Wow, what a year! I saw a lot of movies over the course of 2009 and I had a really hard time figuring out which ones I loved the most. Here’s a list of all my favorites, so enjoy!
1. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
This is QUENTIN TARANTINO’S Mona Lisa! I instantly fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it and have seen it more than any other film this year. I love the way it takes its time in unveiling the plot scene by scene, leading up to the explosive climax, which was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in quite some time. Those that were expecting a standard “men on a mission movie” felt disappointed, but this is one of the most original war movies ever made and QT’S best film to date!
I’m a HUGE fan of ALAN MOORE’S seminal graphic novel, which brought a post modern spin on the superhero story and changed the look and feel of comics forever. I thought ZACK SNYDER’S film nailed the art and tone of the book perfectly and I actually thought the changes he made in the ending were an improvement on the story. The Squid was great in the comic, but I totally understand and support the narrative reasoning for the change. This was one of the most visually beautiful films of the year and one of the most politically subversive comic book movies ever made. It was made for adults by adults and like BLADE RUNNER, I believe it will one day get the praise and recognition it deserves.
3. THE ROAD
The bleakest and most realistic film ever made about the post-apocalypse. Based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by CORMAC McCARTHY, this faithful adaptation was one of the most moving films I’ve seen this year and its effect stayed with me for a long while after seeing it. The message it conveys about the human spirit is simple and powerful. A great movie that was dumped in theaters at Thanksgiving and almost completely overlooked. VIGGO MORTENSEN’S performance was one of the best this year.
4. DISTRICT 9
This amazing science fiction/political satire saved the summer blockbuster season for me. I love the way this film begins like a documentary about stranded extraterrestrials and the refugee camp they are forced to live in and then shifts its narrative style into an engaging action story full of apartheid symbolism. An amazing debut from director NEILL BLOMKAMP, that reminded me of some of PAUL VERHOEVEN’S best work. Brilliant and fun!
If you’re gonna take 12 years off between directing movies, THIS is the way to come back strong! An incredibly entertaining science fiction action blockbuster that pushes the limits of special effects technology and introduces you to a whole new world that virtually explodes in your face with the best 3-D ever conceived. Seeing this in IMAX 3-D was one of the greatest movie going experiences of my life. I am truly shocked by the minority of nerds that have reacted negatively to it. JAMES CAMERON is a BIG EVENT filmmaker and this is his biggest yet. The movie has everything you could want from a CAMERON film and features the BEST CGI EVER! When you’re watching a scene that is comprised entirely of computer generated characters and you’re rooting for them to crush the evil humans, well that’s just great filmmaking. Period. Oh, and I thought the story was perfect, simple and totally engaging too, with a strong cast of actors to support it.
From one of the biggest and most expensive science fiction films ever made to a return to the kind of lo-fi, “thinking man’s” sc-fi movie that we used to get in the seventies. I really loved this film a lot. If you’re into movies like SILENT RUNNING, 2001, DARK STAR, etc., then this one’s for you. A compelling story about a lone technician on a moon base, who is starting to learn some strange things about his contract and the company he works for, as he prepares to return back to Earth. An amazing performance by SAM ROCKWELL, confident direction from DUNCAN JONES (DAVID BOWIE’S son) and a return to practical special effects and model work (WHAT?!) made this a really refreshing film to see.
7. THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS
The most unsuspectingly awesome movie of the year! A wildly inventive cop noir about a coke, crack, heroin, booze, sex, gambling and prescription drug addicted New Orleans detective trying to solve a multiple homicide while hallucinating about iguanas and dancing souls. NICOLAS CAGE is phenomenal and WERNER HERZOG directs this film with crazy love for the character and material. Not really a remake of the 1992 ABEL FERRARA film, as much as a wonderfully upbeat retelling of the same kind of story with directly opposite results and a life affirming ending to boot. Pass the lucky crack pipe!
The ANTI-TWILIGHT. PARK CHANWOOK’S dark and beautiful vampire love story about a Catholic priest who is infected with the blood of an immortal in an attempt to find a cure for a horrible disease, was one of the best horror films of the year. Amazing, considering last year gave us the instantly classic vampire tale LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. The film’s power comes from the main character’s moral agony in his lust for blood and a femme fatale who really makes things messy for him. This all leads up to an emotionally charged ending that was pure poetic brilliance.
The true story of Charles Bronson, the most notorious prisoner the British penal system has ever produced. TOM HARDY delivers an electrifying performance and the energy of director NICOLAS REFN’S narrative style reminded me of the exuberance of other hardcore English films like TRAINSPOTTING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. One of the best prison movies to come out in a very long time.
