I had to hold off a bit wait to catch up with the limited releases to finally make their way up to Marquette, and I knew there were a couple flicks coming to DVD in early January that I wanted to see, so I waited to complete the list. But I think that I’ve seen all I’m going to see of 2009 for a while, so I’ll go ahead and lock in my Top 10 of 09 now. In order, 10 to 1:
Moon encapsulates what I envision to be “adult sci-fi.” Sure, there is something to be said about the big action adventure sci-fi that dominates the box office. But while those films put the heavy focus on the fiction half, Moon and films like it (recently Children of Men and Sunshine) never forget the science half. And Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) in his directorial gives us a riveting, minimalist psychological thriller. Sam Rockwell delivers one of the best performances of the year.
Spike Jonze’s take on Maurice Sendak’s classic book is gloriously realized love story with childhood. He perfectly captures what it’s like to be a kid, and how an active imagination is how they (we) cope with things we’re not fully ready to cope with. Max Records’ performance is one of the finest given by such a young performer.
The Hangover was a movie where it was a group of very funny and very talented people got together and made a solidly funny movie that connected with people. It didn’t rely on marquee names or some kind of gimmick. It was enough to just be funny. It’s turned Zach Galifianakis into one of the most in demand comics and Bradley Cooper into a household name.
Zombieland was an exercise in entertainment. It was a genuinely funny film with a cast that fit together perfectly. You’re not going to find a message in the film. But you will find a point. That point? Have a good time. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisinberg and Emma Stone are pitch perfect, the cameo from Bill Murray is an unexpected delight, and the film finds that perfect blend of action, horror and comedy.
If someone were to come back from the future and tell me that eventually, Pixar makes a bad film, I wouldn’t believe them at all. When you go to a Pixar film, you know you’re getting quality animation, a well told story, and a joy ride of entertainment, and Up is no different. Five minutes in, I’m in tears. On an animated flick. The folks at Pixar are master storytellers.
While Abrams’ Star Trek wasn’t fully deserving of the “slick” label, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds certainly is. I said in my original review that I would have been more likely to pay attention in eleventh grade history class had Tarantino written the textbook. It’s pure escapism with a knowing hint of schlock, but that’s what makes it so good. And German actor Christoph Waltz, as the pure evil SS Col. Hans Landa, gives one of the top 10 performances of the decade.
Not just in reality, but in the movies, the Iraq War hasn’t been the success people were hoping. It’s failed to catch on with movie audiences the way Vietnam and WWII did. But it just need that one film to really pull into focus. Leave the politics aside, and just show the war. The combat. The bomb techs. And Kathryn Bigelow perfectly captured it. It’s one of the most intense cinematic experiences of the year. Jeremy Renner’s star making performance as SSgt. William James, a bomb tech in Iraq is full of the machismo we’ve come to expect in war movies, but there’s a subtlety to him that won’t hit you till the end.
Whoever said mainstream, big budget adventure flicks can’t be good, J.J. Abrams has something to say. Abrams acknowledges and respects the legacy of the Star Trek franchise, and gives it an update for the dawning of a new generation. I wouldn’t say it’s a “slick update,” but more of just an update. He brings the old school adventure spirit into the new and evolved world of sci-fi, translating it perfectly. And above everyone else, the young, mostly green, cast had the daunting task of filling the shoes of these iconic characters and the icons who originally played them. And once the dust settled, Chris Pine is Kirk.
At times both comical and poignant. Jason Reitman’s best film to date is an amazing showcase for what highly talented people can do when they come together to make a film that is just all around good. George Clooney has never been better, Vera Farmiga shows that when given the chance, she can shine, and Anna Kendrick gives a breakthrough performance that should earn her an Oscar nomination and more film offers for a good several years. Jason Reitman is becoming the Pixar of well scripted dramadies, can he make a bad movie?
When I first saw the trailer for District 9, I was hooked, but I didn’t know it was to become the film that I ended up loving so much. It was such an intelligent film that looked at an otherwise standard sci-fi plot device (aliens come to Earth) through a more pragmatic and realistic lens. Newcomer Sharlto Copley gives one of the most engaging performances, of any genre, of the year, and Neill Blomkamp set himself up as one of the premiere sci-fi auteurs of the generation.