2009 Films in Review

2009 didn’t see me seeing a lot of 2009 movies, if you catch my drift… here, however, are the ones I did see and what I took away from each:

2012:  I didn’t watch this, but I did watch the escape-from-L.A. clip on Youtube repeatedly–it’s a paean to and parody of every disaster movie ever.  I can’t tell if it’s tongue in cheek or pokerfaced; it transcends questions of seriousness.  If anyone ever tries to make a disaster movie after this, they’ll have missed the point, much like the Scary Movie crew who somehow failed to notice the Scream franchise.

9:  **SPOILER ALERT** Shane Acker’s 9 started off wonderfully, but got late-period-Burtonitis halfway through and forgot to write itself a decent ending.  The plot is elegantly simple: a doll comes to life to discover he’s one of nine such creatures inhabiting a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  The wasteland is the work of a monstrous sentient war machine, the movie’s Big Bad, who, it turns out, was created by the same scientist who afterward crafted the nine dolls.  My friend and I both hummed with anticipation during the second act–we both foresaw a magic and unprecedented ending in which the nine titular heroes have been devoured one by one by the Big Bad, at which point, the dolls’ creator’s plan is revealed–he created them all to store parts of his soul, and fated them to be devoured by the Big Bad to become its missing humanity, thus redeeming it from inside and saving the world through a most exotic form of self-sacrifice.  But alas, as obvious and marvelous as this ending seems from the movie’s midpoint, the plot first dodges the unique ending for a pedestrian one (killing the villain through a now-too-conventional Big Battle), and then tacks on a kitschy Return-of-the-Jedi vision of its heroes’ dead souls at the end, when the movie’s already made clear that their souls are software, not some tangible spectral hokum… 9 could have been the movie that gives life to Lincoln’s famous maxim, “If I make my enemy my friend, have I not destroyed my enemy?”  If it had gone this route, it might have been my favorite movie of 2009.

Adventureland:  Early on in this movie, I told my wife, “This movie has to end with the protagonist getting laid.”  And I was right.  I rarely call a movie’s ending (see note on 9 above), but this time, I’m extra glad I nailed it, ’cause the movie turned out to be a really pitch-perfect and reverential depiction of one kid’s buildup to the sexual and romantic big leagues.  It’s a nice antidote to the glut of movies that depict the ideal First Time of a young man as involving zero commitment, zero emotional attachment to the girl involved, or some other form of zero chance that the pairing could succeed long-term.   Hollywood asks us to believe, often enough, in the happily ever after of two jaded twentysomethings with little virtue or maturity to show for their years and the countless failed relationships under their belts–if we’re willing to swallow that several times a year, why not the bright future of a first love?  Especially where the vestals show a little maturity and depth–what’s not to like?

Avatar:   Watching a second time in 3D, I thought I’d find more to love about 3D.  But even Cameron’s relatively deft use of the format only makes for a wash–I couldn’t care less about the 3D, because I couldn’t tell it was there during the scenes that absorbed me most, when, presumably, it was being used most masterfully, and in the scenes where it was most obvious, I kept thinking about how it should be improved (frame rates will have to triple, and directors on down retrained to use much less jump-cutting when working in 3D).  The derivative plot and hacky dialogue also didn’t register with me as much on a second viewing.  I even forgave the lazy visual cues linking the natives to native Americans, instead letting the Na’vi look and lifestyle impress me on their own merits, wherever their source.  But enough about what didn’t matter.

On the second viewing, I confirmed that Giovanni Ribisi, Sam Worthington and and Zoe Saldana form the molten emotional core of this movie.  Saldana’s wracked sobs, Worthington’s childlike delight, and Ribisi’s dose of villainous realism (touched by doubt, relentlessly pragmatic, nicely counterbalancing Stephen Lang’sgloriously cartoonish military honcho) showed themselves as the real reasons to watch.  That, and the actually competent aerial scenes, and the emotionally bizarre but raw climax in which Saldana’s Neytiri first sees her beloved in his human form.   Note that of these strongest elements, only Ribisi’s performance is untouched by CGI.  Somehow, Cameron managed to anchor a movie largely in the emotion conveyed by two blue CG’d alien faces.  Studio execs?  Screw 3D, invest more in Cameron’s new performance capture technique!

I swear the following tangent is apropos of this Avatar review: Watching the dully inexpressive CG face of the title character from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button a year ago, I was reminded of the old lament, “If youth only knew; if age only could.”  Benjamin Button‘s core flaw, other than its screenwriter’s vicious self-plagiarism, is that the title character totally blows a unique opportunity to be a Youth who Knows, an Aged person who Can.  Brad Pitt, confined in large part by the script and perhaps the limitations of his character’s CG bobblehead, plays Benjamin as way too passive, timid, mute, frail, and cowardly to fulfill the promise of his unique opportunity.  I mention all this because it explains what I loved most about Avatar–somehow, Sam Worthington of all people manages to convince as a Youth who Knows, an Aged person who Can (thanks to his rebirth as an avatar in a new world).  His Jake Sully makes the most of his newborn foal-like body, facing every physical and psychological challenge with a hard-won fearlessness, an emotional surefootedness, that could only be born of experiences of frailty, war, and grief.  That surefootedness shows up when need be as grim battlefield valor, but also, frequently, as childlike joy, and his infectious smile upon confronting each new obstacle does everything for the audience that Benjamin Button’s CG performance didn’t.  Perhaps Cameron’s performance capture technique would have improved that movie’s resonance, freeing Pitt’s performance and the screenwriter’s imagination of how a backwards-aging man would act.  It certainly would have helped critics better appreciate the underrated Zemeckis movies Beowulf and Polar Express, whose relatively lifeless faces couldn’t satisfy professional cinephiles spoiled by a lifetime of live-action performancesThe most real-seeming and affecting CG in Avatar was the Na’vi’s faces at several key dramatic moments.  Just think about that.

Bruno:  Derivative.  Paula Abdul sitting on a chair made of Mexican guy while talking about charity–that should have been the whole movie.  Well, that’s not entirely fair.  There were many,many gut-busting laughs to be had.  But many of these laughs merely echoed bits of Borat, and many echoed each other.  Bruno got the most mileage, was most revelatory, when the focus was off Bruno–as with the chair Mexicans, yes, but how could I forget the stage parents willing to subject their children to any danger or indignity for a chance at fame.  Unfortunately, far too infrequently did the movie seem at once original, and revelatory, and gut-bustingly funny.  Borat accomplished this trifecta much more consistently.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs:  The CG fluids depicted in this adaptation of the eponymous children’s book are as good as any I’ve seen.  As with other animations of late, the story’s pacing seems masterful, at least when compared to live action efforts of the last few years.  (I suppose that makes sense, given how much animation production centers on precise planning and timing.)  BUT:  I’m suspicious of this story’s moral–yes, it’s bad to make a machine that runs amok, and yes it’s bad to be shortsighted in your municipal economic policies, but c’mon!  The protagonist had slaved his whole life to invent something that worked, and this was his first potential success, and it leads to armageddon.  Does post-millenial America really need to be telling our kids that a lifetime of hard work in the sciences or engineering can only result in a solid string of failed experiments or else a catastrophic, pyrrhic breakthrough?  I’m pretty sure that’s not what they’re pouring into young heads over in Germany, Korea, China, India, and Japan.   Of course, the impression my son probably took from Cloudy is that if you work really hard, you can make something that explodes in a novel and spectacular fashion.  And hey, that’s probably what’s driven most U.S. kids to become engineering students over the last hundred years anyway.

Drag Me to Hell:  Hooray!  Not sure this merits a 2nd viewing, but the first is a doozy.  Where else can you see a grade Z concept executed with grade A talent?  But that’s not why I cheer; Tarantino’s one-man sex tape Death Proof accomplished as much.  That grade-Z-done-grad-A vehicle  did almost nothing for me, except give me one more chance to revel in Kurt Russell’s steakburger screen presence.  Drag Me to Hell offers more–an almost medieval horror concept–that the best, gentlest, and cutest of us, could deserve and meet the worst imaginable fate due to one bloodless injustice we commit in a moment of venality.  Also:  Yay to old-school special effects!  And yay to a horror movie that doesn’t center on physical torture, an oversized natural predator, a deformed backwoods clan of cannibals, or goddamned zombies!

