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Best Movies, 2009, Pt. 2

6) Away we Go: Both funny and heartwarming, this film about two 30-somethings is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Many reviewers considered the main characters to be smug and condescending, but I really found them to be likeable (maybe I’m smug and condescending?–probably.), and the people that surround them (save her sister) to be worth looking down upon. The cast of characters that this movie flies through is consistently hilarious, with many quotable lines after the fact. But, at its center, is the relationship between Burt and Verona and realism to that relationship is what makes it beautiful.

5) Star Trek: After just re-watching this film last night, and then watching all the special features, I can say that this was an awesome film done by a very passionate group of people. Originally, I wasn’t expecting much. I was never a trekker, my dad wasn’t. Nobody around me was. And so I went into this movie thinking, “Awesome. I get to watch shit blow up in space!” I came away from the film in absolute awe of the visuals as well as the coherent story. Though I didn’t get all the little homages to the original series, I did get the overall sense that this was a very big film with a solid backbone. It further continued this odd renaissance of major motion pictures that encompass both tons of shit blowing up and action packed sequences with a very well rounded out story much like the Dark Knight did last summer.

4) Public Enemies: What can I say? I loved the fact that Michael Mann shot this on digital and I love that he gives Dillinger’s background in a single sentence after Marion Cotillard characters says she doesn’t know him. “I like baseball, fast cars, movies, and you. What else do you need to know?” This is a movie about Purvis vs. Dillinger and nothing else. Its bank robbing sequences and its shootout setpiece were very very well done especially when it came to the ballsy choice for them to be completely devoid of scoring or soundtrack during the set piece. For three minutes straight all one would hear were gunshots and broken glass–something that was so real and so immediate that it still makes me smile in admiration.

3) Avatar: Okay, so this movie may slot higher one day when I see it on home video and I’m still impressed. The story, sure, it’s a little bit overtold and undercooked, but who cares. It makes bold leaps forward visually and contains a political message so far left that Joseph McCarthy is rolling over in his grave. This was a film that makes every attempt for us to side with the Na’vi to the point that, when the third act story-abandonment rolls around, we’re so invested in the characters that we want to see them fight more than we want them to grow. I’ve never been so affected by the visuals in a film before. Some of the shots in this film will give you goosebumps.

2) Funny People: I loved this movie. It was slotted as #1 for a long time before I had a change of heart. See, this is a film that was packaged as a movie. This is the first of Apatow’s films whose story wasn’t a vessel for dick jokes. Instead, this movie is about the people–about their situations and their relationships (instead of how well they can talk about their genitals and their marijuana smoking habits). As a result, it was something that no one expected. I loved that the bridge between the film’s halves is a poignant cameo by Eminem. I love that we see Seth Rogen at his day job. I love that Adam Sandler got to show his soul a second time. I love all the home video and the Yo Teach! episodes and the clips from his movies. Sure, it has its weaknesses (Leslie Mann was either underwritten or miscast), but those are far outweighed by the film’s heart. Plus, it still has dick jokes because it’s about stand up comedians.

1) Up: Gene Siskel, I think it was, talked about how difference in opinion can shift into error of fact once it’s about something so beloved or hated. This movie was another one that Pixar knocked out of the park, and to not like it just seems wrong. This film has such a huge center, and so much care and time and consideration was put into every aspect of this film that it’s hard to hate it. I love that the dogs talk through their collars and not through some kind of movie magic. I love that Kevin’s a girl bird. I love the floating house. I love the imagery. I love Dug. I love Mr. Frederickson (so relatable). I love Russell. They’ve created believable characters and some of the most powerful imagery during that first montage explaining all of Ellie and Carl’s relationship which should be taught in film schools one day during a lecture on juxtaposition of images in films. This takes Battleship Potemkin and heightens it. And the score! Michael Giacchino is an awesome composer and this was his year between this and Star Trek and the absolutely awesome score for Land of the Lost. Up will be a movie I will raise my kids on.

