Archived entries for

2009 review

This is my usual top 15 of the best films of the year (here is last year’s.):

1. Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle
2. Up, directed by Pete Docter
3. (500) Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb
4. District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp / Avatar, directed by James Cameron
5. Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher
7. Revolutionary Road, directed by Sam Mendes
8. The Road, directed by John Hillcoat
9. Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder
10. Inglorious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino
11. The Reader, directed by Stephen Daldry
12. Boy A, directed by John Crowley
13. The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow
14. Fish Tank, directed by Andrea Arnold
15. Funny People, directed by Judd Apatow

And also: Valkyrie, Last Chance Harvey, Doubt, Gran Torino, Linha de Passe, Die Welle, Star Trek, A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, The September Issue, Away We Go, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Where the Wild Things Are, Vincere

Ok, there we go. It’s always hard to put them in order! But I think that’s pretty much it. I have to admit, I thought about putting Avatar first, but in terms of screenwriting, it’s actually a bit weak. And I think I liked District 9 more, but maybe not. I was enthralled by both. So they end up being at the same position, I can’t really pick..
And well yes, I’m a huge sucker for Pixar films, and they outdid themselves again with Up! I keep saying that every year, oddly enough. But the opening sequence of that film… It’s such a wonderful piece, I was literally crushed by it, hearing Michael Giacchino’s score makes me cry every time (actually I never listen to it because I tear up so easily. Yeah I know. Insane, anyone?!). And I dunno, it’s a very hard film to watch, and that’s a first for an animated feature.
(500) Days of Summer is officially my movie crush of the year; it’s almost a personal thing, but it really, really appealed to me and it’s very rare indeed to see films like this one. It’s so tricky to make a film about love; but they pulled it off brillantly.
I was tempted to put Milk higher in this top 15, because that film was so well-made, and I was very affected by it too (on a personal level as well). The film was so compelling and tense at the same time. I love how Gus Van Sant chose to treat this subject, going back and forth between fiction and reality.
Last but not least, Slumdog Millionaire IS the best film of the year: to me it’s the perfect combination of movie magic and virtuoso directing. It’s an incredible story for sure, and Danny Boyle’s enthusiasm is so infectious. I discussed it at greater length here.
Okay I could keep talking about all the other films, but I’ll stop here!
And a quick top 5 of the performances:

Actors
1. Sean Penn, Milk
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
3. Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker / Sharlto Copley, District 9
4. Viggo Mortensen, The Road
5. Michael Fassbender, Inglorious Basterds and Fish Tank

Actresses
1. Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road and The Reader
2. Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
3. Meryl Streep, Doubt
4. Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey
5. Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Voilà!
I had written this massive post about the Golden Globes but WordPress crashed and now I am waaay too lazy to write it again… But coming soon: 2010 preview and the award season continues, of course!

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Avatar

There’s a lot to say about Avatar, James Cameron’s tale of epic proportions. But first of all, know this: you haven’t seen a film quite like it before.

Since he changed cinema history with Titanic, Cameron has been surprisingly low-key. Avatar embodies his return to big-budget productions then, and expectations went through the roof, because this was the man who sank a boat and made it the most successful film of history, but mostly because Cameron claimed he had been waiting for the technology to tell this story for more than a decade. Is Avatar that revolutionary?

To cut a long story short, yes it is. However one is treading on sensible grounds when speaking of ‘revolutionary’ –wasn’t the Lord of the Rings already using breakthrough techniques? They were indeed, and it’s no surprise to see that Avatar is as much the brainchild of Cameron as the playground of VFX studio Weta.

Here’s a non-spoiler-ish summary: Avatar is set in the future, and Earth is invading a planet called Pandora, which holds a precious matter called ‘unobtainium’ (a MacGuffin if I ever saw one!). Paraplegic soldier Jake Sully, the main character, is thus sent on a mission: to inflitrate the indigeneous culture of Pandora, the Na’vi people, and gain their trust. In order to do so, he is using his ‘avatar’ which mixes human DNA with the one of the natives. But he soon finds out that the Na’vis are a peaceful, nature-embracing people; and he is forced to choose sides between the culture that has adopted him and his human origins.

