Top 5 Films of 2009
These are the movies I liked the most in 2009.
Where the Wild Things Are - Taught me and baby lady an efficient emotional shorthand for saying goodbye to each other for like five whole fucking days, oh no I love you: "Awoooooo!" (Not to be confused with the Shakira song "Awoooo!" which isn't nearly as mournful or regressive, but I still thought it was cute and okay. I don't really listen to music… mainly podcasts.) Spike Jonze!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Say it like "Mike Jones!!!!") People get hyphy that Max runs out of his house instead of his room turning into an ocean, but this is an important narrative choice, which you'll find different versions of in Up and Avatar: A DREAM-LIKE FANTASY WORLD IS MORE FUN WHEN IT "REALLY" EXISTS WITHIN OR ADJACENT TO NORMAL LIFE. It shouldn't be a dream, an internal thing, it should be this ecstatic realist Herzogian delight in knowing that you could run out of your house and physically find such sights and hurting things. Jonze's Wild Things is an intimate (im)perfect film that comes and goes and runs and throws and will keep doing that forever.
A Serious Man - A movie that does everything with plot. This is plot as spectacle. An exercise in storytelling, the film circles around the head of a Midwestern Jewish math teacher haplessly rushing from Rabbi to Rabbi, seeking answers to his mounting stack of troubles and getting only slammed in the face physically and spiritually, repeatedly. Here we have a dense, uplifting movie about nihilism and trembling in fear before annihilation. Two shots of Richard Kind, one of him drinking a large can of pineapple juice in the dark, the other a low-angle shot of him in a bathing suit, are the funniest laughs I had at the movies in 09. Some good jokes about hebrew school!
Fantastic Mister Fox - I rewatched Life Aquatic right before seeing this and felt like I "got it" more. I just rolled more with the sensitized detachment, the tragicomic adventure plus familiar familial turmoil, the self-nostalgia, the boyishness, and found it a balls-out brilliant movie. Felt pretty much the same here, but sleepier and hungrier (like a baby). Fantastic Fox movie is cute and wild and prim and handmade and joyful, full of dancing and eating and drinking and stealing. I like watching these rambunctious critters digging and getting thrown around in sewer pipes full of apple juice, furious actions reduced to mannerisms so the characters could have a conversation during them. Pure Wes Anderson; (it's not a departure in the slightest, yet it's animated, so that's interesting). A pure good time. (First half was more on its toes than the extended search and rescue finalé.) A fact is that they recorded the voice actors outside or underground and in other places to try to match the acoustics and mood of the setting that the animated scene was in. I like that choice. I like all the tiny-ass choices.
PAUSE: THIS WAS A BOYISH-ASS YEAR AT THE MOVIES OH WAIT SO IS EVERY YEAR AT THE MOVIES. I MISSED JULIE AND JULIA. MERYL STREEP 4 PRESIDENT 2016! I ALSO MISSED THE HURT LOCKER, FUNNY PEOPLE, BEESWAX, DISTRICT 9, WATCHMEN, ME AND ORSON WELLES, UP IN THE AIR AND JANKY PROMOTERS WHICH IS 1 OF THE GREATEST MOVIE TITLES OF THE LAST HUNDRED. I WAS NOT IMPRESSED BY THE SHINY STAR TREK.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans Nicholas Cage knows how to play his drugs. He goes in really hard, but you love him. There's a great scene where you think he's gonna use his prostitute girlfriend as a bargaining chip, but it's a clever, heavy, believable rouse to get the bad guys out. I can't believe how much you love this fucked up mess of a dude. Also, this is just a great procedural crime movie, well-shot, well-paced, well-lit, cheap in only the best ways. But when we get the smooth architecturally-astute takedown, we get Cage pocketing a bag of weed and giving us a big goofy "I love this! …I just love it," along the way. CSI: BATSHIT SWAMPLAND. We should call him Saint Nicholas cause he just gives and gives and gives, and so does the film. Like the original BLt.,, the fall down the pit is shocking but it's a slow boil, not set up as a lame challenge to the audience or afraid of glamorization so it goes nuclear (e.g. moralistic crypto-porno trash like Requiem For a Dream or Thirteen), and it goes even slower here, which is what makes it so much fun to ride with, and sad (in a real way) at the same time. "Sometimes I have bad days." Xzibit is really good. I can't imagine Werner Herzog on the set directing this, it's a huge departure for him. Let's see him do something really really huge next. Let him do the film version of What is the What or the next Hannibal movie. Hannibal Writhing. dumb…
Public Enemies - Michael Mann is not afraid. Michael Mann tells a story through images. Rough, exquisite, sharp, cool, gritty, skewed pictures (and sounds) that sometimes look like the making of documentary has been abruptly cut into the movie. Film isn't film. It's images and sounds doing their work. To this end, fine actors like Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp are some of your most important tools, as are Viper cameras (many of them). In the 1930s, everyone was walking around feeling like "this is real life." And bank robber John Dillinger was bigger than any movie star or movie screen. He was real life. I don't want to say much more except that this movie MAKES SENSE and IS SEXY.
Avatar - I was watching some talking head interview on youtube today after seeing Avatar last night, and found myself quietly asking, "hey, what's with that background? why isn't it deeper, subtly cuing my perception to the spatial arrangement of the scene?" I was wondering on-reflex why a perfectly normal youtube video wasn't stereoscopic. I just felt like I was missing something, and could use more. You don't get that feeling from great technology. You need great art to articulate it, to show you how supple and important it might be to your life. I'm sleepy but basically this movie is a huge cultural development on the scale of Titanic except instead of weepy walls covered with posters yearning to be authentic, you're going to see increasingly advanced forms of altered, transportative digital consciousness, as a means to achieving raw sensual pleasure. A lot of Avatar is about action scenes! Avatar is about loving CG characters with big eyes because they understand you, because you were raised by them, and they were raised by us/them to be perfected idealized versions of ourselves, children and teachers both. We make noble Gods in our own image, savagely savvy enough to have evolved an organic dreadlock datalink. Which is going to be real. Avatar is going to be real. Believe it while you wear the glasses and then later when you don't have to wear them because they made it so you don't have to wear them any more. Just keep going to the big rooms with the pictures and the strangers because y'know it smells good and it's pretty quiet like living in a really big tree.
Oh that's six movies. And I still didn't tell you that Up is very very good, especially the first ten minutes which are a rapid-fire, hyper-tender life machine for your love. Also Ponyo is adorable and really weird. I love that central anime conflict of trying to decide if this weird thing is a human i'm allowed to fall in love with, i think because it echoes my reservations about why and how that theme would appeal to me. Should have seen some more foreign movies. Should have seen Tulpan.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Top 5 Films of 2009