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February 2013
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Ninebelow [userpic]
Films: 2009

I watched 103 films for the first time this year, substantially up on last year's 69. The reason for this is that I took out a subscription with LoveFilm. This meant I saw lots of very bad films but I also saw some very good ones indeed. Full list:

1) Hancock - An astonishing bodge job of an brilliant premise. Half fun, half shit.
2) Quantum Of Solace - Opens with two excellent chases but then mostly settles down to Bourne-aping mediocrity.
3) There Will Be Blood - As good as everyone said.
4) Final Destination 3 - Now entirely an excuse for gruesome CGI deaths.
5) Zombie Strippers - Poor.
6) The Cottage - Moderately fun gangster flick that morphs into a horror film half way through. Not great but with some very funny bits.
7) Oscar And Lucinda - More like a filleted version of the novel than a film in its own right.
8) Shoot 'Em Up - Clive Owen kills some one with a carrot in the first five minutes. That is all you need to know.
9) Munich - The problem is that there is nothing this film can meaningfully say. It is also incredibly violent and features repeated male and female full frontal nudity so it is a bit surprising it got a 15 rating. The Spielberg effect.
10) Crank - Oh my fucking God!
11) The Golden Compass - Everyone said this was a bit rubbish but I thought it was pretty good. Obviously it has its work cut out shoehorning everything in which means it is a little like a string of set pieces but they are a good set pieces. Lyra's world is very well realised and the inversion of tough Lyra and damsel in distress Roger is nice.
12) The Beast With A Million Backs - Yeah, perhaps the feature length versions of Futurama weren't such a good idea.
13) Shrek 2 - Good! I wish I'd seen the first one.
14) War- Unfortunately, now that I've seen Crank all other movies starring The Statham are downhill. Bring on Crank 2!
15) Shrek - A bit slower than the sequel by neccessity but still a lot of fun.
16) Shrek The Third - The subversion has now become moralising. See also late Pratchett.
17) The Ruins - About as good as a film about an evil plant can be (ie not very good.)
18) Gomorrah - Almost abstract portrait of organised crime emphasising its petty and sordid nature.
19) Slither - Knowing you are making a silly monster film doesn't necessarily make your silly monster film any good.
20) The Host - I was expecting something a lot more mainstream and a lot less, er, Korean. A frankly bizarre collision of monster movie and family drama. Lots of nice touches but perhaps too odd.
21) Fantastic Four - Not very good. I did quite like Chris Evans.
22) Shadowboxer - I think I might never watch a film about hitmen ever again. This was a particularly bizarre instance of the subgenre though: a collision between brutal thriller and soft porn romance with a constant I R Serious Artist score.
23) 1974 - Lynchian.
24) Barry Lyndon - Enjoyable but vastly long. It is also rather hampered by some duff acting and poorly aged actors. Beautifully composed though.
25) Crash - Despite being a big fan of both the book and Cronenberg it took me until now to see this. Inevitably it is a curious little film but I don't really think it captures the essense of the book. It is too knowing, at times it strays into the camp and there is an irritatingly intrusive score throughout that constantly judders you out of immersion. It is utterly staggering to think this film was actually banned.
26) Hero - I'm not sure they really managed to pull off the structure and I know it was deliberate that the fight scenes were secondary but they still looked it. Nice use of colour though.
27) 1980 - Harrowing
28) Revolver - A huge mess which must have completely mystified Richie's fan base.
29) Old Boy - Extraordinary revenge film but still a revenge film.
30) No Man's Land - As a satire this much too broad and even shades into melodrama. Nice idea but no.
31) Watchmen - Crass.
32) Die Hard 4.0 - Surprisingly good! Obviously very silly but well put together (except for the shark jumping bit at the end).
33) The Others - Good child actors, genuinely creepy in parts but it is a trick too clumsily executed.
34) The Orphanage - Perhaps a mistake to watch this straight after The Others since it shares the same strengths and flaws. It is a rather better made film though.
35) Tales From Earthsea - Long, tedious and hammy in the way of many Studio Gibli films. Admittedly I can't remember anything of the plot of the Earthsea novels but I don't remember them being like this.
36) Let The Right One In - Tragic.
37) Babylon AD - This was slated by everyone, not least its own director. Turns out it is a perfectly decent and immensely stylish SF action flick.
38) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within - Incomprehesible hippy bullshit.
39) Couscous - Excellent, intimate slice of realist cinema set in an immigrant community (presumably Algerian) in an ecomonically depressed French port. The ending is either ambiguous, obvious or infuriating depending on your view point.
40 Bender's Game - The best Futurama film so far but still not up to the levels of the show.
41) Twilight - I actually quite enjoyed this despite the ludicrous girliness of it. It certainly made me want to find out what happened next (which is, of course, the whole point). There were many comments about the hotness of Robert Pattinson but he just looks wrong to me. Look at his eyebrows!
42) Donkey Punch - Fairly routine take on the old accidental death > cover up > mass murder plot.
43) Mutant Chronicles - Total shit.
44) Pineapple Express - I should have been stoned.
45) X2 - As superhero sequels go this was pretty good. And I want to see Wolverine even though I know it will be balls.
46) Way Of The Gun - I like the idea of small time criminals who are professionals rather than fuck ups but this is a pretty cheap and self-important film.
47) Death Race - Jason Statham drives around in an armoured car killing people. Lovejoy has his back.
48) Kung Fu Panda - Absolutely awesome.
49) I'm Not There - For the first hour or so I thought this could well be my film of the year. Unfortunately when we get into the extended Cate Blanchett section it became clear
that it wouldn't. Not because Blanchett is anything less than excellent but because it is at this point Haynes loses control of the picture.
50) Paprika - Bonkers. Very impressive in terms of visuals, direction and score, although as always hampered by the characters, dialogue and acting (a half and half split between the Japanese original and the American translation). It is also fantastic in a way I couldn't get my head round (and which I suspect is explained in the book) which made it a little unsatisfying.
51) Black Sheep - Horror comedy but without either of those ingredients.
52) Inkheart - Interesting in flashes but slow, dull, poorly thought out and never does enough with its brilliant premise. Fraser is absolutely leaden in the lead role and Bettany gets an undeserved happy ending.
53) Transporter 3 - Rendered utterly superfluous by the arrival of Crank.
54) Jindabyne - I now realise I've already seen this but I can't for the life of me remember when. It is very well made but perhaps not as ambitious as it could have been.
55) Bolt - Nice idea but ruined by Disney smaltz.
