Monday, December 28, 2009

My Top 10 Movies of 2009

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I love love movies, I watch a lot and think we've certainly made a feast of "fast food" movies in our country, so I really enjoy indie films that take a bigger shot at looking into the human condition. Unfortunately I didn't get to see everything I wanted, so I've appended this list with what *could* have made my Top 10 had I seen it.

In reverse order and with a quick note:

10. Up In The Air
Really enjoyed this take on a man who convinces everyone that life ties you down, as if there's a better place to be.

9. Sunshine Cleaning
Loved the tone of this film, great characters and acting. Amy Adams always turns in the perfect performance.

8. Watchmen
Unfortunately it didn't do as well at the box office that it needed in order to get the leeway needed from studios to do such big budget "thinkers". I never read the graphic novel (aka "COMIC BOOK!!"), but REALLY loved this film, a great noir aspect with some great visuals. Including a blue dong.

7. Inglorious Basterds
Tarantino for me is a hit and miss. I didn't care for Kill Bill, but loved Pulp Fiction & Reservoir Dogs. This could be my favorite that he's done, especially the opening scene. Fantastic dialogue and acting with the camera work of a "set it and forget it" mentality. And anytime someone takes obvious revisions to history then I'm all ears. Worked for me!

6. Taken
Maybe one of the more underrated films of 2009. Liam Neeson is relentless and while the story doesn't leave much to the imagination, Luc Besson turns in a simple riveting movie.

5. (500) Days of Summer
Joseph Gordon Levitt is one of my favorite actors and has earned the right to have me watch every single movie he makes. Couple that with a fantastically quirk-filled direction and you have a film ripe with great music and a subject I know a lot about: heartbreak and bad timing.

4. The Hurt Locker
"Wow" nearly sums up this movie for me. Gritty edge-of-your-seat filmmaking here about a bomb squad in Iraq.

3. District 9
I was looking forward to this film and was SO glad it didn't let me down. After Neill Blomkamp produced "Alive in Joburg" I was riveted with the promise of what he could bring to a "Halo" movie, but the continuation of "Joburg" was absolutely the right way to go. I'm a sci-fi/fantasy fan, as well as a bit of a sympathizer, so fusing the two to probe the inhumanities of Apartheid was genius. Not to mention the best visual effects for an alien that I've ever seen (including Avatar). A very well-rounded movie: Action + Plot + Effects + Subtext + Acting = Must-See.

2. Adam
I'm a sucker for drama. Rose Byrne is quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine ("Damages", "Sunshine", "The Dead Girl", "28 Weeks Later") and this is such a moving and touching film about a guy with Asperger's Syndrome and his ability to love. Easily makes my #2 slot.

1. Star Trek
Yes, I love my indie films, but there's a lot to be said about a cerebral big budget sci-fi film! And I feel like this had it all and could be appreciated by Trekkies (which I am not) and non-Trekkies alike. Great action, great cinematography (I'm also a sucker for lens flares) and great acting. I couldn't ask much more from this JJ Abrams production.

Honorable Mentions:
Avatar - What you have to understand about me and Avatar is that I waited on pins and needles for a solid year. Drove to Dallas to see 15 minutes of footage in 3D months before it came out and was convincing the nay-sayers that it was going to deliver something they hadn't experienced before AND went to the midnight screening, I was glued to every interview and snippet of coverage. I was greatly anticipating this movie. While I was right and I DID enjoy this movie, I was rather underwhelmed in a significant way that James Cameron did NOT deliver on a unique story, and instead opted for a "Dances With Wolves" redux. I still watched it twice in the theaters though, and probably still counting. Why spend $400+ million and not give me better characters and story arcs. (Oh, probably because FOX was behind it?)
State of Play - Outstanding movie about coverups from the viewpoint of a journalist. For a bigger movie it really flew under the radar.
Notorious - Not many complaints other than Puff probably should've played himself, and Anthony Mackie should never portray Tupac again. Ever.
Sherlock Holmes - Great movie! Robert Downey Jr. strikes again! Probably my favorite score of the year, Hans Zimmer is the man. Just couldn't quite squeeze it into the top 10.
Drag Me To Hell - Raimi returned to classic "Evil Dead" form, and I loved it.
Observe and Report - Most insane ending to a film.

