Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009 So Far - Part III

A motley crew of activists engage in astonishing and extremely dangerous tactics in this militant exposé of mass profit-motivated dolphin slaughter in rural Japan. Rambling though the film is, and protracted, it’s impossible not to be affected by the cause. And if for some reason you’re resisting, director and star Louie Psihoyos has just the music cue for you (and then some).

That von Trier would toy around with genital mutilation or talking animals isn't half as shocking and disconcerting as the fact that in a take on the hysterical dynamic between grief and sex he comes up with absolutely nothing worthwhile to say. Is the triteness perhaps the point? Is it a commentary on contemporary society in the sense that so many of us turn to hollow pop psychologists with ulterior motives only to close up the wound on the outside and leave it festering on the inside? Was the intention for Willem Dafoe to surpass woodenness and achieve a kind of serene ode (or is it blank-eyed verse) to non-acting? Did the fox really need to have his say? Charlotte Gainsbourg on the other hand perhaps deserves some kudos for tackling a joke of a character with such ferocity, heart and commitment. It's uncanny. Despite von Trier's best efforts, she avoids coming off as ridiculous or even pitiable, and throughout the wrench-wielding, clit-slitting shenanigans she remains searingly relatable.

An enjoyable, thoroughly pointless look at Joe Dallessandro’s legacy. It deserves credit though for being at least as blunt as it is, despite Dallessandro himself serving as producer and chief interviewee.

Even at barely 70 minutes length, whatever chuckles you take away from this manic piece of Belgian stop-motion insanity aren’t worth the sheer exhaustion.

The younger, sleeker, plucked and tanned Next Generation. It’s packed with space wars galore, bite-sized wisecracks, funny-looking aliens and Wolverine. Or maybe not. All these Franchise-Reloaded ventures with one cluster of CGI battling another tend to blur.

Continuing Sam Mendes’ downward career spiral, this trite dramedy sends a pair of pointedly unglamourous expectant American parents all across the nation and beyond (i.e. Canada) in search of a place to build a home. Along the way, each dreary town plays host to an underused actress reducing herself to a hoarse caricature.


A sluggish, thoroughly pedestrian documentary that doesn’t warrant any further discussion.

Certainly an inspired idea to tackle the recession from a high class call girl’s point of view. But it’s built around superficial glimpses of a blank heroine and the solipsistic people she encounters.

There are plenty of pretty pictures in this cowering look at Anna Wintour and the fashion industry, but no real reason for it to exist.


A witless, artless Quentin Crisp hagiography that strings together the key events in his last few decades of life with patches of stolid exposition and half-assed apologia for his foolish statements on the AIDS epidemic.

Just because it happened to you, that doesn’t mean it’s interesting. (Same goes re: your partner’s Treeless Mountain.)

I refuse to believe that the great, the masterful Mohsen Makhmalbaf could sink to undergrad-level arthouse cliché (there is a drunken boy with Downs syndrome here slow-dancing with a grotesque whore in a squalid Russian dive).

For my American readers – this is how my Top 20 would read currently, based on American release:

1. A Serious Man

2. The White Ribbon

3. Tulpan

4. Two Lovers

5. The Hurt Locker

6. Broken Embraces

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox

8. Burma VJ: Reporting on a Closed Country

9. Of Time and the City

10. Prodigal Sons

11. Revanche

12. 24 City

13. The Beaches of Agnes

14. You, the Living

15. Hunger

16. Home

17. Avatar

18. In the Loop

19. District 9

20. Julia

The above list may very well have read differently if I’d had a chance to catch Police, Adjective, The Headless Woman and/or Sin Nombre. I’m also yet to watch A Single Man, Precious and Public Enemies, but I doubt I’ll prefer either of them to Prodigal Sons and it’s far from certain that either of them will even out-rank Julia.

In terms of favourite performances, it’s been a funny year so far. I tend to rank my Top 5 lead and supporting performances of each year irrespective of the actor’s gender. I’m not sure if this is another case of my diva worship going overboard, but there isn’t a single male actor in my Top 5 leads so far (bear in mind, I’m yet to catch most of the Best Actor heavy hitters) and only one in my Top 5 supporting (I don’t know how it happened, but Christophe Waltz just did not blow me away). Here is how they stand at the moment:

Best Lead Performance so far:
1. Catalina Saavedra (The Maid)
2. Penelope Cruz (Broken Embraces)
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist)
4. Kim Hye-ja (Mother)
5. Carey Mulligan (An Education)
- Honorary ‘Best Actor so far’: Mark Duplass (Humpday)
- Only the Top 2 are likely to stick around. Of course, if we went by American release, Tilda Swinton would headline this list, and Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow would duke it out with Kim Hye-ja for the fifth spot.

Best Supporting Performance so far:
1. Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
2. Aggeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth)
3. Mary Tsoni (Dogtooth)
4. Alycia Delmore (Humpday)
5. Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds)
- Of these five, only Farmiga is certain to stick around.

Best Cinematography so far:
1. Christian Berger (The White Ribbon)
2. Greig Fraser (Bright Star)
3. Roger Deakins (A Serious Man)
4. Rodrigo Prieto (Broken Embraces)
5. Natasha Brier (The Milk of Sorrow)

Worst Lead Performance so far:
Willem Dafoe (Antichrist)
- Most Uninspired Yet Morbidly Overpraised Lead Performance so far:
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
- If You Have to Nominate the Latter, at Least Reward His Infinitely Worthier Work:
George Clooney (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

Worst Supp. Performance so far:
Paul Giamatti (The Last Station)

To end this post on a positive note though, here are my Top 10 most anticipated 2009 movies to catch in (fingers crossed) 2010:

1. Un Prophete (Audiard)

2. I Killed My Mother (Dolan)

3. Police, Adjective (Porumboiu)

4. Lourdes (Hausner)

5. Wild Grass (Resnais)

6. Soul Kitchen (Akin)

7. Hadewijch (Dumont)

8. Life During Wartime (Solondz)

9. A Single Man (Ford)

10. Collapse (Smith)

Conversely, this is the only year where I have seen 20+ releases of which none has earned a five-star rating. In fact this decade alone, I’ve averaged two five-star films per year (I came across four such gems in 2001 alone). I don’t want to put too much pressure on Mr. Audiard et al, but I will be very sad if none of the above 10 makes a five-star impact (conceivably though, A Serious Man could stand to be bumped up upon a second viewing). When I’ve seen all of them, I might post a revised Top 10. This might not happen until next year...

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At 6:58 PM , Blogger William Dunigan said...

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