Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Year in Film

2009 was a good year for movies, especially for comedies. I've just posted on the excellent Jason Reitman film, Up in the Air. It's more than just a comedy, but it most fits in that genre. Adventureland was a minor success, though I wanted to like it more than I did. For Meryl Streep's performance alone, Julie and Julia was worth seeing. It's also a great food movie, along the lines of Like Water for Chocolate, Babette's Feast, and Big Night. In the Loop was good, but I wasn't nearly as bowled over as most people. The best, and most surprising, was The Hangover. It was absolutely hilarious, but more importantly it was smart -- reminiscent of Memento, however improbable as that seems.

In the realm of blockbusters, I really enjoyed J.J. Abrams' take on Star Trek and I'm in no way a fan of the franchise. I'm excited to see where he goes with this reboot. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a bit of a disappointment, yet still better than most summer blockbusters. I thought District 9 was a spectacular failure, though most critics loved it. Watchmen was great to see, just because I've always loved the graphic novel. But it was for fans only. As I've already said, Inglourious Basterds was fantastic. Christoph Waltz's performance was a revelation.

I haven't see many great dramas, though I've yet to see Precious or An Education. Funny People, definitely not a comedy, was maddening: its first-half was phenomenal, its second-half was terrible. The best drama I've seen this year was the excellent Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man. Maybe their best since Fargo.

State of Play was a good political thriller. Russell Crowe, someone I don't normally enjoy, was excellent. Still, they could have done their research on the layout of Washington, DC. But that's a minor quibble.

The best films this year were animated. Coraline was wonderfully strange and creepy. It was a pleasure to watch in 3-D. My two favorite movies this year were Fantastic Mr. Fox and Up. Fantastic Mr. Fox is the only Wes Anderson film I've liked, at least since Rushmore. He has found his calling in animation. It's a whimsical gem, full of warmth and pure childlike wonder. Up, on the other hand, is a movie that only Pixar could make. On paper it sounds like a mess -- an elderly man travels to South America in his balloon-lifted house, to fulfill a lifelong dream and a pact made with his now-deceased wife. It was actually a poignant and exciting adventure tale. Its first ten minutes are marvelous; the remaining 86 are almost as good. I get teary-eyed every time I see it. And god bless Pixar for making Ed Asner the star of a blockbuster.

Some other films I haven't seen, but that might belong in this post include The Hurt Locker, Bruno, and Ponyo. Avatar looks awful, though it's been getting some good reviews.