Extract:  It stars Jason Bateman, who’s like a fist-sized diamond–put a fist-sized diamond in a lump of coal, and you’ll still want that lump of coal.  Drop a fist-sized diamond in a septic tank, and you’ll dive in after it.  My point is I adore Jason Bateman, who often plays a noble, diplomatic mensch whose intrinsic honesty and fairness are compromised only by a desire for a woman’s love–he’s so good at this role, he makes it seem as though such a man is possible!  Thankfully, Extract isn’t a septic tank; it also features a crackerjack supporting cast and writer-director Mike Judge, whose Idiocracy ranks right up with Soylent Green as one of the all-time best one-note mean-spirited prophecies.  Extract feels like a lark by comparison, one of those modest films a director makes when he’s short on ambition but has money and creative energy to burn, but then, perhaps its ambitions are simply more subtle than those of the epic Idiocracy, and its view of humanity more hopeful and forgiving.  Idiocracy posited that a world full of idiots just might be smart enough to listen to its one voice of reason.  Extract posits that we each are full of idiocy, but just might be smart enough to listen to our inner voice of reason.  I think I like that better.

The Hangover: I’ve never seen so much of a movie ruined by inclusion in the preview.  When are we going to hold preview makers accountable for their crimes against film?  Against us?  I sure would have delighted in the in-theater revelation that the men’s blacked-out exploits somehow resulted in their acquiring Mike Tyson’s tiger, a hooker’s baby, and a chicken.  Sure, you have to watch the actual movie to find out the details of how these items were acquired, but if you’re gonna pull that narrative stunt of giving away the endgame first, you’d better make sure that those intermediary details are utterly astonishing–that how they got the tiger, is more amazing than that they got one.  Call this the Evel Knievel theory–it’s awesome to make a motorcycle jump of 200 feet, but more awesome if that jump is over a row of 20 flaming schoolbuses.  I’m not sure the movie pulls this off.

Harry Potter and the Buildup to the Climax:  After the jaw-dropping severity of H.P. and the Order of the Phoenix, I expected more from director David Yates.  Between the dementor attack and the unfair tribunal against H.P., the first half of Phoenix packed as much pathos as the rest of the series combined.  This time around, all I can remember is that in this one, the kids talk a lot about snogging and heartbreak, and Gandalf dies.

The Hurt Locker:  Combine several solid actors, one semi-great director, one Jeremy Renner, authentic settings, and a screenwriter who didn’t bother with realism, despite talking to firsthand participants in the Iraq war, according to said firsthand participants.  Cut with tedium, Hollywood shorthand for an informed and reverential look at war (cf. Apocalypse Now, Thin Red Line, etc.).  Result: my drunk brother bailed from the theater 30 minutes in, when I’d paid steeply for his ticket, and afterward, I couldn’t even feel mad at him.  Renner’s character is addicted to adrenaline and cortisol.  I get it.  This does not a movie make; nor is it some novel observation about one of war’s possible effects on a soldier.  If you want to see a realistic, profound, indelible, multifaceted depiction of the Iraq conflict, see HBO’s Generation Kill.  If you want to see another, see Generation Kill again.  It might cost five times as much as this movie on DVD, but then again, it’s five times as eventful, five times as accurate, five times as exciting, and five times as memorable.  Jeremy Renner deserves better, but then, I’m sure he’ll eventually manage to cry himself to sleep on the huge blanket of critical praise he’s rightly been covered in.

