Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

A mere eleven films vie for my top ten of 2009, which I’ll announce tomorrow (not too much suspense this year!) as well as my favorites among the year's acting, writing, and directing.

I’ve viewed 65 films theatrically this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [11]
1. Capitalism: A Love Story. Yet another sadly accurate look at us.
2. District 9. Somewhat unpleasant to watch in a way, but timely and true, with a staggeringly star-caliber performance by its unknown lead.
3. Fanboys. Despite potential nerd-only appeal and "franchise 'parody' fatigue," has a certain charm.
4. The Hurt Locker. Original setting and charismatic lead performance.
5. I Love You, Man. A comedy touchdown, particularly for Paul Rudd; many laughs that work-- many, many.
6. Inglourious Basterds. Outrageously entertaining.
7. Julie & Julia. Delightful instantly-ready-for-TCM classic, weaves its two stories together in a nice little package.
8. Nine. Spectacle over story, nonetheless a showcase for a (mostly) ready ensemble.
9. Paranormal Activity. Deceptively simple treatise on relationships— studyable; oh yeah, scary too.
10. Up. Sweet and inventive-- as well as, dare I say, upliftling?
11. World's Greatest Dad. Cynical as all hell, but just dead-on.

Recommended [15]
1. Adventureland. Satisfying and funny and well cast if perhaps missing a certain 'punch.'
2. Broken Embraces. Assuredly directed with some great twists although it outstays it's welcome a bit.
3. Coraline. Not deep, but created a world that was facinating to behold and where I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
4. Extract. Skin-of-it's-teeth recommendation, has several (and just enough) laughs.
5. The Hangover. The only film that I can recommend and yet admit that the best part was the end credits.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Fully immerses the viewer in its imaginative (now pleasantly familiar) fantasy world, marred only by a "middle chapter" climax.
7. Me and Orson Welles. Safe but sure.
8. Monsters Vs. Aliens. Just barely pulls it off, mainly due to Seth Rogen's blob B.O.B. stealing the show.
9. Moon. More "Twilight Zone" than "2001: A Space Odyssey," probably won't be much on a second viewing.
10. Sherlock Holmes. Nice work in creating an updated Holmes/Watson without losing the 'elementary' mystery-solving, although it's too bad that this particular story wasn't more intriguing.
11. Star Trek. Light and fun, with exceptional ensemble.
12. Sunshine Cleaning. Not for the ages and just a mild payoff, but well cast and well played.
13. Up in the Air. Timely and funny yet its insistence on an epiphany for a broadly-drawn lead character leaves you cold; therefore a mild recommendation
14. Whip It. Formula well done with a perfect cast.
15. Zombieland. Runs out of steam, but mostly an enjoyable popcorner.

Skippable [29]
1. 2012. Its outrageousness is right on, but also gets to be unrelenting.
2. A Christmas Carol. Well done with a strong Jim Carey in the various roles-- its main problem is the hopeless familiarity of the material.
3. Amelia. Pleasant show, but little more.
4. An Education. Over-rated mishmosh; despite Carey Mulligan's reviews, Rosamund Pike steals the show.
5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Compelling subject matter, but despite a solid midsection, gets repetetive and has a fabricated third act.
6. Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans. Entertaining and off-the-wall but still could've pushed the boundaries further.
7. Bruno. A number of Boratesque shocks, but an even thinner plotline and far too many obvious set-ups make it no classic.
8. Crazy Heart. Nice blend of character and story is derailed by a lazy third act.
9. Drag Me To Hell. Yes it was "fun"-- but at the same time it was also far too obvious.
10. Duplicity. Everyone works hard but the plot relies (as with Gilroy's "Michael Clayton") far too much on its ending than the journey.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Visually exciting and amusing but thematically muddled.
12. Food, Inc. Has a number of interesting points, but strictly small screen stuff.
13. He's Just not that Into You. If a guy sat through this movie with you he MUST be into you.
14. Invictus. Unique approach to political biography is far too safe in its cinematic translation.
15. Jennifer's Body. Had all the elements but one: characterization.
16. The Messenger. Engrossing premise that allows it's actors to breathe; doesn't seem to have that element that would make it worthwhile on a second viewing.
17. Michael Jackson's This Is It. A nice tribute, but surface; however, the music alone makes it worth viewing— can't argue there.
18. New in Town. Hoped for charming and funny, got mild and harmless.
19. Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian. Barely squeaks by as anything entertaining, a timewaster at best.
20. Pirate Radio. Thin but enjoyable.
21. Precious. Doesn't give you much that you didn't get in the trailer; in other words too heavy on the message.
22. A Serious Man. When you get to the end of it, despite how much you liked it, the ends don't match; best seen as part of the Coen's oeuvre.
23. A Single Man. Ultimately, nothing we haven't seen before.
24. Terminator: Salvation. Coasts on the strength of its predecessors; never dull, but rarely made sense.
25. The Informant! Couldn't find its tone and felt longer than it was, even if I was amused by it.
26. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not the disaster critics are making it out to be, nor the exciting popcorn flick its fanboys say it is either-- the preteen boy in me gives it a pass for its mindless excess.
27. Watchmen. Bit off more than it could chew and even got somewhat laughable by the end.
28. Whatever Works. Stagey and dated, miraculously saved by some terrific performances, particularly by Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Begley Jr.
29. X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Formulaic popcorn flick, with an all-too-obvious eye on future dollars by the introduction of new superflous characters.

