Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Life Sucks ... And Then There Are Movies

This year sucked in general. Everytime life throws a punch in the nether parts of my body, I descend into misery. But then, the movies alleviate the pain. Or, some of it at least. There haven't been many films that totally blew me away this year. Yet. The coming months will see a plethora of new films that I just cannot wait to see. For instance this Friday we will blessed - once again - by those immortal words on the screen: "El Deseo, S.A. presenta". Kathryn Bigelow's new flick, Hurt Locker, is the best-reviewed film of the year so far. The second instalment of the brilliant Mesrine is also coming out. Or, is it out already? Down the line we have Peter Jackson's latest, Lovely Bones. If it's half as good as the book, I'll be a happy man. The Coens' new film had the most fascinating trailer so far this year. The Road is finally coming out. Nine, the remake of Fellini's 8 1/2, will be competing for all the Best Actress nominations in the coming awards season. And, lest we forget, Avatar is also on the way. As underwhelming as the trailer was, I still have very high hopes for it. Despite the fact that Sam Worthington's in it.

My viewing habits have changed considerably this year for cicumstances beyond my control. And as new developments in my social life emerge, it is getting more difficult to actually sit down and watch something.

This year I have watched more TV dramas than at any point in my life. I watched the full series of "The Wire" back-to-back. The hype is true - it is fucking brilliant. I have marathoned my way through "Dexter" and "Battlestar Galactica" (perhaps for the third time over). "True Blood" was pretty decent. I have been procrastinating over "Deadwood" and I have just started watching "Babylon 5". Next up will be "Six Feet Under". This particular fascination with TV dramas also had a big impact on the number of films that I have seen all year. 

What follows is a list of films that I have seen in the last six months which I thought were pretty decent, if not outright brilliant. Not all of them are releases from 2009 - there are plenty of films from previous years. For fear of losing my touch with the world, I have decided to come up with this list to get out of the funk that I'm in. Did it help? We'll see. The list is chronological in the order that I've seen them:

Let the Right One in: An absolute corker of a film. Brilliant in every way and a good example to give if someone asks for a film that is better than the source material it's adapted from. As good a horror film as you'll ever see, this little twisted vampire tale is a nightmare-inducing masterpiece. I can't praise it enough.

The Class: There was so much hype surrounding this film that it almost became 'hip' not to like it. I could only resist so long. And the verdict? As good as they say it is. I watched this as part of a Laurent Cantet double bill. Cantet is a director that really taps into how we perceive society through race and class. The Class is a great example of what he is trying to say. Definitely his best film.

In the Loop: As far as the 2009 releases go, this is my favourite by a mile. I don't remember laughing this hard at the cinema as a group of buffoons try to wage war, whilst another group of buffoons are trying to stop it. Arguably it contains some of the best usage of "fuck" in any film that I can recall. Not to be missed.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: I rented this from my local Blockbuster after years of picking it up, only to put it back down for no apparent reason. It was worth the wait. Part one of Chan-wook Park's "Vengeance Trilogy", it is not as hard-hitting as its follow-up, Oldboy, but it has a fantastic twist at the end that does exactly what twists should - slap you in the face.

This Is England: I have praised this film elsewhere on this blog. All in all, it's Shane Meadows' crowning achievement. As Picasso said: "Bad artists copy, good artists steal". Meadows steals the last shot of The 400 Blows and somehow makes it more emblematic.

12:08: East of Bucharest: This little Romanian flick is as low-budget and honest as it gets. It is darkly comic - at times resembles Songs from the Second Floor - but with a golden heart. It's hard not to fall for its warmth and honesty. Did I mention its honesty?

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days: Another gem. Like another Romanian film on this list, its purity oozes from every frame. It delivers its message effortlessly and I could not find a flaw in this film. This was one of the best-reviewed films last year and it deserved all the accolades. It says more about the issue of abortion in about 90 minutes than all the talk shows and panel shows combined.

The Hangover: There is one every year. Knocked up; Superbad; Anchorman; Old School ... the list goes on. This is gross out without being vomit-inducing and naughty without making you feel guilty if you watch it with your parents. Oh, and it'pretty fricking hilarious too.

Drag Me to Hell: No matter what anybody says, I think Spiderman movies are vastly overrated. We have been waiting for Raimi's return to horror for quite some time and we have been rewarded accordingly. A poignant horror film that is actually pretty frightening. Rare combination, indeed. Please, no more Spidermen and more of these. Please.

Che Part One and Part Two: Quite why Benicio del Toro was overlooked in the awards season is beyond me. What I know is that these two films are the best things Soderbergh has done ever since sex, lies, and videotape. A nice little conclusion to Ernesto Guevara's story following the sublime The Motorcycle Diaries, this two-headed monster is worth your 4 hours. Trust me.

Antichrist: Oh, Von Trier. You sly bastard. You did it again. You've made every film critic talk about your film whether they liked it or not. You even sneaked in penal penetration, a blood-ejaculating penis, and female circumcision in all their glory into your film. Oh, and a talking fox too. Result: awesome.

Inglourious Basterds: Another Tarantino film and more hype. This time, though, he deserves to be praised to high heavens once again. Personally, I find the Kill Billi films dull and reduntant. Death Proof was exactly what it was meant to be. No more, no less. But this is a quintessential Tarantino movie. A walking, breathing pop-culture phenomenon. He's back and let's hope he keeps it up.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct: The first half of what is destined to be a gangster classic. Although the finale is very abrupt, I'm sure watching the two films back-to-back on DVD will pay off. Vincent Cassel is once again on top form. It has a very old-fashioned, 70s gangster feel to it. I cannot wait to see the second part.

So, these were the best films that I have seen within the last six months at cinema or at home. How many more will be added to this list by the end of the year? That is a question I will answer later on.


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