From new sci-fi classics to Swedish vampires, kids with attitudes and kids with guns- 2009 has been a pretty outstanding year for film. Trespassees have looked back over the year and picked their top 3 films.
Dear reader, my shortlist for this even-shorter-list came to about 15 films. I do not possess a particularly discriminating personality. To make it easier on myself, I have decided to present you with ‘The Top 3 Sci-Fi Films of 2009.’ Much easier. In no particular order…
District 9 (Neil Blomkamp, USA / New Zealand)
District 9 is a B-movie that blends social commentary with its schlock and shaky camera work. When aliens arrive on Earth it is over Johannesburg, South Africa – and the pre-existing post-apartheid prejudices of the area are replaced with hate of the human-sized shrimp. They quickly become second-class citizens – and then the action sets in. A truly entertaining film, District 9 is an impressive directorial debut for Blomkamp, and this genre-bending blend of sci-fi, drama and documentary will undoubtedly become a cult classic.
Blomkamp’s original short film, which caught Peter Jackson’s eye.
Moon (Duncan Jones, UK)
Starring Sam Rockwell in a particularly satisfying performance, Moon is a science-fiction film in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A beautiful and bleak film, Moon captures the sparseness and isolation of space – and the occasional loneliness, as well as capacity for love, of the human condition. One of the best films this year, full stop.
Leading man Sam Rockwell and director Duncan Jones talk about their collaboration
Based on the graphic novel of the same name (written by Alan Moore) Watchmen is set in an alternate, dystopian 80s – where superheroes are all-too-human vigilantes – and follows a group of retired heroes as they try to deal with their depressing city, and their own damaged psychological landscapes. An epic undertaking, Watchmen is a sprawling and confronting vision of a world much like our own.
An honourable mention must go to Star Trek XI (J. J. Abrams), for being the most fun science fiction of 09.
3. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, USA)
Rachel Getting Married is a lovely homage to the dysfunctional nature of families everywhere. Playing out over a weekend of wedding celebrations, a family desperately struggles to paper of the cracks- none able to forgive or forget past grievances. Demme’s respect for his characters and use of eclectic music and design has beautifully combined to create a film which I found charmingly funny and devastatingly sad.
Interview with the talented stars- Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt
2. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
This Swedish film is like no other vampire flick of recent times, with striking wintry landscapes and unglorified violence (for the most part) it exudes loneliness and isolation. I went into the cinema knowing absolutely nothing about this film and left completely gobsmacked. With perhaps the best pool scene ever conceived, Let the Right One In is like a fable for bullies- eventually you’ll meet someone stronger, bigger or just plain scarier!
1. The Class/Entre Les Murs (Laurent Cantet, France)
Based on the writings of former teacher François Bégaudeau, who plays a version of himself, this French film highlights the delicate balance of power that exist in every classroom. With issues of race, culture and bureaucracy ever ready to boil over, the film explores its characters without favouritism, leaving me both hugely frustrated but also sympathetic to their actions. Probably not great viewing for would-be teachers!
(Dark Habits.com, 3D World, Drum Media, WorseAddictions.com)
3. Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, 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 pulverises me into desperate
submission with a relentless exposé of the violent, corrupt and bleak
world that consumes a small Italy community in Naples, framing its
inhabitants very existence from which there is no escape. Never has
the mob underworld be so unromantised, so grimy or so deadly.
3. Broken Embraces/Los Abrazos Rotos (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
Many claim that although good, Broken Embraces is not peak Almodóvar. But if there is a more enjoyable or sensuous film experience this year than Broken Embraces, I haven’t seen it. Starring a stunning Penélope Cruz and featuring a plot so convoluted that to describe it makes no sense, this film is a sublime continuation of many of Almodóvar’s concerns about cinema and his own role in the film-making process.
2. The Class/Entre Les Murs (Laurent Cantet, France)
Laurent Cantet’s Palm D’Or winning film about a French teacher in an inner city Paris high-school is so skillful and precise in its technique that its brilliance is not immediately apparent. But this extraordinary drama, shot documentary style and featuring some of the most skillful acting of this year, has the ability to devastate in its quietest moments. A brief exchange between teacher and student at the very end of the film is a forceful example of how educators hold young lives in their hands and the bitter disappointment they face in realising they cannot reach everyone.
1. Blessed (Ana Kokkinos, Australia)
Ana Kokkinos’ imperfect and difficult film about troubled Melbourne children and their equally troubled mothers was the most rewarding and powerful film of the year. It may have disappeared from cinemas without a trace but it undoubtedly left an irrevocable impression on those who saw it. It is not everyday that a film makes you leave the cinema wet eyed and searching for the embrace of those you love.
Stylish, meditative and devastatingly simple, Duncan Jones’ stellar debut deserves a place in the canon of sci-films it so cleverly references. Sam Rockwell had better rock some awards nominations and kudos to the aptly named Kevin Spacey for giving his best performance in years.
2. Bright Star (Jane Campion, Australia)
The piece de resistance in what has been a breakthrough year for cinematographer Grieg Fraser (Last Ride, The Boys Are Back). It’s only fitting that Jane Campion garnered great performances and achingly beautiful images to pay tribute to John Keats’ superb poetry.
Bright Star Featurette
1. Up (Peter Docter, USA)
In what has truly been a landmark year for animation (think Coraline, 9, Ponyo and yes Avatar) Pixar pulls it off again. Poignant, pointed, and hilariously funny, this motley crew of travellers (and their ridiculously talented animators) reignite the spirit of adventure.
Looking back, 2009 hasn’t been a good year for me and film. I seem to have seen a whole lot of shit, excuse my language, and done the old ‘must see …’ with the good ones and never actually seen them. So whilst I can say I heartily enjoyed The Hangover, Fired Up and Harry Potter, I didn’t get around to seeing Moon or Samson and Delilah. Shame on me.
But, of the higher brow films I did see, here are my picks …
Weirdly, this wouldn’t be a film I’d list as a favourite – but it’s hard to go past the almost perfect opening scene that was so tense I didn’t let go of my arm rest for the duration. The film as a whole is imperfect but worth seeing for Christopher Waltz and Melanie Laurent.
2. Bright Star (Jane Campion, Australia)
Stunning – in cinematography, in the understated performances of the cast and in the, at times sparse and a wee bit slow, screenplay. Abbie Cornish is everything she has been touted as for years.
A tremendous film. Hornby’s screenplay was a lesson in subtlety and wit and the performance turned in by Carey Mulligan was nothing short of a major arrival on the cinematic stage. A film to watch and then watch again, enjoying every finely crafted moment.
Oh and an honourable mention must go to Genova which was a lovely study of grief, set against the seductive streets of Genoa.