Saturday, December 26, 2009
Best Movies of the Year
1. 500 Days of Summer
I titled my review of this film, ‘Film Isn’t Shot In Order. Either Is Our Memory’, because that’s the way this film rolls out. It works like our memory. It isn’t edited to be from point A to point B. It is a film that works like our mind. ‘500 Days of Summer’ is a romantic comedy that doesn’t play by the rules of romantic comedy. It’s refreshing to see a film that isn’t about the wackiness of a relationship, as many romantic comedies make the mistake of being about, but instead is a honest and funny film about how we often have exceptions that are created in our mind as opposed to the reality of what we are. The director, Marc Webb, comes out of the music video world and uses his ability of fast cuts and unique little episodes to craft the emotions, thoughts and feels of our main character, Tom, as he tries to figure out what was real about his relationship and what he romanticized about it. The beginning of ‘500 Days of Summer’ starts with Tom’s sassy little sister riding her bike to Tom’s apartment to inform him that the relationship he thought he had was romanticized in his mind. Thus starts the way the relationship actually played out versus the movie version of it in Tom’s mind. It’s the most original film of the year.
2. The Informant
The Informant is a tour de force by Matt Demon. He creates a funny and original character, which tries to lie and cheat while doing the right thing all at the same time. Though not the smartest man around, there is no way we cannot feel anything but symphony for the main character Mark. He fumbles along, telling lies and truth all the same time while trying to make sense of the corporate world of the 1990s. There where times during this film I felt like I was watching a follow up to ‘Fargo’, the classic 90s film by the Cohen brothers. The world in that film felt plastic, and so does the world in this one.
3. Star Trek
The biggest surprise of the year has to be Star Trek. Of course I thought I was going to enjoy the new Star Trek film, though what I didn’t expect was the film to be as good as it was. While many Trekies where quick to shun the new Star Trek picture, it actual strike that right balance between service to the old fans and a hand reaching out to the new ones. I remember at the screening of Star Trek I was at, when Leonard Nimoy came on the screen, someone in the back of the audience cheered. The scene between a young Kurt and Leonard Nimoy is wonderful as he says to Kurt that Spock will always be his friend. The new cast is well, cool. There was so many ways this film could of gone wrong. A ‘Star Trek’ reboot with a young cast, could of felt like a episode of Star Trek for Kids, but instead avoids all the pratfalls that often happens when trying to update a franchise in desperate need of a tune up. At the same time though, it also really needed someone who can be careful with the fragile universe Gene Roddenberry has created. If anyone can make Star Trek cool again, J.J. Abrams proved he was the one to do this. As I said to my Trekies back in my review, we need this film to pass Star Trek down to the next generation. I’m happy to report, between the comeback of ‘Star Trek’ and the hit sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’, this was a good year for nerds.
Hayao Miyazaki is an animation rock star in Japan, and has a cult following in America. Hayao Miyazaki is the hero John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, and because of this, continually gets Disney to back a U.S. release of any film that comes from the mind of this magical man. On a dark and stormy night, something magical is brewing in the Ocean. A boy meets a fish, which turns into a human girl, and thus the magic begins. In a well-dubbed American release, with notably the voices of Tina Fey and Liam Neeson, the film provides a story that draws on some of the biggest themes that usually take place in a Miyazaki film. The themes of a Miyazaki film are constantly nature and children. At times it feels like a family film, but like most Myazaki, he never lets animation or family films turn to fluff. The themes are often having a dark undercurrent about how we treat our environment. His memorable 1997 film, “Princess Monoke” also touched on this film. Though, for the most part, a Miyazaki can simply be described as magic.
5. A Serious Man
The Cohan Brothers have brought us their version of the Book of Job. This film is a story about a good man without a backbone. Michael Stahlberg turns in a great performance in every scene, in what is probably not the easiest character to play. He plays a Jewish man who has bad luck, throughout the entire film. In fact, horrible luck, and the suspense builds as you wait for him to either snap or at least have one piece of good news. Though, as the film continues, nothing good happens to him. His wife runs off with a creep, his kids are indifferent, and the man his wife has run off with is a creepy overweight guy who is respected in the community. With a cross of Woody Allen and Kurt Vonnegut, the Cohan Brothers present a story about how one good man lets him become a doormat to a world full of evil. A full display of dark humor is on display here.
This is yet another magical film. With wonderful clay animation, the wonderful Neil Gaiman bases Coralline on the book, who’s one of our better authors writing today. Coralline isn’t a nice little girl, and in fact seems quite ungrateful to her parents and those around here who simply want the best for her. She isn’t nice to her new neighbor either. An odd kid named Wybie who has bad posture and rides his bike into town; so much around Coralline she accuses him of stalking her. So, when she does make it to an alternative universe where her parents are perfect and Wybie lacks the ability to even talk, she thinks she has entered a perfect world. Yet, something evil is larking underneath the surface. She reminded me of Chihiro from the Hayao Miyazaki classic, ‘Spirited Away’, and this movie gave me shivers and a smile across my face. The smile only became wider as Wybie drove his bike through town. If that isn't every wonderfully odd kid I ever met!
My 4 Star Reviews of 2009: 500 Days of Summer, The Informant, Star Trek
Special Mention: It's not a movie, so I can't put it on the list, but 'The Big Bang Theory' on CBS, 9:30 Mondays is the most charming, funny and future classic of a sitcom I've ever seen in a long, long time. The show of the year.