Saturday, March 6, 2010

Top Ten of 2009 continued...

6. Whip It!

Drew Barrymore's directorial debut comes as a huge surprise. Although her vision is rather linear (the storyline isn't particularly complex or convuluted, it IS her first time out) its filled with so many intelligently placed thoughts, feelings and expressions that it still feels like a multilayered outing. A bold coming of age pic, a goofy sports film, a subtle (yet grippingly LOUD) riot grrl feminist effort, a cute romance all melded into one underlying idea. Sheer individualism, told in multiple different facets. A rare triumph of a teen hipster movie.

5. Fantastic Mr Fox

Wes Anderson arguably hasn't been himself- master of the oddball cinema- since the Royal Tenenbaums. But oddly enough, or is it really that odd considering who it is, he finds his muse in stop motion. His weird sense of humour and penchant for making vaguely morally ambiguous, quirky characters is put to great use here, and it really comes off as his most optimistic film yet. You can be weird. You can be odd. You can be a freak. But you'd better believe, that your fantastic.

4. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire

By regular standards, it's a complete mess. Plot points, themes, imagery and humour all over the place. But many geniuses are quite able to find all their important properties in clutter, and Precious is one of those few geniuses as a whole. Whether its the hilarity and uplift of the humour, Monique's monster turn, Gabourey's broken bird portrayal, the pains and hardships of blacks in society, or watching all of these different people having to push, the message is clear. Brilliantly, beautifully clear, and although the movie's ending isn't exactly cause for celebration it is glouriously optimistic. Life is hard. Life is funny. Life is sad. Life is painful. Life is fragile. But above all, it is precious. It is always precious.

3. Inglourious Basterds

The wild, untamed cinematic savantry of Quentin Tarantino is his primarily appeal. However here, we see him refine himself just enough for this World War II revisionist spaghetti western. With fantastic results. The flood of thoughts, feelings, emotions and references are seamlessly divided into linear chapters, Tarantino's eclectic knack for being able to choose just the right actor for the role is once again present (especially in the amazing turn from Waltz given here) and although the tale is told with more style and finesse then many there is fashion to see in no longer Nazi occupied France, that isn't why the movie truly becomes an instant classic. The movie is a silent, loving, polished ode to cinema itself. Truly a gift of a movie.

2. Avatar-Coraline

Oh boy, another tie. The subject matter of each film is entirely different. Avatar is a hardly covered space allegory for the plight of the Natives and Coraline is an animated film that calls out the child in our adult. But they are on the same plain as visual spectacles, and storybooks like no other. But for various reasons.

Coraline is quite the beautiful movie, in fact probably the most beautiful stop motion film created, ever. Every picture on the screen, intricate, nostalgic, meloncholic and foreboding, hauntingly gorgeous stuff here. But why the movie is really the incredible storybook that it is, is the way the screenplay speaks out to the viewer. It not only makes us look inside ourselves to our inner child. It strikes fear into them, reminds us who we once were, the mistakes that were made, the darkness that plagued us even then. This movie is the hand that feeds slapping the mouth that bites, and THAT is why it leaves such an imprint in the mind. A true gothic piece of art.

Avatar. Good God, what the hell is there to say about this thing that no one else has said...Cheesy dialogue. Yes. On occasion. Predictable story. Oh yeah. But was the vision and scope of the film on a level that transcends almost all of its sci-fi predeccesors. Yes. Although by all means this is a story we've heard before, Cameron tells it with such boldness, such expression such mastery such magnanamous wonder of a world our imaginations couldn't dream of...that the telling of the story far outways the actual story. And that is why it succeeds. Although succeed is an understatement here.

1. A Serious Man

In comparison to the bombastic action, sci-fis, globe trotting and animation contained on this list, its kind of weird that the number one film is so...minimalistic and so very existential and nihilistic. With comedy as black as the ace of spades. How could such a small, but horrendously negative thing hit my number one? Simple. This is the first Coen film, where I feel an emotional pull. Don't get me wrong, I love most of their other films. However while they did call upon human darkness with deft intuition, they lacked the real humanity of A Serious Man. Larry Gopniks tale of nihilism in the extreme can be depressing, but guess what. We've all been there. We've all wanted help. And when we don't get it we question our own worthiness according to whoever, and this only makes us more desperate for answers and in the end the answers aren't there, because no one really has them. We have all been there. This really is a mature, loving picture from the Coens, and maybe not their best film, it is the film that I hold closest to my heart in my times of sorrow. I'd love to see you try and watch No Country For Old Men when you're depressed.

