Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The best of the best with honours 2009

I was recently asked to participate in the inaugural Sydney Film Critics Best Of 2009 (cick to read SFC's top 20) poll organised by Matt Ravier of Last Night With Riviera. The following is my humble submission as to the movies that made my 2009 an unforgettable year in cinema...

How exactly do you measure the quality of a year in cinema? Top 10 lists sure are one way; for film journalists they are bread and butter as well as the staple we love to hate. There might be some truth, however, to the idea that a better measurement of the quality of a year in cinema is the films that didn’t make the cut, the ones painfully disregarded in the formation of one’s own subjective best of the best of the best. With honours.

Much maligned though it was Watchmen just barely failed to make my final list – years later it will be considered one of the great American literary adaptations. Or how about Rachel Getting Married? As genuine a portrait of a loving, dysfunctional family I’ve seen in several years. These movies made me laugh uncontrollably, cry inconsolably, boil with rage or otherwise reached into my soul, with their truth, importance or spectacle in ways that reminded me exactly why I love cinema as I do: Three Blind Mice, Avatar, The Girlfriend Experience, District 9, Public Enemies, (500) Days Of Summer, UP, Drag Me To Hell, Inglorious Basterds, Balibo, A Serious Man, The Cove.

Any one could have made my top 10, which is as reliable as a dead narrator.


10. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA)
9. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
8. Moon (Duncan Jones, UK)
7. Samson & Delilah (Warwick Thornton, Australia)
6. Che (Steven Soderbergh, USA/France/Spain)
5. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
4. Encounters At The End Of The World (Werner Herzog, USA)
3. Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, USA)
Probably the most satisfying slow-burner of the year. Solemn and melancholic for sure, but deeply emotional and personal also. Only one film made me cry harder and longer in 2009...
2. Milk (Gus van Sant, USA)
Van Sant didn't set out to reinvent the biopic here, only to tell the story of one man and his fight for quality. Inspirational might be a cliche term for such a film, but I dream of a world where 'leaders' in Copenhagen, Washington and Canberra had even a drop of Harvey Milk's dedication to social justice.
1. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)
An astonishing film that literally pulverised me into desperate submission with a relentless exposé of the violent, corrupt and bleak world that consumes a small Italian community in Naples, framing its inhabitant's very existence from which there is no escape. Never has the mob underworld be so unromantised, so grimy or so deadly.


10. Beaches Of Agnes (Agnes Varda, France)
9. 35 Shots Of Rum (Claire Denis, France/Germany)
8. Up In The Air (Jason Reitman, USA)
7. In The Loop (Armando Lannucci, UK)
6. Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, USA)
5. Humpday (Lynn Shelton, USA)
4. The Road (John Hillcoat, USA)
3. Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani, USA)
2. Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson, USA)
1. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigalow, USA)

NB: Anders Østergaard brilliant documentary Burma VJ was supposed to be on my final unreleased in Australia list but I somehow left it off (infuriatingly).

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