First of all, let’s face it: it’s James Cameron. He has a knack for telling a story that addresses the mainstream audience. He’s never shied away from that fact –and the scope of his stories are so wide that, more often than not, men, women, young or old person will find something for themselves. But there’s nothing wrong with addressing a worldwide audience, of course. However, it does impact on the storytelling: it feels familiar and so there’s nothing innovative in trying to tell that particular story. The general pattern is completely predictable. That doesn’t mean that the characters are uninteresting or cliché (they aren’t), but it does mean that the twists and turns of the story can be easily guessed. That being said, does it spoil any of the experience? Did Cameron lack of creativity?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’. In essence, Avatar represents an incredible achivement, also in terms of creativity but mostly in terms of rendering. Simply put, it’s the first time you can see a director’s imagination perfectly recreated onscreen. I felt as if I was surrounded with an uninterrupted flow of creativity, and it’s hard to explain why it struck me as such. Even though the story itself felt somewhat familiar, the setting did not. And that’s what makes Avatar so unique. Pandora, the planet on which the film is set, is simply stunning. Its gorgeous design falls short of being perfect; for any viewer, it’s such a treat to be drawn into that universe, an original one. It has a slight Star Wars-innovation feeling to it, that’s true. The Na’vi creatures, which generated a lot of skepticism at first, are beautifully done, and it’s very hard indeed not to emphasize with them, however remote or weird it looks to us. Every movement of the actors is gracefully rendered, the subtlety of their performances transcribed in the most faithful way -it’s been done before, but not at such a towering scale. The VFX are so ingrained in the story that they become a reality of their own, by which I mean that they become real, imagination is onscreen. It’s scary to think about the ramifications of such an event.

A word on the casting: Sam Worthington is amazing in a retained and layered performance; Sigoruney Weaver does a fine job too, and her character is very endearing. Zoe Saldana gives a fierce performance, which is saying something since she does not appear once but only through her Na’vi appearance. I’ve already talked about the superb production design, and photography is very efficiently handled. Although I daresay it must have been more the work of colourists and graphic designers than an actual director of photography, heh. Score by James Horner is okay (neither outstanding nor blunt). The film’s runtime is more than two hours an a half, but the pace is finely constructed: the film retains the viewer’s attention without any problem, and if there’s one word to define it, it’d be captivating.

And so Cameron simply takes the viewer’s expectations and runs away with it. It’s fair to say that even the most hardened film critic will not be indifferent to Pandora’s beauty, and that Cameron has given us, as an audience, something very special indeed. Hats off then to this incredibly gifted director for having such a vivid imagination, and opening it to us through such beautiful images.

Last thing, I haven’t seen it in 3D (I’m in the goddamn capital of the country and there’s only six 3D screens) BUT I would recommend you to see it in 3D because honestly, when you’ll see it in 2D and come out of the movie theater, you will eat your heart out for not having seen it in 3D the first time. Heh. Not that there’s anything wrong with the 2D format -the film is still absolutely fine, but I know I’m going back this weekend in 3D…

Coming soon: the actual comments on the Golden Globes, promise!

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Movie news ahead!

Award season is in full gear –critics all around the US are picking out films of the year and the Golden Globes nominations were announced yesterday. It’s an exciting year yet again, but I can’t help feeling as if the quality of the films keep diminishing. Well, no Danny Boyle or Martin Scorsese this year at any rate heh.

I just wanted to post the new Robin Hood trailer. It’s directed by Ridley Scott and set to be released early summer of next year. Take a look, I daresay that it’s interesting.

Holy cow, I wasn’t expecting so much manliness packed in a two-minute video. It’s all very impressive and maybe a bit too much. But I still like it. I know that Russell Crowe is only glaring in a very fierce way in this trailer but I’m sure it’s actually a good performance. I don’t think this trailer is very representative of the film –of course, Sir Ridley has shot historical/action epics before (see: the masterpiece of the year 2000s), but with all the 300 and whatnots, historical films seem to have taken a rather different direction. But I also know that Ridley Scott is one of the finest directors out there -he’s grossly underestimated; and even though this trailer is directed at 13-year-old boys with testosterone issues, the film won’t be. He’s surrounded himself with regulars (camera, John Mathieson; editing, Pietro Scalia; production design, Arthur Max) and the screenplay is written by Brian Helgeland. Helgeland doesn’t have the best record but he’s done a fine work on excellent films. So all in all, Robin Hood may not be the best film of the year, but it’ll be worth seeing, I think.

Also, Christopher Nolan’s Inception has a poster:

Credit to IMPawards for the image. It looks very niiiiiiice, I’d add. Very slick indeed. A lot of people have drawn the comparaison to this Dark Knight poster. But I don’t really see it. Yes there’s the building, the colouring,  the character’s position. But clearly Inception has a weirder thing going on, just the flood of water indicates that either a) there will be a flooding of the city at some point in the film, which I highly doubt, b) this film confirms that Leonardo DiCaprio’s mind is full of environmental concerns indeed.
Inception is set for release during summer 2010, although they keep changing the date so I can’t really tell when my eyes will be able to feast on another Christopher Nolan masterpiece, his fifth one!

Next up: Golden Globes nominations, the best films of 2009 and more!

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