Avoid [10]
1. (500) Days of Summer. Hopelessly self-conscious.
2. Avatar. Cliché-ridden and overlong, the sense of wonder is stiffled by a total lack of suspense.
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Cute just isn't good enough.
4. Is Anybody There? Barely worthy of a one hour television drama: no meat on the bone.
5. My Bloody Valentine (3D). Retro it is: 1960s Scooby-Doo plot, 1950s 3-D effects, and 1910s acting; and I could have lived with all of that, but ultimately, it just wasn't fun enough.
6. New Moon. Just needed one more scene with two characters talking to each other and it would have been perfect.
7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Embarassing, and just barely palatable despite all of Kevin James' (considerable) efforts.
8. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Pointless-- with little attempt to update the '74 original with '09 technology.
9. Where the Wild Things Are. Boring.
10. Year One. Uninspired going-through-the-paces execution.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1990s Films On My Movie Radar

I saw four films off last year's list which leaves me with a full list of six (I'm continuing to bring my ten films-to-see lists down to six), but I'm scratching off Truly, Madly, Deeply and The Dreamlife of Angels for now since they're not readily available, leaving two open slot. The 1990s brought back the western, launched Pixar, and gave us the biggest moneymaker of the century-- Titanic. Here's a list of six modern classic 1990s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

Quick Change - 1990

Cool Runnings - 1993

Exotica - 1994

Citizen Ruth - 1996

Central Station - 1998

Pi - 1998

Friday, December 25, 2009

Presents under the Christmas Tree

Christmas has transitioned to the big MOVIE DAY for me, but that doesn't mean I don't like opening those Christmas presents. This year, I scored a combo: DVD collection "Gaumont Treasures" & cinema survey of early French films (Richard Abel's The Cine Goes to Town)— hope to be a minor scholar on the subject before long.

Best Christmas wishes!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New York Film Critics, Broadcast Film Critics, Among Others to Announce Today

Another big day for Awards Season 2009-- always LOVE to watch the New York Film Critics Awards unfold "live" online.... generally happens between 8-10AM PST/ 11AM-1PM EST.

New York Film Critics Circle

Broadcast Film Critics (BFCA) Noms

San Francisco Film Critics Circle

Southeastern Film Critics Association

St. Louis Film Critics

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LA Critics, AFI, Boston Critics Among Others Announce Today

Today is a big day for Awards Season 2009. The following groups are scheduled to announce today:

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.


Boston Society of Film Critics [Note: Looks like the Boston Critics are taking a page from the New York Film Critics and announcing each award "live" as they are decided on-- cool.]

New York Film Critics Online

"A Corner in Wheat" Celebrates Centennial

D. W. Griffith's film A Corner in Wheat was released on December 13, 1909— one-hundred years ago today. This social commentary was based on source material from Frank Norris (the novelist whose McTeague became 1924s Greed). A Corner in Wheat is shown in film school classes and currently resides as the #1 film on IMDb's list of 1909 films by total votes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Awards Season Begins with the Announcement of the National Board of Review's Picks

Another Awards Season has officially begun.

As with many bloggers and commentators, I agree that the National Board of Review's picks have more to do with what isn't included than with what is chosen.

Notable shut-outs include: Avatar, The Blind Side, Bright Star, Broken Embraces, Brothers, Crazy Heart, Everybody's Fine, The Hangover, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Informant!, Julie & Julia, The Last Station, The Lovely Bones, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Nine, The Road, Sherlock Holmes, A Single Man, The Stoning of Soraya M.,and The Young Victoria.

And the barely-there include: Precious (just breakthrough performance), District 9 (top ten independent films), and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Special Filmaking Achievement).

The film that got a much-needed shot in the arm: The Messenger.

And the "seal-of-approval" shoo-ins, are now: An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air.

This has caused the following shift in my end-of-the-year movie watching plans (unless other awards groups switch things back)--

IN: The Messenger
ON THE BUBBLE: Crazy Heart, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Last Station
OUT: Everybody's Fine, The Lovely Bones, A Single Man