First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Two strange things for me as of now is writing "1/9/10" instead of "1/9/09" and being committed to a new years resolution for once [now I'm not telling you that]. What I am telling all of you is the thirteen films that I considered the top of 2009, in terms of them being my personal fave. And no, these thirteen films are not the only films I saw that year. Here's the 46 films I saw:
Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Taken, The International, Watchmen, I Love You, Man, Knowing, 12 Rounds, Adventureland, Fast & Furious, Observe and Report, 17 Again, Crank 2: High Voltage, State of Play, Star Trek, The Brothers Bloom, Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum 2, Drag Me to Hell, Up, The Hangover, The Taking of Pelham 123, Whatever Works, Public Enemies, Bruno, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, (500) Days of Summer, Orphan, In the Loop, Moon, Funny People, The Hurt Locker, District 9, The Goods, Inglourious Basterds, The Informant!, Paranormal Activity, Black Dynamite, Zombieland, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Messenger, The Road, Avatar (in Real-D), Sherlock Holmes, Up in the Air
So why TOP 13 you ask? Well there's one film I did not want to leave off the list just because almost everyone placed in this site have tacked this film on theirs as well. And I thought, "It'll piss them off if..." In fact, let's start the list off with that film right now. LET'S DO THIS!
[NOTE: I will also rate the films using the Spill.com Rating System, but just because one film has a higher grade than the other doesn't really mean it gets the higher rank.]
13. AVATAR (Dir. James Cameron)
Yes this is the film that made me have a Top 13 list instead of the usual Top Ten and I've already made a heated blog that's been recently featured (Thanks Spill.com!) so I'll make my reasoning short. The visuals are PERFECT, magnificent, and changes the game for these CGI-driven Hollywood films to come and how 3D will be utilized. No longer I hope 3D won't be just as a gimmick for things to fly towards me like Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
. The visuals is what's only setting James Cameron's film apart from the many other films that have used the otherwise "been there-done that" story. This story is sadly predictable and the dialogue is sometimes just terrible, and also not well-executed. The best performances were from Zoe Saldana- who, if you've seen her before a lot, then you'll really notice her motion-captured acting to a tee, and Stephen Lang. Stephen Lang, while having a stereotypical character, utilized this role and pumped it up with crank, and therefore gloriously over-the-top. Zoe Saldana has some off-key acting moments, but maybe that's not her fault- probably mine because I still can't cry at these blue cat people. Everyone else's performances are passable, and I wish James Cameron had a lot more deep inside this movie than just face value. It's only worth going for the REAL-D Movie Theater Experience. Rating: low FULL PRICE!
12. STAR TREK (Dir. J.J. Abrahams)
The "all-too-serious" critics might argue that the movie is only set out to be fun entertainment and not having the depth of say A Serious Man
(which I have not seen). I argue that asummer blockbuster that reboots a franchise that I- or anybody else- have no knowledge about and entertains us and immerses us otherwise is an amazing achievement. So much so that this movie is also another reason why I made a Top 13 List. I've never seen a Star Trek episode, movie, and I have VERY, very limited understanding to the references. This movie makes references for its fans (I saw this movie at a matinee with a full theater and the half I could tell were fanboys) that not only make them laugh, but I too was also laughing. This shows that J.J. Abrahams was smart enough to make these references as hilarious bits fitting into the context of the situation, instead of just being "Family Guy Hour". I might watch the two first Star Trek films just because this reboot convinced me that it definitely can make a good first impersonation. Rating: Full Price!
11. IN THE LOOP (Dir. Armando Iannucci)
This movie is exhausting. Not like how "The Hurt Locker" makes you feel in the end- but in terms of a frenetic comedic pace. My second favorite comedy of 2009, a prequel to its BBC series, The Thick of It
, this is political satire at its finest since Dr. Strangelove
. A heed of warning to those unaware (this film is yet another reason why I made a Top 13 list) of what this film's humor is like. Imagine The British Office and The West Wing had a baby who grew up to love two things: Swearing and Pop Culture. From references to Eraserhead
to the Harry Potter franchise
to The White Stripes
to Love Actually
. The film parodies its cursing as well more than once, with a character saying, "S-Star-Star-T". IMDb search this movie, look at the quotes, and there is at least one quote that will make you laugh out loud. The others they might not but only because they're out of context of the story. The story is about when one of the cabinet ministers of the U.K. says that war is "unforeseeable", everybody deciphers as wrongly and the question up hand is whether or not we do go to war. I've heard reviews arguing that they don't target the war for satire, which I thought was a smart idea. It's never mentioned who we're going to war against, but it's pretty clear since it takes place not that long ago. The decision if we go/not go to war, I'd say. What I found hilarious was following the non-echelons of government, showing that starting a war is hell as well. Peter Calpaldi gives out an incredibly menacing but overall very funny performance, in the first minute we watch him we do not want to mess with him. Rating: low Full Price!
