year in film 1

Fuck 2009. In all the years I’ve been obsessively logging the movies I see in a dog-eared notebook, this is the first on record where I failed to award four stars to single picture. Yeah, I saw some good ones, and even some that surprised me, but at no point was I so blown away that I walked away saying, Yes, this is what the cinema is meant to be. Nothing I’ll likely remember in the years ahead, though, thanks to HBO, I’m becoming even more fond of the 80’s Action throwback, Taken. In many ways, it’s the year’s most representative movie: a last gasp of the Bush era, and the closest we’ll get in the decades to come of Dick Cheney speaking from beyond the grave. In one guilty gulp of swill, it justified torture, demonized immigrants and France, and so sold us on government corruption and inefficiency that we’ll be begging for mercenary justice by the mid-terms. In many ways, it’s the one theatrical experience that made me happy from beginning to end, never straying from its perverse, reactionary vision. It’s perhaps the only movie that was honest about its twisted agenda.

Perhaps dishonesty, then, best defined the year in movies. Where we were sold on the idea that a new day had dawned, only to see race relations sent to the back of the bus once again. Where blacks are evil, illiterate, and prone to criminality unless touched by the power of a white Jesus. And in this, a year of pain, unemployment, and social breakdown, only Up in the Air had the balls to discuss Where We Are Now, and even then it had to punish a man who rejected marriage and family. No one could go all the way, though Lars Von Trier came close, and his Antichrist, frustrating and bizarre as it was, provoked in a way I had forgotten was possible, especially in this age of timidity and restraint. At best, the cinema hinted at our fundamental avoidance of truth, and how we’re all gaming the system to our own ends; our identities merely functional and transitory, as if we gave up trying to establish anything permanent. As such, the messages conflicted, overlapped, and ran aground. Art is bullshit, but it’s all that’s left us. The victims are the perpetrators. Altruism is the new gimmick. From Moon to Big Fan to The Messenger, we no longer have the ability to recognize ourselves from the wallpaper, so we hide out in types; bathed in italics or the suffocating irony that passes for connection.

Needless to say, I had to return to the past to find any satisfaction at all, and DVD became my salvation. If the tea leaves are any guide, I’ll spend 2010 in their company once again, immersed in a nostalgia I swore I’d never believe in.

Best Films of the Year:


Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Big Fan

The Cove

Fish Tank

The Girlfriend Experience

Inglourious Basterds


Paranormal Activity



year in film 3

Worst Films of the Year:

Away We Go

The Blind Side

Bright Star

The Cross

He’s Just Not That Into You


Julie & Julia

Life During Wartime


Whatever Works


The David Duke Memorial Award for the Accidental Promotion of White Supremacy:

Precious, which has the additional honor of turning everyone within earshot against AFDC, Medicaid, food stamps, and empathy altogether. Thanks again, Oprah.


Proof that Charles Bronson is Alive and Well and Living in Paris:

Liam Neeson, Taken. Yes, Natasha, a pissed, depressed, nothing-to-lose Liam Neeson is a Liam Neeson worth dying for. So glad you could be of service.


Best Performances of the Year:

Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Patton Oswalt, Big Fan

Sam Rockwell, Moon

Mike Tyson, Tyson


year in film 4

Worst Performances of the Year:

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Nicolas Cage, Knowing

Quinton Aaron, The Blind Side

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

The Empire of Japan, The Cove


“I’ve seen Taxi Driver. I know Taxi Driver. Taxi Driver is a favorite film of mine. You’re no Taxi Driver.”

Observe & Report


The Wes Anderson Award for Proving that Animation is No Barrier to Smug, Self-Satisfied Arrogance:

Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox


Movie Most Likely to Live on as a Cult Classic:

Orphan, if only because it makes daughters hitting on their fathers damn near acceptable again.


As Bad as it Gets Here, You Could Be There:

Afghan Star, where a woman removes her head scarf on television, leading to death threats from everyone with a penis. Just in case you forgot why your son died over there.


The Best Film You Saw All Year that Just Happens to be Older than Your Mother:

Make Way for Tomorrow, which, unlike today’s Hollywood, shows that our seniors end their days in loneliness, despair, pain, and horrifying sadness. As God intended.


year in film 2

Scenes to Remember:

The Virgin Auction, Taken

“Shoot him again, his soul is still dancing,” Bad Lieutenant, Port of Call: New Orleans

Vagina as Thanksgiving turkey, Antichrist

Telemarketing Rock God, Anvil! The Story of Anvil

When Dolphins Cry, The Cove

Love Life Sickness Death, Up

Closing Credits, The Hangover


Everything You Wanted to Know About Weaves, Conks, and Wigs But Were Afraid to Ask:

Good Hair, which just might stand as the most educational movie of the year. At last, I’ve heard the inside scoop about why black women really hate white chicks. And it isn’t just because they take all the men not dead or in jail.


All Foreplay, No Orgasm:

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, which promised to be the definitive account of one of the most famous headlines of all time, as well as an exploration of a titanic athletic showdown in the midst of social upheaval. What’s that you say? Just a replay of the game with talking heads repeating what we see for ourselves? No commentary, subtext, or insight? Impossible to care about if you weren’t on the field, an alum, or looking to be bored shitless?


Religion, Unhinged:

Christians prefer their blacks compliant, stupid, and possibly retarded in The Blind Side. They also like to walk around the globe with giant crosses, sobbing uncontrollably whenever the mood strikes in The Cross. Catholicism is murderous hypocrisy with a dollop of sexual dysfunction in both Angels & Demons and Nine. Jews worship a silent, sadistic G-d in A Serious Man, that is, when they aren’t eccentric hoarders who shake up the art world in Herb & Dorothy. Jesus and Mohammed aren’t the only con-artists separating the gullible from their dollars in the New Age shit storm School of Thought. And, at last, women are the deceitful, manipulative, devilish beasts of the Bible, and it’s up to us men to set it all straight in Antichrist.


Unexpected Pleasures:

Sure, it’s still likely unfilmable, but The Road didn’t suck. Star Trek not only respected the original series, it killed of the stink from the inferior follow-up shows. And when the hell did Paul Rudd become so huggable? I Love You, Man was made watchable because of his Rush-obsessed everyman. I gave Tarantino up for dead after the execrable Death Proof, but at last, he’s saved the best for last. Inglourious Basterds not only upped the ante, it at last revealed the ultimate truth: movies don’t reflect life, they are life. We’re inconceivable without them.



, , ,