Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Have Scenes

In an attempt to make 2009 a year of content and not let life go haphazardly to waste, or worst - channeling energy to work slavery, the mission that was set in motion a year ago had played out pretty well as I had hoped. The objective was simply to watch 100 movies and not one film less. That's child's play you might say, but not if your work demands that time be taken away from you, usually at strange hours, sometimes without a wink to forewarn. As the curtain started to draw for its final call, my exit plans will begin with the presentation of 20 finest films in 2009 (some are released in the previous year but I was only able to catch them this year). Listed in the order of viewing, here are my definitive picks, with additional 3 that deserve an appropriate special mention, all of which could tuck comfortably within the final 20. There are too many good titles for inclusion but it all came down to this. And just for the record, Blood: The Last Vampire takes bottom place when I actually took time to rank every title in its totality (a man of my age should probably get out and get loud rather than carrying out such trivial taskwork, but… anyway, all the 100 titles after the best list).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher

David Fincher’s adaptation of the infamous short fable deserves the Best Picture nom for the Oscar’s race last year, not only for it’s dramatic pace and beautifully structured storyline but also for it’s allegorical notions of life and death and what comes in between as experienced by a unique, grows-in-reverse, human being.

Verdict: Best Adapted Screenplay

The Fall
Tarsem Singh

The Fall flows like an astral tale that never fails to surprise your visual sensory, escorting you into dark and light territories like a ride through the chamber of wonders, where each revelry is a feast for the sight and a decorative flight of fancy that makes you feel awfully good or inspired.

Verdict: Best Art Direction

Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufmann

Kaufmann’s directorial debut is also the movie that makes you want to bawl and laugh, in silence or out loud, as the piece speaks subliminally of large and minute things: the aspiration of oneself, the crisis we faced, the people we chanced upon, whether interpreted in reality or within a fictional reality from within.

Verdict: Best First Feature & Best Score - Jon Brion

In Bruges
Martin McDonagh

Two hit men formed an odd team of comic disaster in a dark comedy that strings themes of the undulating human condition in the course of redemption, all while the picture moves with sharp acting and capricious interplay of words, worth a nod for it’s screenplay and choice of stars, namely Farrell and Fiennes.

Verdict: Best Original Screenplay

Okuribito (Departures)
Yōjirō Takita

Without question, the Japanese has the best Zen touch when it comes to dealing with weighty themes such as death; and with Departures we see nothing lesser than poetic gestures and graceful drama that depicts moments of unvarnished truth in a country where the living and the dead are respected with honor.

Verdict: Best Foreign Language Film

Star Trek
J. J. Abrams

The mastermind of acclaimed TV series (Alias, Lost, Fringe), whose name needs no further introduction, delivers one of the year’s most surprising hit blockbuster on the silver screen; a modern re-interpretation of a classic action-adventure that dazzles from one frame to another with scenes of majestic skyscapes, spacecrafts over-glared by lens flares and poignant use of colours on white spaces.

Verdict: Best Sound Mixing / Editing

The Brothers Bloom
Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson’s sophomore after his debut (Brick) is delightful in hundred ways, from casting to cinematography, from costume to its impeccable comic timing - in which every piece has it's intention fixed to the story of cons and deceptions, making the believable world so much fun to live in with aids of conniving plots and quizzical characters cohered with unconventional frameworks.

Verdict: Best Ensemble

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let The Right One In)
John Ajvide Lindqvist

There could never be a more memorable vampire movie than Interview With The Vampire, or so I thought, but I retracted and ingested my words after watching Let The Right One In - a Swedish sleeper hit that illustrates the timeworn genre in a different light, interlocking teenage and social issues with striking shots that seems to elevate it’s modest narrative outlines.

Verdict: Best Cinematography

Du Levande (You, The Living)
Roy Andersson

Existence, displayed on a barren stage called Earth, monotonous hues hinting at boredom, a town that connects 20 players or so, somewhat loosely but never dull, the low-toned sounds humming the theme of nonentity and a languid montage of 50 vignettes with tragicomedic murmurs - these are us, which is You, The Living - a film that fills the soul and makes you chuckle quiescently.

Verdict: Best Director - Roy Andersson

Duncan Jones

Science fiction is old and predictable, so take the traditional shuttle beyond the contemporary air and you will land on a whole new planet - Moon: a refreshing version of the old adage threaded with psychological-thriller motives, set in a factional universe with nothing but the lead, ensnared in the tropes of sanity, haunting himself in the claustrophobic space and time.

Verdict: Best Directorial Debut - Duncan Jones

Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino

One name: Christoph Waltz, and the rest is self-explanatory: Tarantino is swell, and his script is not limited by his drolleries or ornate trademarks which never seem to stale; in fact his crafts simply got better with each project he undertakes and this we are sure of because we have come to grasp the understanding that his pursuit of cinematic excellence knows no bloody boundaries.

