The Best Movies I Saw In 2009.

Dec 04 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

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Is it that time of the year yet? I thought I’d post my picks early, with two disclaimers:

1. My list isn’t limited to movies made or released in 2009, but to the ones I only saw this year. (The not-always reliable IMDB seems to date movies according to production and not release (in the US at least), so it looks like Zombieland was my favorite movie of 2009, which isn’t exactly true. It’s a damn fun one though.)

2. I actually didn’t see very many movies this year — got sucked into “The Wire”, some big novels (Mieville, Vollmann and King were to blame) and lots of Xbox 360 time. RevancheThe RoadInvictusUp in the AirThe White RibbonPreciousMoonPontypoolSin NombreAnvil!A Serious ManTwo Lovers, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Messenger — they’ll have to wait. Besides, I kind of have an aversion to watching something next week and pronouncing it “best of 2009″ a few days later.

The links below are to my reviews; one day I’ll write about the others.

In alphabetical order, by title, the best movies I saw in 2009:

- Nagisa Oshima, Boy (1969)
- Nagisa Oshima, Death by Hanging (1968)
- Kazuo Hara, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987)
- Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (2008)
- Fernando Eimbcke, Lake Tahoe (2008)
- Hirokazu Kore-eda, Still Walking (2008)
- Olivier Assayas, Summer Hours (2008)
- Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tokyo Sonata (2008)

And some runners-up:

- Denisa Reyes and Mark Gary, Hubad (2008)
- Lee Isaac Chung, Munyurangabo (2007)
- Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo (2008)
- Koji Wakamatsu, United Red Army (2007)
- Ruben Fleischer, Zombieland (2009)

And some other random tidbits:

Biggest disappointment: Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst

Best short film on YouTube: Bang-yao Liu’s Deadline (YouTube link)

Best exit music: a tie between the Yayhoos’ “Baby I Love You” at the end of James Gunn’s Slither, and Los Parientes de Playa Vicente Veracruz’s “La Lloroncita” at the end of Lake Tahoe

Best movie experience: a three-way tie between the entirety of Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition at the PFA; Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather 1 and 2 at the Castro; and Ken Jacobs’ Nervous Magic Lantern performance, Towards the Depths of the Even Greater Depression, also at the PFA

A movie I kind of conked out to and really wished I hadn’t: Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman

The most overhyped “intelligent” summer film that gets dumb really fast, but I still have very high hopes for the sequel: Neill Blomkamp’s District 9

The absolute worst movie I saw all year, even more terrible than anything with mega-sharks or sword-wielding Immortals that used to be from another planet but are now from a “very long time ago” instead in it: Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons

The movie that gave me a headache: a tie between Jean-Luc Godard’s 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her (a good headache) and McG’s Terminator: Salvation (a bad one, but that was because of the decibels; see below)

A startling and perhaps indefensible confession: I liked Terminator: Salvation more than I liked J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek

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Denisa Reyes and Mark Gary, "Hubad" (2009).

Jul 14 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under review

hubad

For a movie with a title like Hubad (Tagalog for “naked”), the promise of heavy breathing and unfettered eros just isn’t quite fulfilled. Oh, there’s a seething hotbed, all right, but one seething with frustration and repression and lack of funding. Art and desire, conflated here in sparklingly incisive ways, is consistently cockblocked, if you will. Even in the first few minutes, foreplay is interrupted: a man, in closeup, is recounting his fantasy to a woman — of getting aroused by a woman rubbing his crotch with a stick — when the camera pulls back, and his listener gets flustered and runs away. “House lights please!” the director yells, and we discover that we’re in the middle of rehearsals for a stage play.

It’s the opening scene of Denisa Reyes and Mark Gary’s unashamedly intelligent and ambitious film Hubad. It’s Gary’s second feature film, and Reyes’ first. (It’s tempting to write that Reyes is “a bright, emerging new voice”, except that she’s a multi-awarded dance choreographer and Artistic Director of Ballet Philippines, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident dance company.) Hubad is about two middle-aged actors, themselves dissatisfied by their respective marriages, filming a play about a married couple’s sexual fantasies. No, wait — it’s not about sex, it’s about intimacy and honesty, as Andre, the director (played wonderfully by real-life director Peque Gallaga), reminds them in a series of speeches, belligerent and grandiloquent all at once.

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