Originally I had no plans to do this list as I'd figured it was strictly Shane's domain and I was content to leave it in his capable hands. But back in December he mentioned that he hoped that I would do one of my own for 2009. And now that I've read his 2009 edition and determined that my offering wouldn't just be a carbon copy, I've decided to present my 2009 movie list as well.
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Based on a Roald Dahl book that I can barely remember, I was hoping this movie would deliver quirky and clever fun. Not only was I not disappointed, it actually went beyond all expectations. If I'd known beforehand that Wes Anderson was directing and writing the screenplay then, yeah, I would have had high hopes. I'm a huge fan of his work and his fingerprints are all over this movie.
George Clooney in the title role makes a ridiculous amount of sense as by now we're all quite used to seeing him play a loveable scamp that's always getting into trouble but is just so damn charming that no one can ever stay mad at him for very long. Other cast members have a history of working with Anderson and everyone just seems so comfortable that it makes the characters that much more engaging, even those with limited screen time.
It's positively retro and positively English while still remaining , above all, positively Wes Anderson, and that places it in my top five, narrowly beating out Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
4. Star Trek
In all my years I've never been much of a Trekker. I've seen every movie except The Undiscovered Country and got to know characters and locations and plots that way. But I never found myself anywhere close to blown away which is basically what it was going to take to get me interested in any of the shows. But about two years ago I started watching the original series thinking I would enjoy it for camp purposes if nothing else. And that's pretty much how it went. I've seen maybe twelve episodes of the original series and at first, I only really enjoyed them because they felt so old and strange to me. But since seeing this reboot of the film franchise I've actually become totally engrossed in the adventures of Kirk and his crew.
I think what made this movie work for me is that everything felt shiny and new. Honestly, the plot isn't anything spectacular (although I always enjoy me some time travel) but seeing fresh new faces play these storied characters and today's effects applied to a world I'd only seen presented from the sixties did wonders for my interest in Star Trek as a franchise. Really, it's the next movie in this new series that I'm truly excited about.
What can I say except: Pixar has done it again. What it all ultimately comes down to is storytelling and few people working in film today can match the folks at Pixar for consistently telling brilliant stories in brilliant fashion. The idea of someone using thousands of balloons to transport their house to another place on the globe makes for excellent fairytale fare but the difference between Pixar and others is presentation. In someone else's hands, this story probably would have made for a pretty nice movie. But what we get in Up is what I would not hesitate to call a wonderful movie.
A major element found throughout Pixar films and contained in abundance in Up is heart. The movie's opening isn't fantastical at all like the rest; instead it's just a very simple and almost everyday tale. Pixar doesn't pull any punches in the telling either. It is quite sad. But this is important. This melancholy backstory simply MUST be in place before we can start the fun with the balloons and talking dogs. To quote Dickens from A Christmas Carol: "This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate." Because the story wouldn't be half as good if Carl didn't have the reasons he had for embarking on his strange journey.
As is usual in a Pixar story, there's all sorts of silliness and hijinx and yet every bit of it serves a purpose. A greater story is being told here and its biggest success is that even young children can come away from the movie understanding that. Carl felt old and used up and had grown tired of life. But through his adventure he comes to rediscover joy. It may sound tacky, but the fact is that even a jaded prick like myself can watch this film and understand that its title carries a much deeper meaning than balloon travel. Up will lift you.
I'll try my best not to say too much on this one since I think we're all experiencing a bit of oversaturation , with analysis and opinions flying every which way. So I'll try to just stick to the simplest stuff here. Well, Jim Cameron has always been my favourite director and ever since I first heard about this movie somewhere around three years ago, I've been awaiting its release with great anticipation. Honestly, it seemed by about a year ago that most other peoples' interest had died down but I remained steadfast. Finally the day came and I was there with bells on.
I wasn't disappointed. I think that's partially because I came into the movie with an understanding of it most other people didn't seem to have. Almost immediately after its release, Avatar earned the reputation of this big revolutionary blockbuster but what's strange to me is that it really had to earn it first. Really, that's the way it should work with movies but we all know it's not how it actually does. So I find it really confusing that in the months leading up to Avatar no one really seemed to give a shit and it was only after people had seen it that the hype started to build. I mean, why Avatar? Why was there such skepticism going in? Well, I won't get any answers here.
Oh yeah, the actual movie. Well, I'm in complete agreement with everything Shane has already said on it and I'm really not sure what to add to it without launching into an analysis that doesn't belong on Five-O-Rama. But I will just say that if there's a movie out there that is more visually stunning than Avatar, then it must be truly something to see. Even if you find yourself hating every other element of the film, you can't deny that at the absolute least it is a visual tour de force.
The failing of most movies based on comic books is that they usually try some lame adaptation that involves a bunch of annoying changes and a very poor story. A reason for a movie based on Watchmen to succeed is that all Watchmen is is twelve comics. It's as deep and complex as a graphic novel can get but it still is a single graphic novel. Again and again, movies such as Spider-Man and X-Men and so on fail because instead of simply following a strong story arc they try to do something different.
But Watchmen is different. It is not a concoction of different stories and elements slapped together but an almost straight adaptation of a single story with a beginning, middle and end (although the ending is changed and not for the better). As far as stuff as casting, direction and effects goes, everyone can have their own opinion and I won't waste time commenting on any of it beyond saying I was for the most part pleased. Mostly I just wanted to stress that the only way a comic movie can truly succeed is by taking what's on the page and representing it on the screen as closely as possible. Watchmen is an honest effort to do just that and possibly the best ever simply by virtue of having such ridiculously strong source material to draw from. I guess the movie will never make Alan Moore happy but I often wonder if anything does.