Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Best films of 2009"

“Yes! Here we are, all together. Is everyone listening? 'Cause this is the moment you've been waiting for, a very special piece of paper, so let's have a big, paranoid, malignant round of applause... for”...well not the United Northfield Culcitate Internal Research Memorandum #229! (“Michael Clayton” Hello !) but for my list of best movies for the year of 2009.

In a year where distribution sucked and the access to critically acclaimed movies stayed in the film festivals not getting picked up, some managed their way in the little towns like mine. This year might be lot of surprises from my picks and a roller coaster ride in selecting those. This might be the first time wherein one of the best movies selected by me will not be recommended for reasons you will learn. So let me not keep you waiting (for whoever you are), here we go....again.

(In Alphabetical Order)

(500) Days of Summer
Marc Webb’s film is the much waited and needed romantic piece. A cheery and relatable performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the dream girl by Zooey Deschanael brings a story about a young man’s quest for the love he does not want to lose. It is powerful, enthusiastic and carries a maturity the train of rom-com debacles the audience has to go through. With a great soundtrack used at the precise times, this is a film which can become personal, distant or painful but never cheating the audience.

Away We Go
Sam Mendes takes on an indie dramedy and he succeeds as he mostly does. Casting an odd pair, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, “Away We Go” tells the story of a modern day couple trying to settle and find a place to raise a family. Through their ventures, they see a layer of the American strata culture, perception and values ranging from crazy to abnormally normal. Another film striking a great soundtrack by Alexi Murdoch, this is light in taking the audience through it but leaves a heavy heart of content in the end.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
What can I say about Nicolas Cage in a performance which sadly misses the nominations for this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor? In this picture hated by the director of previous “The Bad Lieutenant” Abel Ferrera, Werner Herzog creates his own version of it. Does it have the same characteristic of the titular character and the story line, yes but comparing the films is futile as they are so distant in the way it is given. A movie with so much background of surrealistic and hallucinating drive through the minds of this madman, this is a film I cannot stop loving and cannot wait to see again and again.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s steps into the animation arena and he can make it his own without any compromise to the content. This stop motion animation developed based on a children’s book is a kid’s film I have never seen before. Pixar has a track run of never ending success to address both the parents and the kids they come along with but this movie addresses the aesthetic sense and the dialogue brilliance Pixar might not be able to achieve. That is unique and this is Wes Anderson once again making a brand for himself as Martin Scorses does.

Inglourious Basterds
If Quentin Tarantino makes a film however repulsive and incoherent the product comes out, the passion for his filmmaking is relentless in every little details of his piece. While Brad Pitt continues his original selections in picking up project, this movie belongs greatly to the performance of an actor no one ever heard of, in America at least. That is Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, giving an ice cold man who has an imbalance in the liking of his nickname “The Jew Hunter” makes the audience like him in a disturbing manner. With Tarantino’s spiraling dialogues and scenes creating tension in minute talks summating to a blood bath, this is a director at his peak of creative liberation.

How much heat I am going to take for putting this film on the list? Hated by many critics and pummeled the director Alex Proyas for giving a preposterous plot and a more preposterous acting from the man I adore Nicolas Cage, this is a film which almost makes me feel special to have loved this. A science fiction which I would have to agree with the ridiculousness of the presumption amidst is visually satisfying, horrifying and finally a thought proving film. It has a charm I could identify with and the final chaotic drive to the destiny the main character come to terms with is poetic. Hate me for this but I cannot dismiss a true experience of a film.

Sam Rockwell is another unique actor taking up interesting projects. Directed by debutant Duncan Jones, this is a pure and pristine science fiction how it used to be. With Rockwell doing a “Castaway” Tom Hanks, brings dilemma to the viewers on whether his character going crazy or understanding the reality around him with a precision. Happening in a station in Moon of near future, the main of this film is harvesting materials which helps in producing energy back in Earth. His contract is for three years and he is two weeks away going back. Things begin to happen and a Kevin Spacey voiced computer friend both helps and add confusion to his sanity. A creative and inventive production, “Moon” gets immense help from composer Clint Mansell to add the mood it needs.

My One and Only
Richard Loncraine brings one of the best performances from Renee Zellweger in this film which went unnoticed. It tells a story of single mother having had enough with her famed husband Danny played by Kevin Bacon sets to a road trip taking her children. A woman who has almost entered the phase of aging finds it hard to cope up with the reality and in the process discovering her independent nature in the hard way. This movie finds beauty through Renee and Logan Lerman as her character’s son. It sees a woman being beaten by the society and her realization of her own potential. With an amazing support from Kevin Bacon, this is a movie about family done with a confidence.

