Listing continues, at a feverish pace, as I spew my half-baked opinions across the World Wide Web. Now for movies. I only have about a half an education on 2009 in film, because of the Netflix lagtime. As such, there are about a half-dozen reportedly excellent movies that are waiting in my Queue (Where the Wild Things Are, Up, Inglourrioush Baisteards, The Hangover, Zombieland…). On top of that, I spent a good chunk of the year watching total dogshit, knowing it would be total dogshit, but hoping maybe it would be a little better than dogshit (Knowing, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Taken…). So with all of those qualifications, here are my favorite movies of the year:
10. Observe and Report. My first exposure to this movie was a friend tweeting some sort of petition against it because it features and glorifies rape culture. Now that’s a movie for me! I thought. Just kidding. Sort of. It’s an intentionally shocking movie, but it’s telling that when the studio requested a toned-down version, it tested worse and was scrapped. It’s a really funny, sad and well-acted movie. Fear no art.
9. District 9. I went to see this with Jamie, and I told her that it was a thinking man’s alien movie. That it was more political satire and drama than horror. Turns out that was a half-truth. Two hours of bodies exploding into a splatter of guts, plus hospital gore that had me looking at the floor, and she left with PTSD. All that aside, District 9 was the grittiest and edgiest sci-fi movie I’ve seen in a while. Sci fi should be controversial and discomforting, and this movie was both. Bodies exploding!
8. Adventureland. There are a half a dozen reasons I should not like this move, Bella Twilight and Ryan Reynolds not being the least. But a touching and non-sappy coming of age movie can’t be taken for granted. Rock me Amadeus.
7. I Love You Man. I read that this was the year studios out-Apatowed Apatow. And I guess this is the best example. But doing the Apatow thing right means not only making a bunch of smart dick jokes, but also making a movie that brings out the sweetness lurking inside of being a man, and some honest insight into 30-something relationships. And Paul Rudd.
6. Funny People. I, for one, think that Apatow out-Apatowed Apatow this year. I don’t understand why people didn’t like this movie more than they did. Ok, it was pretty long. And pretty morbid. And heavily meta. And had a fairly narrow target audience. But Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen were a great pairing, and Sandler did a spot-on job of parodying himself. The clips from fictional Sandler movies skewered the blockbuster schlock it was no doubt competing against at release. Funny People is the elusive good movie about comedians (Mr. Saturday Night? vomit). But also about the nature of getting old, not caring anymore, and the big mistakes we make in life.
5. Away We Go. Speaking of 30-something relationships, Dave Eggers and wife Vendela Vida wrote the definitive mid-30s movie, not too surprisingly. Two chapters won me over: when they investigate Arizona as a possible home. But mostly, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Josh Hamilton as the ultimate new-new-age, yoga bitch couple, complete with inappropriate-age breastfeeding and suspect employment. It’s funny and a tearjerker, and my favorite line is when the couple sit in their low-rent home in bed: “Are we fuckups?” “No.” “Are you sure?”
4. Drag Me To Hell. Sam Raimi’s return to low-budget horror was completely satisfying and Allison Lohman was a great muse and a great sport. Vomiting maggots into mouth, projectile bloody nose, and a scary, scary old lady. Justin Long, you smug douchebag, keep it coming! No spoilers, but this movie has the perfect horror movie ending.
3. Coraline. Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick and tiny, tiny handmade clothes and sets. I saw this in 3D on the big screen, and it blew me away. I don’t think I’d ever seen a 3D movie in the theater, and this was incredible. Don’t worry, renting it on DVD is good too. And there’s a They Might Be Giants cameo song. And John Hodgman. And dancing rats!
2. Duplicity. I love anything with Clive Owen (International was a great one this year too), but Tony Gilroy is my new messiah in big budget, adult-oriented movies. He’s like Soderbergh, if you took out all of things about Soderbergh you don’t like. Think “Out of Sight,” “Oceans 11” Soderbergh. His follow up to Michael Clayton was just as smart, but more playful and quirky. I will flock to whatever he releases.
1. State of Play. Yes, another Tony Gilroy. I stand by my claims. I never saw the British mini-series, but this was the best movie I’ve seen since Children of Men. Russel Crowe nails the salty reporter, set designers nail the big newsroom, Helen Mirren nails the at her wits editor, and Ben Affleck nails the politician you desperately want to love, but can’t in the end. It’s all at once a satire of American politics, a nail-biting thriller, and a living, breathing eulogy to the American newspaper. And along with it, the eulogy for the American newspaper movie. It celebrates the values that drive the best of journalism, and the hypocrisy driving its perpetrators. And it soberly acknowledges the values that are driving its demise. And the hero in the end, as in all good newspaper movies, is the cold, ugly truth. During the ending credits, the presses run and the papers hit the trucks, as they always have and always do, every morning. For now.
Honorable Mention: I’ve ultimately decided that Watchmen was not a good movie. It was however, an impressive visualization of the graphic novel. And as I watched it at midnight on IMax, there were a handful of scenes that gave me chills. The best of which is the 5 minute intro, a brilliant montage of the history of fictional superheroes, set to Bob Dylan: