The Best Movies I Saw In 2009.

Dec 04 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under notes


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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Hayao Miyazaki, “Ponyo” (2008).

Jul 26 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under review


The premiere of a new movie from Studio Ghibli is always an event over here at film, eyeballs, brain, and if it’s by Hayao Miyazaki, I line up for over an hour to catch it on the big screen. (I must say I was a little disappointed in Berkeley — there were literally two other people in line, whereas there were about 30 people ahead of me to see Park’s Thirst 90 minutes before the opening. This is Miyazaki, people! The line to see Spirited Away at the Castro a few years ago was probably twice as long!)

Miyazaki’s utterly charming new film, Ponyo (Gake no Ue no Ponyo, or, literally, Ponyo on the Cliff), is gorgeous and bewildering, its logic operating in a universe that’s both familiar and fairytale-ancient. But it’s never far from what makes Miyazaki’s films particularly special: capturing, with a shivery accuracy, a childlike sense of wonder.
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Hayao Miyazaki, "Howl's Moving Castle" (2005).

Aug 22 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under review


(Image stolen from Le Quotidien du Cinema.)

There’s not much I can write about Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle that The Former Makeweight hasn’t already written, in a series of finely detailed (and, as she herself claims, obsessive — I mean that in jest, of course) entries, on her blog Getaway.

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DVD Tag.

Aug 20 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

Total Number of Films I Own on DVD And Video:

A lot. The number of DVDs I have that are still in shrinkwrap is embarrassing.

The Last Film I Bought:

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear. My justification was that the Criterion edition just went out of print.

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