Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009 in film

So, as usual I caught a bunch of films at the cinema this year. Most were at the "old" cinema at the beach; latterly we made the move to the shiny new one in Union Square (amazing sound and vision; not sure about the seats; incredibly inefficient food queuing system; good parking and right in the centre of town). I saw a few less films this year than last, which is probably due to it being more difficult to get Stan motivated than it was to get the departed Gaucis or Stan. The Gaucis are not dead of course: they have just moved to England. Which, to all intents and purposes, makes them dead anyway. I also caught a couple of films (Potter and Up) at the IMAX in London (the UK's biggest screen) which is a tremendous place to watch a BIG film. I wish that I had seen Batman there last year.

Two films stood out like a sore thumb this year: Slumdog Millionaire and Star Trek. The buzz was great for SM, but I was not expecting something quite so magnificent: dazzling, dark, exciting, funny, sad, and (eventually) uplifting. It was painted as a feel-good film, which is pretty far from the truth: as Mark Kermode said "there is a lot of slumdog before you get to the millionaire"; this was the only mainstream feel-good film that I have seen where children are blinded with molten metal by a psychopathic child catcher... The film looked amazing, sounded amazing (thanks to a tremendous mixture of original score and well-chosen pop music), and completely deserved to sweep the Oscars this year. I love Danny Boyle and virtually all of his films (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine stand out, though) but think this may have been his finest to date.

It was a few months before another film that I actually loved came along, in the shape of Star Trek. JJ Abrams is another great talent, and succeeded in creating a geeky film that had true mass appeal, in the same way that The Dark Knight did the year before. Star Trek had tremendous pace, action, and special effects; combined with lots of humour and an excellent (in fact, spot-on) cast, they hit this one right out of the park.

Neither of them were There Will Be Blood, though; I think I might be saying that for a few years yet. Anyway, the other films that I can remember seeing were:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: this was mega-hyped prior to Oscar season, but was a tremendous let-down. Booooooring, and suffered severely by being left completely in the shade by the supernova brightness of Slumdog.
Frost/Nixon: tremendous little film, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Essentially 2 actors chewing up the screen, and was never going to be a mega-hit blockbuster, but I really liked it.
Gran Torino: my favourite Clint Eastwood film in decades. Nicely-judged racial comedy and a fun performance from the man himself. "Get off my lawn!"
Coraline: Another one of those 3D films that didn't need 3D. OK, in a generic Tim Burton gothic stop-motion film way.
Watchmen: A stinker. Practically everything about it was poorly-judged.
State of Play: Nice political thriller; the UK television original was better.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: OK, we can stop making X-Men films now. They have been no good since X-Men 2.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I don't want to talk about this, as its soulless vapidity gets me angry. I will not be seeing any further Transformers films.
Public Enemies: Michael Mann can sure direct a film. Shimmering would be the right word; a nice story that at some times was raised up a notch by Mann, Depp, and Batman.
Pandorum: In with a shout of being the worst film of the year. I honestly cen't remember much about it other than it being a hugely formulaic and boring sci-fi-horror that was way too dark (in lighting, not tone).
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Biggest surprise of the year. An absolute riot: bright, funny, bizarre, bizarre (I have to emphasise that one), and actually OK in 3D. This is maybe the film that I lauged at most this year.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Really excellent. This series has moved away from childrens fantasy (nothing wrong with that, of course) into smartly made and beautifully filmed action/horror films. The tone and style, along with the acting, are a cut above what they could have (and easily got away with) churned out.
District 9: One of those rare films that are one-offs. Lovely idea, lovely concept, lovely execution. Not an all-time classic but (like Cloverfield) this was a tremendous genre film.
Inglorious Basterds: I wasn't too fussed the first time that I saw it, but after the second time I got it. This is right up there with Tarantino's finest and is probably his most violent film. Just treat it as an adult fairy tale, laugh at the right places (Brad Pitt brings the house down with "bongiorno"), and revel in one of the better bad guys in recent film.
Up: Lovely. The closest that a Pixar film has come to breaking into my holy trinity of Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and The Incredibles. Toy Story 3 is out in the summer...
The Informant!: a comedy film with no laughs. Having said that, I enjoyed it but boy was it disposable fluff.
2012: It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was not quite Citizen Kane, and the science was (unbelievably) probably more dubious than The Core. Having said that, it was not unenjoyable, and after a shaky first hour or so turned into a watchable blockbuster.
The Box: a nice try. This was a 60-minute story strung out into 2 hours. The style was there, the tone almost there, but it was still a near-miss.

So, look at that: 2 posts in 2 days. I wonder how long I can keep this up for?


Blogger Morag said...

Have you seen Moon? It was in my top 3 films of last year mainly because it was a bit different and it took me by surprise. Recommended.

12:50 am  
Blogger Jenny said...

Just now reading this post. Slumdog Millionaire seems so long ago (2008) - how can it only be a 2009 film?!

10:09 pm  
Blogger swishfish said...

Morag, I didn't get a chance to see Moon, which was a great disappointment. Having been in London when it was out, the beautiful posters all over the Tube network were enough to hint to me that it was going to be a good'un.

2:38 pm  
Blogger swishfish said...


You lot over there always get films before us... Slumdog was released in January here having been out in the US for over 2 months.

2:39 pm  

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