Doodad Kind of Town


At Long Last – the 2009 Post!
January 16, 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

To anyone still reading at this point…

2009 was not exactly a big year for this blog. I spent more time offline than on, due to well-documented struggles and stress, and spent the last few weeks watching oodles of movies without bothering to write about any of them.

So as we pass into the second half of January 2010, I can safely say I’ve seen as many 2009 releases as I’m going to see anytime soon. And – at last! – I’m ready to do a respectable ‘end of the year’ round-up.

Here goes nothing:

I enjoyed it more than I was supposed to, part 1:

It’s Complicated: To quote Slate’s Dana Stevens: “I reject the logic by which middle-aged female wish fulfillment at the movies deserves only our scorn while adolescent boy-wish fulfillment is worthy of adulation.” Amen, sister! This middle-aged female will freely admit that some of her fantasies involve Alec Baldwin, dream kitchens and firing up a fatty with a few friends for old times sake (although not necessarily all in the same fantasy). As such, I very much enjoyed living vicariously through Meryl Streep’s character for a couple of laugh-packed hours .

I enjoyed it more than I was supposed to, part 2:


2012. It’s not so much the end of the world as we know it as a throwback to the cheesy Irwin Allen produced, all-star-cast disaster epics of the 1970s (“The Poseidon Adventure,” “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno’). The special effects are way cooler, but the dialogue is just as hokey. I laughed out loud more times during “2012” than I did in probably any comedy film released last year. If you approach it in the right frame of mind, it’s a rollicking good time at the movies.

Still Not Jumping on the Bandwagon. Sorry.

Inglourious Basterds. I know, I know, I KNOW… Just about everyone loves it. I meant to see it a second time, but have passed on numerous opportunities to do so and just trusted my initial, gut reaction. Tarantino made one hell of an entertaining movie, but his ‘new and improved’ version of World War II feels adolescent and irresponsible to me. (And please go right ahead and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass on this one, because plenty of anonymous commenters did.)

Prettiest Movie of the Year

Cheri Dramatically, Stephen Frears’ adaptation of the Collette novels was a bit weak. But visually, it was the most ravishing film of the year. I watched it a second time for no other reason than to drink in the luxurious details of the set dressing and savor the film’s astonishingly vibrant palette. And Michelle Pfeieffer’s costumes are absolutely to die for.

Three Men Who Disappointed Me:


1. Rob Marshall.
No, that’s not him in the picture, although that guy on the table is also a contributor to my crushing disappointment in Marshall’s “Nine.” My experience of the film was so painful that I could not bring myself to write a review. I’ve long been a fan of the stage musical “Nine,” and have pretty successfully compartmentalized that enthusiasm from my even greater love of its source material, Fellini’s masterpiece “8 1/2”. But Marshall didn’t adapt the stage musical; he remade “8 1/2″ – badly and with musical numbers thrown in occasionally for no apparent reason. (And allowed non-singers to desecrate them in some cases. Nicole Kidman, in particular, should be banished from musical films for eternity; her harsh, untrained mezzo – devoid of nuance and incapable of comfortably reaching high notes – sledgehammers all the beauty and delicacy out of the show’s loveliest number.)”Nine” looks like a wild party on its surface, but it’s glum and joyless, and Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido like a clinically depressed guy who’s wandered into a Vegas revue by mistake.

2. Richard Curtis. I’ve long championed his feel-good romantic comedies. But with “Pirate Radio”, Curtis faced – and failed to surpass – his limitations as a director. This tribute to the early days of pop-rock radio required a buoyant visual style to complement its soundtrack, and Curtis did not deliver. As a result, “Pirate Radio” was a well-meaning but garbled mess.


3. Larry David.
Repeat viewings of “Whatever Works” have forced me to admit that he really can’t act. There’s a great big hole in Woody Allen’s otherwise sprightly comedy where a larger-than-life personality needed to be. But as David showed once again, both here and in this year’s much-ballyhooed season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” he is a man resolutely focused on the small stuff. And speaking of “Curb” -that “Seinfeld” reunion notwithstanding – it, too was a major disappointment. Painfully shrill (and way, WAY too heavy on the blow job jokes), this season demonstrated nothing so much as that Larry is pretty much unbearable without Cheryl around.

