December 30, 2009
Film: Top Fives of 2009
Our able critics rehash the year in cinema
Moon — Director Duncan Jones and near-one-man-show star Sam Rockwell managed to create a real rarity these days: a thoughtful, thrilling sci-fi film with beautiful, organic design and effects rather than CGI explosions. “Moon” is a wonderful throwback to the glory days of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Alien” and “Silent Running.”
The Hurt Locker — From Kathryn Bigelow, the woman behind one of the best vampire movies ever (“Near Dark”) and the best surfing/bank heist movie ever (“Point Break”), came one of the best films dealing with the Iraq War. “The Hurt Locker” is true to its name: a ridiculously tense ride through the mouth of hell that is bomb disposal in a war zone — and with complex human characters to boot.
Where The Wild Things Are — This adaptation of the worshipped picture-book classic seemed destined to be controversial, but rather than a tasteless assault on the senses like the Jim Carrey “Grinch” or a bland computer-conducted production a la “The Polar Express,” writer/director Spike Jonze gave us a stunningly gorgeous portal into the mind of a child, filled with living, breathing monsters that were somehow scary, sad, funny, ugly and beautiful all at once.
A Serious Man — This will probably go into the subsection of Cohen Brothers movies that are the darkest, most personal and quirkiest. “Barton Fink” is in there. So is “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” These movies don’t draw immediate widespread acclaim, but they have depth and staying power. “A Serious Man” turns the quotidian horror of a put-upon science professor’s family troubles into a 20th century Job story that’s both seriously hilarious and thought provoking.
Inglourious Basterds — Geez. What can you say? Do you like Tarantino? Because this is him, full tilt, even more than usual. He gets away with stuff no one else dares to try. Basically, this is “Pulp Fiction” in WWII Europe. It’s overloaded with idiosyncratic characters, has brilliantly choreographed action set pieces, contains at least one totally indelible performance (Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa), and has reams of quotable dialogue. This is a violent fantasy of what should have happened to the Nazis, and a reflection of our collective guilt over that grand failure as a human race … but a really fun one!