56) Somers Town - Very much Meadows lite, complete with soft and fuzzy happy ending.
57) The Lookout - Excellently performances and cleverly constructed but perhaps too lacking in consequences.
58) 300 - Rarr! Synder isn't what you would call a good director but after this and Watchmen I am fascinated to see what he will do next.
59) Burn After Reading - An odd film: a comedy that not only doesn't have any jokes, it doesn't have any comic writing. This is an entirely deadpan farce so I'm not surprised its reception was so mixed.
60) Barton Fink - A pretty minor part of the Coens canon, to be honest.
61) Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince - The beginning of the end of the franchise.
62) Swimming Pool - Silly Anglo-French "it was all just a dream" drama.
63) Waltz With Bashir - Amazing blend of documentary, autobiography and fiction. Film of the year so far.
64) Outpost - Not just ghosts, not just zombie ghosts but Nazi zombie ghosts. Pretty good actually.
65) Mamma Mia - It took me a good half an hour to getting into the flow of this. It probably helps if you are pissed out of your mind (as the cast clearly were).
66) Zatoichi (2003) - Weird, boring samurai pantomime from Takeshi Kitano.
67) Moon - Entirely welcome thoughtful SF film but slightly disappointing in its conventional conclusion.
68) The Spiderwick Chronicles - Actually pretty good, although the family elements were much more interesting than the rather familiar fantasy elements.
69) Ravenous - Wonderfully knowing cannibal chew 'em up. Robert Carlyle hams it up, Guy Pearce plays it straight and the modern score by Nyman and Albarn works surprisingly well.
70) Vanilla Sky Really quite bold and vivid for most of the film but with a hamfisted last 15 minutes. I will have to see the original. Got me wondering about the fact there is nothing Tom Cruise can do to escape the fact he is Tom Cruise. Not this, not Magnolia, not even Tropic Thunder.
71) Push - A nice take on mutant powers which balances the inevitable action sequences with some interesting performances. It was probably sunk by its overly complicated plot which was too compressed for film. Would have worked well on TV as the Heroes that actually made sense.
72) Hellboy 2 - Less a film than a series of strung together set pieces. Luckily del Toro has a great visual eye and understands that a set piece doesn't necessarily mean an explosion. Still...
73) Inglourious Basterds - Audacious, mad and slightly brilliant.
74) The New World - Monumentally measured. It has been criticised for its glacial pace but that is the point. A beautiful film but it perhaps suffers from its closeness to The Thin Red Line, Malik's previous film.
75) Domino - Kiera Knightley is a bounty hunter. Domino is the most preposterous film ever made.
76) The Hurt Locker - Extremely tense and effective bomb disposal drama. There are slightly too many moments when you are reminded that this is a film and the topless wrestling bordered on self-parody but overall very good.
77) In The Loop - Obviously I liked the swears but mostly I just found it depressing.
78) Franklyn - Quite an interesting mental fantasy but it becomes overtaken by some guff about the interconnectivity of souls and culminates with the most appalling final scene I can remember witnessing.
79) Outlander - I don't know why I thought this would be anything less than utter tosh.
80) Star Trek - Utterly pointless psudeo-parody remake. Very little gravitas indeed.
81) Terminator Salvation - Even without knowing the script had been fucked with you can tell. Plus the same boring ending as always.
82) Wolverine - I should have just watched the trailer.
83) Hercules - Weak plot and animation but good vocal performances.
84) The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Oh dear, a lot of good will squandered here. Maria Bello is terrible as Rachel Weiss's understudy.
85) The Taking Of Pelham 123 - Second and completely superfluous remake of the minor classic. The plot is lazily simple and underdeveloped, it is more a collage of bits from other movies with Scott pissing about with various visual effects over the top (as always).
86) Knowing - A really weird blend of horror, science fiction and religious fantasy. Cage gives a characteristically hammy performance but there are some moments of subtlety under this. The Proyas verdict is still out.
87) Aliens Versus Monsters - Tries too hard and wobbled a bit with the kid/adult divide but nicely oddball.
88) Ice Age 3: Rise Of The Dinosaurs - Getting a bit stale now and again struggles with being a bit too knowing. The show was comprehensively stolen by Simon Pegg.
89) Hunger - Beautifully composed film about Bobby Sands and the hunger strikes. McQueen makes a very impressive transition from visual artist to director.
90) Step Brothers - I was hoping Ferrell and Reilly would be repeating their genius partnership from Talladega Nights. It isn't quite at that level but it is extremely funny in parts.
91) Blindness - I guess I am just not a fan of fables. A mysterious outbreak of viral blindness is one thing but being singularly unable to realistically extrapolate from it is another. Coupled with this there is Danny Glover's irksome voiceover and the bizarrely cheerful ending.
92) Jar City - Decent enough thriller but it gets most of its edge from the fact Icelanders appear slightly alien to English eyes.
93) Fantastic Mr Fox - When I first heard about this I thought it was a brilliant idea. Then I went off it and then I saw the trailer which
turned me off completely. Turns out it is actually brilliant. Pure Wes Anderson but in a good way. Superb at conjuring up a world that is very
American, very English and not at all Transatlantic. Excellent turn by Michael Gambon too.
94) Get Carter - Much grimmer than I was expecting, I didn't realise Caine was playing such an antihero.
95) Robots - Indifferent children's film. Some nice design, Robin Williams chews the scenery, not much to say.
96) A Serious Man - Wow. It continues the path started by Burn After Reading but takes it to the next level. Simultaneously the Coens' most personal and opaque film, I am still trying to come to grips with it. I haven't felt this way since watching Hidden.
97) The Green Butchers - Danish comedy about cannibal butchers. Great central performances and some really funny moments but it can't really sustain itself for a whole film.
98) Synecdoche, New York - A masterpiece.
99) District 13 - Good fun French action flick which does enough to distract you from the holes.
100) Where The Wild Things Are - Spike Jonze chose to direct this over Synecdoche, New York and I'm glad because Charlie Kaufman really needed to make that film himself. This films strikes me as the best full-length version you could do of the source material but I'm still not convinced a full-length version was needed. Makes an interesting compare and contrast to Fantastic Mr Fox which I think succeeds rather better.
101) Drag Me To Hell - Dire "horror" "comedy" in which Sam Raimi pretends it is the Eighties.
102) Prince Caspian - Far more handsomely made than The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe but ends up as nothing more than a Lord Of The Rings knock off.
103) Sherlock Holmes - Not much like Sherlock Holmes but enjoyable entertainment (Watson is revised more than Holmes and this is welcome). Doesn't quite overcome the problems of pacing and then revealing the secrets of the plot.

