Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review: films

The best of an awesome year at the theaters:

  1. Up!—I utterly love Pixar movies, and they are perhaps the only film studio to get an utterly free pass from me. However, nothing prepared me for Up! Visually beautiful? Of course. However, this film rang with a level of emotional resonance throughout that I've never before experienced. Unbelievably uplifting, sad, and touching...the best film of an amazing year in cinema.
  2. Where the Wild Things Are—I heart Spike Jonze, so I knew this would be good, even worth the multi-year wait. You knew this was going to be unbelievably stunning visually. But did you think it would drive you to tears? So easily make you unbelievably happy, touched, and frightened all at the same time?
  3. The Fantastic Mr. Fox—Yet another director I adore comes through with an utterly fantastic film. The retro-claymation plays really well against the retro-music. But where this movie shines is the overall, indefineable sense of coolness it exudes. Every character is someone I would dearly love to know. A friend and fellow academic told me that this film made him utterly unable to apply a critical lens to it because he was just enjoying himself so much. I agree.
  4. Inglourious Basterds—Tarantino films are always an event, and Basterds certainly qualifies as extreme. However, it's not the violence (brutal and fun) or the dialogue (snappy and memorable) that sets this one off. No, it's the utterly unforgettable performances of both Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz, who bring layer upon layer of depth.
  5. Coraline—This is the fourth film so far to prove that kids movies are best when they don't limit themselves to “kiddie” stereotypes. Great stop-motion animation, even greater characterization of the angst of growing up. Both creepy and touching at the same time.
  6. The Hurt Locker—While this covers much of the same emotional ground as 2008's The Wrestler, Hurt Locker is notable as a movie that does pretty much everything right. It looks great. Wonderful characterizations. Moreover, this is a shockingly relevant film which will have you thinking days and months after you leave the theater.
  7. Star Trek—A popcorn movie? Sure. More action/adventure than we're used to from the Star Trek Franchise? Granted. But as an action/adventure movie, this succeeds wholeheartedly. Nicely paced, beautiful, with just enough characterization to keep you intellectually with the film.
  8. Men Who Stare At Goats—With talent like Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges, the acting in this film was bound to be outstanding. Funny, to be sure, but just enough depth to the story to keep this from being fluffy.
  9. Monsters vs. Aliens—I wouldn't have seen this if not for a showing at the cheap theater...and that would've been my loss. This was much smarter than it had a right to be. Great acting throughout, especially from Seth Rogan.
  10. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince—It's not the best of the Harry Potter films, and, for those of us who read the books, there are a few puzzling choices. However, still a very solid entry in the series

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