-Kris Aarons

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top Ten of 2009

A month later than I had hoped and arrogantly enough posted within a week of the Oscar nominee announcements. Tee hee. First of all there are two ties. Thats right. I'm that crazy. I could not for the life of me choose between them. They're not just at the same level based on whim or random insanity, there is a thought process to the tie that will be revealed upon reading.

But before we get to the real list I'd like to make a few shoutouts to movies that just missed my top ten (ish) list or I still found to be quite good.

Up was arguably a weaker Pixar effort for me. Although a B+ from me is still more than a solid grade, other films from the studio did way more for me. I'm not sure exactly what went "wrong" here, but I feel the movie as a whole wasn't as meaty or adult as their previous works. Maybe it was too subtle? Or maybe they just wanted to go lighter this time around. I don't blame them. Wall-E transcends as a lovestory and Ratatouille is quite the hearty dish. Everyone wants to kick back and relax every so often.

The Hangover and Star Trek were bothwild summer popcorn flicks that I dug. They were just good, clean (Err you know what I mean) healthy fun films too watch, and were surprisingly well crafted on many levels. Harry Potter 6 hit home as many different films at once. A horny teen comedy, a mesmerizing art piece, a fantastical journey and an emotional twister, easily becoming the most eclectic and best Potter yet.

And we have one VERY unfortunate just miss, a JUST miss on this list...

Where the Wild Things Are.

Ahh man. Such an incredible movie. Takes a 20 page thesis and makes a brilliant, deliciously dark kids fantasy out of it. Everything the book should have been on the screen. God bless you Spike Jonze. You really did Sendak right. Whenever I go on a wild rumpus (I have those often believe me) I'll think of you. AROOOOO!!!

Now onto the list, the real contendehs.

10. Moon

A haunted thing. A sad creature roaming around space, and its Jones job to keep it afloat, what really sends it zooming is Sam Rockwells empathetic performance as the lonely spaceman, giving us broad insight into the life of the man on the moon, also a thoughtful underlying anti-government message. Do they control us? Freaky.

9. District 9

Rarely do recent sci fis effortlessly mix style and substance as seen here. Sharlto Copley anchors this frenzied anti-alien virtuoso pic, and at the centre of all the machinery, lasers and mild racism (meh), that insues is human drama, blended together fluidly with ease by newcomer Blokamp. Not a superb sci-fi film, but rare in that it elevates its ideals to hit emotional peaks in its viewer, and that is why it succeeds. For me anyway.

8. The Hurt Locker-Up In The Air

These two films are both critically lauded and acclaimed, having been showered with awards. I'm not sure I quite see the reasoning for the frenzy. Both films have very strong aspects, however something seems to be lacking in the overall product to make the movies things that I'd go completely gaga over.

The Hurt Locker is the rare war film that propels the relatively overdone battle in Iraq, past that and into a highly intense action thriller with sweat drenching drama at its core. However, for every moment of effortless, subtle high energy action, for every fantastic performance, there is lag. Loads of lag, that eats away at the general greatness of the movie.

Up in the Air, on the other hand is a fine, sleek, suave and highly sophisticated existential dramedy. Its thesis on isolation and anti-love are very well explained throughout the film, the growth of the characters in these terrains can be felt. And past that; the film is quite funny in its maturity and wise approach toward Reitmans quirkiness. In this case what is lacking for me is a human touch. The entire affair seems oddly distant, one can argue that that is probably the essence of the film itself, but this feeling I have goes past that. It's oddly stiff and unengaging and regardless of these intention, there has to be more than a mild connection for something like this to be pulled off right.

7. (500) Days of Summer

A creative, oddball indie rom-com, that takes a number of spins on the genre to create this highly affecting yet highly hilarious film. Human questioning of love. What is it really? An aspect most other rom-coms try desperately hard to find the answer too, and many wind up (although many are just as virtuoso in vision) using the same text book thought process. Boy meets girl. Boy marries/shags/partnersupwith/whatevers girl. Boy a) keeps her b) loses her. But I love how (500) tells you flat out what the deal is. It's a story of boy meets girl, but it is not a love story. At least not a standard one. In doing so, it successfully observes its idea from an ambiguous standpoint, and by the time the movies' said and done, it'll have given us all the tools we need to figure out love and companionship on our own, for better or worse.

Also, oddly enough, is Up in the Air's antithesis, well depending on which side you take in (500) since it's kind of two films.