(P.S.–I couldn’t be happier that Bigelow’s the woman who finally broke the best-director-Oscar glass ceiling.  As with many other best director awards, hers rewards a lifetime of consistently groundbreaking work, and what she attempted with Hurt Locker would qualify as high art in my book, if the subjects she depicts didn’t so richly deserve a higher level still of rich and realistic depiction than what her screenwriter brought to the table.  If you don’t feel so charitably toward soldiers, just imagine the movie were about the plight of dolphins in Japan, but repeatedly referred to them as fish–real soldiers are far more three dimensional, if not dynamic, than what Renner and his buddies are given to work with.  Yes, the bomb work is suspenseful.  No, suspense cannot replace well-crafted characters.  Sorry!  I have three close friends who served in Iraq.  Two of them loved the work as much as Renner’s William James, and one of these two was an EOD guy, who said later he’d much prefer to be sent back than to have to work as a recruiter–but that’s another story.  None of these friends are as single-minded as Renner’s character.  They are capable of falling madly in love with the danger of death, and yet also capable of coming back and loving domestic life, poker nights, deer hunting, and backyard barbecues with the neighbors.  These are real soldiers.  These are the most fascinating ones.  If you want to see some, two words: Generation Kill.)

I Love You, Man:  If Fight Club raises the question of what modern masculinity should look like, while blasting the foundations of the answer it erects, then I Love You, Man provides a more plausible answer to the same question.  In fact, the movie gets so many things right–yes, it’s hard after college to find a good male buddy; yes, men need friendships with other men as much as they need women; yes, these friendships consist of a good deal of silliness; yes, these friendships provide more than silly horseplay, they shape mens’ philosophies and character–the movie gets so many things right, it’s important to remember what it omits–that the best friendships should have the friends both devoted to something bigger than themselves.  A common goal, a common god; call it what you will, it’s what electrifies the male bonding in Fight Club, and it’s what feels absent from most modern depictions of friendship regardless of the genders involved.  Real brotherhood is born in a shared willingness to sacrifice for the same ideal.  You see that iron bond between WWII vets and their war buddies; you feel it among the major players in accounts of 1st-century Christianity; you see it at play in Fight Club, Army of Shadows, 12 Angry Men, Seven Samurai, Saving Private Ryan, Stand By Me, and The Right Stuff.  You don’t see it in scenes of two grown men playing video games together.  If your friendships consist solely of self-indulgent activities, as most modern friendships seem to, then you and your friend will know each other to be entirely selfish creatures, and therefore not worth trusting at the deepest level.  I suppose I’m eager to see a movie combine the charms of I Love You, Man‘s realistic and wholesome bromance, and Fight Club‘s caustic contempt for relationships that merely help both parties fritter their lives away.

Inglourious Basterds:  My heart is not made of stone; I can see the exquisite color with which Tarantino repaints WWII.  But seriously, this is at least QT’s fourth movie in a row built like a cherry red Ferrari around an engine of revenge–Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Death Proof, and now this.  Remember the neat way Sam Jackson’s character in  Pulp Fiction rethinks his own schtick about vengeance, and thereby achieves redemption?  Yeah, well, QT doesn’t, and each of his films is becoming more emotionally retarded than the last.  Yes, we like vengeance stories!  We also like eating Krispy Kreme donuts six at a time!  QT, that kitchen scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 sums you up–you are a box of spilled Fruit Loops on a linoleum floor.  And I really don’t want to keep eating junk food off the floor.  Grow up.  After blowing up Hitler, you’re not going to get another free trip to the revenge fantasy well.  Maybe go spend a few years raising a kid or serving the poor, and then come back and write something new and infused with a spirit other than wrath.

The Invention of Lying:  Ricky Gervais deserved this movie, and I mean that both ways.  I love Gervais, and I loved this movie, but it’s exhibit A in how our thinking about fiction and lying is corrupt.  Fiction isn’t a form of lying; it’s hypothesizing, imagining alternate realities while knowing they’re alternate realities.  With fiction, the audience knows that what it’s being fed isn’t purely factual.  I’ve written about this in depth, because I think it’s a vital distinction. A world without lying therefore WOULD already have fiction–fiction, but no willfully deceptive Blair Witch-style marketing campaigns, and no Santa Claus lies, and no Dianetics or Book of MormonThe Invention of Lying gets this totally wrong.  And another thing: a world without lying, would not be a world in which people said everything they thought.  Tact and silence are not forms of deception any more than fiction is.  Being lie-free no more demands I say every hurtful thing I’m thinking, than that it demands I say every random thing I’m thinking, or every boring or obvious thing I’m thinking.  But then, if the movie recognized these distinctions, there’d be no critique possible of its lie-free world; no change needed in it; no room for a plot.  And that ultimately reveals the big lie behind The Invention of Lying–lying isn’t really necessary; fiction is, and tact is, and knowing when to shut up entirely is.  There was no intellectually honest way to make this movie.  The premise is false.  It should not have been made.  That may not be the most tactful way to put it, but at least it’s true.

