February 22, 2010

Lets Finally Put Together an Awkwardly Sized Best of List

So, here we are. The Oscars are in 2 weeks (which will be live-blogged and podcasted, naturally...), so it's probably time for us to get our act together and compile our best of the year (screw those sites that post these in December--no one cares in December). Apologies though for how slanted this list is. I blame it on too much time in areas without huge film cultures. Lansing needs a repertory theater... (hint to wealthy investors right here...)

Today, we're just doing our "Awkwardly Sized Best of 2009"

David's picks:
2009 was... not a great year. Not a terrible year maybe, but really nothing to write home about (except of course in this instance. Hi mom!). A lot of the smug, sure things turned out to be painful mistakes. A lot of the movies that stuck with me were slight failures, or at least contained elements I hated. If last year was characterized by a preoccupation with delicate films about the beginnings of puberty and coursing with youth...then this year. Well. This year was all about looking back at life, and finding something wanting, occasionally filtered through conflict between generations. From the seemingly dozens of films set in the 60s (A Serious Man, A Single Man, And Education, etc.), plus of course overall period pieces (all the above, plus Tetro, Inglorious Basterds, White Ribbon, Bright Star, Young Victoria, etc. etc) to generational conflict (Summer Hours, Up, Transformer 2[side note, this may be the first time those three films were said in the same breath]), to trying to renounce humanity (Avatar, and to some extent Inglorious Basterds).

That being said, there were an awful number of terribly boring and painful films out this year. Many with uncomfortable politics, some with great effects, nearly all without a sense of style (excepting of course Michael Bay, who may have too much style). This also marks the year that, for good and for ill, the thriller genre hit a major stumbling block. The International, Duplicity, and State of Play each stumbled badly over said block, plausibly ending the steady stream of middle-brow cat and mouse games. Let's hope this isn't the case.

This was also the year that the economics of distribution dominated the conversation. Avatar was only meaningful apparently because of its box office (dammit! I just joined the 100% of those who only talked about it to discuss the amount of money involved). There were dramatically fewer independent films out this year, and boy do we know it since that's all that has been discussed. Doom and gloom come with the territory, but it struck me especially this year how little the movies themselves seemed to matter. So perhaps the last 3 quarters of 2010 can be characterized by leaving the talk of money to the business pages? Maybe?

Best of:

  •  Summer Hours - Stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and moving look at a family letting go. Far and away the best movie of the year, Assayas made something breathtaking. Watch it.
  • Hurt Locker -  Well-crafted. This shouldn't make it stand out, but well, here we are. Another film about someone who can't handle the world as it is. 
  • (The first 20 minutes of) Up - Really gorgeous 20 minutes. Everything after starts to collapse, but  for those 20 minutes... Oh boy. Pixar: please learn to write 2nd and 3rd acts. Trust your audience at least a little...
  • Tetro - A bit of a failure--the movie doesn't hold together. But man--well shot, adventurous, and full of the most luminous technicolor this side of Powell/Pressburger
  • Adventureland - My roommate at the time despised this. I spent my time amazed at how Mottola used sitcom characters to go after something beautiful. Did it work? Was it a great movie? Well... But did it entertainingly go after some big ideas? You betcha. 
  • A Serious Man - Coens. The story of Job. Seriously, what more do you need? I wouldn't be surprised if watching it again this rockets to the top of the list.

Most fun:
Inglorious Basterds ties with Observe and Report. Notice that both are evil.

Best soundtrack:
An Education

Most Anger-Inducing Use of Things We Like:
(500) Days of Summer

Michael Bay Award for... well... you know:
A tie (the first ever!) between Transformers 2 and GI Joe

Most Ambitious Failure (the Babel prize):

Best of the kids movies adapted by indie darlings in 2009:
...Fantastic Mr. Fox

Over the next few days, Matt, Ben, and Colin will post their own top "awkwardly-sized" lists. Disagree? Think we're full of ourselves? Able to make a case for Public Enemies or Mock up on Mu? Comment away.


C Maguire said...

My list is in the works. Seacrest out!

Aden Jordan said...

Gut gemacht. This is a sturdy, thoughtful list. I'm looking forward to seeing "Summer Hours".

Now that 2009 is over, I can say that I despise "Tokyo", "(500) Days of Summer", "Bruno", "Paper Heart", "Pirate Radio", "The Blind Side", "2012", and to a lesser degree "Terminator Salvation", and "Gamer" more than I ever could have disliked "Adventureland".

Did you ever get the chance to see "Collapse"? "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"? "House of the Devil"? "Anti-Christ"? "The Informant"? "Big Fan"? "Goodbye Solo"? "Two Lovers"?

What kept you from including "The White Ribbon" in the best of?