Thursday, February 4, 2010

List: My Favourite Movies this Year

With the Academy announcing nominations for this year’s awards, I thought it was high time I put this list up, that I’d compiled more than a while ago. Since, I’ve watched a few more movies, which might have changed the list a little, but I’ve decided I’m going to consider those to be 2010, and go ahead with my original list.
This year, there were some great movies, some stinkers and a gigantic bunch of films that ended up middling at best. There were some cinematic moments that you couldn’t help cheer for (Shoshana’s revenge), there were times you couldn’t contain a gasp (being introduced to Pandora or Paradise Falls) and then there were moments you were forced to cringe (sitting through Sonia and Pepperidge hamming their way through Clouseau’s feeble attempts at making funny). At the end of all that good, bad and sometimes very very ugly, we’ve come to the close of yet another year. And amongst a veritable collection of best-of-lists, here’s mine. There were many movies that almost made it to my favorites, but somehow couldn’t move me enough. So I’m starting with the movies that I also enjoyed, to the movies on the bubble, which on another day could substitute the movies that finally made the list, and finally entering the movies that this year made it worth my while to spend all those hours with all those characters.

Also enjoyed:
1.       Goodbye Solo – Ram Bahirini
2.       Un Prophete – Jacques Audiard
3.       (500) Days of Summer – Marc Webb
4.       District 9 – Neill Blomkamp
5.       Adventureland – Greg Mottola
6.       Away We Go – Sam Mendes
7.       Invictus – Clint Eastwood
8.       3 Idiots – Rajkumar Hirani
9.       Coraline – Henry Selick
10.   The Young Victoria – Jean-Marc Vallée
On the Bubble (in alphabetic order):
1.       The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson
Thoroughly entertaining, and wonderfully well acted, beautifully shot and cleverly written, ‘The Brothers Bloom’ just missed the cut for me. A lot of people felt the transition from frothy and light to Shakespearean tragedy was uneven but I, for one, found it intriguing. The only fault I found in the film was some patchy editing and uncertain repeat value. Still, it was a commendable follow up to ‘Brick’, another film I thoroughly enjoyed, and I can’t wait to watch the next film Rian Johnson churns out.

2.       In The Loop – Armando Ianucci
This film bounced in and out of my top 10 as I began to make this list. Always at the back of my mind for being amongst the first times I actually enjoyed British humour, there is a crassness that made the stereotypical Indian prude inside me cringe. And yet, there is no doubt in the fact that if you want funny, you got it. If you found the summer sleeper ‘The Hangover’ hilarious, you WILL pee your pants in this one.

3.       Kurbaan – Rensil DeSilva
Indian cinema has seen some remarkable thrillers, and yet, it would be a stretch to expect anyone to be able to name three memorable thrillers from the 2000s. In Kurbaan, which is a hard to classify movie, we finally have that. It isn’t a perfect movie, and tries hard to find its footing towards the end, eventually hobbling to a by-and-large dissatisfying climax, but is still not without mention. In fact, tautly written for most of the screentime, it ably avoids many of the pitfalls the similarly themed (and unfortunately better received) New York succumbed to. Special mention must be given to the surprisingly consistent acting of all the players, especially Kirron Kher and (incredibly shockingly) Kareena Kapoor. Kurbaan may not be amongst the best films this year, but it definitely better than over 95% of the colder than tepid fare launched out of Bombay Talkies this year.

4.       Sunshine Cleaning
A cute little Indie that slipped in and out of people’s mind this summer, I was conflicted on whether I wanted this film to have this spot or ‘Adventureland’. I finally decided to go with this one after watching ‘The Young Victoria’. I think it is high time Emily Blunt got her due, and whilst her performance in Victoria is deservingly garnering her accolades, this film comes together much more cohesively. If Viola Davis could get an Oscar nomination for one scene in Doubt, Blunt should’ve wished this film could have come out later in the year, ‘cause even though Amy Adams, Steve Zahn and Alan Arkin are no pushovers, she really gave her all and made this one of the most engaging character studies in a long time. This film isn’t art, but it is entertaining, and at least for me, has been memorable.

5.       Taken – Pierre Morel
A lot of people have probably forgotten ‘Taken’ already, but this is the one movie I’ve watched the maximum number of times this year, and is also definitely the reason I look forward to watching Pierre Morel and Liam Neeson in their next forays out in 2010. (I will have a list out on that as well). Definitely the action entertainer of the year, Liam Neeson put himself on the map in Hollywood with this flick in a bigger way than before and banked over $200 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million.


10.    Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze
So many people wrote this film off as a misfire, but I still can’t get over how beautiful and simple and profound I felt it was. The last Spike Jonze movie I watched was the incredible ‘Being John Malkovich’, and this isn’t perhaps as revolutionary, but it has so much more heart. It is often difficult to adapt short literary works into feature length cinema, and some might even claim this to be better suited to a short film, but Jonze does a really good job of bringing life to the world created by Maurice Sendak. The music of the film is also fantastic and more than anything, Max Records does an incredible job of playing Max, the misunderstood, imaginative, and painfully lonely child who goes to the land of the wild things. Definitely not a movie for children, with its constant melancholic tone, but a fantastic film nonetheless.