Knowing:  Check out my review here.

Michael Jackson’s This Is It:  There’s a reason I’ve never heard any rumors of Jackson being a petulant brat–he’s not.  I’ve never seen someone so powerful, being so modest, polite, apologetic, gentle, and patient with those around him.  I’ve also never seen real footage of someone so close to death so full of energy and committed to their craft.  Here’s a thought: It’s amazing how much Jackson’s relationship with his father echoes the relationship of Viktor Frankenstein with his monster… in both cases, an obsessed man beyond the moral pale, used ghastly methods to give life to a totally unique creature of fantastic abilities.  In both cases, this creature resented his creator for robbing him of a natural life.  In both cases, the creature fled from and hated his creator, without ever being able to stop being exactly as his creator made him.  In both cases, the creature’s deformities reflected the abominable acts of his creator–looking at Michael’s skin bleaching and relentless rhinoplasty, one can almost hear Joe Jackson cutting his son down for his appearance, remarks that became ugly surgeries just as much as Viktor’s stitching together of various corpses.  And in both cases, the creature never was able to fit in among normal people, thus favoring the less-judgmental company of little children, with similar results.  Michael’s estate auction revealed a skillful sketch of Frankenstein’s monster he penned while on the set of The Wiz early in his career.  Later, he depicted himself as a reanimated corpse in his Thriller video.  I used to wonder why he did that, why he invested so much creative energy in that silly monster-movie premise, and cast his beautiful self as one of the undead.  Thanks to This Is It, I wonder no more.

Monsters Vs. Aliens:  When I watched this with my son, I couldn’t believe Roger Ebert felt so harshly toward it.  But now that I’m trying to remember something about it, something worth saying, I see Ebert’s point.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:  When Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure depicted historical figures as grossly inaccurate cartoons, we felt free to laugh, because the movie was ABOUT its protagonists’ historical illiteracy.  Battle of the Smithsonian has no such excuse.  Worse, it spends way too much time building toward a new movie trope I call the Apocalyptic Menagerie, in which a movie climaxes with a battle scene involving way too many characters and machines and creatures of implausible variety.  You know this trope.  Star Wars eps 1 and 2 are guilty of it;  Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is tainted by it (the blame in this case goes to Tolkein, and to be fair, his version of the trope came first and was done with greater skill).  Quit trying to wow me by throwing robots, ninjas, monkeys, zombies, and laser-mounted elephants in a blender and hitting the frappe key on your ILM compositing station.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop:  I’m sure I come across sometimes as way too focused on whether a film has a moral I can agree with, or a wholesome message.  But rest assured, friends, that I am just as focused on a movie having some sort of challenge or edge to it.  PB:MC fails to offend anyone in any way–it’s as round, flabby and bland as its hero.  I can imagine the pope falling asleep during this snooze.  I found myself fleeing, with Blart behind me pleading for me to halt, powerless to make me reconsider.

The Proposal:  Ryan Reynolds can do no wrong.  He’s the jock-looking, fratty guy I can’t bring myself to hate.  Here he pulls a Clooney, meaning he downplays his charm by playing a sad sack, thus ablating the audience’s envy and winning their support.  And Sandra Bullock can do no wrong, because she’s the hottest thing on two wheels.  If they’d found a believable way to show her transformation into a respectful, humbled human being, we’d have another Ten Things I Hate About You or Overboard on our hands.  Close, Hollywood rom-com machine; keep trying.

