Rich has done a fair few reviews for Live for Films and now here is his top 10 films of the past year.
2009 was the year that the ultimate graphic novel finally made it’s way to the big screen. After several attempts with A List names attached, Zach Snyder pulls off what many believed was impossible and to put it bluntly, it’s fucking brilliant! Almost a page for page adaptation from the original novel Snyder, obviously a fan boy, was the perfect choice to direct. All the actors chosen for their skills and likeness to the characters they portray, the film like the novel is tremendous. The coolest film of the year.
9. Where The Wild Things Are:
Literary to cinema adaptations are nothing new these days, but one book you would not expect to be the basis for a $100m Hollywood makeover would be Maurice Sendak’s, Where The Wild Things Are. Containing just ten sentences, the 1963 the beloved children’s classic doesn’t’t have much to go on, but Spike Jonze manages to scrap the clichéd “un-filmable” tag and deliver 90 minutes of sheer beauty. The plot is as thin as the / in Frost/Nixon, but isn’t that what childhood is like? I was captivated by the vivid landscapes and the perfect Jim Henson Studios created “Things”. As the “wild rumpus” commences, you get the feeling you are a kid again and cant help but smile as this charming film washes over you.
8. (500) Days of Summer:
A relationship comedy is probably a better way to describe (500) Days of Summer than as a romantic comedy. To be honest this was not the kind of film I expected to be on my list come the end of the year, but it’s fresh and pretty damn cool. Shot in a non linear fashion it shows 500 days of the relationship between Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s, Tom, and Summer. A realistic look at relationships, some genuine laughs and you have to be mad if you don’t love Zooey Deschanel.
7. Inglorious Basterds:
The genius that is Quentin Tarantino returns after the underwhelming Death Proof with what could be his greatest film since Pulp Fiction. As historically inaccurate and ridiculous as the plot it is, this was one of the most entertaining films of the year. Featuring some brilliant scenes including customary QT dialogue, you are reminded why he won the Oscar back in 1994. The main talking point is the terrifying turn by Christoph Waltz as “The Jew Hunter” Hans Landa who steals the film and has to be a front runner for Best Supporting Actor. Calm, evil and ever so slightly camp, it is an astonishing performance. The opening scene probably the best of 2009, the climatic scenes definitely the most audacious.
As cinema experiences go, Avatar has to be one of the most amazing I have ever witnessed. James Cameron’s visual effects wank was awesome, some scenes were truly breathtaking, and the greatest thing I have seen yet in 3D. However, as many have previously said, there isn’t much plot to justify such a long running time. On a personal level I always thought a film was a way to tell a story through images, here we have a lot of images (very nice ones at that) but not much story, I will admit being drawn into some of the emotional exchanges though. But still, I really enjoyed what is a flawed yet stunning film and something you should definitely see on a 3D screen.
5. The Wrestler:
Darren Aronofsky goes back to basics after the critical mauling he took over The Fountain with a moving character piece about an over-the-hill wrestler looking for one last shot at the big time. Guaranteed to draw comparisons to Rocky, it however is not. With the small production values it feels ever so personal, the Clint Mansell and Slash score stripped as bare as the main character, The Wrestler is truly mesmerising. But it is Mickey Rourke who steals the show with such a heartbreaking performance, in which you can tell he has drawn from his own past experiences and allows us to delve deep into Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s soul. Sadly robbed at last years Oscar’s.
4. The Hurt Locker:
Kathryn Bigelow will forever be known for bringing us the action classic Point Break with Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze. With that she showed her skills at filming action sequences, and after a long lay off from making movies she returned with this brilliant story of a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Over the past few years the Iraq war has been the favoured conflict, but this is head and shoulders above the rest due to it’s stunning realism, knife edge tension and an Oscar worthy performance from Jeremy Renner. Mark Boal craftily weaves the script between deep, engaging characters and action set pieces which Bigelow shoots perfectly.
If you happen to have read any of my other posts you will be aware of my love for Duncan Jones’ Moon and still, after several DVD viewings, I’m certain it deserves to be called one of the best films of 2009. A taught Sci-Fi thriller set on a lonely space station based on the moon, focuses on the story more than the visual effects (which are still great for such a small budget) something that seems to be ignored in the genre these days. You cant help but be drawn in and amazed at the solo performance of Sam Rockwell in a role that will hopefully make other people business sit up and recognise him as leading man material.
2. District 9:
The science fiction film narrowly bumping Moon into third place is another directorial debut, this time from Peter Jackson apprentice Neil Blomkamp. Not unlike Moon, the film does feature some impressive visual effects but they are put on the back burner (for the first part of the film at least) as Blomkamp weaves the completely believable scenario with the underlying themes of xenophobia and the use of a privatised military. The final act does fall into action packed blockbuster territory but not without the thought provoking build up, all the more poignant by the country in which it is set.
1. Let The Right One In:
2009 saw a resurgence in popularity of the Vampire genre with the likes of True Blood and the love of teenage girls worldwide, Twilight, but the best of the lot has to be the Swedish masterpiece Let The Right One in. Focusing on the relationship between two kids, one a vampire, it is definitely my favourite film of the year. Beautifully shot against a snow covered landscape, the performances are outstanding, the story as chilling and haunting as anything over the past few years. It refuses to be a ‘proper’ horror film and the gore is kept to a minimum but this just further heightens the taught atmosphere and sucks you into the blossoming relationship. Such a fantastic film.
I always thought this would be an easy task, but it wasn’t. Some I sadly had to leave out included
Star Trek which was a great blockbuster by J.J Abrahms
Funny People and Adventureland, two of my favourite comedies of the year.
In The Loop, simply for Malcolm Tucker’s foul mouthed rants.
Drag Me To Hell, one of the funniest ‘horrors’ I’ve seen in a long time, Sam Raimi you legend.
Zombieland, another hilarious horror which I cant wait to watch again.
Frost/Nixon and The Damned United, that Michael Sheen is a great bloody chameleon! Two highly enjoyable films, especially Frost/Nixon.
Is there any others I have missed out? Please feel free to argue against my list of you disagree. Roll on 2010!