Monday, January 11, 2010

Top 10 Films of 2009


Predictable genre rules alongside the expectations that come with being a “re-imaging” possibly dog this re-soundly excellent film, but considering that the subject matter could have potentially become much more derivative than it does, it is fine, mature filmmaking. Perhaps not on the level of similar themed films, it stands up well by having a substantial modern notion competing with the once leading edge standard as a main part of it‘s story. Flying the flag defiantly for the old school media, its insight and humour running alongside the thrills proves Kevin MacDonald is a very slick director, again delivering the goods.


The ‘blockbuster’ of the year, it was hard to ignore James Cameron’s return to the big screen, and even harder for some to admire it. In terms of SFX, the bar has been raised tremendously. Only to be bettered by anyone who takes on Cameron’s actual technology as far as I am concerned. It was hardly Shakespeare with its pedestrian storyline, weak characters and clichéd outcomes, but nevertheless, the exhilarating sense of adventure, fun and almost bewilderment with what is being seen on screen discounted a lot of that. Movies don’t have to be perfect to be enjoyed and despite this film unashamedly being about it’s broad appeal via disappointing story sacrifices, if you didn’t get caught up in it all, as a movie fan, I almost feel sorry for you!


Spike Jonze’s “adaptation” has its detractors, especially considering the film ignores trying to forge any major narrative, rather letting scenes follow one another organically. For better or worse, this approach lends the film to having a dream like aura, a surreal quality that if you miss the boat at the start, it can be surely impossible to then lose yourself in Max’s imagination with the decidedly idiosyncratic Wild Things. It is not really what anybody was expecting I would dare say, but it stands as a testament to not only amazing technical achievements, but also how a children’s book can become something truly for adults.

Despite the biopic having a commercial resurgence in the 00’s, the story of a celebrated gay rights activist’s last eight years alive is one that does not strike you as having much conventional mainstream attraction. Bold in it’s narrative structure - very political in its chronicle whilst choosing not too show our central protagonist’s younger years, it resembles less a biopic of one man, than an account of a moment in time. Gus Van Sant effortlessly delivers the story in a way that it can be embraced by the broader audience, whilst retaining a bit of the director’s natural quirk.


Ah, bless. Leave it to the creator the Evil Dead 2 to deliver another revealing stake through the heart of the contemporary Hollywood horror genre. Though it might be shunned by some of the stiffer filmgoers out there not familiar with the director‘s earlier films, DMTH retains the spirit of what makes horror such a fun experience. It was almost a reward - or gift - to the fans for their patience putting up with so much torture obsessed and remake dross over the last ten years. Its flaws are minor and resemble little more than forgivable genre traits so once the credits roll, we are left with a memorable entry into what can sometimes be a gruelling catalogue of recent genre efforts.

Given its enormous reputation and scope, comparisons to the source material always seemed unfair, but the film, as Zack Synder’s Watchmen, is an achievement that seemed to do the impossible: enjoyed by those familiar with the book and those that are not. Depressingly grand visions, a convincing script with jet black humour and with the occasional superb output of violence, it was a very entertaining two and a half hours without - thankfully - overly pandering to the tent pole crowd. Despite probably not being as philosophical as it wants to be, Watchmen “the movie“, kicks all kinds of arse.


While plot holes abound and it shows it’s influences possibly too obviously, but (another first timer) Neill Blomkamp’s film overall proved itself by going beyond expectations. Mostly inhabiting the role of a sci-fi action-er with high replay value, on a technical level, it is hard to falter. Though the promising thought provoking first act turns into something a little more, well, generic, it makes the finished product no less entertaining, exihiating or powerful. Plus Sharlto Copley, playing doomed Wikus Van Der Werme, earns himself rookie of the year honours with a compelling performance.

2009 was not exactly coming up short in high profile science fiction films. All hyped up tremendously with either clever viral campaigns or promises of grand new movie going experiences. Its director Duncan Jones’ debut film however, that proved the most surreal of them all. Not to mention the most gripping, thought provoking and moving all driven by Sam Rockwell’s best ever performance. A unique new science fiction visionary has been born with Jones, and with this unique collaboration announcing himself to the world, one can only wait with high anticipation to see what is next for the young son of Ziggy Stardust.


It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say, after all the years of build up, Quentin’s WW2 epic was probably not what everyone expected, but for my money, it is definitely guilty of surpassing all expectations. A hilarious, blood filled march through Nazi occupied France, the director explodes and restrains in just the right amount, making it possibly his most accomplished work to date - Indeed it is his best since 1997’s Jackie Brown without question. Besides all that, Tarantino proves himself (again) as being unique, and even though his direction still does not quite match his way with the words, his self-confessed masterpiece is the director showing that he is capable of being a truly international filmmaker. The inspired flaunting of the multi-lingual in Basterds, cutting from French to English to German and back again, makes it seem the way things are spoken is almost a character itself. Extravagantly engrossing.

Every few years I tend to watch a new film that flat out floors me. Confronts me emotionally, inspires my filmmaking brain and has me glued to the screen every time I watch it. Like my number one from the year before, There Will Be Blood, The Wrestler has cemented it‘s place as one of my favourite films of all time and an obvious choice for the title for 2009. Mesmerising and documentary-like, its style mimics its central performance being unflinching, gritty and driven by severe emotion. It is debateable whether the character of Randy is a likeable one, but director Aronofsky and screenwriter, Robert Siegel, never really ask you to decide. Literally following him through his depressive lifestyle, the film’s major achievement is that you cannot help but empathize with him - as if The Ram is a wrestler in our world. In that sense too, the film avoids over sentimentality but still manages to be profoundly affecting and at times, painful to watch. Some elements falter and prevent it from being a perfect achievement, but in my mind, it remains a tour-de-force.

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