I just got home from seeing Where the Wild Things Are (amazing and I loved it. Average plot, great characters, and amazing amazing puppetry. The film captured what it feels like to be a child better than anything else that has ever been made. I can’t even think of anything that comes close to coming close.) which is probably the last film I’ll see in cinemas for the year.
So I thought I’d throw together a “Top 6 films of 2009” list. (it was originally going to be top 10, but I couldn’t find 4 more films that were in the same league as these 6.)
- Inglourious Basterds – Tarantino’s newest, and in my mind, easily Tarantino’s best. I saw this at a point where I was obsessed with structure and not wasting lines – this film blew me away. There is not a single line, not a single shot, not a single facial movement that is wasted in this film. It’s the tightest script and film I’ve ever seen, and it’s amazing.
- (500) Days of Summer – anyone who knows me will know that I’m a sucker for both romantic comedies and Zoey Deschenel. This film was not only a romantic comedy starring Zoey Deschenel, but it’s got one of the greatest soundtracks that I’ve ever heard, and as well as being hilariously well-written, used all sorts of directorial tricks that I thoroughly enjoyed.
- Watchmen – I’m not a huge graphic novel fan, but I went to see this film because of all the buzz – namely, the completely contradictory buzz that I’d been hearing. Absolutely everything that one person hated in this film, the next person would claim “it’s the only good thing about it.” The soundtrack, the parts of the film that were changed, the parts of the film that weren’t changed, the direction, the characters, the costumes…everyone had a love/hate relationship with specific parts of this film, an idea which intrigues me to this day. Personally, I loved it – I think every single part of this film worked.
- Where the Wild Things Are – Despite having only just walked out of this film, I’m confident that it deserves a place on this list – I’m even confident in its position. As I said, the puppetry was what made it particularly pop for me, but the characters and the way that the essence of childhood was captured during this film were great as well. Would I let children see it? Probably, but I’m a terrible judge of what children should be allowed to see. There’s nothing in this that would permanently scar them. It’s honest, so if you want to shield your children from that, don’t let them see it, but if you want them to realise that what they feel is shared with other people, then this is the movie for them.
- Synecdoche, New York – Immediately after seeing this film, I hated it. I could see why reviewers were calling it self-indulgent wank…in fact, to my mind, that was letting the film off lightly. But three days later, when I was still unable to stop thinking about it, and started making dozens of connections that I hadn’t made at the time, I realised that this may have been one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. I still haven’t seen it again, 6 months later – I suppose I’m a little scared to. (in fact, the only one of these films I’ve seen more than once is (500) Days of Summer, which I saw twice in one week.
- Paranormal Activity – I have only recently gotten into horror films, and I’ve only seem an extremely limited selection, so perhaps this movie really does do nothing new, but it did something new to me. It effectively and deliberately controlled my state of tension in a way that I’ve never seen any other film do. As soon as the clock started to slow down, you could feel my heart-rate increase. The second it faded out again, I would visibly relax. I was completely aware of it the whole time, but this movie played me like a fiddle, and I loved every minute of it.
Runners-up: (in no particular order)
These were also great films, but didn’t stay with me for days like the above films did. My top 6 were…if not life-shattering, at least life-affecting films. The runners-up were solid enjoyable films, but I came out of them the exact same person that I was going in. I didn’t learn anything from them.
- Star Trek – solid film, thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw this twice, and the second time was completely unaffected by it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but as soon as I left the theatre it was if the last two hours of my life simply didn’t exist.
- Up – I can see why everyone is raving about this film, but while I enjoyed every minute of it, Pixar set a new standard with me when they made WALL-E, and while Up was solid, it didn’t even come close to that masterpiece.
- District 9 – another film that I can’t fault, but also didn’t really leave me with anything. Extraordinarily well-made and I’d happily watch this again, even buy it on DVD, but it wasn’t really mind-blowing.
- The Boat That Rocked – these reviews feel so defensive: if a movie is on this runners-up list, it means that it was a really great film, but I feel more compelled to defend the fact that it didn’t make my top 6 list than extol the qualities of the film in itself. This one was slightly formulaic, and the lack of decent female characters didn’t help its case, but probably one of the most fun films I’ve seen in a long time.
- Coraline – perhaps my new favourite stop-motion film, this is another one that I had no problems with at all – great acting, great stop-motion, great plot – but didn’t leave me thinking as I walked out of the cinema.