9.       Star Trek  - J J Abrams
For a first time Star Trek watcher, I found the first fifteen minutes of this film unexciting, but as it catches on, and starts to take shape, I have to say I found the reason why so many millions of people do not shy away from making a fool of themselves by being labeled “Trekkies”. J J Abrams does an awesome job of contemporizing the story and leaving enough geek in it to satisfy the loyal fans. Zachary Quinto moves on from being Sylar in the now-decaying Heroes, and owns the role of Spock, even when faced by the original Nemoy.  _\\// (That’s a Vulcan salute for the uninitiated).

8.       Up In The Air – Jason Reitman
I enjoy Jason Reitman’s oeuvre more than any other contemporary filmmaker. I don’t think that means he’s the best filmmaker out there but I think it does mean that he makes amongst the most cleverly entertaining topical films. This is the second time he’s garnered award buzz is just three outings in feature length film-making, and under his own writing, I think he stands as good a chance at winning as the best of them. The film was hard to classify but impossible to not enjoy and he created some memorable characters for all the actors, specifically Clooney, who fit Ryan Bingham to a T.

7.       Wake Up Sid – Ayaan Mukherjee
Fun from beginning to end, if Wake Up Sid is amongst my favourite films this year, it’s probably the same reason I enjoyed Juno a couple’a years back. This film is unashamedly formulaic, and you could predict the ending thirty seconds into the film. Getting there is what makes this film worth watching. Ayaan Mukherjee puts together a bunch of endearing characters and milks the hell out of every cliché you could find in a feel-good film, and does a brilliant job of it. When you get out of your seat in the cinema, you’re bound to feel good, and for a long time after.

6.       Up – Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson
To start, I have yet to watch ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and have been told that I might revise my opinion as to my favorite animation film this year, but for now, I have to say that ‘Up’ was awesome. Amongst my favorite films to come out of Pixar studios, a studio already renowned for its habit of winning big at the Academy Awards, Up is in equal parts inspiring and equal parts entertaining. Carl Freidricksen and Russel took us on a journey of a lifetime, and we can never thank them enough.

5.       The Blind Side – John Lee Hancock
Sandra Bullock! What a year it’s been for her. She played the typical rom-com heroine in the summer hit ‘The Proposal’ and then had a humiliating disaster with the over-rated Bradley Cooper in ‘All About Steve’. One might think that’d be enough, but she just bounced right back, and bounced oh-so-high. Some stellar performances, an all-American sport, a feel good story and an author backed role for Bullock in this film make it amongst the best we’ve had in this genre. Surprising everyone and no one and getting Bullock nominations galore, this film is already amongst the ten highest grossing domestic releases this year, and released on par with New Moon, this film has shown staying par with its collections amongst the slowest dipping in percentages. And yet, those aren’t why I find this amongst my favourite five films this year. It’s here because IMHO, only a stone could not leave the cinema with a big smile after this one.

4.       The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow
Not many people are aware that Kathryn Bigelow was one amongst James Cameron’s many wives. I’m not sure if there is a point to that, so we’ll call it interesting trivia. Either ways, this will go down as a genre defining movie, with a never before experienced closed-up examination of conflict zones, in a completely non-judgmental way. Jeremy Renner’s stunning turn as the conflicted squadron leader who only finds purpose in the combat zone is also worth all the hype. Oh, I remembered my point: With both Bigelow and Cameron churning out fantastic films this year, wonder who rubbed off on who!

3.       Kaminey – Vishal Bhardwaj
My initial plan was to separate this list into the ten Indian (Hindi) films I enjoyed watching the most, and the ten International films I enjoyed the most. That was before I actually began making my list, and stopped at four, and that too after forcing the last one in. Nevertheless, Kaminey would definitely be amongst my most enjoyable times spent at a cinema. Wildly entertaining, uninhibited in its stylization and treatment, with a mind-numbing music score, this film was unequivocally the best film to come out of a stalemate Indian film industry in this last year. It will hopefully inspire original writing and awesome acting in the future, or at least serve as a reference point for those trying to identify it.

2.       Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino
One great genius, one troubled time, and one incredible experience. Tarantino is clearly with this film, the master of entertainment. In your face, with traditional plot devices like revenge, authentic use of language and fantastic casting, this is the film that could have been my favourite of the year, had it not been for the next title. No mention of this film can be complete without also mentioning Christoph Waltz. Even if I never see him in another Hollywood movie again, he, much like Heath Ledger last year, has fulfilled his cinematic purpose, and will always be remembered as Colonel Hans Landa, and rightly so.

1.     Avatar – James Cameron
Now that’s cinema. James Cameron, twenty years of planning, three hundred thousand speculations in the press, billions of post-Titanic expectations, 350 million dollars, and an entirely new planet make this amongst the best experiences in a movie theatre of my life. If Steven Spielberg took us back in time with Jurassic Park, Cameron took us forward, with a fantastic film, simplistic in story and perfect in execution. Avatar should become the biggest success of all time, only to vindicate this man who took on the world, and turned it on its axis.

1 comment:

  1. Avatar at #1. You surprise me. It was a good movie, undoubtedly, but I wouldn´t put it at the top of my list.

    And Up! HA! HA! When I kept bugging you to watch the movie with me, you obstinately refused, claiming it was terrible and you had no interest in it and yet, there it is. In your favourites list. Along with Kurbaan and Wake Up Sid. Again movies I insisted were good and you rubbished. You, dear sir, are fraud :P

    Oh and ´m surprised at the inclusion of Star Trek and Where The Wild Things Are. You big softie, you! :P