Friday, January 1, 2010

The Todd 10 Movies of 2009

I seem to recall Roger Ebert musing once that members of the Academy probably cast their votes without having seen half the films under consideration but won’t admit it — suggesting to him that the job should be left to film critics, who actually have seen nearly everything.

I can’t really write an authoritative “best ten films of 2009” list because I haven’t seen most of the films of 2009, but I saw roughly one new movie every other week, I now realize, which is just enough to sort them into: (a) ten I’m glad I saw, (b) ten I perhaps shouldn’t have seen, and (c) five about which I’m not sure.

Without further ado, The Ten Movies I’m Glad I Saw in 2009 (in order of release):

Watchmen (four times, for various reasons, despite its imperfections)
Star Trek (though this leaves one with little to chew on days later besides “That worked”)
Brothers Bloom
Up (which helped nudge me to rewatch The Incredibles, which in retrospect I’d like to declare the best superhero movie of all time while I’m at it)
Hurt Locker
District 9
Inglourious Basterds (even though it confirms Tarantino is a twisted man content to create long, sadistic tableaux)
Pirate Radio (perhaps the most libertarian movie of the year and the most rockin’)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (the last, and perhaps the best, with Dahl + Anderson + Baumbach equaling something much wittier than your average talking-animal comedy)

The Ten Movies I Perhaps Shouldn’t Have Seen in 2009:

The Unborn (note: Area Man Uncertain Whether He Saw The Unborn or The Uninvited But Not Terribly Concerned About It)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (bad enough to keep me away from any future installments from the franchise unless I hear people “lycaning” them to Citizen Kane and Casablanca)
Transformers 2 (one part of your brain thinks “Are people stupid that they flock to this?” and the other part remembers that you’re watching it, too, and that it does, after all, contain fifty-odd 200-foot-tall robots beating on each other, two hot chicks, fast cars, motorcycles, rock music, and lots of real military hardware in action, in IMAX, so where’s the mystery, really? You still feel dirty, though)
2012 (same story, really, except with the entire city of Los Angeles unraveling in minutes immediately behind John Cusack’s car in what might be the most spectacular scene in film history but is also laughably stupid)
Antichrist (artful but wang-mangling — the tradeoffs cannot be denied)
Ninja Assassin (buncha kicking and fighting, only partially redeemed by a cool raid on ninja HQ at the end)
Fourth Kind (a fraud)
Capitalism: A Love Story (another fraud)
Land of the Lost (as with several of the films in this blog entry, I wish to stress that I got a free pass to this one)

And the Five Movies About Which I’m Not Sure:

Terminator Salvation (serviceable but arguably unnecessary)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the Potter movies get the job done but are assembly-line-like enough that a few months later you find yourself thinking things like “I think I liked that — but do I even remember who the half-blood prince was?”)
Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day (a ridiculous and cartoonish action film mostly-redeemed by its awareness that it’s ridiculous and cartoonish and its awareness that no one is in the theatre except cultish fans of the first film)
Avatar (undeniably amazing but probably not worth ever seeing in a non-IMAX, non-3D format, where it would merely be Ferngully vs. Starship Troopers, or as South Park put it, Dances with Smurfs)
Sherlock Holmes (for the simple reason that I haven’t seen it — and wasn’t planning to, since it appears to reduce Holmes to a mere action hero — but now I’ve heard a seemingly-intelligent person at a New Year’s Eve party praise it, so maybe…and a film buff I tend to trust reminds me that Holmes was supposed to have good boxing skills…)

To avoid crapola, I will aim to see only ten new movies per year henceforth, I think — and will let you know annually which ones make it onto that list. My Book Selections entry last week ended with a list of nine that may be nerd-mandatory in 2010, but that leaves room for at least one surprise. We’ll see.


D------ said...

Did you see a favorite movie more than once?

I saw “500 Days of Summer,” a quirky, non-romantic comedy, three times. I can’t remember the last movie I saw more than once in a theater.

Todd Seavey said...

As noted above, saw _Watchmen_ repeatedly (on a regular screen first, so rewatched in IMAX but with a mumbling crazyman seated near me, so saw in IMAX one more time — but then saw a fourth time when the extended version was briefly in theatres).

_Fantastic Mr. Fox_ is arguably better, though.

And I should thank you for suggesting one non-new movie outing from a few months ago, the screening of _The Last Days of Disco_ with Whit Stillman, Chris Eigeman, and Tara Subkoff in attendance (and should thank movie reviewers Kyle Smith, J.R. Taylor, and Meghan Keane for getting me into various movies listed above while I’m at it).

Lefty Leibowitz said...

Avatar was a truly horrible film. I find it unfathomable that so many supposedly intelligent people are giving it such high praise.

That is all.

Todd Seavey said...

I thought it was all right, though for reasons more akin to a videogame being good than a great film being good. I heard someone likening it to a three-hour version of the worst parts of _Phantom Menace_, though, which is pretty damning (though, ironically, I believe _you_, sir, have written an online defense of _Phantom Menace_ — j’accuse!).

I will admit this: I was wrong to predict it would be a financial bomb. $1 billion and counting, with only Cameron’s _Titanic_ standing between it and (misleading, inflation-unadjusted) all-time box office supremacy (adjusted for inflation, _Gone with the Wind_ and the real _Star Wars_ are still tops, followed by the wonderful and somewhat paleolibertarian _Sound of Music_, which made millions even though that’s not the Julie Andrews movie in which she’s naked).

Joey B said...

The thing I hate about “Avatar” is it’s anti-human, anti-technology message. Kind of ironic, given that Cameron used high technology to make it.

Also, I loved “500 Days of Summer.”

Todd Seavey said...

And a similar message-vs.-medium hypocrisy occurs in _The Matrix_ and even more so _Jurassic Park_, not to mention lots of movies deploying special effects and Frankenstein monsters, I suppose.

The idyllic message that nature is our friend and industry our enemy is also, of course, behind a lot of the nonsense combated by the organization I work for, the American Council on Science and Health:

And on a related note, tonight (1/5) at 7:30 you’ll find me at an NYC Skeptics talk about irrational beliefs by magician/psychologist Richard Wiseman at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge St. at Rivington St., if anyone’s interested.

Lefty Leibowitz said...

One quick clarification: Even I am not bold enough to defend Phantom Menace. I did write an attack on the critics of Attack of the Clones, which, if not exactly a great movie, is not nearly as terrible as Phantom Menace.