie left it open for an easy sequel, but I hope if they do follow through that they keep what made this movie interesting, and not become an aliens vs. humans war movie.
3) This year was one of the best movies for animated films that I’ve ever seen. There were so many great animated films that I am putting them all right here in order of my favorites: Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ponyo, Avatar (I’m counting it as being animated), Coraline and 9 were all absolutely amazing movies in their own ways.
- Up had the most heart of any movies I’ve seen this year. The opening 10 minutes alone was heart-wrenching and amazingly done. The rest of the movie is some typical Pixar fun, but you really felt for that old man and his wife in the beginning. I look forward to watching this again and loved the talking dogs. Really, Pixar continues to put out amazing product after amazing product I don’t know how they do it.

- Fantastic Mr. Fox was done with stop-motion animation and stayed on that fine line of being an art-house Wes Anderson movie (and it really did have the same feel as all his other movies, amazingly) and being a movie that children can really enjoy as well as adults. The dialog of everything being “Cussing” this and that never got old. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t like this movie.
- Ponyo I watched yesterday and is simply an old-school, perfect Japanimation movie. It has a sweetness behind it and can literally be watched by anyone of any age. The story is quite simple, it is a take on the Little Mermaid myth, but the style of animation really puts it in an elite class.

- Coraline was good. Nothing special, but a solid piece of animation influenced by one of my favorite authors in the world, Neil Gaiman. Honestly, it’s not my favorite story by him but I was happy to see it translated well onto the big screen. I implore people that even liked this one iota to give his books a chance. He has a very distinct voice. Start with The Graveyard Book

- 9 was another great animated movie I watched this year. It’s a dark tale of these strange puppets trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. It is strange, but in the end it was the visual animation that made this as good as it was.
4) These next quick hits are all movies I enjoyed, but really in the end they good, not great:
- 500 Days of Summer – The scene where JGL looks himself in the mirror and sees Han Solo looking back was worth the price of admission. I really enjoyed this movie because we’ve all been obsessed with someone that really wasn’t that special. This was the story of that relationship. I also liked how it ended where you hoped this girl was different, but it would probably be more of the same. At least this new girl was interested in architecture.
- The Hurt Locker – I think everything I said about it I said in my previous blog entry, but it was a very good movie that told a story about the Iraq War and the type of people that are fighting in it. It also showed how depressing it must be to live there and how happy I am that I never enlisted in the army. For more of my thoughts on this movie Click Here.

- Star Trek – A great summer blockbuster, updating the classic Star Trek crew for a new generation. Chris Pine’s Shatner impression without being a Shatner impression was simply perfect. The entire movie rode on his shoulders and he really delivered. Being a pseudo Star Trek fan, this made me happy and caught a lot of the winks and nods. The real challenge will be the sequel: Every other Star Trek movie has been good: Kahn, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country, and First Contact. That also means every other Star Trek movie has been bad: The Motion Picture, Search for Spock, The Final Frontier, Generations. I wish this group luck in breaking that curse. For my immediate thoughts on Star Trek when I saw it in the theater click here.
- Watchmen – It’s tough for me to comment on this movie. I think I can understand why people don’t like it. I just think they’re wrong. They made something unfilmable into an entertaining, decent story. It’s not perfect, but I really don’t think anyone could’ve done better. Since writing this I've seen the movie a bunch of times including the Director's cut on BluRay. I still really enjoy this even if that lessens my geed-cred.

- It Might Get Loud – The obligatory documentary film. This follows Jack White of the White Stripes, The Edge of U2 and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and gets them to talk about why they love the guitar. It’s a great love-letter to music. The ending jam session was a little disappointing though. Why would you get 3 fantastic electric guitar players together and give them acoustic guitars and have them play some simple chord progressions. They should’ve all just played some 12 bar blues with each guy having an opportunity to really show what they’ve got. I think this was a missed opportunity, but it may be available on the DVD.
- Adventureland – A coming of age tale in 1980. I don’t know what I liked about it, but in the end I enjoyed it.

- Drag Me To Hell – Welcome back Sam Raimi. Best ending of a movie in a while. For a further review Click here

- Avatar – Special effects: Great. Story: Good. I loved how evil the evil colonel could be. Sipping the coffee while blowing up the tree of life? Classic! The movie was beautiful to watch and I understand howit revolutionized how movies will be done in the future. I'm just not excited for all the Avatar-like movies. Kind of like how after The Matrix came out and every movie was like Diet Matrix for 2-3 years. I expect something similar until we're sick of super computer generated movies and blue creatures.

- Funny People – I liked it. It’s not funny; it’s more like the title is ironic. It should’ve been called “Sad, Depressed People”, but whatever. I enjoyed the non-funniness. I wrote more about why in this blog for those that care.

- Food, Inc – This smart, well done documentary should be seen by every American. It makes you question what you put in your body and how fucked up it is that we don’t really know. We don’t know where our food comes from, we just put it in our body and for a country that is obsessed with H1N1, and Flu Shots and germs, and then they go out and eat a chicken sandwich with no qualms is shocking. Like all documentaries, this movie does have an agenda, but I think this is a movie worth seeing.
- The Cove – More documentaries: I watched a bunch this year. This one is tough to watch, but the final image is really worth it. A powerful film about a messed up situation, luckily South Park can parody anything and they did a great parody of this.

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