10. LOVE EXPOSURE (AI NO MUKIDASHI)
This epic Japanese love story from director SION SONO was released in 2008, but it was never shown theatrically in the U.S. and is still unavailable on North American DVD. I was lucky enough to see a screening of a very good digital dub at the Cinefamily last November and the movie totally blew me and everyone else in the room away. At 4 hours in length, it flies by unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. A bizarre tale of love, that goes through many different stages and tangents, yet manages to juggle everything together brilliantly and builds to a powerful climax. It riffs on christianity, peekaboo pantie porn and doomsday cults while flying back and forth between humor, violence and romance. If you can find it anywhere, see it!
Other films I thought deserved mention are:
11. STAR TREK
The best of the summer popcorn movies by far! J.J. ABRAMS knocked it into warp speed and set his phasers on KILL with this awesome reboot of the original television series! Great fun!
12. DRAG ME TO HELL
SAM RAIMI’S return to horror was one HELL of a good time at the movies!
I can always count on PIXAR to make me feel good and I’m constantly amazed at how they continue to make one great film after another. This movie beautifully combines sentimental emotion with edge of your seat thrills and becomes an instant classic.
14. OBSERVE AND REPORT
The darkest and most politically incorrect comedy in recent years from JODY (FOOT FIST WAY, EASTBOUND & DOWN) HILL. This movie takes the alienated loner “ready to explode at any minute” character (like DENIRO in TAXI DRIVER) and makes him the protagonist we root for. I couldn’t believe how funny and totally fucked up this movie was. Favorite line – “Why would I blow up the Chick fil-A? It’s fucking delicious!”
15. THE COLLECTOR
One of the creepiest and least seen horror movies of the year! Atmospheric and scary like a good thriller from the 70′s.
More fun than playing LEFT 4 DEAD on my XBOX 360 and it’s got BILL MURRAY to boot!
17. BLACK DYNAMITE
This blaxploitation movie spoof was pimptacular!
I loved this freaky stop motion animated story of a little girl’s adventure in an alternate dimension. Awesome 3-D!
19. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
This very low budget and highly effective horror movie scared the living shit out of me! Much respect!
Disaster porn! If IRWIN ALLEN fucked CECIL B. DeMILLE, this epic movie would be their mutant bastard child!
Nothing beats a good “killer child” movie. This one had a freakish spin that I did not see coming!
23. FANTASTIC MR.FOX
A charming story with great “old school” stop motion animation and a great cast directed by WES ANDERSON. Awesomeness!
24. DEAD SNOW
Very fun Norwegian NAZI-ZOMBIE horror comedy.
It was a great year for animation and this beautiful hand drawn Japanese story about a fish that becomes a little girl was magical.
I genuinely like most movies and can usually find something decent about anything. I couldn’t find anything decent about these two…
1. HALLOWEEN II
Rob Zombie should get his ass kicked by every single HALLOWEEN fan out there for this HORRIBLE film that manages to make HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION seem sublime in comparison.
2. G.I. JOE
This was so stupid I actually got dizzy.
MOST UNFAIRLY PICKED ON BY THE NERD MASSES:
TRANSFORMERS 2: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Did you nerds even see the first TRANSFORMERS movie? Why were you so shocked by the balls on the giant robot? You don’t remember Bumble Bee pissing oil on JOHN TURTURRO in the first one? Those jive talking transformers really got you that upset? What the fuck were you expecting from a MICHAEL BAY movie that is based on a fucking line of toys from HASBRO? This is a big, bloated, insane mutant Twinkie of a movie and it gave me all I wanted and expected from it – awesome battles between huge fucking robots! And as far as the “critics” who complain about its lack of realism, I say this, “IT’S ABOUT CARS THAT TURN INTO ROBOTS AND IT’S BASED ON A TOY LINE AND KID’S CARTOON SHOW!” Lighten up nerds.
MOST OVERRATED MOVIE OF THE YEAR:
THE HURT LOCKER
Wow, did I not get the appeal of this fairly average war movie. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a lot of really great films about the Vietnam war, that offered a lot of criticism towards our involvement in that conflict. Maybe it’s because I’m very opposed to the Iraq war and I feel that any film made about it needs to be a little more responsible in the way it depicts the lives of the soldiers over there. I could almost see the lines of HURT LOCKER fans at the Army recruitment offices after this film came out and the very idea makes me sick. I’m not saying that it didn’t show the chaos, fear and danger of the war. It did, but it also kind of glamorized it all a little too much and that really disturbed me a lot. I’d personally like to see a movie about why the war started and about who’s profiting from it all, but I doubt that movie will ever be made. Come on OLIVER STONE, you know you want to.
That’s all folks! I hope 2010 is an even better year for us movie nerds and stay tuned for more reviews of the the latest releases, as well as the revival house screenings that I continue to attend. Nerd out!