10. FUNNY PEOPLE (Dir. Judd Apatow)
I saw the movie when it came out and I recommended it as a matinee. Because how packed Judd Apatow's Special Edition DVDs are, I bought the DVD and started to regret it. With nothing much to do, I popped it in and I realized something- I started liking it a lot more than when I saw it at a theater. Maybe because the luxury of pausing a 2 and a half hour long comedy is the reason why but I didn't even pause at any point. I've watched it two more times from time to time since late November, and I've grown to appreciate the film more and more. Judd Apatow's intent, which still does not fit for a movie theater but possibly for television, was to showcase that life cannot be split up into three acts. I commented originally that the third act was pretty bad- and I look back it now and I find it surprisingly good- but not great. I still complain that Apatow should have removed the footage of Adam Sandler hanging out with Leslie Mann's kids but the dragging- waiting to see who Eric Bana's character really is and the ultimate decision Leslie Mann is forced to decide quick makes complete sense when you look back at it the second time. The film works better with repeat viewings. I agree with Cyrus in that Eric Bana's performance is TOO wacky for the otherwise normal-toned film, but besides that I found the rest of the performances from every actor is great- even from the RZA. Adam Sandler gives the best performance ever in film. I cared about what happened to him in the first five minutes- which to most critics and I guess the public they don't. I would love a sequel to this movie, however, focusing on, say, what being a stand-up comedian is like (yes I know they do so here but I was disapointed it was only 1/3 of the film) and George Simmons' journey to commit? Who knows. Rating: high Matinee!
9. OBSERVE AND REPORT (Dir. Jody Hill)
Yes, I know Spill Crew and most film lovers dislike/hate the film but I love the film. I am a part of this niche crowd- I love Eastbound & Down
(but do not like The Foot Fist Way
). It's Jody Hill's own messed up style of satire making fun of the gun obsessed average American male and underdog movies. The film was bashed as the Rated-R Paul Blart, but besides the two main characters being mall cops, they are TOTALLY different. Whereas Paul Blart was, sadly, a lame family-safe version of Die Hard- this film goes to satire. A satire on those underdog movies. Seth Rogen's Ronnie Barnhardt wants to be a hero to the world, along with his sidekick Dennis, the help of his friends, and to get the girl of his dreams. But in Jody Hill's sensibility, it won't compromise with any of these elements.Remember back then Scorsese and DeNiro made films that focused on one character's life- whether we liked him or not? Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy
. Many argue why we were supposed to like the character- but I think the film doesn't take sides at all but instead just shows. And what it shows is indeed... wow. I was becoming tired of Seth Rogen to be honest. When will Seth Rogen stop playing as a nice guy or a stoner? Seth Rogen goes balls-to-the-wall here and I think this is truly daring and big step in his acting.Ha-ha, Imagine if both came out the same day, and a bunch of kids went to this movie by mistake? They'll be scarred for life. I could go on day of what goes on here inside and outside in the film, but I'd rather not. I'll save you the joy/pain. Rating: Full Price!
8. THE HURT LOCKER (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
I thought for the longest time Observe and Report
was this year's messed up character study- and it was a comedy. Then comes this film that has us watch a character that we're still not even sure of at the end of the day. What is the definition of a hero? The film starts with a quote that highlights that "War is a drug". This is the occurring theme throughout the film, but to be honest even I didn't pay attention to this the first time I saw it. Why? This film is unnerving, incredibly intense, and honestly had my heart racing (another film that certainly pumped me up this year was Crank 2
). The action is not Transformers 2
or Sherlock Holmes
. Instead the action starts with patience, then resulting complete and utter (realistic
) chaos. The decision to have big-name actors appear as minor characters and unknowns with major roles is great- I don't want to spoil why but it shows that anything goes and definitely will. The performances are great and everything but the editing is great. Don't be offended by my rating for this film but this film could give you a migraine for how truly exhausting it is for more than 2 hours. Rating: low Full Price!
7. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Another film best with repeat viewings at home, I originally was stuck in the middle (pun intended) of giving it a high Matinee or a low Full Price when I saw at in theaters. What this film and Funny People have in common is that since they drag out portions of their film on purpose, it hurts that much more of sitting in the theater. Especially here where Quentin Tarantino uses this to no end just to build tension. While for the most part it works great, there should have been dialogue-driven bits cut out and Tarantino's film would still have an effect on us. A lot of people complained that we don't see enough of the Basterds, too much talking at tables, not enough action, and the uneven balance of comedy and drama. I agree about the Basterds' limited screen time, their presence is perfect that you would wish their trek was the whole movie. But what if it got too repetitive or tedious? I'm fine with the amount of time we got to see the Basterds- and that time was pretty awesome. As for too much talking at tables, well I highly doubt that the people involved in war, talking about the war, were not standing up out in the open (I know that's a ridiculous statement, but seriously think about it okay?). The uneven balance? The more I saw this movie, the more I delved deeper into the characters. Quentin Tarantino portrays the Basterds as comical characters- they don't take the war seriously even though they might look like they do. On the other side, some of the German characters I think you can feel a little bit sympathetic (I'd say little because they're still- Well you know). For example, the German squad leader doesn't want his fellow German soldiers to die as well and respectfully refuses to give in. Put an American soldier in that position and we'd feel the same way. I'd say some of the German characters previously, because hey we're NEVER going to side with Hitler or the big names in his government so they're also portrayed as cartoons. Besides the pacing, and the sometimes unnessary dialogue, everything else I found great. The performances, the action, the direction, the use of language (I too am fine with reading the subtitles). Christoph Waltz- Playing a character with a truly menacing but oddly fascinating performance). Brad Pitt - In a bizarre form we usually never see. Melanie Laurent playing a character I sided with through-and-through and she didn't talk English. All three actors play their characters perfectly to the point where I can't tell which one tops the other. It might not be Quentin Tarantino's best film but in general I think it's a very good/great- Here we go again I can never tell (pun intended) which rating to give this.. Rating: low Full Price!
6. TAKEN (Dir. Pierre Morel)
A film I'm sure every critic won't have their list because it actually came out in 2008 but in the U.S. last year but fuck it- this movie KICKS ASS. It's Liam Neeson (Darkman
) being bad-ass again as the the father trying to get his kidnapped daughter back. Both on paper and on film, this story is been there-done that I'm aware but the execution. Ah man how the District B13 director Pierre Morel executes this film is amazing- it's like watching a perfect, beautiful, choreographed ballet of violence. I know, I know, both this film and Avatar's stories have been overused. But Avatar was predictable through and through. Here, I had no idea how Liam Neeson was going to do throughout the whole film. Would you expect Neeson to shoot a woman to prove a point? No. Would you expect Sam Wortington to side with the aliens? Yeah. What makes his character even more interesting is that he's not young at all like Jason Bourne or James Bond. He's simply a retired C.I.A. man who wants to reconnect with his near-18-year-old daughter because of the lost time. I found this angle, which is focused in the first 20 minutes, great and not a setback at all to the film. Sure, kidnappings have been a plot device for almost a hundred years in film, but here they take a modern take on it. In the film, Neeson's daughter is kidnapped by European sex-slave traders, an issue never brought up in films I recall. When the film shows you what these people are doing to innocent women, the more you get pumped up and side with Neeson and all of his blunt actions. I saw this film three times in theaters and each time felt completely new and still awesome which is why it's #6 on my Top 13. Rating: Full Price!
5. THE ROAD (Dir. John Hillcoat)
Insanely dark, completely depressing, but oddly beautiful and compelling. I should just leave the summary of my love for this film with just that one sentence. But this is a Top 13 list so I'll keep it longer (?). Either way you see this film- at home by yourself or at the movies with a big screen, you'll still find yourself cringing and utterly depressed in how our world is changed after an apocalypse. The "apocalypse" being never explained is one of the many great ideas in this film- What really matters in our lives? The atmosphere and the music score (for some reason I was reminded of Radiohead here) really drew me in this movie, even though I shouldn't because of its overall tone. This expensive art film displays great performances from Virgo Mortissen, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, and many others who appear at a surprisingly short time. The only performance I found only passable was actually from the little kid who plays as Virgo's son. Towards the end of the film, we're supposed to be in tears of what's happened and this little kid did not persuade me. Maybe it's because after two hours, you don't feel a thing anymore. I call this film 2009's Children of Men
, a look at a bleak world where we all have to feel hope at some point in the end. Rating: Low Full Price!
4. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Dir. Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson has a way of filming stories that I either love OR find myself only appreciating but not liking. I'm very pleased that this is my favorite animated picture of 2009. The Roald Dahl story for all ages is told at a well-suited pace and surprisingly has subtlety in its ideas for a kid's film. The voice acting feels so real and not just "cut and paste", and the dry humor (which I'm sure even adults didn't get) is perfect. This film is a revolution of not just stop-animation but animation in general. Sure, most of new animated films are now focusing on CGI but never have I been impressed by how an animated movie was SHOT. There are plenty of times where I reveled in the beautiful cinematography that I immediately thought Wes Anderson was born to make stop-animation movies like this and Rushmore
(my favorite film of his). Where Wes Anderson's style in Darjeeling Limited and Life Aquatic were about to feel stale, and where stop-animation films like Coraline felt TOO smooth, this film refreshes both of these styles and combined them into a great film for all ages. Rating: Full Price!
3. DISTRICT 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp)
The premise sounds like any other sci-fi movie, but then District 9
puts a twist on the usual and makes the film unpredictable all the way through. I was so enthralled by the documentary style, the violence, the characters (I was also emotionally invested to them as well), a great pace, and the best special effects I've seen in a long time. No doubt will this film be at least nominated for Best Special Effects everywhere. The film uses special effects very wisely, and so because of two surprises: It costs less than 30 million dollars to make and it comes from a first-time director from South Africa who we now know has a lot of talent. Neill Blomkamp could be this generation's James Cameron just like how Cameron made the sci-fi classic The Terminator
with $6.5 mil. These two surprises in film last year is why I think it's way better than Avatar- an unknown director without being pressured by Hollywood and given a reasonable budget can make a great film that looks like 100 million dollars easy. The first two acts were perfect, but the last third act - while incredibly entertaining and emotional, I wished the film focused on more plot and less action. No doubt, this film will join the sci-fi classics. Rating: Full Price!
2. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Dir. Marc Webb)
This film is so poignant, clever, and fresh but does so while making us laugh and be entertained. The non-chronological order of the 500 days is what makes this film - without it, even not being love story, wouldn't have been more interesting. The humor is just right for the subject it's targeting in this film. I love this movie- so much so that I've seen the film too many times and sadly sometimes don't laugh at jokes I previously laughed out loud too. But that's my fault, not the film's. Whenever I want to get over a girl, I watch this film because it's like my medicine that works all the time. The chemistry between Joseph Gordon-Levitt (this film shows he can be a great leading actor) and Zooey Deschanel is great and believable to the point where we still don't want to believe they'll break up. I thought this movie was a great life lesson about love told in the most honest way and I feel the ending is not a cop out. It does not side completely with destiny- but instead just pure coincidence. Marc Webb, a first-time director, makes this the freshest romantic comedy out in a long time (Him and Neill Blomkamp both deserve to be in these close-to-#1 spots for their new visions in the romantic comedy or science fiction genre). Why the film tells us right away they'll break up is to set up that that's not the point- it's the journey to the end of their relationship what matters. Rating: High Full Price!
For the longest time, I had (500) Days of Summer on my #1 list knowing that it really wasn't. I was hoping for a film out there that would pass all twelve of these films listed. Then I went to a Matinee by myself at a local movie theater and came out elated. I knew for sure this had to be my favorite film of 2009...
1. UP IN THE AIR (Dir. Jason Reitman)
This film is perfect and feels right in every aspect inside and outside. What George Clooney is at right now in real life fits perfectly with his on-screen character of a man who can't make connect with people and ignores commitment. His character, Ryan Bingham, has the job of being sent to other companies and firing employees- especially at this time when America is in an economic depression. Jason Reitman's third film- and I think his best directed one, although all of his films showcase his strong voice about life, comically and dramatically. His direction is more sharp and direct and apparent when you a montage of Ryan Bingham following the routine of being frequent airplane rider. It's smoothly paced going from very funny bits to unabashedly sentimental moments. It can go from a waitress asking Ryan Bingham, "Do you want the can, sir?" (say that line more than once and you'll get it) to a montage of people being fired, flipping out with true reasons why they can't right now at this economy. George Clooney's performance is melancholic and smooth. We feel humanity for his character who has this heartless job, a messed up philosophy to life, and overall lack of connecting with his fellow man/woman. Then towards the end of the film, his feelings for these things may or may/may not change and we feel uncertain as well. Every performance in this movie was perfect- I couldn't believe Anna Kendrick from the annoying Twilight
movies led a very sympathetic performance of a woman new to the real world. I was also surprised by how great the performances of J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis were, even with their very limited screen presence. The themes appear throughout this film, but I love how this film does not pick a side. Picking a side is not the point of film and Jason Reitman knows that films preaching towards one side is trite. I love this film and its ambiguous ending which fits so beautifully with the movie's title and that our lives can be UP IN THE AIR. Rating: High Full Price!
/Better than Sex (in theory of course) .