Monday, March 15, 2010

Screening Log: February 2010

Note: This one is late and anemic, but March's should be a doozy.

The Damned United (Tom Hooper, 2009) (v) * - Sheen, Broadbent, Spall, and Meaney are all very fine. The movie itself, though, is the kind where every beat is played exactly as you'd expect.

Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008) (v) ***

13 Rue Madeleine (Henry Hathaway, 1947) (v) **

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) (v) *** - A surprise.

Killshot (John Madden, 2008) (v) **

Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2008) (v) ** -

24 City (Jia Zhangke, 2008) (v) **

Julia (Erick Zonca, 2008) (v) ***

The Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009) (v) ***

Frontier of Dawn (Philippe Garrel, 2008) (v) ***

An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009) (v) - A few really strong performances (although not from Carey Mulligan, who's much better in the Bleak House miniseries) trapped inside a preposterous movie.

Whip It (Drew Barrymore, 2009) (v) *** - I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. Lots of nice, low-key touches and a true generosity of spirit.


(v) = Seen on home video (dvd, dvr, etc.).
(r) = Not my first viewing.
(s) = Short film.

Star system ("borrowed" from the Chicago Reader)

No stars = Not recommended
* = Redeeming feature(s)
** = Recommended
*** = Highly recommended
**** = "Masterpiece"
***** = A place in my personal pantheon

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Year in Movies

I'm putting the finishing touches on my February Screening Log, but since I've now been doing these for just over a year I thought it would be a good time to share my "Top 20" list for 2009 NYC releases, which serves as a shorthand for "my year in (new) movies".

I've enjoyed putting together these monthly screening logs. For one thing, "monthly" is just about the only kind of blogging schedule I'm able to stick to. For another, making quick notes about what I've watched - even if it turns out to be nothing more than a quick star rating - works as a memory aid. Finally, it's interesting to see how my take on a movie is shaped (to a certain extent) by the other movies I saw around the same time.

Due to some big changes in my work and personal life, I don't believe I'll be able to see so many movies next year. I think it will be especially difficult for me to see things outside the house. I'll probably be making even more use of services like IFC's In Theatre/On Demand cable offerings. But I plan to keep plugging along with these Screening Logs, even if I'm watching only a handful of movies a month.

Anyway - here's my favorites of 2009:

01. Two Lovers (James Gray)
02. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
03. A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers)
04. Night and Day (Hong Sang-soo)
05. Hunger (Steve McQueen)
06. The Headless Woman (Lucretia Martel)
07. Pontypool (Bruce McDonald)
08. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
09. Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor)
10. Duplicity (Tony Gilroy)
11. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
12. Julia (Erick Zonca)
13. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
14. In the Loop (Armando Ianucci)
15. Taken (Pierre Morel)
16. Still Walking (Hirokazu Koreeda)
17. Whip It (Drew Barrymore)
18. The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)
19. Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu)
20. Frontier of Dawn (Philippe Garrel)

The Gray is, IMO, just about a perfect movie. My friend asked me what my favorite scene was and I listed off five of them before I had to give in and say that they're all my favorite. (Right now, though, Phoenix standing on the beach, looking out to sea, holding that glove in his hand is my "favoritest").

I kind of surprised myself by putting Inglourious Basterds in the second place. In the "ongoing" list I had been keeping throughout the year, Basterds was always solidly in the top 10, but not always in the top 5. But the movie ended up taking up a lot of my headspace and it was hands down the best, most exciting movie going experience I had all year. So #2 it is.

As for the rest of the list: it is what it is. In general, things that aren't there aren't there for a reason (although I still want to get to The Last Station before it leaves town).

As for "old" movies, my big discovery of the year was how much I like Hong Sang-soo's films. And I was truly grateful to finally see Jim Henson's "Time Piece" (thanks whoever uploaded it): what a great film!

My goal for the year ahead is to continue catching up with some of the more respected movies of the last ten years, to keep watching and re-watching John Ford movies, and to (finally) dive into Bunuel. It should be fun.

Questions and comments always appreciated.