Friday, January 1, 2010

Bests of 2009

Happy New Year! As I catch up from spending the holidays with family, here’s a quick look back at the 2009 year in film, based on what I’ve seen so far.

Best Villain: Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) in Inglourious Basterds

Best Performance by an Animal: The chicken in The Hangover

Best Performance by a Prop: Hans Landa’s pipe in Inglourious Basterds

Best Use of Office Supplies as Weapons: Drag Me to Hell

Best War Tactic: The acquisition of arrows in Red Cliff

Best Waste of Talent: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Best Example of “Quirky” Becoming Cliché: Away We Go

Best Kiss: Underwater makeout session to Jens Lekman’s “Your Arms Around Me” in Whip It

Best Sex Scene: The melodramatic humping to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in Watchmen

Best Sign that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Critics Are Right and He’s Nothing But a Comic Terrorist: The sabotaging of Ron Paul in Bruno

Best Sign that Diablo Cody’s Critics Are Right and She’s Nothing But a Manufacturer of Too Cute Wannabe Catchphrases: Any of the dialogue in Jennifer’s Body

Best Appearance of the Movies at the Movies: Manhattan Melodrama in the Biograph Theatre sequence in Public Enemies

Best Reminder Why I Haven’t Missed John Travolta: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, motherfucker!

Best Argument Against Procreation: Jae Head as the utterly obnoxious S.J. Tuohy in The Blind Side

Best Use of Special Effects: The interaction of Sam Bells in Moon

Best Thirst-Quencher: (tie) Blood transfusion bags in Thirst and a can of Coca-Cola in The Road

Best Junk Food: Twinkies in Zombieland

Best Junk: Dr. Manhattan’s perfectly swaying blue member in Watchmen (don’t pretend you didn’t look)

Best (By Which I Mean Most Ludicrous) Cliché: The assassin who just happens to wear a very exotic (and thus very traceable) designer boot in The International

Best Absurd Metaphor: “The Parking Lot” in A Serious Man

Best Exchange in an Absurd Jack Black Movie, Year One:

Olivia Wilde’s Princess Inanna: “I want you to enter the holiest of holies.”

Jack Black’s Zed: “That’s a coincidence because I want you to sit on the poliest of polies.”

Best Example of a Movie’s Delayed Release Leading to Inappropriately Lackluster Reviews: The Soloist

Best Example of a Movie’s Oscar-Season Release Leading to Overly Praiseworthy Reviews: Up in the Air

Best Unfairly Overlooked Performance: Maya Rudolph in Away We Go

Best Laugh: Nicolas Cage’s wheezing cackle after saying the name “G” as Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

Best Amazing Fucking Coincidence: Captain Kirk stumbling into to the other Spock’s cave in Star Trek

Best Costumes: The furry, dirty wild things in Where the Wild Things Are

Best Breakout Male Performance: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

Best Breakout Female Performance: Carey Mulligan in An Education

Best Stunt: Naked strut to the bed by Vera Farmiga’s body double in Up in the Air

Best Interrogation Across a Table: Landa (Waltz) and LaPadite (Denis Menochet) in the country farmhouse in Inglourious Basterds

Best Uncut Interrogation Across a Table: Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) and Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) in Hunger

Best Inscrutable Female Subject in a Documentary: Anna Wintour in The September Issue

Best Inscrutable Male Subject in a Documentary: Mike Tyson in Tyson

Best Example of Imitation Trumping Performance: Morgan Freeman’s too perfect Nelson Mandela in Invictus

Best Use of Split-Screen: The “expectations vs. reality” segment of (500) Days of Summer

Best Movie About the Growing Pains of Love: Adventureland

Best Reminder that I’m Fooling Myself When I Say I Don’t Get Worked Up About the Oscars Anymore: The frightening potential that Precious might win Best Picture

Best Reason to Celebrate: A mostly forgettable movie year is over

So, what did I miss? Any “bests” you’d like to add?


Adam Zanzie said...

That was a body double in Up in the Air? D'oh!

Just kidding... haven't even seen that film yet.

I totally agree about the Coca-Cola in The Road, though. The line, "it's a treat- for you" never sounded so rejuvanating!

Scott said...

Good post, made me laugh, sometimes just for remembering some rather absurd moments in film this year (underwater makeout scene...made sense in Across the Universe, much less so in Whip It). Really good call on Best Waste of Talent...I'm still reeling, wondering what happened there.

But...mostly forgettable year? The year of Inglourious Bastards, A Serious Man, Summer Hours, Coraline, Adventureland, The Girlfriend Experience, Goodbye Solo, Moon, Tetro, Two Lovers, The Hurt Locker, In the Loop, District 9, The Informant!, Treeless Mountain, Where the Wild Things Are, Bronson, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans?