These were all logged at 52filmchallenge. It was actually hard to pick the best films of the year so here is a top ten and ten other very good films. Further awards for winners and losers on my blog.

Top five:

1) Waltz With Bashir
2) Synecdoche, New York
3) Hunger
4) I’m Not There
5) Gomorrah

Bubbling under:

There Will Be Blood
Kung Fu Panda
Old Boy
Let The Right One In
A Serious Man
Inglourious Basterds
Fantastic Mr Fox


I wonder if you're unfair to Barton Fink - but then I guess something has to be minor. If i recall, they wrote it whilst having writers' block on Miller's Crossing, and it is a bit of a chamber piece. But it developed the figure of vengeance from Raising Arizona, which is central to No Country For Old Men - except, of course, it's less and less clear what the vengeance is for. In A Serious Man it's almost as if it's the Universe taking revenge.

It strikes me that someone - and not me, because I fear I would be too reductive - needs to get to grips with the Coen's Jewishness as expressed through their films, because I felt I was missing a lot in A Serious Man (at the same tome thinking it also a film that refuses any explanations for anything)

Edited at 2009-12-30 10:58 (UTC)

I must watch Synechdoche. I think Get Carter has an elegant structure which makes it deceptively more powerful than it seems. Doubt if that sentence even makes sense.

Yay for Ravenous.

My comment was going to be:
10) Crank - Oh my fucking God!

But in good way, yes?

Then I saw your final part to the post and saw that I need not ask. See Crank 2, it's sublimely ridiculous and is a thing of greatness in its own trashy way.

I loved Synecdoche, New York too. When it ended I didn't want to move at all. I just wanted to stay sat in the cinema half-crying, half-happy and just think about what I'd seen.

I recommend seeing Abres Les Ojos, it's a far superior film to Vanilla Sky (and not just because there's no Tom Cruise).

Wolverine was, indeed, balls.