Category Archives: Top Ten

#1 of 2009: Inglourious Basterds

I wholeheartedly agree with you Quentin.

Inglourious Basterds is a movie that is very confident in itself and its message.  Quentin Tarantino, who has always teased us with his ideas on what film means to him, finally comes out and screams it to the world.  It should come of no surprise that he does so in such an explosive, violent manner because as he has always shown, violence is a large part of life, and movies in particular.

I’m sure some will be confused or disagree with his approach to historic Truth but I felt it to be rather refreshing.  Many in the film world are constantly distracted by historical inaccuracies in film and in his typical snide way, Tarantino decides to tell the story of World War II in the most inaccurate way possible.  This is because he doesn’t want or need to play by the rules of writing history.  For one, he never has, and in the end he is clearly saying, “what is history but great storytelling?”  Therefore, let me tell you a great story.  I believe he achieves that.

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#2 of 2009: Precious

Precious is a film that is about a lot more than just pain.

If there is a film that has earned a bad reputation this year, it is Precious.  I cannot tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who have said that they won’t see Precious because it seems “too sad.”  What a poor excuse to not see a movie that is one hundred percent the most beautiful film of the year.

Based on the novel Push, Precious tells the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones.  The year is 1987 and Precious lives in Harlem with her abusive mother Mary.  Precious has already given birth to a child by her father, and is now pregnant with another by him.  She is illiterate, angry, and unbeknownst to her, HIV positive.

While the foundation for Precious is gloomy, it is the film’s progression that is full of so much hope, love, and sheer magnificence.  Precious is a film about the power of love and compassion.  To be more specific, it is about how the power of womanhood and how unity, affection, and self-expression can overcome any form of pain and hatred.

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#3 of 2009: Up in the Air

There is something more to Ryan Bingham than meets the eye.

There is something more to Ryan Bingham than meets the eye.

Instead of writing a standard review of Up In the Air, I thought I would tell you about a little creative “theory” I have.

On the surface, Up in the Air is a film about “connection” and the “baggage” that comes with having friends, family, lovers, partners etc.  The film has us evaluate a man named Ryan Bingham who does not want any of this.  Instead he sells to us a life philosophy where he carries around an empty backpack.  He makes common acquaintances but generally he is alone and introverted, but he exudes an aura of general happiness from this lifestyle.

Yet as I watched Jason Reitman’s best film of his young budding career, I had a much different reaction that most filmgoers.   I found myself being drawn into a conversation about having a sense of obligation, a willingness to sacrifice oneself for it, and being held accountable for the actions surrounding it.

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#4 of 2009: The Hurt Locker

War is a dangerous drug to be addicted to.

War is a dangerous drug to be addicted to.

Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker opens by using a quotation that reveals its thesis:  “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

While the plot of the film revolves around how the drug of war affects Sergeant First Class William James (impressively played by Jeremy Renner), I found my focus being brought to the other members of his bomb detonation team: Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie being used to his full potential) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).

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#5 of 2009: A Serious Man

He's laughing at you Larry.....

He's laughing at you Larry.

The Coen brothers have done it again with this semi-autobiographical voyage that takes place in 1967 in suburban Minneapolis.  A Serious Man is a film that can be summed up in one Yiddish proverb: “Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.” It means: Man plans, God laughs.

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#6 of 2009: An Education

Carey Mulligan and Peter Saarsgard charm one another in An Education

Carey Mulligan and Peter Saarsgard entwined in An Education

Based on an autobiographical essay by British journalist Lynn Barber, An Education tells the story of Jenny Miller, a young girl living in 1960’s England who has an affair with an older man named David Goldman.

Jenny (played wonderfully by a mesmerizing Carey Mulligan) lives a protected life that is driven by her dream to go to Oxford.  One day, as she is walking home from cello practice in the rain, the charming and handsome David (a mysterious yet entrancing Peter Saarsgard) offers her a ride.  She cautiously accepts and as they drive, her esteem for him grows.  He then offers to take her to hear the symphony and even though she would like to attend, she says that her parents would never permit it.  Using his charm, David seduces Jenny’s mother and impresses and convinces her strict overbearing father (Alfred Molina at his best).

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#8 of 2009: Avatar

"You look amazing, but doesn't this story seem familiar?"

"You look amazing, but doesn't this story sound familiar?"

While the highest grossing film of all time contains elements of grandeur, it isn’t as great as some of us are making it out to be.  Is Avatar technically groundbreaking?  Absolutely.  Is it mesmerizing aesthetically?  Unquestionably.  Is it a great story?  Not so much.  The more I think about Avatar I cannot get over its “conveniently borrowed” storyline.  Yet, with all its script/story issues, it still deserves the immense distinction it has earned.

My experience watching Avatar was one of intense elevation.  The film sucked me in with its visual creations and progressions.  Even as I watched it for a second time, I began to feel the same way someone who saw Star Wars did in 1977: this is going to change the face of movies forever.  It is clear that James Cameron’s imagination is unmatched and his vision for and execution of Avatar will inevitably go down in history.  Unfortunately though, his talents as a screenwriter are unimpressive.

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