I give you these 10 suggestions (from the 35 films I saw this year) to consider as eminently watchable and deeply worthwhile cultural experiences…
10. The Road: It was bleak and heart-wrenching and so difficult to watch…but it was unflinchingly truthful and often had a kind of tarnished beauty. An amazing film that I never want to see again.
9. (500) Days of Summer: I think I was dead center in the sights of this film’s demographic appeal. Indie soundtrack (& Smiths shout out to boot!), check. Ernestly romantic guy, check. Lack of ambition as virtue, check. Creative, non-linear, brain-teasing narrative structure, check. By all accounts, a non-conformist, iconoclastic, incredulous contrarian such as myself should have seen right through this. But I ate it up.
8. District 9: The Office with aliens. Original and touching beyond all expectation.
7. Avatar: Utterly predictable storytelling, but I was almost literally transported into the world of Pandora (course, I DID see it in IMAX 3-D, which made this almost a given). The mythic instinct come to life…
6. Adventureland: This film tapped into something pretty nostalgic for me, but it also is an amazingly honest portrait of summertime post-teenage angst in low-pay limbo. Performances from main & minor actors hit me in the melancholy bone…and the songs made me shudder with recollection of an adolescence lived to that soundtrack (ROCK ME, AMADEUS!).
5. Up in the Air: My only criticism of this very fine and relevant dramatic comedy is in the casting of non-leads: actual unemployed people as the victims of redundancy came off as schlocky & the hip actors (Zach Galifianakis, Danny McBride, Jason Bateman) in minor roles felt distracting (see The Invention of Lying for the most egregious use of this type of “pack casting”—i.e. “if I show up in your movie, that lets everyone know I’m in your crew”)
4. Up: I did not want to like this in order to resist the Pixarification of my soul, but alas my brain is fully washed and my heart is clay in the hands of these masters. I saw it once with my wife & once with my kids. So great & unforeseeably ingenious.
3. Inglourious Basterds: I really did love this movie, though my reservations of whether I SHOULD have loved it still haunt me.
2. Where the Wild Things Are: Never was a fan of the book…creeped me out. Didn’t particularly want to like the movie, though I am a fan of Jonze & Eggars. But after viewing, I could not get it out of my thoughts for days. I feel like I lived that film somehow. Moved me in profound ways on many different levels. It will gain the recognition it deserved someday…
And in FIRST PLACE:
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox: The dialogue, the look, the details, the heart, the growling, the outfits, the voices, the humor, the pacing, the panache, the feel, the stillness, the child-likeness, the tears, the speeches, the GENIUS. I will see this film many times more before I die…
Note: It’s fascinating to me to see THREE (ostensibly) children’s films at the top of this list. Regression? Longing for a care free world? Return to innocence? My only response is to ask what the cross is between an elephant and a rhino.
Honorable mentions: I Love You Man, Watchmen (the credit sequence alone was among the best looking cinema this year), Star Trek. ADDITION: Zombieland !
Wish I could have seen: The Hurt Locker, Bright Star, Moon, A Serious Man, In the Loop, It Might Get Loud, The Informant!, The White Ribbon, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Thirst.
Biggest disappointments (and my respective “microview”—aka review with minimal words involving some sort of pun on the title):
- The Brothers Bloom – The Brothers Wilt
- Away We Go – Eww, Go Away
- The Invention of Lying – The Venting of Denying
- Ponyo – Panyo
Not as bad as everyone said it was: The Box (from Richard Kelly, writer/director of Donnie Darko): which had some genuinely creepy, intriguing and touching moments, solid performances, lovely sense of time/place, before it crapped out. And a score from (pretty much) The Arcade Fire!