Public Enemies:  Michael Mann could direct the rescue of a kitten from a tree with as much fascination as the Other Michael can only muster by crowding a shot with a half-naked woman, two fighter jets, a sunset, and a robot exploding.  Depp’s villain here is one of his more believable roles; Christian Bale keeps up his streak of playing Christian Bale.  Watching this, I felt like I actually learned a little something about the evolution of crime and the FBI during the Depression.  Not a bad feat for an action flick.

Star Trek:  I choked up during the first five minutes.  The rest of the movie managed to be ridiculously actiony without seeming gratuitously actiony; after two viewings, I can remember clearly almost the entire plot, and every spectacle.  Thank you, J.J. Abrams, for avoiding the Apocalyptic Menagerie.  And high five for the snarky use of time-travel (branching histories subtype) to explain a reboot in the glibbest way possible.  And way to show Spock’s childhood in depth; I could have used a little more of young Kirk’s homelife, so that I could better delight in his evolution into a bold captain, having seen exactly where he got that swagger.

Terminator Salvation:  Entire books about John Connor’s future have been written.  An underrated TV show had tried a couple of fascinating narrative gambits about Skynet’s personality and John Connor’s eventual romantic feelings for a terminator possibly designed to seduce him.  The TS writers made use of none of this.  They showed zero understanding of what appeals about the Terminator franchise.  I’m reminded of when a grandmother tries to make a nightgown for her new granddaughter-in-law to wear on her wedding night–the creative choices are all wrong, because the creative inspiration is all wrong.  John Connor should have been the ONLY hero of this movie.  I’ve seen movies pile on too many villains in a third or fourth installment of a series, but this is the first time the good guy roster felt so crowded.    Also, could the TS writers not even enamor themselves of basic common sense?  A human thrown into an iron girder by a robot, crumples; he does not dent the girder and then stumble back to his feet.  And a machine whose main military goal is to kill John Connor, would not take John Connor by the throat, and then do anything other than squeeze until the man’s head popped off.  And finally, if Skynet managed to capture and then identify Kyle Reese, it wouldn’t use Kyle as bait to get John, because it could just kill Kyle and thereby erase John from history.  I wish Skynet would come back in time and erase this movie from history.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:  The closer Michael Bay comes to creative exhaustion and self-parody, the more I respect him.  If you’ve ever heard the bands Rage Against the Machine and Atari Teenage Riot, you’ll know that the former takes itself completely seriously, while the latter takes itself psychotically seriously, and that the latter approach is far more interesting.  This flaming pile of garbage is at the same time an amazing cathedral that defines, and facilitates the worship of, post-millenial Americana.   What an amazingly disjointed fever dream of our culture in all its glory and decay.   I’m somehow totally not sorry I watched this.

Up:  The first ten minutes of this movie could never be matched by the rest of it (we’re seeing more and more of this frontloadedness in movies lately).  Carl and his house resonated with me.  Something seemed… miscast, about his young friend, and the big bird, and Doug the Dog, and the villain, his blimp, and his canine servants.  The boy and the dog never stopped annoying me.  Finding Nemo is twice the movie Up is.  The Incredibles is ten times as good.  And why?  Because in these other movies the elements seem well-matched; the characters seem destined to know each other and relate to each other as they do.  My diagnosis?  The Pixar crew’s starting to think their brainstorming sessions can do no wrong, and that any action scene is a good action scene.  Expect one of their next movies to exhibit full-blown Apocalyptic Menagerie–you heard it here first.