Verdict: Best Actor (Drama) - Christoph Waltz

Yasmin Ahmad

Controversies aside, the late Yasmin Ahmad is the definitive force in the Asian film industry, and with her vivacious hands she handled delicate topics such as multicultural connection, family issues, integrity and human values by painting visual poems in her swan song: Talentime, a moving film that touches hearts with bittersweet vehemence.

Verdict: Best Original Song - I Go (Pete Teo / Aizat)

Madeo (Mother)
Bong Joon-ho

The Korean award-winning director Bong Joon-ho returns with a compelling approach to his beloved themes - relationship and murder mystery enclosed in an inconspicuous event - as he demonstrates in style the dramatization of grit and determination endowed by one steadfast mother tending to negate the guilt of her beloved one.

Verdict: Best Actress (Drama) - Kim Hye-ja

(500) Days of Summer
Marc Webb

Cheesy romcoms are aplenty, but none sticks with you like Marc Webb’s feature length debut: (500) Days of Summer - a lighthearted and unpretentious look at true love and its many side stories, whereby the non-linear storytelling are less gimmicky than it is indicative of an idea that love, when seen from a macro view, is literally the sum of events that you faced each day of your adventitious life.

Verdict: Best Actress (Comedy) - Zooey Deschanel

The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest offering pushes the limit of her mastery as she tackles a more intrepid theme revolving around tensions and insurgencies in a warfare ambience, but it was the brilliant performance by Jeremy Renner that took the film to another level as he punctuates a sense of unruffled coolness even when his character was expected to live on the edge of suspense and terror.

Verdict: Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actor - Jeremy Renner

Los Abrozos Rotos (Broken Embraces)
Pedro Almodóvar

Like many of his films, Broken Embraces is a theatrical exposition of characters in an over-the-top melodrama, conveying the ‘movie within a movie’ figurations explored in the context of a colourful noir-romance, made more stunning with the masterful camera works and detailed mise-en-scène - something only an enfant terrible like Almodóvar can pull through with unwavering composure.

Verdict: Best Costume & Styling

Pete Docter

Personifying love through human interactions are the hardest when attempted on a medium once seen to be campy or kiddish, yet Up proved the opposite, by delivering stories true to the heart and unfolding rip-roaring actions through cutting-edge animation that enthralls with each spirited turns and rebounds.

Verdict: Best Animated Feature Film

An Education
Lone Scherfig

With a solid cast and a top-notch script by Nick Hornby (of About A Boy fame), An Education is a scintillating coming-of-age movie that is as charming as it’s luxuriant 60s embellishment, and while every performer did great to turn this into a fine material, it was Carey Mulligan’s deliverance as a 16-year-old girl with an enthusiasm to discover life’s many facets which stole the whole picture.

Verdict: Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress - Carey Mulligan

Avatar (3D)
James Cameron

About eleven years ago, when Cameron proclaimed that he was the King of The World during his Best Director speech, I felt it was just a turn of phrase plucked out from Titanic’s frozen dialogues, but here I stand corrected, for he is indeed The Shah of Technological Wizardry, The Lord of Imagination, a Dreamer, an Originator and above all, a Mighty Storyteller, in Three-D or otherwise.

Verdict: Best Visual Effects

Sherlock Holmes
Guy Ritchie

As the 75th person to play Holmes, Downey Jr. remodeled the classic protagonist with flair, demonstrating modern takes on the clichéd identity that puritans have come to accept: genteel sides are toughened, minus the fore-and-afters; and at a time when every superhero in a superhero feature seems too smart to be true or too stupid to be believed, this vintage bloodhound appears prevalent, swank and, dare I say it, unbeaten.

Verdict: Best Actor (Comedy) - Robert Downey Jr.

The Hangover
Todd Philips

You’ll be hurt, cracking up without a care in the world; and even if the hooplas are silly to begin with, it’s because they are intended to be for no other reasons.

Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan

A powerful film with very strong imageries, enhanced by excellent directions and subliminal visual effects, bound to muse your perceptions and inner workings.

Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes)
Nacho Vigalondo

Time-travel movies are prone to paradoxical whims, but Timecrimes managed to steer into new directions, with alternative inaugurations through a fictive yarn.

All this clearly out of the way, I shall usher in 2010 with renewed energy to watch another set of 100, perhaps more. And hopefully soon, when time is on my side, I might assemble a personal compilation of the 20 greatest films of this decade, a task I believe would be rather exhausting as we are faced with a wide selection of titles to choose from. Till then, may your resolutions come true.

A few months ago I was deciding on the best 13 films, but I couldn't resist adding 7 more for the fact that there are just too many good films not to be excluded, not to mention the ones waiting to be seen: Up In The Air, The Lovely Bones, A Prophet, Invictus, Precious, The White Ribbon, Where The Wild Things Are, and a whole lotta titles coming up.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


... and it skips a little just so to thrill us ... to fill us ... with lust.