- Funny People – unlike almost everyone else who saw this, I didn’t think this was too long. I thought it flowed naturally throughout, and this comes close to being the funniest film I saw all year. I particularly liked Apatow’s wife’s perfomance in this, and Adam Sandler’s obsession with Rogan’s penis. Like Pixar, however, I judge Apatow films on the standard of an earlier one he made, and while this was good, it’s no Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
- The Proposal – lord help me, I liked this film. The ending annoyed me a bit, but other than that, I would put this as my number two or three romantic comedy of the year. I love Ryan Reynolds, which helps a lot, and I don’t much mind Sandra Bullock either. MightyGodKing suggested someone mash-up clips of Sandra Bullock’s boss character in this film with her assistant character in Two Weeks Notice, which is a brilliant and hilarious idea, and I hope someone’s working on it right now.
- The Time Travellers Wife – I enjoyed this a lot, and thought everything in it was top notch…except the characters. Apparently it’s completely different in the books, but in the film, the characters were nothing except for what the plot demanded of them. Take any other two characters and switch them out, you’d have the exact same movie. Also, the ending annoyed me – not, admittedly, at the time, but later when I was looking back at it.
- Mary & Max – I never saw Harvey Crumpet, but apparently it’s great. This was quite good too; they captured the era of my mum’s youth perfectly at the beginning. She used to tell us about making “shrinkies”. The plot twist (it was a plot twist to me; I’d avoided all publicity material) in the middle was great, and the ending was perfect. Another of those films I can’t fault, it just didn’t particularly wow me.
Never-rans: (movies that perhaps should have been in one of the two above lists, but I either never bothered to see them or they’re not out yet this year)
- The Informant! – I love love love Steven Sodenburg, so there’s a good chance this film would have hit my personal movie g-spot, but it’s only just come out, and I doubt I’ll get a chance to before the year is up.
- The Invention of Lying – I don’t believe this is out yet. Might just sneak onto next year’s list. I am a huge fan of Ricky Gervais (did Ghost Town come out this year? If it wasn’t so late I’d look it up and add it to the runners-up list if it did) and one reviewer that I trust said “I hated it, but if you liked Ghost Town you’ll probably enjoy it.” I loved Ghost Town.
- The Fantastic Mr Fox – George Clooney, Roald Dahl. Need I say more?
- Zombieland – it’s been getting rave reviews and sounds like it’s exactly my type of film, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, and (again) probably won’t get around to it this year.
- Adventureland – is there a theme in naming indie films this year or what? I do quite want to see this, but I don’t think it got a wide (if any) release in Australia. From the sound of it, it would have been right up my alley.
- Capitalism: A Love Story – I honestly quite like Michael Moore, even if I agree with/believe very little of what he says, and I thought Sicko was his best since Bowling for Columbine. I would have liked to have seen this, but it came out at inconvenient hours at a time when I was very busy.
- The Hangover – yeah, I saw it, it was funny enough. No idea why this has become the hit it has, it was hardly amazing…
- A Christmas Carol – this is already making a few critic’s top 10 lists. I saw it, and it was well-constructed enough, but didn’t really add anything to the Christmas Carol story. I went home and watched the Muppet’s version which also stays true to the story, but has the bonus dual advantages of songs and muppets. I love A Muppet Christmas Carol.
- Bruno – after being hugely disappointed by Borat, I didn’t bother going to see it. Apparently it was the same but less funny and more gross, so I don’t feel that I missed much. It was unlikely to make either of my lists.
- Year One – normally I’d be first in line for an Apatow/Cera/Black combination, but the reviews for this were so abysmal I never bothered. Did anyone see this? Was it worth seeing?
- Sunshine Cleaning – saw it, but almost wish I hadn’t. So much potential, so little of it used. This genuinely feels like half a film – almost none of the plot threads even approach resolution, it’s just a weird mish-mash of half-told stories.
Particularly honourable mention:
- Wake In Fright – I went and saw this mainly because a girl I was interested in recommended it, but god am I glad I did. Originally from 1971, this film was rereleased this year after a huge remastering effort. An amazing Australian horror film, this is one of those films that left me thinking for days about masculinity and the very definition of horror film. If you ever get a chance, I definitely recommend checking this one out – I’ll more than likely get it on DVD myself. Weird and wonderful.