If you were wondering, the only two albums I got into that were new this year were Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest and mewithoutYou’s “it’s all crazy it’s all false it’s all a dream it’s alright,” so I guess they’re my top 2 of the year.

quick hits


The 40-Year-Old-Virgin (9–the unrated scenes actually add something, unlike many movies where it’s just a fucking ploy)

Dazed and Confused (4–fuck you Richard Linklater. Your high school experience was like this? Well, then, you’re an asshole.)

Wild at Heart (8–Fuck you David Lynch. You scare me. You’re the Freddy Kreuger of directors. I can’t sleep after watching ANY of your films.)

Animal House (5–John Belushi. That’s the only reason it got a five.)

The Squid and the Whale (8–the most depressing fucking movie you will ever watch. Yes, even more depressing than Requiem for a Dream and American History X. And no one even fucking dies in this movie. Or loses an arm. Nothing like that. I’m so pissed off right now at Jeff Daniels’ character in the Squid and the Whale. He’s a pretentious-ass-fucking cunt who says shit that doesn’t even mean anything. And his sons take after him. That’s when a movie’s good: when it’s resounding so hard in your mind that you’re straight-up-fucking-pissed-the-hell-off. Goddam. I just finished it and I am so damned depressed.)

Bottle Rocket (6–Wes Anderson’s start. It’s only okay and a mere shadow of his better later films. As an aside: fuck you critics who think that the Darjeeling Limited was a self-parodying mess.)

comedy 2008

Let’s talk comedy tonight, which seems to be enough of an enigmatic genre to constantly be overlooked. There is a lot of art in making people laugh, but there is also a lot of non-art. I tend to think that people (and Oscar voters alike) would be able to discern what is comedy and what is bullshit, but not often people do. That’s why Meet the Spartans was tops at the box office this weekend. Why Meet the Spartans was even made. So let’s get to the comedies that I think fall into the opposite category of actually funny movies–movies that made me laugh.

This is not to say that I don’t exclusively enjoy good comedic films. One of my favorite comedies is Dodgeball, for instance, which probably falls into the same category as Meet the Spartans: kind of funny, sophomoric and not much substance. Not much art in the film making itself. But there were some damn good funny movies that came out this year, so let’s get down to bidniss.

4) Aquateen Hungerforce Colon Movie Film For Theaters — Here’s a prime example of that shit-humor film-making. I’m such a big fan of the show, though, that this movie couldn’t help but make me laugh. It’s surprising that the non-sequitur style that their humor has was able to play out for a full 90 minutes or so. It somehow didn’t get stale, and it kept me entertained for far longer than I expected from a fifteen minute TV show.

3) Juno — this movie was just downright cute. I liked that it didn’t play to some of the Hollywood stereotypes of dickish parents who Juno has to hide her pregnancy from or that the guy who got her pregnant skips town and stops talking to her. She openly acknowledges the mistake and is willing to go through with it and to give this child the best life she can. There are definitely some interesting subplots and the whole movie is rife with awesomeness.

2) Knocked Up — Judd Apatow knows what he’s doing. This movie is one that was made by someone who knows how to make me laugh. Knows how to make a comedy with realistic and well done characters. I liked that this movie was sappy and funny and mean and honest all at the same time. Seth Rogen really showed that he can be a leading man, and one that I’d never want to get impregnated by.

1) Superbad — I have such a connection to this movie that it would have been hard to not give it #1. In High School, I was Seth a lot of the time, it seemed like. Aside from the drive to get laid, I was the loud mouth, vulgar kid in high school, constantly trying to find a girlfriend. And my best friend was Evan. The names in the movie should be changed for clarity, but it’s the truth. He talls and skinny and awkward–not so much anymore, but, still, at the time the movie came out, the characters spoke to us because we’ve been in that same situation before. We’ve never gone on a booze hunt or anything, but the whole having to cope with a separation that is looming after spending two years sitting around and talking about nothing. I enjoyed this movie, and it helped that it was funny as hell.