And Two Men Who Pleasantly Surprised Me:

Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait: When I heard there was a film called “World’s Greatest Dad” starring Robin Williams, I frankly wanted to run screaming into the night. When I heard that it was a dark comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, I was intrigued. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but – at least in its first half – it’s authentically sad and honest, and its features the best performance Williams has given in years, probably since the pre-“Patch Adams”era.

WTF????

Antichrist. I’m still not quite sure what Lars Von Trier was up to here. A singular achievement, a genuine (and genuinely disturbing) work of art, and a film I’m pretty sure I never, ever want to see again.

The Honor Roll (it’s not a Ten Best list, because I didn’t see ten movies I wanted to honor):

Me and Orson Welles. Richard Linklater’s story of a high schooler who stumbles into a bit part in Orson Welles’ legendary, modern-dress staging of Julius Caesar gets it all absolutely right, from the 30s nostalgia to the anticipatory hopefulness of being young, idealistic and in love. Anyone who’s ever walked into a theatre and felt they’d found their home will identify with the Zac Efron character, and thrill to Linklater’s love letter to the frustration and exhilaration of bringing a play to life. Bonus goodie: Christian McKay’s portrayal of Welles is appropriately larger-than-life, but doesn’t overpower the other players He has all of the real man’s blustering ego and irascible charm and recreates the trademark, sonorous voice to perfection.

Bright Star. Jane Campion’s story of the romance between poet John Keats and his beloved Fanny Brawne was an atypically dry-eyed story of doomed young love. Where it succeeded, brilliantly, was in depicting the rhythms of a early 19th century life, one often consumed in waiting (for a lover to return, for the post to arrive) or in laborious creative effort (both writing poetry and sewing intricate lace collars are shown to be painstaking endeavors). No mean achievement for a period piece.

Tetro. Where, oh where, is the love for Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film? “Tetro” was uneven, sure, but it was more beautiful and daring than most of what passed for cinematic achievement this year. A drama of slowly unraveling family secrets, operatic in its scale, is wrapped within a glorious homage to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Hunger. Director Steve McQueen depicted the fatal hunger strike by IRA leader Bobby Sands – and the events leading up to it – using very little dialogue and very powerful visual imagery. Potentially politically charged subject matter is transmuted into clear-eyed but humanistic observation.

The Hurt Locker. I’m certainly no one to say whether a film about Iraq is authentic, but this one sure feels like reality Neither preachy nor conflated with its own serious self-importance, Kathryn Bigelow’s wartime drama is devastating in its exploration of the ways that “war is a drug.”

A Serious Man. Yep, here’s that same still again (this is the fourth time it’s appeared on this blog.) I love this movie unreservedly – it’s the best work the Coen’s have every done. And the fact that it hasn’t found a wider audience is puzzling to me.

Blind Spots

As of this writing, I have yet to see “Avatar,” “Up,” “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “A Single Man,” “Coco Avant Chanel,” “Public Enemies,” “Star Trek,” “Paranormal Activity” or “Drag Me to Hell” – to name but a few. So feel free to take all of the preceding with an enormous grain of salt.

Evidence of the Impending Apocalypse:

In 2010, John Cusack is starring in a movie called “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Here is the plot: after a night of drinking Red Bull and vodka, a group of guys travel back in time to 1986 via a “magic” hot tub and get a “do over” on their younger missteps. This sounds considerably dumber than anything Cusack was actually diong in 1986. (I mean, next to this, “One Crazy Summer” sounds like “Citizen Kane”!) How the mighty have fallen….