Didn't See It So It Could Have Made Top 10:
Princess and The Frog - Disney/Pixar will hopefully make more of these. Absolutely want to see this, nothing quite matches the grace of hand drawn animation.
A Serious Man - The Coen brothers look to have made yet another quirky and fun film that maintains an edge.
The Road - Post apocalyptic world with Viggo? I'm in!
Public Enemies - Michael Mann is one of my favorites, he's always in contention in my book.
Where The Wild Things Are - Spike Jonze looks to have made a brilliant soulful little movie and I'm excited to see it.
Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans - Nic Cage doing what he should always be doing: playing a character without a full deck!!
The Fantastic Mr. Fox - Not a huge Wes Anderson fan, but this looks outstanding.

And there you have it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sporting Beauty

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I love sports! I love the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Astros, and the Texas Longhorns. Love them all, maybe not necessarily equally, but deeply nonetheless!

Part of my personality is that I'm competitive, I try to be graceful in losing, but I hate it. I hate it and I'm not used to it, because I love challenges and figuring out the angles and that taste of sweet victory knowing I "gave it my all" or "figured it out". Now, I obviously don't play any collegiate or professional sports, but I still love the ride as much, even though I don't have a hand in the outcome. Because, for me, there's something exciting about being apart of something I don't have any control over. It's the ultimate movie, where the climax may or may not favor my chosen "good guy"! And I'm sure many will say that it's silly to invest your emotions in such a thing, but it's the most exciting non-scripted event around. Sports. And I love being a fan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just The Facts

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Be leery of news organizations that are more interested in injecting their opinions, rather than stating the facts. Facts are useful to understand a situation, but when newsmen deliver opinions then it becomes difficult to distinguish between their personal beliefs and real events, because they're in a position in which we expect/trust to hear facts, so the line begins to blur between fact and opinion.

FOX News comes to mind. They seem to have turned the issue of "selling copy" into an art of targeting "news" to a specific demographic. This is problematic because if you craft your news to a specific audience then you're not reporting the news/facts/reality, you're catering to what someone wants to hear, which is fine if you're creating a sitcom, but not if you want the facts to stand on their own as a reputable news conglomerate. There's a reason "freedom of the press" was written into our constitution, because the founding fathers knew that a healthy government was held in check by accurate and unbiased journalism who reported to the public (instead of being ran and muzzled by the government).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inspiration's Theme

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Do not give up. Don't you dare quit. It hurts, it stings and it just may get worse before it's all said and done. It's too easy to go home and quietly pass away, in fact, it's so easy that that's what nearly everyone does. They check out of everything that's difficult, bypass all hardship in favor of the road more traveled. There's a great many friends and creature comforts on this road. But the road to greatness, the road to healing, the steep and winding road to self-discovery and enlightenment is carved and forged by self-doubt, tears, sacrifice and sheer determination. This is why it's called trailblazing.

The temptation to roll over and play dead must be overcome with your wits, your inescapable desire to get where you want to be so that in 6 months you do not look back and wonder where you could be. No. In 6 months you will gaze into your past in awe of what you pushed through, and confounded that it was indeed you who did this, as-if there were someone else who wrote those words, found that answer, hit those weights or cured those blues. Maybe you'll be right. Maybe it was you all along. This is what makes for a soft pillow.

Do not concede. Do not give way. Think of the tomorrow-you, the one who is looking at the today-you, give the tomorrow-you satisfaction & dignity, pride & motivation, born out of the unflinching grit that pushed through the sting and hurt. Because you didn't dare quit. You, did not, give up.