Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Top 10 Movies of 2009

10. WATCHMEN - I've been wrestling with whether to put this nihlistic superhero saga on my list. I had strong mixed feelings about this film but I think I ultimately liked it more than I disliked it. It not only streamlined the "Watchmen" graphic novel (which I liked but didn't love as much as most people), I feel it kind of improved the storyline in some ways, especially the ending, which I enjoyed. All of the Rorschach stuff is gold, even if it's a little silly when they tried to capture him going "Herm" every five minutes. The Dr. Manhattan stuff was well done. All of the origin stuff in the middle kind of weigh down the pace. It's kind of glib, slick, gratuitous...but then I thought, 'So what?' This was meant to be a trippy epic so director Zack Snyder went balls out translating this to film. Someone had to! There were plenty of chickenshits who fled this project.

9. I've got nothing for this slot.

8. STAR TREK - Finally, a "Star Trek" film for the people who never really dug "Star Trek" that much. This was a well-made, likable, sunny blockbuster; a throwback to Richard Donner's "Superman," not the dreary-style blockbuster we've been experiencing ever since "Matrix." Only an outsider to the franchise such as J.J. Abrams, admittedly not a "Star Trek" fan, could deliver the goods.

7. I've got nothing for this slot either.

6. SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS - Assertive school teacher Billy Bob Thornton vs. nebbish Jon Heder, then they pull a "Rushmore" and go after the same girl. Hilarious! I know this movie was from 2006, but I only saw it this year. What do I do?

5. Nothing here either.

4. Nope.

3. THE HANGOVER* - The * is because I haven't seen this movie yet, but I really want to and it's by the guy who directed SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS, which I LOVED!!!! (see # 6). I have a feeling I'm going to dig this movie when I see it. I'll be frank, maybe I shouldn't be writing this list, I haven't seen a whole lot of movies in the theater this year. By the way, I hear that ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL is also really good. Perhaps # 3 is a tie.

2. FANTASTIC MR. FOX - Yes, I saw CORALINE too but it did not leave the impression on me afterwards as much as this stop-motion feature film did. What's heartening is that this has been a great year of comeback for stop-motion animation, which I personally prefer over the loud-mouthed, over-the-top, no-subtlety-whatsoever Pixar film sand Pixar wannabes oversaturing the multiplexes. I would consider myself a consistent fan of Wes Anderson (I enjoyed every movie of his a lot except his first film, which was OK) and while I have not read the book that this is based on, I'm guessing he did it justice with this witty, whimsical, colorful film. The vocal acting --George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartman -- makes the movie, but the visuals get silly, too. All of Anderson's visual, thematic and soundtrack trademarks are here. It's a Wes Anderson film for sure.

1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - This is the weirdest entry on my list because I have never been a big fan of Tarantino's work...until the summer of 2009 when he finally made a movie I really, really loved. Never liked "Reservoir Dogs." I thought "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill Vol. 2" were overstuffed and boring in places. But I really dug INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. The actors were great, especially Brad Pitt (whose work I also normally do not care for) channeling Clark Gable and Warren Oates, and the terrifyingly charming and educated Nazi villain Commander Landa. What a villain! The premise was terrific and I reckon that the reason this movie worked for me is because I think the time period finally forced Tarantino not to rely on his patented pop-culture prattle his hitmen movies were known for (which I found annoying) but actually invest in his characters and story and let the dialogue service both. Make no mistake, this is not a mature WWII movie (like late 2008's "Defiance," which I also liked) or even grounded historical fiction, but it's a fun movie with a comic book's pulpy heart. Congratulations, Quentin, for having the restraint not to throw in your "Who's better? Aquaman or Sub-Mariner?" spiel into this film!


Javier Hernandez said...

I also was actually surprised by STAR TREK. Never was a real fan of the show, but this flick really went down well with the popcorn. BASTERDS and WATCHMEN also would make my list.

S'funny how you skipped a bunch of slots on your Top 10. Guess Hollywood ain't making worthy enough films!

Greenblatt the Great! said...

Most of the films do not seem strong enough to pull me into the theater. But to be fair, there might be a lot of great films out there but I may not get around to them until next year on DVD or something. I saw one of my favorite films from last year on DVD this year ("Frozen River") so sometimes I just catch up with them too late.

Last night, I met J.J. Abrams at an event and we talked about Richard Donner's "Superman" and Blake Edwards films. It was a very cool conversation, he's a nice guy (and a Palisadian). Abrams told me he's been to Edwards' house and Blake has albums and albums of photos from each movie he has made.

Also, it's great that the director of the new "Star Trek" did not dig the original "Star Trek" stuff either. I think that's what makes his film so rich. He's not bogged down by the nitpicky weight of all of that baggage from the old "Star Trek" series and movies.

BASTERDS is an easy pick for me, Javy. I was more tortured over WATCHMEN because I had conflicting feelings about it. It's definitely better than 300! I was trying to think of what the criticisms of this film were when it came out back in March. That's it's too long or slow-moving or too violent? Whatever it was, I'm sure it was overstated.

And any parent who blithely took their child to this movie expecting DARK KNIGHT and instead got a film filled with people dressed as superheroes raping each other and splitting heads with meat cleavers kind of deserves what he/she got. They're obviously not attentive parents or else they'd heed the strong R rating!

Anonymous said...

Yo Mike, great (1/2) list! HA! Hangover is tough to beat. It along with Dark Night are the only movies the past decade I saw TWICE in the theaters. Anvil is awesome too. Enjoy!