Paranormal Activity
Remember I told you about a movie I would not recommend is in this list? One of the spookiest and scariest films I have seen, this despite ruining a week of mine stands as a great movie making. Said in a hardcore realistic documentary style, writer and director Oren Peli extracts two wonderful performances from actors Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. It is comfortable in its initial half an hour and suddenly becomes this unknown monster. The scare with no blood shed and no cheap tricks slowly begins to get the viewers and finally when the film ends, there is nothing but fear left in them. The real experience of fear is after you have watched the film. As much as I unbelievably appreciate this master film making, I cannot recommend this to people and spoil their fun.

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
It almost feels like whatever I say out here for this film have been covered and presented by every other reviewer in the country. This has several people to appreciate for and Mo’Nique comes out a tad little ahead of other performances. Her character is the venomous and abusive mother of Precious played by debutant Gabourey Sidibe with a thorough understanding of the undertone and layers to this sixteen year old. Director Lee Daniels presents a hard and drowning story of this girl trying to get a hold onto something which she has left the hope for. There comes hope in sparse amounts but she is ready to take anything. Not becoming one of those sappy inspiring stories, this is a film giving a darkness of life none of us can imagine. It almost questions the humanity in circumstances like that but comes with the hope some of the humans bring forth. This might be the honest film of real human conditions in dreadful places.

The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh is another director I wonder on what his next project will be. This film made with Hollywood’s term of meager budget circles on subject I love seeing about. Sexual gratification seen much more than a regular daily act while the real money these men pay are for someone to listen and have a conversation with. Casting adult film star Sasha Grey as the call girl, Soderbergh understands what she can bring to this film and she does so honestly and casually. Given in something of a electronic dance music experience, this movie dissects the city, the men and the girl herself who cannot beat the emotions in the end.

The Hurt Locker
After several war films with tones of accusations, sympathy, anger, agony and pain, Kathryn Bigelow’s film gives a twist like no other. It focuses on an elite force in the US Army and particularly on one character William James played by Jeremy Renner. A cowboy when it comes to dismantling bombs works with an obsession. He goes fearlessly and never backs off at anything. This movie goes through several sub stories relating to the character but does the job of making us understand of the nature this man is. With visual electricity and tension all through the film, this is purely powerful film making.

There can be only few documentaries which presents its object of interest to spill out everything and anything about their life with a candidacy that gives a thorough understanding of them. With nothing but boxing champion Tyson speaking his guts out and the video footage, this film by James Toback is a must-see. A movie weaving this wide opened confession and cleansing procedure Tyson puts through, it becomes intimate with its viewer and then sees the life of this man making mistakes and elevating attitudes. A documentary stands out every year in this list and “Tyson” makes it spot with all deserving standing ovation.

Up in the Air
Jason Reitman’s third venture brings George Clooney into one of his roles he makes it made for himself. As much as he made us believe of him being a powerful firm’s fixer in “Michael Clayton”, here he cannot be more convincing as the solo firing machine traveling from east, west, south, north and everything in between. His Ryan Bingham has managed to stay away from ties to anything emotional, physical and settlement of a human mind as such. He meets a female counterpart Vera Farmiga as Alex and Reitman gives a grown man learning the value of connection without compromising for a cheesy ending. It stumps us with surprises and audaciously provides a fulfilling cinematic experience. Jason Reitman’s “Juno” did not interest me as his “Thank you for Smoking” but “Up in the Air” has an odd beat which tells a director having a stability in giving what he does best.

And that concludes our session with the glimpse of the best films of 2009. Now as many might know, I will indeed be adding some more films to this list as I see. The things I cannot wait to see are “The Road”, “The Messengers”, “The Last Station” and “In the Loop”

Below are some other films which I equally liked but did not make the list for reasons unknown. I would recommend these too along with the bests. “A Serious Man”, “A Single Man”, “Crazy Heart”, “An Education”, “Big Fan”, “Good Hair”, “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”, “Zombieland”, “The Informant!”, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, “Gamer”,"Funny People”, “Whatever Works”, “Chéri”, “Brüno”, “The Brothers Bloom”, “Star Trek”, “The Hangover”, “Up”, “Adventureland” and “Push


Reel Fanatic said...

I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen several of the movies on your list, so I can't give you any crap about Knowing .. I do know that Roger Ebert had it on his list too, so you're not alone! ... I'm so happy to see the love for "Moon" and "Tyson," two movies that deserve a whole lot more love than they've received

Ashok said...

"Tyson" definitely was a great documentary and "Moon" I loved for its simplicity and clarity in the storytelling. This year not many movies released everywhere but I got to thank this new Indie theater here and that has helped me to see many films which previously involved waiting for DVDs. Which ones you have not yet seen by the way apart from "Knowing"?

Balaji said...

Thanks for the post.

Ashok said...

You are Welcome Balaji!

Karthik said...