Monday, March 08, 2010

my favorite movies: 2009 edition

oh my blog, how i've missed you so! facebook is quaint and convenient to be sure, but i and my life are far more than two-sentence soundbites. it's nice to have the time to write, with room to move and express.

with today being the oscars [editor's note: yeah, we wrote this a few days ago], it seems appropriate to list my favorite movies of last year. regrettably, i haven't yet seen a handful of those that i'd like to (up in the air, the hurt locker, inglorious whatevers, etc.) and so am going to list not only my favorites from last year, but also the my favorites that i saw last year, irregardless of when they were released.

the 2009 crowd:

5. ponyo
i can't remember the last time, if ever, that i went into a movie knowing nothing about it; it's a rare treat. and after the opening minutes of ponyo, i had no idea what was going on, but i was loving it. like the wrestler, the only reason i wanted to movie to end was so that i could write about it. in a world of 3-D animation, it is exciting to see a traditionally drawn animated movie. contrasted with the preview for the princess and the frog, ponyo's animation initially seems flat and rough, boasting fancy lighting or even attempting to hide its pencil marks. but it feels completely alive.

the story is a moderate adaptation of "the little mermaid", although the similarities with disney stop at the heroine's red hair. instead of teenagers in mad love, the heroes are five-year olds. it could be a called a love story, but it's a 5-year old's love story, looking at the unique friendship between a little boy and a little girl. it was during this that i realized what a master miyazaki is with children. watch the way sosuke carefully ducks through a hole in a fence while carrying a bucket of water; his children move, react, and have the nuances accurate to their specific ages. just as disney animators spend hours observing lions and pumbaas to get the subtlest gestures

and it's likely the first animated movie to ever mention the cambrian era.

4. the fantastic mr. fox
i actually saw a trailer for mr. fox at ponyo. i liked the odd sense of humor but wondered if i was seeing all the funny moments in the trailer. a few weeks later, i heard that it was wes anderson's project and that pretty much sealed it for me.
from start to finish, through and through, it's a wes anderson movie: flat, balanced framing, retro art direction, bill murray, the alienated father-son relationship, and incredibly dry and subtle humor. rocio and i laughed almost the whole way through, while the family in front didn't seem to fully understand why all of this was so funny. need to see it again so i can remember the lines to quote.

3. me and orson welles
the night after seeing this movie, i found myself thinking, wow, zac efron got to work with orson welles....
no, he didn't. welles has been dead for 25 years. but christian mckay's performance is so perfect, so magnetic, that he alone is the eponymous reason to see the movie. he does not seem to be doing an impression (as some have said of jamie foxx in ray), but has taken us back in time to be with orson welles himself. zac efron does fine, and i think he is wisely and successfully moving to being a serious actor and i wish him the best. the movie is a brush with one of the legends of film through his eyes. like citizen kane, though, it seems that no one really saw the real orson welles. his persona was an bold, brash, audacious, demanding genius who let nothing stop him, hiring an ambulance to hurry him through traffic and improvising radio play scripts as he had the whim. yet it seems that inside it all he held cowardice and insecurity. at the end, the story is over, but it's such an unforgettable experience to have been with orson welles for ever a brief time. i'm quite sad that mr. mckay was not nominated this year.... i would have been rooting for him all the way.

2. watchmen
i had forgotten how much i enjoyed watchmen until i went through the former 786's list and saw it on there. i was familiar with the graphic novel from my days of reading comics but hadn't read it personally and so wasn't in a fervor for the movie. but me and clearplay watched it one night and were surprised with how good it was. super hero stories are most interesting when they are grounded in reality, and with one (major) exception, no one here has super powers. it's a partial inspiration for the incredibles, as the crime fighters were once public heroes, but fear and paranoia soon sent them in to reclusion. like bone, each character is the embodiment of a different philosophy of life, and seeing them work to find understanding, balance, and justice makes for a very thought-provoking film. i was very happy that my brother had read the book so that he could answer and discuss the questions i had about the story, the people, and their world.

1. up
it started two years ago with ratatouille. it didn't look very interesting. the first time i saw it it was ok. but on progressive viewings i came to think it may have been the best movie of the year. wall-e looked weird and esoteric and after seeing it the first night i thought i was ok but the whole "green" message was pretty heavy handed. well, you know how that ended. so when the trailers for up started coming around and it looked vague and aimless, i wasn't worried. when i left the opening day showing not wholly bowled over, i took it as a good sign. and, despite me sincerely trying to find another champion, pixar has, for the third year in a row, made my favorite movie of the year.

for a detailed explanation, see here.
if you prefer lists and a writer other than me, go for this one.

i'll get the list of the best movies from years other than 2009 that i saw last year up soon, probably next week after my movie wraps.

1 comment:

The Former 786 said...

A solid list, Jeff. I'm excited to see the "other" years.

I'm sad to say that I have only seen 2/5 of this list. I plan to remedy that and have already added the other three to my Neflix queue.

Five cheers for good movies!