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10 Comments so far
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Ah Pat, you have a friend here with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS! After I wrote some unflattering commentary, I was embroiled in some heated but civil battles with a number of respcted fellow bloggers, but I stand by my issues after seeing it again on blu-ray. I applaud your love for BRIGHT STAR, A SERIOUS MAN (both in my own Top 10) THE HURT LOCKER, and ME AND ORSON WELLES and I sympathize with your disdain for WHATEVER WORKS and the non-actor Larry David and NINE, the latter of which I may have enjoyed a bit more, but a musical with substantial issues. I love the way you classified 2012 as a "comedy" as only on that level could one possibly get any enjoyment from it. I would pose the same criteria be applied to LAND OF THE LOST, a film i really didn't care for, but one that many appreciated for its self-parody. TETRO was an interesting effort, but I liked it a bit less than you as it overeached. IT'S COMPLICATED is exactly what you say it is: a film that you like more than you're supposed to. I never got to CHERI, but I usy=ually love Frears, and am intrigued with your excitement over the film's beauty. I accepted PIRATE RADIO's littered narrative, because I enjoyed the music. As far as Von Trier's ANTI-CHRIST, while I still feel there's some profound brilliance there, the director makes it just about impossible to watch a second time. It's as depression an experience in a movie theatre one is ever likely to have. I know you've since seen A SINGLE MAN, and am delighted at your solidly favorable reaction, even with a few issues. I hope that Cusack film isn't a harbinger of an exceedingly weak 2010 we may be in store for! Ugh.Wonderful, engaging wrap that is delightfully unconventional!

Comment by Sam Juliano

Sam -Thanks so much for the kind comments. I think you and I are of the same mind on many of the past year's films.

Comment by Pat

Pat, I saw less new releases than you did, but where I did I agree with you … especially about the Tarantino. I thought it was mildly entertaining, but troubling morally and ethically, from it's celebration of violence to its deceptive misogyny, which masquerades as "female empowerment."

Comment by Rick Olson

I just wanted to compliment you on your fine taste in foreign films (from the LAMB post this morning). Well done.

Comment by blake

Really great roundup here, Pat. Stay strong with Basterds – I didn't fall for it completely so I can see where your reservations are coming from.Pirate Radio was one of the few movies this year that I missed and actually felt badly about (there were plenty I missed and couldn't care less about), and I probably should have seen Orson Welles because I enjoy Linklater's variety. Oh well – if 2010 is as uneven as 2009, I should have plenty of time to catch up.Also, I didn't really go for Tetro but I'm as surprised as you are that it hasn't been mentioned more at the end of the year.

Comment by Daniel Getahun

Rick -Sorry for my very belated response here – I've not been very present in the blogosphere as of late. I'm glad to know others are as unmoved by "Basterds" as I. Sometimes I feel quite in the minority on that one.

Comment by Pat

Blake -Thank you. I tend to feel that my list also reflects the fact that I haven't seen nearly enough significant foreign films – but I'm glad to know you appreciate my taste in those I've seen. Stop by again.

Comment by Pat

Daniel -Believe me when I tell you that "Pirate Radio" is well worth waiting to see on DVD (although I will admit that Kenneth Branagh is absolutely hilarious.)2009 was indeed a disappointing year for film. I can't remember when I haven't been able to come up with an entire Top Ten list."Tetro" had its faults, but it was still pretty amazing, and I, too, am mystified by how much it's been overlooked and ignored.

Comment by Pat

I didn't see all of these and on the ones I did, we didn't see eye to eye on everything, but I agree mostly.Can't help you w/ Inglorious Basterds; I really enjoyed that. I'm planning to watch it again before the Oscars. Curious to see if my opinion changes.Nine was a jumbled mess of a movie. Marion Cotillard was the shining star for me. I'm not a Larry David fan in general, but I did like Whatever Works. More so for the story than for him, for sure.I can't tell enough people to see World's Greatest Dad. Not perfect, but Williams was great and the story engaging.Just watched Bright Star this week. Loved the costumes and feel of the period. A Serious Man is another one I dug, but I'm not sure why. It will require repeat viewings to understand all the details. I think that's why it hasn't found such success; it's not their most accessible.It's Complicated, Me & Orson Welles, Tetro are all on my list to see as is Hot Tub Time Machine. First time I saw a preview for HTTM I groaned. Now I can't wait for it to open. Cusack's choices of late have been middling to poor, so I'm hoping going completely off into left field for him will be what he needs.

Comment by Reel Whore

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Comment by 7tavern admin




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