Monday, March 22, 2010
My favorite movies of 2009.
I know, I know, it's almost April. We're nearly four months into 2010. But what can I say - I don't like to rush into things, and there were a lot of things I was waiting to see on DVD. Here goes...
10. Star Trek
I was skeptical when I first heard about the Star Trek franchise getting a re-boot, because re-boots in general are kind of hit-or-miss as far as I'm concerned...but I was really pleasantly surprised with this. The casting was great, the story was engaging and well-paced, and I love the way they opened up a whole new universe of possibilities for the franchise by finding a plausible, clever way to wipe away the previously-established history of Kirk & crew.
For whatever reason, this didn't seem to make much of a blip on the moviegoing public's radar...maybe because it came out in late summer, when the theaters were already overloaded with options? Or maybe people saw it on the theater marquees and mistook it for the musical Nine (which looked like it roundly sucked)? Anyway, I really liked this: the visuals are interesting and the character design was very thoughtful, and I found the story really captivating. It's too bad more people didn't see it. I think it merited a Best Animated Feature nod from the Academy, at least.
8. In the Loop
I'll admit it: I watched it with the closed captioning on. The dialogue in this flies so fast I could hardly keep up without it, but oh my god, it's hilarious. It takes profanity to a whole new level. Great casting, too, and even though the end result of the international wrangling is kind of a foregone conclusion from the get-go, it sure was fun to watch it all unravel.
7. Inglourious Basterds
It's a shame that Quentin Tarantino was up against such tough competition at the Oscars this year, particularly in the screenwriting category; any other year, he probably would've won for Inglourious Basterds. This was suspenseful (even though I knew how it was going to end before I saw it), and the casting was terrific. And the cinematography, especially in the opening scene at the French farmhouse, and the long uncut shots in the theater toward the end, was beautiful. I can't wait to see what Tarantino does next - he's maturing, but without losing his voice.
6. Up in the Air
Up in the Air is all about uncertainty, and yearning for connection in a society inundated with new ways to communicate. Before I saw it, I thought it was lazy that so many critics were remarking that it's very much a movie of the moment - but after I saw it, I understood why they were saying it.
5. The Hurt Locker
A very good, tightly-wound war movie. It tied my stomach up in knots while I watched it. It doesn't lay things out in black and white; the characters, their circumstances, and the locale aren't presented as simply "good" or "bad," and it doesn't give any easy answers.
So excellent. The story twists and curves just enough to keep you guessing, and Sam Rockwell's performance is brilliant - I can't believe he didn't get an Oscar nomination for this. The set design is beautiful (the moon exteriors, especially) and made me feel fully immersed in Sam's world -- it was obvious that a huge amount of thought had gone into every detail of the production.
3. District 9
I think this movie bested Avatar in every way. Avatar is touted for its visual effects (even though about half of the movie looks like a blacklight poster on the back wall of a Spencer Gifts); but the problem is, it's virtually nothing but its special effects. Its story is weak, its acting is average, and without the visual gimmicks, it's a paint-by-numbers action movie. District 9 has the look of a blockbuster, but it has the heart of an indie, and when it comes to heart, Avatar's beat hollow for me. Avatar's ending was a foregone conclusion from the moment the movie started; everyone knew the good guys would win, and the hero would get the girl. District 9 was an unknown quantity, and it trusted its audience to be clever enough not to need every little thing spelled out for them. A sci-fi parable about apartheid probably sounded totally nuts on paper, but District 9 was absolutely brilliant in its execution.
It's like a kick to the gut. It really is. Gabourey Sidibe should have won the Oscar she was nominated for; Sandra Bullock's performance in The Blind Side was fine (even if I wasn't a huge fan of the movie itself), but Gabby was absolutely amazing in this. And Mo'Nique was like a force of nature. Really heartbreaking and yet, somehow hopeful.
Simply beautiful. Thank goodness for Pixar; in a world where ideas as stale as Alvin & the Chipmunks, Garfield, and Marmaduke (really) are trotted out & tarted-up as children's entertainment, its so glorious to have Pixar producing original ideas that don't talk down to kids, and who put the story first. They wear their heart on their sleeves and they don't try to mask everything in snark (cough, cough, Shrek sequels), and that's why they're the gold standard. Of all their movies, this might be the weirdest, and that's probably why I love it best.