When I originally set out to do this list (some time ago) I thought I'd have trouble coming up with ten films I really liked. While perusing the list of films released in 2009 I started to realize how great the year had actually been. How in hell was I going to keep this thing limited to just ten pictures? Consider some of the pictures that just missed the cut: Coraline, Watchmen, Knowing, Star Trek, Up, Avatar, etc. Shit man, I could probably do a list of twenty and not be stretching things too badly at the end. Anyway, enough with the bullshit. I'm gonna just give you the list. Short and sweet. Feel free to post porn links in the comments.
10. My Bloody Valentine 3D
Do I really think this is one of the top ten pictures of 2009? No fucking chance. But this is Moving Picture Trash after all so it makes the list. This thing's got it all. Tits, gore, Tom Atkins, 3D, and that iconic gas mask. It's not even better than the original but I'm still putting it on the list. Hell, I can barely remember the plot. There's a mine, a masked killer, a teen party, and a bit of a mystery as to the killer's identity. The scene that sold me was the one at the hotel where some naked broad runs from the killer for an extended amount of time. Jiggling in 3D. Yeah, it's probably a piece of shit. Yet, here it is.
9. World's Greatest Dad
Holy fucking shit, this picture pretty much came out of no where to hit me right where it counts. Bobcat Goldthwait , yes that Bobcat Goldthwait, directs Robin Williams in what has to be his best performance in years. Williams is Lance Clayton, an unpopular and soon to be downsized high school poetry teacher. Clayton's directionless son (a hilarious Daryl Sabara) attends the same school. His son's one passion in life is internet porn. Really fucking filthy internet porn. One night, Clayton comes home and finds his son in his room, blankly staring at some filthy shit on his computer, with a belt tied around his neck. Dead. Auto erotically asphyxiated. Clayton covers it up and writes a suicide note which makes its way into the school paper and before long his dead son has become a national folk hero. A fucking tragic figure whose depth goes beyond simply labeling all music "gay". Clayton's lie escalates to the point that the entire school becomes Bruce Hornsby fans. And Clayton gets the girl he pines for (from behind), while becoming the school's most popular teacher. Not since Election has a movie deconstructed the shittery that is High School and made me laugh so hard while doing it.
8. Where The Wild Things Are
I've already reviewed this picture here so I'll keep this to a minimum. It's been a while since I've seen it but I still think about it from time to time and can't wait to watch it again. The picture made me a little melancholy in that it made me wish I was a kid again. Yeah, it's a picture about growing up but it's also about just enjoying the ride to adulthood. Sure, there might be some hardships and pain along the way, but there's also lots of building things and then destroying them. That's fun too. And a great soundtrack by Karen O.
It's been a long time since I've seen this one (early summer 2009 I believe). Hence, the problem with these lists, especially considering I haven't written up everything I've seen. I do love intelligent sci-fi. I love character based sci-fi. Basically, we got Sam Rockwell starring as Sam Bell, an employee of lunar industries, working on the moon, mining for helium. His job is to maintain the equipment. His sole companion is a robot named GERTY (terrific voice work by Kevin Spacey). Sam is nearing the end of his three year contract, at which point he will return to Earth, making way for his replacement. Towards the end, Sam starts to lose it, hallucinates, and crashes his moon rover, later waking up in the infirmary. How did he get back? Something seems wrong. Things begin to spiral out of control, he starts to question his mission. GERTY tries to remain helpful. To reveal anything further about the story would be to massively spoil it. This is quiet, introspective (but not boring) sci-fi at its best. The director, Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) is on my radar.
6. Observe & Report
This might be the most polarizing picture on this list. People I've talked to seem to either love it or hate it. Seth Rogen, as Ronnie Barnhardt has never been better (or creepier). Somehow, we still kinda root for the guy. Rogen plays a mall security guard desperate to be a police officer. So desperate, that he vows to solve the case of the parking lot flasher (yeah, we see some junk). Ray Liotta plays the actual cop assigned to the case. Anna Farris (hilarious) is the flashee. The movie is dark (probably too dark for some) and frequently funny. What lands it on this list are the performances and the underlying sweetness which, while struggling to surface, never gets in the way of the laughter. Danny McBride, per usual, steals his scene. The ending involves Ronnie's best Travis Bickle impersonation that works because it's in his character. This isn't Paul Blart. It's fucked up. If you liked The Foot Fist Way or East Bound and Down, also by director Jody Hill, you'll appreciate this.
