Due to recent controversy, I would like to point out that the title of this post refers to my FAVORITE movies of the year, the ones I liked best, not necessarily those with the most merit.
It was a pretty good year for movies. Yes, there were the requisite explosions- and- special- effects- attempting- to- distract- the- audience- from- the- horrible- dialogue- and- complete- lack- of- original- story gems (I'm looking at you, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Avatar), but there were also some serious contenders for my ever-changing Top Favorite Movies of All Time list. The year's best, in my opinion (listed in order of release date):
State of Play
The moral of the story: newspapers good, blogging bad. Oops. This is a smart, well-written thriller about politics, journalism and the tempestuous relationship between the two. The cast is perfect (except for Ben Affleck; I think he stumbled onto the wrong movie set) and the compelling story never gets predictable or generic.
A conventional romantic comedy: Girl hates Boy and Boy hates Girl; Girl and Boy must pretend to be a couple for one reason or another (the reason doesn't really matter); through a series of crazy adventures and misunderstandings, Girl and Boy Actually Fall In Love; and, after a final, even bigger misunderstanding, everything is cleared up and Girl and Boy live Happily Ever After. There's a reason these plot points became conventions in the first place: they make a good story. Of course by now we've seen them so many times that they're tediously predictable. What The Proposal manages to do, though, is give us a familiar story, but with characters we actually care about and some of the wittiest dialogue this side of Juno, so that what could have been a conventional, run-of-the-mill rom-com feels fresh and irrepressibly light.
(500) Days of Summer
And now a very un-conventional romantic comedy, so much so that many people, including some critics and even the makers of the film, don't consider it to be one at all. As the narrator says, "It is a story of Boy meets Girl, but it is not a love story." We are told at the beginning how it will end, yet we can't help rooting for this couple (or non-couple) to have their own Happily Ever After. The ending is perfect in that way because even though we know it's coming, there's still a bit of a surprise, and it's not entirely unsatisfying.
I recently watched the DVD with director Neill Blomkamp's commentary, and he seemed very occupied with the movie's constant juxtaposition of the mundane and the fantastic. Until he pointed this out, I hadn't really thought about it, which just goes to show how seamlessly the elements fit together. Blomkamp also is very aware of the setting. A Johannesburg native, he says that there was never a question of locating the story anywhere else. The city becomes a character in its own right, sometimes even more interesting than the aliens. A hallmark of science fiction has always been inventiveness, and in this respect District 9 is the most sci-fi sci-fi movie I've ever seen. It turns the genre on its head, making us question not only the traditional human traits of all good drama, but also the conventions of imagination.
After Shaun of the Dead's seemingly untouchable brilliance, who would dare to make a zom-com? The creators of The Joe Schmo Show, of course! The comparison is inevitable, but really the only thing the two movies have in common is that they're comedies with zombies (or maybe it's more accurate to say that they're zombie movies with lots of funny bits). Different stories, different characters, different accents. Zombieland is just fun from start to finish. I think it's mentioned somewhere that the "zombie infection" came from Mad Cow Disease, but does that really matter? No one cares how the zombies got there, we just want to see them get killed! And zombie killings there are aplenty, along with the aforementioned funny bits and an unforgettable cameo from one of the best comedic actors of our time. I won't tell you who it is, and in fact maybe I've already said too much. I listened to Creative Screenwriting Magazine's Q&A with the writers and found that they originally planned to have the movie be the first two episodes of a TV series. Maybe they'll still make the series? I'd watch!
Where the Wild Things Are
I remember reading the book when I was five or six, and looking at Sendak's incredible illustrations at even younger. The book contains only seven sentences, so it's no small feat that the movie is feature-length. Max and the Wild Things are flesh-and-blood characters. Kids younger than about nine or 10 probably wouldn't appreciate the introspective, emotion-driven almost slowness of the story, though there are enough laughs to keep older kids entertained. And people of all ages would have to be made of stone to not be touched by the heartfelt ending, Max's longing for and return home. And the soundtrack is really good.
I tried to read The Hound of the Baskervilles a few years ago and only got past about page five (although I liked the Wishbone version). I'm sure Doyle's reputation is well-deserved, but I just could not get through it without falling asleep. This Holmes is anything but boring, though, what with rock 'em-sock 'em action, witty banter and a supernatural (or is it?) mystery to solve. I (clearly) can't tell you how accurate this portrayal of the famous sleuth is, but I can you tell you that it made for a good time at the movies.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
A campy 1960s sci-fi TV classic, a series of vampire romance novels beloved by tween and teen girls and middle-aged women alike and countless anonymous, too-wild-not-to-be-true stories of lost weekends in Sin City all provided inspiration for the year's best "guilty pleasures," in one case very guilty.