Movie reviews

My Picks For The Best Films of 2009

My Picks For The Best Films of 2009... and late-2008

 

Ok, people, this year I'm making two separate lists. Rather than mixing the Best Films of 2009 together with all the great films that were released in late-2008 that I never had a chance to see before posting my Best Films of 2008 list, I'm simply dividing them into two different lists: "Best of 2009" and "Best of Late-2008".

And of course, as is the case every year, there are a few late-2009 releases that I have yet to see that could very well have made this list had I had a chance to see them, most prominently Up In The Air, A Serious Man, An Education, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, The White Ribbon, Broken Embraces, Bad Lieutenant, and Crazy Heart.

So, here they are, my picks for the best films of the past year:

 

TOP 15 FILMS OF 2009

The Milk Rave: Harvey Milk, Little Baby River and The Missing Scene

One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One man come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

         - U2, "Pride (In The Name of Love)"


By now I'd hope that everyone has seen Gus Van Sant's magnificent film Milk, about the life and death of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in American history. And if you have seen the film then you know what a truly brilliant piece of filmmaking it is. I finally saw it the other day, after it had been released on DVD, and I found both the film and Sean Penn's performance in it to be absolutely enthralling.

 

Ridiculous & Religulous: Yet Another Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal & Bill Maher's Take On Religion

"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
       -Benjamin Franklin


Yet another disturbing story involving sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has just come to light. This one straight out of Southern India and including all of the standard elements we've come to expect, such as the attempted cover-up and a complete lack of compassion for the victims.

According to the story in the British newspaper The Independent, a former nun named Sister Jesme has written a book detailing the illicit sex, habitual abuse, threats, downright cruelty and outright rape that, it seems, is a regular part of life for a nun in the Church, at least in that part of the world. A Church spokesman has even admitted as much (read on).

The Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle Rave

I finally saw Slumdog Millionaire this week and, man, was it ever good!

The story of an orphaned kid from the slums of Mumbai (Bombay) who gets a chance to win both a fortune on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and the love of the girl of his dreams, the film is obviously a bit of an unlikely fairy tale. But it's a fairy tale deeply anchored in the gritty, depressing reality of India's millions of desperately poor slum dwellers.

Lucky Day: The Bruce and Woody Rave

In the room where fortune falls
On a day when chance is all
In the dark of this exile
I felt the grace of your smile
Honey you're my lucky day
 
   - Bruce Springsteen, "My Lucky Day"

 
Lucky day indeed. Yesterday marked not only the release of Bruce Springsteen's new album, Working On A Dream, but also the release of Woody Allen's wonderful Vicky Cristina Barcelona on DVD. And it sure made for one heck of a terrific day for all us fans of great music and film.

 

As for the Bruce album, after six good listens I can now say with quite some certainty that Working On A Dream is one of his greatest albums of the past two decades, if not his whole career.

My Picks For The Best 25 Films of 2008

It's a full two weeks into the new year and I've finally assembled my list of the best films of the past year. It may be a bit late, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a list of 25 must-see new films; films that helped make this such a phenomenal year for a movie nut like myself.

The "Eternal Sunshine of Charlie Kaufman's Mind" Rave (Featuring My List of The Top 5 Comedies of All Time)

There are lots of good, even great, films out there, even a few amazing ones, but what's especially exciting, at least for a film buff like myself, is when you come across a completely original piece of filmmaking. Which is exactly what "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" is - completely original AND totally amazing. I just watched it again, for the first time in four years, and, like so many other great films, it blew me away even more on second viewing.

Distinctive Danes Do It With Devotion: The Danish Cinema and Susanne Bier Rave

What's up with Denmark and great cinema anyway? I mean, with a population of just over five million people how is it that the Danes can so consistently produce some of the best films in the world? The Italians, French and British, with their populations of about 60 million each, I understand. After all, it's not all that hard to produce excellence when you've got hordes of people like that. But the Danes, well, they're a lot like the Irish with their music, or the Belgians with their beers and chocolates, or the Kiwis with their rugby players, or the Quebeckers with their hockey goalies, or, even, the Koreans with their Kims. I mean, really, how do they do it? And where do they get all that talent from?

Two Classics, Three Masters: The "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" Rave

After a night out at the cinema last night I'm dying to tell you all about two of my hands-down, flat-out favorite films of the last couple of years: "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood". "No Country" I saw twice at the theater within a three week period in February and March, but it wasn't until last night that I finally saw "There Will Be Blood". Both films were released in late-2007, of course, but neither made it up here to our local theaters until recently. But it was definitely worth the wait. Filmmaking this fine is a rare thing indeed.

Raw, gritty, intense and, in the case of "No Country", quite violent, both films also have their moments of humor and are, simply put, incredibly-well-acted, -written and -directed pieces of cinematic brilliance. In other words, in case I'm not making myself completely clear, I absolutely loved both of these films!

The Sean Penn "Into The Wild" Rave

I just got back a little earlier tonight from seeing "Into The Wild" at the theater and man was it ever good!! I mean, what a fantastic piece of filmmaking, what an incredible performance and what an amazing film in every sense. I absolutely loved it!

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