Friday, January 8, 2010

Top 10 Movies of 2009

Yes, I know, the year has already been gone for a week. What the hell took me so long? A hundred and five distractions. Plus the fact that I knew this was going to one of those posts that takes freaking forever to write, no matter how short it is. And it won't be short, I can almost guarantee - so I won't blame you if you skip on to the list already, but you'll probably miss some pretty damned funny stuff (or not).

Anyway, 2009 was a really interesting year in movies. 3D finally made a successful run and looks like it's here to stay. And Sci-Fi had its best year since The Empire Strikes Back. We learned that even a dead protagonist can sustain a series of increasingly godawful sequels and still make money; we re-learned that James Cameron is an insane genius of hype, if nothing else; jailbait werewolves make tweenie-boppers and cougars scream and zombies still rule. We also re-learned that the Interwebs still have the power to turn $11,000 into $100M, no matter how bad your movie really is. Oh, I almost forgot. We learned Alan Moore should just stop bitching and whining about Hollywood, because everyone already knows he wrote the source material, anyway. And let's not forget the return of traditional 2D, hand-drawn animation (an art I feared lost forever).

Yes, yes... "Get on with it already, Uncle P." And so I shall. Once again, these are simply the 10 best movies I saw this year. I don't have easy access to limited release films; I don't have the time to see every every movie I would like to nor the interest in seeing a good 60% of what Hollywood thinks of as movies, these days. Agree, disagree, call me names... I don't care. I'm sitting safely in my home office, sipping a cocktail and having a smoke. So here are picks for the Top 10 Movies of 2009:

10 - Coraline:

Tim Burton produced Henry Selig's 3D Stop-Motion fantasy, based on Neil Gaiman's children's book of the same name, about a girl who discovers an alternate universe where things aren't nearly as perfect as they seem. Delightfully creepy and charmingly animated, Selig (along with Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park) is thankfully keeping the art of Stop-Motion Animation alive in the age of digital CGI.

9 - Watchmen:

Alan Moore... blah, blah, blah... unfilmable... blah, blah, blah... Dr. Manhattan's penis (image NSFW)... blah, blah, blah. Director Zach Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) may not have made the best Superhero Movie of all time, but it certainly ranks in the Top 5. His slo-mo/stop-mo/360 style of filmmaking is perfectly suited to comic book adaptations and his attention to detail in recreated illustrator Dave Gibbons original artwork is astounding. And I, for one, didn't miss the giant squid at all. And it has one of the most amazing opening credits sequences ever put to film; alternative history at its finest.

8 - Up:

Disney/Pixar's next Oscar-winner actually is the Best Animated film of the year. This 3D CGI fantasy tells the story of an old man rediscovering his childhood sense of adventure; a lonely young boy discovering friendship; an exotic bird trying to feed her babies and a childhood hero who turns out to be something other than he appeared to be. If the first fifteen minutes don't make you cry, the last ten, will. This film went in a delightfully unexpected and often hilarious
direction, proving Pixar's writers and directors are among the few at the major studios who are still capable of original story-telling. Not since Dorothy's, has a flying house been the start of so much -- Squirrel! -- fun. Simply delightful.

7. Zombieland:

Do I really need to say why? How about just this: Woody Harrelson; Bill Murray; amusement park; hilarious; gory; evil you-know-whats; zombies. While its no Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is a great ride. "Nut up or shut up!"

6 - Star Trek:

Current wunderkind J.J. Abrams takes over and re-invents one of Science Fiction's most beloved and revered franchises with an exciting, funny and original film which uses alternate time-line theory to re-introduce Gene Roddenberry's original characters in a fresh way, while still remaining true to them in this origins tale of Kirk, Spock, Bones, O'Hura, et al and the very first voyage of the USS Enterprise.

5 - Up In the Air:

As I said in my original review, I loved Jason Reitman's debut film Thank You for Smoking. I then loathed his follow-up, the inexplicably popular Juno (honestly, one more whiny folk song and I was going to pull a Stewie and Brian --language NSFW -- on the DVD.) But Up In the Air's hilarious script by Reitman and Sheldon Turner is the perfect vehicle for the handsome and charming George Clooney, who deserves the title "The Cary Grant of His Generation.:

4 - Trick 'r Treat:

Yes, I know this movie was made in 2008. Yes, I know it was screened at festivals all over the place and thousands of people saw it before I did. Most of the world, including Uncle P, finally got to see Michael Dougherty's thoroughly original and enjoyable Horror anthology when it was released on DVD this past October. Gory, funny, a little scary and featuring loads of great performances from some the most underrated film actors working today, Trick 'r Treat is destined to take its place among the holiday's classics. I've posted this trailer several times, but it's worth posting again because it's almost as much fun as the movie, itself.

3 - District 9:

The best thing to come out of South Africa since Charlize Theron, Neil Blomkamp's relatively low-budget Science Fiction movie pays homage to the classics, while still generating an original and fascinating film. Combining first-person documentary-style filmmaking with traditional narrative, Blomkamp's essay on man's inhumanity is exciting, horrifying and breathtaking all at once. Another fine example of Alternate History Sci-Fi.

2 - Drag Me to Hell:

How much do I love Sam Raimi's triumphant return to the genre that made him famous? More than I can tell you. As you may well know, I saw this with many people I love, all of whom loved it nearly as much as I did. Relentless; gross; creepy and hilarious without a glimpse of nudity or a single four-letter word worse than 'damn,' Raimi's film proves that effective horror movies don't need mindless teenagers getting hacked to death by a masked killer to be truly effective and scary. Drag Me to Hell is the best Horror movie in the last 20 years. Sorry for the poor quality of the below video's sound, but I thought Raimi's comments were worth hearing.

1 - Moon:

Duncan Jones' brilliant feature debut is a return to smart, quiet Science Fiction. Eschewing elaborate CGI effects; explosions; alien monsters and deep-voiced villains, Jones relies on story and character; the two of the Three Commandments of a good film. Add Sam Rockwell's astounding performance(s), and you have Cinema's Holy Trinity. Like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Duncan's Moon is truly smart Sci-Fi at its best. If Rockwell isn't nominated for at least one major acting award, yours truly will be one very unhappy film fan.

There you have it. I hope you clicked the links and watched the videos. I tried my best to link to things other than the usual, and include clips I haven't used (or even seen) before, even though I may have written about most of these movies, before. I also tried to say at least one or two new things about films I've talked about at least once before. And, as always, I would love to know your thoughts. What was/were your favorite(s) of 2009?

More, anon.


William said...

Two big reasons why Uncle P rocks! One: he's got the ample plums not to bend to the will of the masses and place AVATAR or INGLORIOUS BASTERDS in his Top Ten. TWO: he's introduced me to MOON which I never even heard of 'til this year-end list! Totally off my radar completely! Now, can't wait to see it! Thanks Uncle P!

Prospero said...

I'm flattered. Thanks, William!