TMBF's Top 8 Movies of 2009 ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, January 2, 2010

TMBF's Top 8 Movies of 2009

Well, every film critic's doing it, aren't they? And I couldn't call myself a real true bona fide film critic if I didn't as well. But yes, I know, I'm a few days late. And so's my The Hurt Locker review; I wanted to finish writing that first, because I suspected even before my second viewing of it that it deserved a place in this list.

And why a Top 8, instead of a Top 10? Because I only started blogging and reviewing in May. I didn't watch a lot of movies during the first four months of the year, I don't remember much of the ones I did, and besides, none of them were very good anyway. (No, I didn't much like Watchmen. And yes, I know and love the comic.) In any case, I don't feel like I can fairly compile the ten best films of the year, so eight it is.

In order from least great to most great, they are:

8. The Hurt Locker - A last-minute addition to my list, but a deserving one. A gritty depiction of war, an insightful portrait of the men who fight it, and an incredibly suspenseful movie. I'm writing this right after I finished my review of this film, and I'm still thinking about it. There've been other films about warriors who seem to live and breathe war, but this is the most realistic take on the theme to date - and one of the best.

7. District 9 - I only gave this three stars (revised to four) in my review, but I think I've been too stingy. One of the freshest and most original films of the year; from its setting, through its cast of unknown South African actors, to the faux-documentary style. And yes, it turns into a conventional action movie towards the end, but I was actually relieved that it did. Perhaps I really have been too harsh on Wikus.

6. Star Trek - One of the most purely entertaining movies of the year, and a textbook example of how to reinvigorate an ailing franchise. It's pretty amazing how wrong J.J. Abrams could've went and how many things he got right instead. There's not a lot of that uniquely Trekkian scientific exploration and social allegory, but the characters Trekkies know and love are alive and well, in a movie that even the most sci-fi-ignorant would enjoy.

5. Avatar - Considering the hype, it really should've placed higher on this list. But you'll never find a more technically accomplished movie this year, and the fact that it comes with an unoriginal, but serviceable and well-told story, is pretty damn good already. Also, it's Cameron's return to what he really does best - kick-ass action scenes. I've heard more than one person say that real life feels like a huge letdown after coming out of this movie.

4. (500) Days of Summer - Okay, I gave this movie four stars (revised to five), but I may have been overly generous. It's not an amazingly impactful film, but it is very funny, very well made, and very insightful about love and relationships - particularly for men. And it's still a romantic comedy, in that it's a celebration of romance, in all its heartbroken lows as well as dizzying, ecstatic highs. The best date movie of the year.

3. Departures - I almost forgot about this, in the wake of all the year's big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, but I'm glad I didn't. The most effective tear-jerker of the year, but emotionally true and honest enough to earn those tears. And half a year after I watched it, I can still hear Joe Hisaishi's cello theme. Everyone will eventually experience the passing of a loved one - and that's why they should watch this film.

2. Inglourious Basterds - The movie in which I finally got Quentin Tarantino, and it took a big-screen viewing to do it. It is so many things - a terrifically suspenseful thriller, a throwback to '70s exploitation flicks as well as old-fashioned WW2 action-adventures, a revenge fantasy, a celebration of cinema, and a showcase for terrific acting, including a brand new candidate for best movie villain. Two and a half hours has never sailed by so fast.

1. Up - I'll make no apologies for naming this the best movie of the year. Pixar proves they can tackle as mature a theme as grief and loss and still make a kid-friendly film - a marvelously fun, funny and exciting one at that. And then they also make it a film that's profoundly, sublimely moving. I've said before that a four-star (revised to five-star) rating means I thought it was virtually flawless, and this is. Carl and Ellie's life in ten minutes... I need say nothing more.

Honourable Mention: Setem - Still my pick for best made-in-Malaysia film of the year. The poorly-done action scenes bring it down, but the smart script, likable characters, and relentless comic energy make it a movie that's almost miraculously good, considering the average local Malay film. Not to mention it's a model for how a Malay film can also be a truly Malaysian film. And Afdlin Shauki has never been funnier.

No, I won't be doing a list of best movies of the decade. I've come to rely a lot on this blog to record my impressions of the films I've watched, so I can't look back on ten years worth of films to judge them fairly. (I really, really wish I'd started reviewing earlier.) I'm not doing a list of worst films of the year either, because it'll all just be Malay movies. And damned if I'm gonna spend any brain juice on ranking them.

I feel like this list is incomplete (besides having only eight entries); there are far too many other films on most Top 10 lists that I haven't watched. Up in the Air, An Education, A Serious Man, Precious, Where the Wild Things Are, Moon - I can only hope most of these make it to our theatres in 2010, if local distributors and FINAS are willing. Sadly, I suspect they won't be. Malaysia is far from the best place in the world for a movie buff, but I'll just have to live with the lot I'm given. Hopefully I'll be able to do Not Coming to M'sia reviews of these. And at least there's still stuff like Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Inception, and The Last Airbender to look forward to.

(And hey, new look! But cut me some slack. I'm good with words, not pictures, and I'm using a pretty lousy freeware image editor. Anyone wants to make me a nicer banner for my blog, I'll thank you by reviewing a movie of your choice.)

A belated Happy New Year to all!


McGarmott said...

Eh, don't knock 3 Idiots. Go watch it first. I am kidding you not very seriously.

As for your list, okaylah. I think a lot of people will have similar movies hanging around their top ten 2009 lists, dropping one or two and adding a few 'huh' ones based on preferences - Up, Inglorious Basterds, Avatar and D9 and Star Trek are usually up there somewhere. Unless you're a lousy American film critic who's always going on and on about Precious and The Hurt Locker.

As for the ones you haven't seen ... and that I've seen, well, I'll prob write a bit about it but An Education had brilliant writing, you HAVE to seen Moon, Where The Wild Things is a movie about childhood not for kids that is quite the outlier that will NEVER get much Oscar love, and I haven't seen yet but I'm told A Serious Man is just a really weird movie and that you should be Jewish to get the movie. Oh, and Nine is a film for directors and writers masquerading as a popular musical for the masses. Also, Fantastic Mr Fox is quite fun.

Did you illegally use a camera in the cinema?!

TMBF said...

I'm just not feeling the inclination to watch 3 Idiots, sorry. :P

That image, I ripped it off the web lar. :)

McGarmott said...