5. A Serious Man
I'm not even sure where to begin with this one. I should probably watch it again, but fuck it. I'm putting it on this list. Late 60s. Minnessota. Jewish community. Rabbis. Dybbuks. Bar Mitzvah's. Jefferson Airplane's "somebody to love". Extreme weather. Shit man, only the Coen Brothers could make this work. I think they did. Michael Stuhlbarg (who?) gives one of the years top performances as Larry Gopnik, a math teacher and all around nice guy, that bad things seem to keep happening to. I guess he's Job (I've heard of the story, never read it). His wife is divorcing him for his best friend, his son is an F troop junkie and pot addict, his brother Arthur has been sleeping on the couch for a while, one of his students attempts to bribe him for a good grade, someone is sending anonymous letters to his school's faculty in an attempt to prevent him from getting tenure. And these are the least of his problems. He sees a couple rabbis (who progressively become funnier and weirder) but they just tell him seemingly unrelated stories. The third rabbi (The man behind the desk - a Coen staple) is too important (and old) to even see him. Things seem to get better and then there's a phone call and what's with that funnel cloud. I don't know, this is just one of those movies I guess. Would make a good double with Barton Fink. Lots of Yiddish in this one that flew over my head but never stopped me from being compelled. It's also very funny. And, oh boy, what an ending.
4. Inglorious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino's version of a World War II movie isn't even a World War II movie. Really. It's a remake (in name only, except for the spelling of Bastards) of a 1970s exploitation-y war picture. Hell, this picture isn't even about the Basterds. They're a part of it sure. Basically, they're a squad of allies sent behind enemy lines to kill nazis. Utimately, it's a revenge picture broken up into four chapters. Like most Tarantino pictures the influences are all over the map. We got spaghetti westerns, men on a mission pictures (The Dirty Dozen), De Palma pictures, lots of weird musical choices that work, perfectly (David Bowie's Cat People song....what the fuck?), and some great star making performances (Christopher Waltz as Hans Landa is almost certainly going to be the best supporting actor winner this year). The first time I saw it I was put off by the juvenile ending (Tarantino remaking the end of the war). The second viewing I practically embraced the choice. It's a movie for people who love movies. Just like all his pictures.
3. District 9
District 9 is almost perfect. At times evoking Cronenberg's The Fly, Verhoeven when he's at the top of his game, modern docu-style war films, etc. It's violent, moving, funny. What happens when an alien race that resemble fish men ("Prawns") break down over Johannesburg, South Africa? They're offered "assistance", which is to say placed in camps and forced to endure a slum life. Sharlto Copley, as Wikus Van de Merwe, is a revealation in his first acting role. His character starts off as a boobish bureaucrat (kinda remiscent of David Brent), placed in charge of relocating the aliens from district 9 (a concentration camp) to district 10 (a concentration camp further away from the city). Things don't go as planned, there's some brutality, aliens and humans die, and Wikus is infected with some sort of alien goop. Wikus, who in an earlier scene callously destroys alien eggs, comes to empathize with the oppressed. Perfection is lost (only a little) in the heavy handed message. Still, one of the best pictures of the year.
2. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Werner Herzog. Vintage Nicholas Cage. "Remake" of Abel Ferrara's own Bad Lieutenant. Val Kilmer. Iguanas. Will the baby alligator seek vengeance for it's road kill momma? Dancing spirits. Smart. Hilarious. Eminently re-watchable. Cage asking a young clubber "did your parents molest you?" Iguanas. "There ain't no iguana".
1. The Hurt Locker
I like Kathryn Bigelow. Always have. But there's no way anyone could have predicted she was capable of this. Point Break is good. Near Dark is good. Hell, I'm a fan of Blue Steel. Missed K-19. The Hurt Locker is one of the best war movies I've seen in a very long time. Expertly filmed action scenes filled with unbearable amounts of tension. A brilliant opening scene that immediately lets us know what the stakes are. We basically have a bomb squad locating and disabling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq. While protecting themselves from an enemy that could be hiding anywhere, always watching. Jeremy Renner is Staff Sergeant William James, the replacement Sergeant for Bravo companies bomb squad (previous Sergeant killed). I knew Renner would become a star after seeing him in 28 Weeks Later. I guess this is his coming out party. James is an interesting character; brash, compassionate, cocky, humble. The story is simple. The politics on the back burner. Here's a refreshing twist on a war film; Yeah, war is hell but how about we focus on the job at hand and try to get the hell out of there? Exciting and heart breaking. A thinking/feeling person's action/war film.
Land of the Lost
Fantastic Mr. Fox