The Lovely Bones review marks the 100th movie review I’ve posted on the site since it launched in the middle of August, 2009.
I’ve made some enhancements to the website since it first premiered, though there is more I would like to do with it. You might have noticed that you can now search reviews by both star rating and pirate flag rating on the reviews page. I have been thinking about adding the option to search by year, since I tend to watch films from a variety of decades.
Thanks to everyone who visits the site and leaves comments and suggestions on films I should review. Please keep the comments and suggestions coming!
Top Films of the Year
Since 2009 is now over I should probably make mention of some of the notable films I’ve seen in the past year. Because I am not a professional film critic, I am not required to see every new release. This is a blessing, because there is a great deal of drivel I would rather not have to suffer through. On the other hand, there are some acclaimed films I miss out on. I still would like to see The Hurt Locker and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Perhaps a combination of the dollar theater and Oscar season re-releases will afford me the opportunity.
I have seen a fair number of films this past year, and below I have highlighted a few of them. Keep in mind that I missed many productions that will appear on other critic’s lists; I acknowledge that my list is therefore limited and lacks credibility.
There are five films I thought were particularly worthy of attention, so we will call these my Top 5 of 2009. There are some other films worthy of mention, so we shall call these Honorable Mentions from 2009.
Yes, it is conventional, and the story and characters are generally forgettable. It is, however, a new standard for visual effects in cinema, and an exciting experience in 3D. I would assume most readers have seen it by now, and if you haven’t I imagine you are planning to watch it at some point.
I had a chance to see Sergio at the Heartland Film Festival in October and it is one of the films that stuck with me the most. A documentary revolving around the life of U.N. High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello, the film is uniquely composed by Greg Barker. A mixture of news footage, archive footage, interviews, and considerate reenactments, the film is a moving portrait of an interesting human being.
I had heard that Spike Jonze had been laboring over the film for years; the production was rocky and no one knew how it would turn out. I was quite impressed with the final product, a haunting, thoughtful film brimming with some of the most primal of human emotions. An evocative soundtrack and amazing visuals work to create an enjoyable and interesting movie.
Wes Anderson’s latest project retains his trademark dialogue and quirky characters. The setting and aesthetic is entirely new, faithfully adapting Roald Dahl’s book. The stop-motion animation is remarkable, at once totally unrealistic and utterly believable. It is a unique universe, filled with fantastic and deep characters. I imagine this film will be cherished for years to come, as it equally appeals to young adults and teens, children, and parents.
Special Honorable Mention
The only reason Bicycle is relegated to “Honorable Mention” instead of appearing as one of my favorite movies of the year is that it is a short film. It is so remarkable, however, that is certainly deserves special attention. It was the best film I saw at the Heartland Film Festival, where it won the Crystal Heart Award for Best Short Film. The story is simple: a Japanese man (Yugo Saso) loses his job, and then is further dismayed to find his bicycle disappear piece by piece. The thief seems to be toying with him, even leaving a letter containing vague clues. As the man attempts to reclaim the parts of his bicycle he learns a great deal about his own life and how he lives.
The directing and production are superb, far better than one might expect from a low-budget short where most of the crew is comprised of students. Greater than the technical aspects (even a wonderful performance by Saso) are the complex themes the film explores. Aimed at an isolated Japanese audience, the film will nevertheless raise some important questions about life and how we live in the minds of Western audiences.
Top 5 Films of 2009
5. District 9 [review]
This one was a pleasant surprise. The trailers made it look sort of like Cloverfield in Africa, but it proved to be so much more. A science fiction film creates the excuse for Neill Blomkamp to develop some thought provoking themes grounded in history. The action-oriented final third of the film did not bother me as it did some critics; even though it appeared to abandon some of its themes it was an entertaining ride. Credit Peter Jackson with giving Blomkamp $30 million and free rein. Will Panic Attack be the next film to follow this path to production?
Quentin Tarantino’s return to form is an enjoyable experience. Made with aplomb, with memorable performances (especially from Christoph Waltz) and outrageous action, Inglourious Basterds shows that Tarantino has learned some restraint. It still relies on stylish directing and snappy dialogue, but is much more satisfying than his previous two films.
Up resides alongside many other Pixar films as the unattainable benchmark for which every other animation studio strives (with the possible exception of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli). The first twelve minutes are heartbreaking, one of the most honest and emotional scenes any film has presented in quite some time. As the film moves into silliness and slapstick, it still retains a joyful sense of wonder and adventure.
2. Antichrist [review]
Of all the movies I’ve seen from 2009, Antichrist had the most visceral impact on me. It has stuck in my mind like no other film this past year, due partially to the fact that it wrestles with some complicated and controversial themes. I would have difficult recommending it to most people, due to its graphic content, but for me it will remain an experience I won’t easily forget.
1. Up in the Air [review]
Jason Reitman is able to construct a film with commercial appeal that does not play out like any other mainstream movie. It is funny and moving, and never betrays its characters. It is an honest and unconventional film, dealing with characters that are realistic and sympathetic, even if they aren’t entirely likeable. When a movie is this well made, with stylish directing that serves the plot, characters, and themes, and an ending that doesn’t rely on standard cinematic conventions, it is truly something to applaud. Up in the Air is the best film of the year.