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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Interesting Movies of 2009

I punted the 2008 top 10 films list, opting instead to write a spoof piece. While it remains one of the funniest things I've written on Stave It Off... A return to form in 2009 is in order. So I'll write genuinely about this year's crop of films. Don't worry about looking for sarcasm. I promise not to use any. I also learned (from the sheer number of people who missed the irony of 2008's list) that no one wants to read blurbs about the actual movie in these sorts of lists... they just want to see your names and compare them to their own.

This year, I'm also changing up the format slightly. I figure there are five categories of films worth talking about. All of them deserve some sort of credit or notice. Together, they represent the most interesting films of the year. You can think of the categories as 5 stars, 4 stars, 3 stars, movies I still need to see, and embarrassing disappointments.

Late edits are made it italics.

Brilliant Films
These five knocked it out of the park. These are the best and brightest, and I recommend them without hesitation. If you haven't seen these films, you're a boogerhead. If you've seen them and weren't impressed, I hate you.

Where the Wild Things Are
Hurt Locker
District 9
A Serious Man

Flawed, But Still Very Good Films
This category is a place to honor films that won't necessarily appeal to everyone. They have some wrinkles... but manage to do something intensely well and are impressive achievements. I might still like you if you avoided or disliked one of these films. But you're really missing out on some good stuff here.

Away We Go
Fantastic Mr Fox
Star Trek
The Girlfriend Experience
Sherlock Holmes
Up in the Air
In the Loop
Youth in Revolt
The Road
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

These were either merely enjoyable but little more, or seriously flawed. By all means, go see them... but if any of these made your Top 10 list... then you have suspect taste, or don't see enough movies.

500 Days of Summer
Julie and Julia
Whip It
The Hangover
Paranormal Activity
The Hangover
World's Greatest Dad
Observe and Report
An Education
Broken Embraces
Inglourious Basterds

As with every year, I feel a great swelling of shame when I'm stuck trying to rate the best of cinema despite missing so many important contenders. These are the films I still intend to see. I cannot comment on their worthiness... but either the hype or the trailer or the cast/director has me curious. I'm going to try to watch as many as possible in the next week and update this post accordingly. Anyone up for a double-feature?

A Town Called Panic
35 Shots of Rum
Crazy Heart

Sorry, I didn't see many this year. I managed to avoid all the flashy fantasy/sci-fi trainwrecks like GI Joe, Transformers 2, Twilight and Dragonball Z. And I never see films like Couples Retreat. I don't think I had the time or money to waste on films that I knew were going to blow chunks. Here's a shortlist of the films that disappointed me though. Even if I had low expectations to begin with, these were all pretty feeble.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Year One
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Public Enemies
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Paper Heart



At 1/07/2010 04:46:00 PM, Anonymous robynlee said...

You must see Sherlock immediately, and then put in it the one breath (named Rachel McAdams) shy of brilliant category. Then you must admit that The Hangover is indeed also brilliant--the parts that aren't just don't matter, we all the Hangover in our life sometimes. I wouldn't bother with Drag Me to Hell, as it makes Rami seem tired, which is sad; and if you have read The Road, you have seen the movie--seriously what you saw while you read it is the movie, but I guess it might be interetsing to judge whether that makes the movie brilliant or good or weird or worthless. I'm trying to think of what you missed, as that's how you're supposed to reply, right? Meanwhile, I would love to participate in a Serious Man/Up in the Air double feature.

At 1/07/2010 05:59:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Hey Robyn... I'd love that double feature... but it's not possible at any Seattle theaters I'm aware of. Perusing the showtimes (and cross referencing my database of theaters with lax enforcement) I can only find a Sherlock Holmes/Up in the Air double feature... which would be available at either Lincoln Square or Thornton Place.

At 1/07/2010 07:19:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

500 Days of Summer failed to evoke any emotion and missed the mark...

Avatar is noteworthy and deserves higher praise.

Up in the Air was good, but not nearly equal to the hype.

I am shocked to see Where the Wild things Are at the top of your list!

Inglorious Bastards was the weirdest film of the decade..don't know if that makes it good.

The Hangover was B- movie at best. there, my opinions.

At 1/07/2010 09:52:00 PM, Blogger Walaka said...

