Films: An Introduction

Best Films, 2009 Pre-Oscar Edition

(A note of introduction: My name is Mark and I will be reviewing the cinematic arts in this broadsheet. This edition is somewhat of a preview for things to come, or, if you’re bored, the whole damn thing. I expect to be posting full reviews of all these films within a few weeks in time for the Oscar nominations. Or I may just post on whatever I so choose, like a rebuttal to everything Kyle writes. *WRONG WRONG WRONG*  But the cinema is the greatest art form of human history and we will examine it in futile detail here)

Doubt-
A rich, layered film that rewards multiple viewings, stately and somber and as Catholic as its subject, Doubt had the tempo of a Mass and the crackle of the finely-written, sharp-minded play that John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed, using the talents of Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (maybe the finest screen actor of our generation) and in a quavering, powerful scene, Viola Davis. A movie that puts excitement back into debate and questioning back into faith.

W.-
The rough and sometimes hilarious biopic of our soon-to-be-ex-President, W. is fair, which is both a good and bad thing for the Texas Mistake. Josh Brolin gives a complex portrayal of a simple man, and James Cromwell shines as President Pappy. Wonderfully goofy music selections and a laughably perfect cast (check out Dreyfuss as Cheney and Thandie Newton’s screwball Condi Rice) are directed to a marvelous, wholly appropriate fantasy ending by Oliver Stone.

Revolutionary Road-
Sam Mendes’ finest film to date, directing wife Kate Winslet to the performance of an ever-surprising career. The disintegration of a marriage in 1955 New England is timeless in the hurt and deferred dreams of the beautiful couple at the center, and only the cars and doo-wop songs place this valentine to emotional devastation in the past, as opposed to now, when millions of people who should watch this masterpiece and question whether their lives are really what they wanted so long ago.

Milk-
A timely and powerful film that loses nothing of its tragedy by being the most entertaining and honestly fun film of the year, Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn show the San Francisco City Supervisor as a politically savvy and sexually adventurous goofball who, with a ragtag group of gay friends from the neighborhood, formed a movement and brought down an insiduously evil anti-gay ballot initiative. From an emotional credits sequence showing the gay-bar raids and arrests of the 1960s to the footage of a late-night candlelight vigil, Milk never loses sight of the fact that politics is people, and a great supporting cast drives the sentiment home. Emile Hirsch is great as a young man who finds that his talents as a sex hustler can be easily translated into political activism.

Slumdog Millionaire-
Unapologetically old-fashioned and yet one hundred percent alive, this film could have been written by Charles Dickens if the man had seen the horror and vivacity of modern Mumbai. A visual and aural feast that earns every bit of sentiment and never neglects that holy storyteller’s adage: What happens next?

The Worst: Adam Goron already has the goods on the ten worst movies, of which I agree completely (Adam, the fact that you actually SAW some of those stinkers shows that you’re a braver man than I am). Just to add my two worthless cents…The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has a deadly last hour and a half and is about the most boring, dull lead character this side of a still-life painting. How to Lose Friends and Influence People is a reputation-ruiner for Simon Pegg and a horribly foul spot on the resume of Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert Weide.

The Rest: Miracle at St. Anna was a film too big for its even grander ambitions, but Spike Lee proves once again he’s still one of America’s most underrated, great filmmakers…Burn After Reading contains two scenes with J.K. Simmons as a CIA chief that are perhaps the two funniest scenes committed to the screen…Frost/Nixon is a terrific acting showcase showing an intense turn by Frank Langella…The Dark Knight is a typically well-made and atmospheric Chris Nolan picture elevated by Heath Ledger’s grandly comic, menacing performance…Quantum of Solace is not a first rate Bond picture but has one of the best scenes of the year, where our hero eavesdrops on a wireless conspiracy of global CEO-villians during a performance of Tosca.

More to come! Hold on to your homburgs!

-Mark, 2009

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~ by mediametric on January 19, 2009.

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