Watchmen:  One man would sacrifice anything for justice, even the survival of the human species.  A second man would sacrifice anything for the survival of the species,  even justice.  And a third man could do anything he imagined, but can’t find a reason to value either justice or the survival of the species.  The three men just described–Rorschact, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan–form an unholy triumvirate of lost humanity as fascinating in its symmetry as anything I’ve ever seen in film narrative.  Three friends of theirs stand as witnesses to the collision of their philosophies.  Two of these witnesses, Night Owl 2 and Silk Spectre 2, are optimists, and one, the Comedian, is a cynic, but they’re united by a humility their powerful friends lack–they don’t presume to see the big picture, and thus for all their superheroism, their philosophical humility means their lives are doomed to be shaped entirely by the choices of those three men.  And so it goes: Ozymandias, who values humanity’s survival above all, commits a profound injustice in the name of ensuring that humanity survives.  Rorschact, who values justice above all, vows to undo Ozymandias’ towering feat of injustice, even if doing so places humanity back in danger of nuclear annihilation.  And Dr. Manhattan, who could provide either man with limitless aid, chooses to side with Ozymandias, who dared to treat him as a pawn, frame him as a villain, and cast him as humanity’s new God… in so doing, Dr. Manhattan chooses to thwart Rorschact, the one who never failed to see and treat him precisely as he was.  Ah, what a clockwork of ironies!  And what a hard-edged, brainy ode to the core beauty of humanity, the romantic bloom between mere mortals Night Owl 2 and Silk Spectre 2, who in the end embody the humanity that Ozymandias seeks to preserve, and the deserving innocence that Rorschact’s rigid justice can’t condemn, and the beautiful possibility that Dr. Manhattan finally discovers as a solution to his existential crisis.

Whip It!:  Ellen Page is a woman among girls.  She’s emerging as a screen presence who manages to be sexy without stain, smart without guile, flawed without guilt, confident without vanity, bold and yet modest, and all this without a lick of effort.  Interesting that the things that make her an ideal woman, are the things that would make any mature human being ideal.  Meanwhile, Whip It! comes across as a little too derivative, but only because I happen to have seen Karate Kid first.  Maybe that’s what this film really lacked–a mentor figure as profound and well-drawn as Mr. Miyagi.

World’s Greatest Dad:  Go Bobcat Goldthwait!  Seriously, everyone go track down a copy of Sleeping Dogs Lie, while I try to shake somebody down for a copy of Shakes the Clown.  Also, this movie’s further proof that Robin Williams is following a very strict diet of about six shitty movies for every one awesome movie.  But usually, his awesome movies are the dramas, and his shitty ones are the “comedies.”  This is an impressive change of pace.

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4 Responses to “2009 Films in Review”

  1. D says:

    its a terrible shame that while going to great a great extent to do a quality and honest review of 2009s films you failed to review both Coraline and The Fantastic Mr. fox, two of the best animated features of the year. Yet, you review one of the worst animated movies ive ever seen [Cloudy with a chance of meatballs] and do a wonderfully honest and much needed review of Up. but the fact is you gave a review of two movies that fell short as animated movies, and completely ignored the undeniable talent of the artists and animators in coraline, and the rich shoreline and refreshing characters of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

  2. Hugo says:

    That’s some pretty nice blog you’ve got there. Quite toughtful reviews, and, even though I don’t agree with eveything I read, I enjoyed the passion and the thinking you put in your text.

    The Artax shirt is great, that scene left me and emotional scar during childhood, that fucking horse.

    I would really like to read your review for Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. I feel he sabotages his narrative efforts by filling his movies with gore and genitalia and horror for sheer shock value. I relate his attitude to that shirt of yours, the vini vini vici fetus shirt, but I may have failed to understand the point here.

  3. Jon says:

    I’d love to see your review of Antichrist, especially, but also of Coraline and of Fantastic Mr. Fox. That said, I mean, you put right at the top that you didn’t get to see that many movies this year (I think this is a pretty good number, personally – I think it’s more than I saw), so, D, I don’t think it’s really fair to call him out for not having reviewed them. He reviews the things he sees, y’know? Not a professional.

    Oh, one other thing I’d like to see you review: In the Loop. Funniest movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.

  4. Ian H. says:

    Ahh, nice to see you worked in some railing against Benjamin Button. Apparently, you’re not the only one who doesn’t like that movie:http://videogum.com/155931/the-hunt-for-the-worst-movie-of-all-time-the-curious-case-of-benjamin-button/franchises/the-hunt-for-the-worst-movie-of-all-time/ . Enjoy that, please.

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