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2009 Movies - The Best of the Rest?

We here at the Blogulator are lovers, not haters, so we've decided to honor some of the movies that didn't make our conglomerate top 10. Well, Chris and I (DoktorPeace) did at least. I don't know what happened to the rest of the staff. I hate them.

I also hated Where the Wild Things Are. And Chris hated Adventureland. But we disagreed with each other, so you can find our love for the two below. Because we're lovers, not haters, and if I say it enough, it's true.

The first two (Adventureland and Sherlock Holmes), are my write-ups, because that makes my opinion seem more important. The rest are Chris's. Peace!


Full disclosure: Adventureland ended up as my #1 movie of last year partly in a defensive maneuver. Me, Chris, and mystery Molly watched it back to back with some French thriller, I found the latter uninteresting whereas the others preferred it, and thus an unholy attachment was born. Now that I try to think all the way back to Adventureland's release in spring (short-term memory explains Oscar season), I can't really come up with a definite idea as to why I liked it so much. The main character is a dorky virgin - nothing new there. Marijuana plays an integral role in the characters' acceptance of each other, which should bother me with its demographic pandering. And I hadn't and still haven't seen Twilight (onDemand on Showtime this month!!!), so Kristen Stewart meant nothing to me.

Yet in the end, the movie's definite ideas - all too verbalized by Jesse Eisenberg's iconic, stuttered rambling - come together to form a feeling much stronger than any individual concept. Look: The title is as blatant a metaphor as it's supposed to be. Adventureland is life, and life after college is one big mind-f***. Most respectable people learn this on their own, and suffer through it, so why bother with a movie about it that doesn't necessarily excel in either humor or drama? My answer is because there was an authenticity to the story, an earnestness rarely portrayed in a genre rife with breast and penis jokes. Those jokes do pop up here and there, just like penises, but for once I felt like they existed in the script because they are the easy norms that exist in real life. Marijuana does bring cool people and losers together. Sex is at the forefront of the young adult mind. And behind all that cardboard adolescence, set here against the ostensibly unremarkable backdrop of 1987, is an eternal struggle for meaning with which people just have no idea how to deal. Adventureland deals with it as best as it can, by offering the simple tale of a lost summer fraught with confusion and poor decisions.

It's been said that the film's ending takes the easy way out, and I won't disagree. You know what, though? That's what we do. We take the easy way out, because when we make things harder, chances for success and happiness drop precipitously. There's a comfort in finding something that just feels right, easy or not, and latching on to it, in the face of everything education taught you. And maybe that's the best I can say of Adventureland, a movie I enjoyed against all odds, including my hatred of Superbad. I can say that it showed me the hard while still being easy. That's what she said.

Sherlock Holmes

My dad, who consumes everything even tangentially related to Arthur Conan Doyle, obsessed over this movie for a year. When the trailer came out, my Oedipal desire to go against my dad was trumped by my manliness, appealed to by slick, stylized cuts and quick British wit. Then the reviews came out a disappointment. Then positive Avatar reviews came out. Then I saw both and realized that my gut reaction to trailers is way more trustworthy than mainstream critics. Sherlock Holmes was everything it wanted to be, and, while not edgy relative to the cinematic spectrum, it featured enough of its own flare to stand out in my mind. Then again, I may have been tricked into liking it by the folksy Irish jig played over the credits - a great lasting impression for Europhiles such as myself. Still, can I really be blamed for preferring the songs of my ancestors over the absurd grinding of blue stick people?

The Brothers Bloom

My intense love for this, my personal favorite movie of the year, stems largely from two slightly superficial, but ultimately very true things. 1) It has become my movie. Despite my incessant late-summer ravings to everyone and partially because of its brief appearance in theaters, no one has seen it besides Jerksica and myself. And you know, sometimes I really like that. Whether that makes me elitist is up for debate, but having a movie that's equal parts sheer adventure entertainment and touching brotherly love story that only I became privy to in 2009 makes it the ultimate intimate movie-going experience of the year. It's a movie that encompasses so many surface-level joys from throughout my film geek life, from its noir stylings to its disarmingly charming dialogue, but still remains small in stature, as if it were designed to be a DVD discovered by a loyal cult following in a few years, but really doesn't care if it does or not. 2) The second reason is so painfully simple that I'm not sure I should or want to elaborate on it. So I'll just point out that quite possibly my favorite thing that a movie can do for me is get a quote stuck in my head upon first viewing. And when I heard the following quote, it not only made complete and utter sense to me sitting there in the theater glowing with linguistic understanding, but it immediately burrowed its way into my head and forced my brain to repeat it to myself every day for weeks, not as a self-improvement mantra so much as just a reminder to myself that that's exactly how I feel sometimes. So without further ado, for those I haven't already repeated it to: "You're constipated. In your fucking soul."

