Written by: FFT Webmaster | January 11th, 2010
Top 10 for 09
2009 was an excellent year for movies. The theatrical box office set a record $10.6 Billion in the USA and there were a number of remarkable and entertaining films. I would rate the year as a whole one of the better in recent memory.
Here’s my list of the 10 best. If there is one on here you missed I suggest you check it out.
Director Lee Daniels’ film was the most remarkable film screening at Sundance09. It was a triple winner in that it took home The Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in U.S. Dramatic and Mo’Nique took home A Special Jury Prize for acting. It went on to win the Audience Award at Toronto and at San Sebastian as well.
Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe played an illiterate, morbidly obese, sexually violated Harlem teenager who is tormented by her mentally deranged mother played pitch- perfect by comedian Mo’Nique.
2. The Hurt Locker.
Director Kathryn Bigelow’s latest endeavor “The Hurt Locker” begins with a quote from New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges that sets the tone of this film “that war is a drug” and that for certain individuals, the adrenaline rush of working in a job where one miscalculation will end your life becomes an addiction. By now you’ve probably figured out that The Hurt Locker” presents daily life within a bomb disposal unit. It shows how select soldiers with high I.Q.s go out, day after day, identify improvised explosive devices and either deactivate them or blow them up within controlled areas. It shows the various roles that each member of the unit plays, the routine, the hierarchy and the enormous stress involved in knowing, as you wake up each morning, that this might be your last day on earth. The scriptwriter, Mark Boal, who was a journalist embedded in this bomb unit also authored the poignant, but financially unsuccessful, “In the Valley of Elah”. “The Hurt Locker”, whose title is gleaned from the place you end up if you’re severely injured on one of these assignments, concerns a three-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in the U.S. Army that’s led by a an arrogant young sergeant named William James (Jeremy Renner.
It will be a crime if Kathryn Bigelow does not become the first woman director in the history of the Oscars to win best director for this valiant effort.
3. District 9.
First time director Neil Blomkamp, with the support of Peter Jackson, has created one of the year’s most original and startling visions of extraterrestrials since the Sci-fi work of David Cronenberg. Created on a scant 30 million dollar budget without any stars and a lead actor who had never acted in a film before, the story of aliens housed like the Jews in Lodz is compelling and engaging. Scripted by the director and Terri Tatchell, the story plays out like a “mockumentary” married to a bizarre emotional drama
4. Inglorious Basterds
Director/ writer Quentin Tarantino credits his deliberate misspellings in the title of this violent fantasy, action adventure revisionist fairy tale to Jean Michel Basquiat, the first black American painter to become an international art superstar. The title also is a play upon director Enzo G. Castellari’s “B” 1978 Italian WWII picture who is honored by Tarantino with a bit part in this new incarnation.
The film’s story is structured around a revenge plot wherein a Jewish family is brutally murdered by Nazis except for a young girl named Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), who escapes the massacre.
This sets up a fast paced and entertaining 152 minute Euro- colored art film which has characteristically Tarantino-esque brutal killing scenes that include human scalpings, mutilations and even baseball bat bashings that are gruesome and designed to have you marveling at their intricate choreography.
Director/ writer James (“King of the World”) Cameron’s long simmering (15 years!) work is rich, compelling, immersive and replete with astounding visuals. It is a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience that should be seen at least once and in the 3-D venue in your town with the largest screen and the best sound system.
The story takes place in 2154 when the United States armed forces needs to travel to a moon named Pandora in another galaxy to obtain a mineral called Unobtainium which will substitute for the almost non-existent supply of oil on Earth. The indigenous Na’vi clan inhabit the exotic and lush Pandora.
The story is told by a paraplegic Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) through a video diary. After the death of his identical-twin scientist brother, Jake takes his place to become an Avatar, a hybrid life form that combines human DNA with that of the Na’vi; achieving the Avatar state occurs under lab conditions, with the subject experiencing his or her alternate world as if in a dream.
6. Up in the Air
Director/ writer Jason Reitman’s third feature solidifies his reputation as one of the best young directors working in Hollywood today. George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a job transition specialist who performs the ignominious task of firing people for a living. He’s able to do this with the efficiency of a professional soldier killing the enemy without any regards for his victim. Ryan defines himself through this detachment and exhibits no empathy at all. As he coolly notes “This is what we do, we take people at their most fragile and set them adrift”. Mr. Reitman developed the script with writing partner Sheldon Turner who adapted a novel by Walter (“Thumbsucker”) Kirn. The Oscar caliber performance of Clooney is nothing short of remarkable.
7. Sin Nombre
Director-writer and NYU graduate Cary Joji Fuknaga’s Sin Nombre (Without a Name) marks the arrival of a major new talent in the film world. The story focuses on the wrenching and violent problems facing immigrants as they attempt to move from South to North. One of the brilliant script’s hubs focuses on the harrowing journey of a young girl from Mexico as she tries to cross the American border illegally –and into the heart of the debate over immigration from the 3rd World. The scenes of communal gang life are compelling and engaging. An amazing largely unknown cast, extraordinary locations and impeccable lensing make this a quintessential feature for 2009.
8. An Education
Danish director Lorne Scherfig(“Italian for Beginners”) takes Nick Hornby’s wonderfully evocative screenplay adapted from a memoir and creates a masterful coming of age film. “An Education” stars young British acting sensation Carey Mulligan as an early ‘60s teenager caught between marrying an older man of Jewish descent (played pitch perfect by Peter Sarsgaard) and chasing a riskier life of creativity and independence. Cara Seymour and Alfred Molina are perfect as Jenny’s conservative parents, unsure of what to make of Jenny’s beatnik interests. Emma Thompson is foreboding as Jenny’s strict school headmistress. Olivia Williams is empathetic as Jenny’s teacher Miss Stubbs. Dominic Cooper is both cool and charismatic as Danny, David’s friend and unusual business partner. Rosamund Pike uses her good looks to great effect as Danny’s “hot” but less than gifted girlfriend Helen, content with her plush but vacuous life. A remarkably effective and poignant film which will leave you with an indelible memory.
9. World’s Greatest Dad
Director-writer-comedian Bobcat Goldthwait returns with his latest directorial effort (1991’s Cult fave “Shakes the Clown” and 2006’s “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”) and three is the charm! Starring a pitch- perfect Robin Williams as the dad raising the “teenager from hell”, the pic is a sharp and insightful satire which might be categorized as anti-Hollywood! : Robin Williams portrays Lance, a high school English teacher who has unfulfilled aspirations of being a successful author. He is the father of a dysfunctional teenager Kyle (Daryl Sabara) whose only interests seem to be putting-down his dad and his lone friend Andrew (Evan Martin) and masturbating. While “whacking off” one day Kyle tries to increase the intensity of his orgasm through the practice of autoerotic asphyxiation and accidentally strangles to death. Lance rather than letting the world know how his son killed himself, fakes Kyle’s suicide, adding a note of his own creation, which the school paper gets hold of and publishes. Suddenly Kyle is the school martyr and Lance decides to capitalize on his late son by writing a fake journal and passing it off as Kyle’s. Telling you anymore than this will spoil the potent punch of the last act of this black comedy.
Thirteen years ago, director Greg Mottola made a superb independent film called “Daytrippers,” with Hope Davis and Liev Schreiber. In the years since, he became a TV director, but he won big directing “Superbad,” the best comedy yet to come out of the Judd Apatow school. With “Adventureland,” Motola has returned to the heartfelt comedic work which best exemplifies his command of human emotions. This is a little film which deserved more attention in 2009.
Over and out with best lists for another year!