10 January 2010

Great Western Movie Images, Pt 2

The Wild Bunch
dir. Sam Peckinpah

03 January 2010

Top 10 for 2009 Redux (with some thoughts)

2009 was, somewhat unexpectedly, a year full of animated/3-D/adult-children's films. From early on in the year with Coraline to the yearly dosage of happiness that comes in the form of Pixar, to young, white male directors taking on children's classics (Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, respectively) to the amusement park-like spectacle that is Avatar. Though I was still keeping up with arthouse films as well as the occasional big budget Hollywood fare, my theater-going experiences have been predominantly filled with talking animals, monsters, and children. And it's strange, because reflecting on all of these kiddie films, I always had a good time.

But is this a step forward or a step back?

There is a sense of abandon when you put on these aesthetically ridiculous 3-D glasses and sink into the plush megaplex seats, a surrender to the impulses of your inner child and the need to be filled with awe and wonder. Yet, where do these movies fit into the larger picture of Cinema (yes, with a capital "C"), and how much does the need to be thrilled like a child matter? At times I find it increasingly difficult to gauge what I think of a movie that I enjoyed in the way I enjoyed Avatar, which thrilled me the way a roller coaster would, but when analyzed critically is an amalgamation of cliches that depend entirely on its visual prowess. Or what can I say about Where the Wild Things Are? Is it good according to how much it makes me feel like a child when watching it?

Am I being dumbed down? Does giddiness and ooh-la-la graphics compensate for a lack of narrative bravery or creative editing or framing or shots? Or am I just being hyper-critical and missing the point?

Perhaps its a trend of nostalgia for simpler times and simpler entertainment amidst the complications of economic strife and the ever-increasing mess of a 6+ year war. Perhaps Pixar has shown other movie makers that old-fashioned storybook charm (and cutting-edge graphics) can still make money. Perhaps it's just coincidence. In any case, the surplus of kid cinema makes it difficult to determine what makes a movie good, or at least one better than the other -- as if every movie should make me giddy instead of thoughtful. It's not a new problem, but I feel the distinction between feel-good and just plain good movies is even more blurred this year.

So I present my list for fave movies of 2009, the criteria of which I haven't completely figured out yet. Kid cinema and serious cinema holding hands.

1. Inglourious Basterds dir. Quentin Tarantino

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox dir. Wes Anderson

3. Up dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

4. A Serious Man dir. Coen bros.

5. The White Ribbon dir. Michael Haneke

6. The Hurt Locker dir. Kathryn Bigelow

7. Adventureland dir. Greg Mottola

8. Anvil! The Story of Anvil dir. Sacha Gervasi

9. Public Enemies dir. Michael Mann

10. Two Lovers dir. James Gray

Runners up: Coraline, Where the Wild Things Are, Star Trek, An Education, Police, Adjective, The Headless Woman, Bright Star, Avatar