Fantastic Mr. Fox

There was a time when everyone I knew, including myself, rushed out opening weekend to see the latest Wes Anderson movie. There was no hesitation, no reservations, and no procrastinations. It was just a given. And up until the release of The Darjeeling Limited, which I still argue is not a bad movie (some parts of it are even genuinely enjoyable), this is just the way things were. Then Mr. Anderson started retreading and getting a little overly misanthropic and/or stuck exploring the trite din of upper class white people with daddy issues. Or maybe we just didn't realize he was retreading by the time he got to The Life Aquatic (which I still argue is a masterpiece), like many critics argue, because we were so enamored with his aesthetics and capability to tug on those cutesy emo heartstrings. Don't get me wrong, Bottle Rocket remains my favorite film of all time to this day, but even I came to a partially unconscious realization that indeed, maybe Wes Anderson had his limits, like most men do. Sometimes genius only lasts a handful of films, and then we move on, finding new genius in younger blood or older blood just finally hitting its stride. And then, a children's film based on the arguably most obscure Roald Dahl story featuring stop-motion animation and the voice of George Clooney quietly came to theaters, and while it received nearly universal acclaim, critics talking about how the man in question had reinvented himself while remaining true to his esoteric deadpan aesthetic, nearly none of the public (or at least the members of the public I interact with on a daily basis) saw it. And it's because, sadly enough, I think people have given up on ol' dear Wes. Which is too bad, because not only is it my favorite film of his since Rushmore, it is also now my favorite animated film of all time, even beating out Up, which is now my second favorite animated film of all time. And just last year I was talking about how even though I liked WALL-E, I hadn't experienced an emotional connection to an animated movie in full (meaning portions of Pixar movies, such as the first 10 minutes of WALL-E or the ending to Ratatouille, may have gotten me, but never held my heart's attention throughout) since I was a child. But both Up, and to an even greater extent, Fantastic Mr. Fox did this for me to a ridiculous extent. In a way, they're both films about letting go of broken dreams in order to finally build new ones, and as cheesy as that sounds, it works because Anderson takes what he used to be flawless at and transfers it to a new medium and new cast of characters, who yes, do mimic the Anderson archetypes, but also are happy instead of depressed, cherubic instead of weathered, and sprightly instead of detached, and ultimately, are more like the original Anderson meme I fell in love with, Dignan, than anything I've ever seen since.

Where The Wild Things Are

In a similar vein, I will defend Where The Wild Things Are to the grave because while I will agree it lumbered along and had its faults as a story (which probably makes it problematic as a "movie" by some people's terms), it was an incredibly refreshing and honest project. Even after enduring the hype for an uncomfortable amount of time and then finally catching it just before it left theaters, I was buzzing in my chair for the duration, even when it just sat there and took me out of the experience because there was little to no investment to be made in characters or plot. It forced me to think about the times I would just play and act out all the emotions I had but never really knew what to do with as a child. And sometimes when I would play and scream and jump around, I'd just sit there in between bouts of it all and just meditate blankly. Because I didn't know what to think. And that's when my imagination soared. And Jonze and Eggers did this experimentally and with utter jubilee, even when it was quiet and aimless, it was drenched in inexplicable undeveloped glee, anger, sadness, confusion, and, ultimately, human connection.

Last But Not Least: Also, add The Informant! and The Box to your Nerdflix queue. The former makes up for its true story-movie formula by having an unrelentingly fascinating main character who narrates the most random crap you'll ever hear in a voiceover ever and having Steven Soderbergh get back to his roots as someone who can balance both style with substance, rather than heavily choose one over the other. This he goes all 70s on us, even though the movie takes place largely in the early 90s, even to the point of having Marvin Hamlisch score, which makes the gold texture of the film vibrantly surreal, kind of the mind of Matt Damon's insane, but endearingly so, whistle blower. And if you liked the short stories you read in middle school, Donnie Darko, or David Lynch, you owe it to yourself to at least give The Box a chance. Because it's basically a combination of those three things. It makes basically zero sense, but its ability to alternate between being absurdly freaky and just plain absurd is a valiant exercise in postmodern filmmaking. There's inspiration from every creepy piece of literature, TV, or movies that you could possibly think of and it's almost just worth it to connect all the dots and make your own interpretation, kinda like a pop-culture referencing experimental film. If that sounds like a match made in heaven to you (and it does to me), definitely check it out.

  1. Blogger qualler | 5:49 AM |  

    Sorry, good Doktor, I didn't like any other movies in 2009. I guess you could say I'm a hater then.

  2. Blogger Wipert | 11:33 AM |  

    Adventureland was one of the better written movies I saw this year. The ending is horrible though. It needs to end with him getting on the bus to NY, and the final shot should be him staring out the window. He should not screw Kristen Stewart... Totes Lame.

  3. Blogger chris | 1:36 PM |  

    If Adventureland had Wipert's ending, I might have deemed it "worthwhile."

    I think Superbad "took the easy way out" a lot more nobly.

    Then again, I think Doktor and I just connected personally more to one over the other. End of high school best friend anguish is more relatable to me than post-college anguish.

    Plus I like dick jokes sometimes.

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