10. FANTASTIC MR. FOX – I’m not a huge Wes Anderson follower. BOTTLE ROCKET is his only film I’ve ever completely watched, along with pieces of others here and there. Nothing against him, I just haven’t been inspired enough to peruse his oeuvre. But this foray into stop-motion animation may fuel my motivation to do so, as I found it full of wit and dynamism. I was captivated by the adeptly directed visuals, which, like most stop-motion animation (and what I’ve always loved about it), were so rife with finely rendered, extremely organic texture. The story is a boisterous fairy tale with adventure and some light comedy that had me chuckling in spots. It also has some dark tinges around its edges with some slight violence and a clever pseudo-profanity, which seemed to anger parents seeking fluffy entertainment for their offspring but were shocked and appalled by something with substance.
9. BLACK DYNAMITE – Damn the studio for burying this kick-ass parody/homage of blaxploitation film. This deserved a lot more exposure than just a handful of cities, especially considering it was picked up for relatively cheap. Not only is it a hilarious spoof but also a wild action flick. It’s also a huge treat for anybody (like me) who is a fan of the grindhouse genre this is sending up. The filmmakers clearly have some affection for it, with ingeniously utilizing not only blaxploitation’s plot conventions, but it’s technical ones as well, such as shoddy editing and effects. There are also more Rudy Ray Moore references than you count on one hand. It’s a great love letter to exploitation filmmaking, way better than Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF anyway.
BLACK DYNAMITE INVESTMENT REEL
FINAL FILM TRAILER
8. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE – Yet another film that sparked controversy amongst familial moviegoers – I think the problem parents have with movies like these is that they speak to their children rather than speak down to them. They obviously want entertainment that keeps kids docile are frustrated by anything that helps nurture a sense of intellect or identity (WALL-E was another one of these films, but got away with it by being veiled as a cutesy sci-fi flick). But I digress...while I can’t say the book is as deeply ingrained in my persona nor was I as enthralled by the movie as Andy, I do have fond memories of reading (or being read) the story as a youngin and found this adaptation to be a sincere, imaginative, heartwarming fantasy.
7. PONTYPOOL – A wholly unique and extremely intelligent take on the zombie flick that takes a springboard from Burroughs-esque themes such as the deconstruction of language and communication and the manipulation of information. Director Bruce McDonald – usually an arty filmmaker making his horror debut – puts a fresh spin on the genre by applying his sophisticated sensibilities. I was totally sucked in by the careful buildup of suspense and mystery by restraint from showing much of the horror on screen and lead Stephen McHattie’s charismatic performance.
6. LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN - Buddy Giovanazzo’s adaptation of his own short story collection is a grimy, squalid portrayal of impoverished urban life. He takes a surgical eye to a few distinct lowly characters and the paths they take, never flinching from their flaws or the misguided choices they make, but also never making any kind of moral judgment. As foul as the material is though, there’s also many moments where it has a sympathetic, even optimistic outlook about its protagonists predicaments, something which its detractors ignored and the book was short on.
5. MARTYRS – Utterly fierce and bleak, the latest in the rash of brutal French horror goes right for the throat from frame one and tightens its grip throughout the duration. But unlike most of its contemporaries it has more than just sheer cruelty and mindless torture going for it, with some thought-provoking philosophical subtext beating beneath its mutilated veneer, which I think makes it the best of this nationality’s genre output so far.
4. DISTRICT 9 – This is the kind of movie that more summer blockbusters should aspire to – a purely fun, bombastic actioner with a lot of spectacle to offer but also isn’t afraid to appeal to the audience’s brains.
3. ANTICHRIST – Beautiful, grisly, disturbing, strange, stirring, shocking, Lars von Trier’s “horror” drama is a surreal, immersing masterpiece. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performances transcend emotional boundaries. Even if you hate the film itself, you have to appreciate it for having such a bold and original vision.
2. WALTZ WITH BASHIR – This animated documentary recounting the Israeli filmmaker’s own experiences during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon during the 80’s is visually breathtaking and moving to the core, a film driven by an agenda not of politics but of a personal quest for redemption.
1. WATCHMEN – “It’s boring.” “It’s too long.” “It’s too weird.” “It’s confusing.” All these and similar comments were directed at Zack Snyder’s epic adaptation of the classic groundbreaking graphic novel. But people had also thought the same things about seminal films like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER, and even the big daddy of them all, CITIZEN KANE. Not to say this one is as great as those, nor might it ever share the same exalted status as them, it’s just something to think about. I personally though found every frame of WATCHMEN to be a wondrous, mystical, masterful work of art. I would say it by far has to be the greatest superhero movie ever.
WATCHMEN fan edited music video (possible spoilers)
TOP 5 WORST FILMS OF 2009:
5. MURDER COLLECTION VOLUME 1 – I have to say I hate doing this. Low-budget filmmaker Fred Vogel and his Toe Tag Pictures crew had created some truly noteworthy works of underground cinema with the AUGUST UNDERGROUND trilogy and REDSIN TOWER. But this compilation of faux snuff shorts is nothing but a simplified rehash and a complete devolution.
4. THE STEPFATHER – An overpolished, dull, vapid thriller of a remake, with about the only redeemable aspect being effortful performance, which is still weighed down by the effortless material.
3. DRAG ME TO HELL – How anybody can like this movie as much as virtually everybody does is beyond me. Just the typical irritating PG-13 bullshit that happens to have a recognizable name attached.
2. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN – People loved the first movie and hated this one. I hated the first one and hate this one even more. But the ironic thing is everything that was wrong with this one was wrong the first, just more severe. So much mindless action that it becomes pure tedium.
1. FRIDAY THE 13TH – Lower than fecal matter. Filmmaking at its absolute nadir. That’s all I need to say .