Quality varies (I know you, like I, are pretty "meh" on District 9, for example), but forgettable they certainly are not.

Steven Santos said...

Nude Vera Farmiga was one of the highlights in "Up in the Air". But now that I know it's a body double, Reitman couldn't even present that moment without some level of Hollywood bullshit.

Here are a few of my Bests:

Best Use of a Previously Overused Song That Will Now Be Forever Associated With This Film: "Somebody To Love" A Serious Man

Best Unreliable Voiceover: The Informant!

Best Use of Autoerotic Asphyxiation as a Plot Point: World's Greatest Dad

Best Intimidating Face: Jackie Earle Haley, who is scarier with his mask off in "Watchmen"

Best Verbal Duel: Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini in "In the Loop"

Best Attempt to Build a Performance Out of Adjusting One's Hair Onscreen: Kristen Stewart in "Adventureland"

Best Example of Lazy Screenwriting: Future Spock in "Star Trek"

Kevin J. Olson said...

I'm sure I can come up with some more at a later time, but I'm too damn here's one off the top of my head:

Best Example of Why Wes Anderson Should Be the Only One to Make Wes Anderson Movies: Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom.

Great year-end list, Jason. I appreciated having something to read tonight that made me smile after watching the Rose Bowl. Sigh. Oh well. Great year by the Ducks. They finished with about three more wind than I thought they would. I hope your holiday and New Year was great.

Tony Dayoub said...

Gotta agree with Scott on this one, Jason. If anything, I had trouble narrowing down my Best list to just 10 films.

And most people haven't even seen the exquisite WHITE RIBBON, yet.

Scott said...

The phrase "the exquisite WHITE RIBBON" made me imagine a spin-off of the Haneke film, a la "The Spectacular Spider-Man."

That said, I haven't seen it yet, and am extremely jealous of those who have. And even without that or about ten other movies I've yet to see, I can tell that narrowing down a top ten is going to be tough for me too. This is the first year in a long time that I really can't figure out my favorite movie.

Jason Bellamy said...

Thanks for the comments, all. A few replies ...

Scott & Tony: While there are still too many movies I haven't seen (The White Ribbon being one of them), I find myself looking at 2009 with two or three films that I like very much and a considerable drop-off after that.

For me, a "great" film lingers in my imagination and demands (demands) to be seen again. So I very much like Adventureland and The Girlfriend Experience, for example, both of which might end up in my top 10. They have lingered. But they don't demand to be seen again. Not for me.

Then there are movies like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Bad Lieutenant -- I enjoyed them as I was watching them but forgot about them almost immediately afterward. That happened a lot this year. And maybe that speaks more to an especially frenetic year for me -- less time to ponder -- than to the films. I don't know. But I found 2009 very lacking in magic, in those films that get up under my skin. And on top of all that, a few of the films that have lingered and did get under my skin are films that I also have significant reservations about -- A Serious Man, for example.

As for how memorable or not this year is, time will tell, obviously. I'm fairly confident that a significant number of the films being lauded now will be quickly forgotten, even by their fans. But that's because I've already forgotten them, or never connected. So maybe it says more about me.

Steven: Great additions! I particularly enjoyed the Kristen Stewart slam, even while I found her enchanting in Adventureland, and the very accurate description of Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen.

Kevin: Yeah, Brothers Bloom could have also gone down on the "waste of talent" list. It started strong and faded fast. (As for the Ducks ... they just can't get over the hump, it seems. Until the missed field goal, I thought they were going to win that game. Alas ...)

OK ... Looking forward to more "bests" ... and to more debate about the 2009 year in film!

Craig said...

Best Compartmentalization of "Support Our Troops": Audiences cheering for Avatar

Best Justification for Prozac: The "wild things" in Where the Wild Things Are

Best Performance by a Film Critic: Glenn Kenny in The Girlfriend Experience

Worst Performance by a Film Critic: Archie Hicox impersonating a German officer in Inglourious Basterds

Best (Read: Sexiest) Overbite: Maribel Verdu (formerly of Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pan's Labyrinth) in Tetro

Best Hair-Twirling: Kristen Stewart in Adventureland

Best Waste of Talent: Gotta go with the cast of Nine

Jason Bellamy said...

Good ones! Having just come back from Nine, I gotta agree with you. Wow. Painful.

Jake said...

I actually wrote more notes in the theater for Nine than any other film since I've been taking notepads into the theater with me. The review wasn't much longer than usual, but I was so fucking bored I had the time to start linking thoughts into overall points (in the shitting dark). Man that movie was dull as hell.

Daniel Getahun said...

Just have to say I love the format of this kind of best of year list, especially for a year which I also found pretty disappointing.

And, um...should I be embarrassed to admit that while I didn't see Year One I laughed when I imagined Jack Black saying that line?