John is a big fat liar pants. I sat next to him and watched the first half hour of G.I Joe. He loved it it! I couldn't drag him out of the theatre! I had to tell him I was having a medical emergency and he needed to get me to a doctor. Even then, he made me wait five minutes until the fight scene was over, and I had to promise to buy him the DVD!

At 1/08/2010 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

That you haven't seen "A Serious Man" or "Inglorious Basterds" renders your list null and void (I mean, it's been MONTHS, man!) I therefore rescind your right to criticize (only a Bummerman could love the mopey "Where the Wild Things Are.") and for penance, you must eat jalapeno peppers for a month for your lack of taste. "(500) Days of Summer" was on my FPT list, so plplplplplplpl to you. ("Don't see enough movies"—aren't you precious?)

At 1/08/2010 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yohimbo 5 is a very wise man.

At 1/08/2010 12:30:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Where the Wild Things Are was probably my #1 for the year. It was everything I love in a movie: Wildly imaginative and immersive, full of emotion, beautifully constructed, full of psychological insight. And while it might have been "mopey" it was not nearly as dark as Stave If Off favorite: The Fountain. WTWTA took the iconic figures from a treasured childhood story and made them meaningful to my adult sensibilities in a way I didn't even think was possible... It did exactly what Michael Bay FAILED to do with Transformers.

And Yojimbo... I know you loved 500 Days of Summer. If you put it on your top 10 list, it isn't because you didn't see enough movies (obviously.) So it must be because you have suspect taste. ;)

At 1/09/2010 06:40:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

I'm hoping that the crack about "Tranformers" is one of your odd little attempts at ironic contrariness. Comparing "T" (or even *shudder* "T2:ROTFL") doesn't exactly slam your argument home.

I was impressed with "(500) Days of Summer" for its cuisinart-like structure and its wisdom to not buy into "The Myth" of True Romance or "The One," that staple of so many rom-com's and other fairy tales...like...come to think of it, "The Fountain."

Ooh! A touch!

At 1/12/2010 06:32:00 PM, Blogger John said...

A hit, a palpable hit!

But I don't have any particular problem with believing in "The One". I think it can be good fodder for storytelling. And honestly, I'm not sure 500 Days of Summer is opposed to the romantic idea of perfect soulmates... It just focuses on the idea that sometimes you're wrong about who you think the One is.

And yes, my point about Transformers was supposed to be saying that Bay failed. He did not bring those iconic figures to life in any meaningful way to my adult self. Even though Optimus Prime's gravity, wisdom, leadership, etc. are molded into my childhood development, I found myself not caring about him one whit in the recent movies. Where the Wild Things Are, on the other hand, completely succeeded at bringing those beasts into a reality that meant something to me. All these years later... and I relished seeing them on screen every moment they were there.

At 1/14/2010 03:35:00 AM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

So many people have told me I'd love "Where The Wild Things Are" that I might have to go see it at The Crest next week. Along with "Ninja Assassin," of course. ツ

I thoroughly enjoyed "Rachel Getting Married" in February, and again in March. That's my only recommendation for you. "Push" was also great fun. "Tyson" was, well, surprisingly incredible given the subject matter.

"Half-Blood Prince" needed more Bellatrix. It sucked because she only had three minutes of screen time.

I'm curious about one movie we saw together. Where might "Capitalism" go in your rankings? An Also-Bomb?

At 1/14/2010 12:14:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Wow, great feedback.

I think Rachel Getting Married was a 2008 release (although it may have been in theaters well into 2009.) Otherwise, YES! It was brilliant and deserves to be on every top ten list. One of the best soundtrack/plot overlaps I've ever heard.

I added Capitalism and The Hangover to the Pretty Good category. And Sherlock Holmes and Up in the Air to the Very Good category. The last two I saw yesterday as a double-header at Thornton Place.

At 1/20/2010 09:06:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Marc Webb (who directed "(500) Days of Summer" is on tap to direct the "Spiderman" re-boot...and that may be just about perfect.

Sam Mendes has been hired as a "production consultant" on the next Bond movie (that's industry speak for "we don't want to be tied to MGM while they're for sale"), and that may be a mis-step across the roof-top.


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