11 December, 2009

2009 at the Cinema - Best films of 2009

At the end of the first decade of the new century, how did this year’s cinema-going stack up? Did new classics emerge? Were there five new films that you just had to recommend to friends? Here’s a brief end-of-year survey of some Museum staff’s cinematic highlights, from our own programme and beyond.

Each contributor was asked to list their favourite films on general release in the UK in 2009. The Wrestler, with three top-five mentions, is our favourite by a nose, with Moon, District 9, Looking for Eric and Let the Right One In an honourable tie for second with two votes apiece. After that, the floodgates open with a great big broad list of films.

Seen many? Of course, the whole point of lists like this is for people to agree or (more often) to disagree! – So please add a comment, or your own list, at the bottom of the page.

Tom Vincent, Film Programmer:

1. Sleep Furiously - Out of the blue, an uplifting, unforced British film that told us about ourselves.

2. District 9 - There were no films more pleasing than this thunderous, satirical sci-fi jolt.

3. The Wrestler - The most transcendent last five minutes of any film I can remember.

4. The Beaches of Agnès - Agnès Varda is living proof of the joy that a life in films can bring.

5. Synecdoche, New York - Could so easily have felt redundant, yet it kept its heart, staying both funny and true to its wild ideas.

Neil Young, International Consultant, Bradford International Film Festival:

1. The Wrestler - Best of the year? No contest - this is one of the top half dozen of the decade!

2. District 9 - A fine year for intelligent sci-fi, and Mr Blomkamp might just be the new Paul Verhoeven...

3. Revolutionary Road - Who says great novels can't become great films? Who says the Oscar voters have any clue about cinema? Who says Michael Shannon isn't the best actor in current American cinema?

4. Two Lovers - Worshipped in France, absurdly underappreciated in the English-speaking world, James Gray confirmed that the terrific We Own the Night was anything but a fluke. Both are available on DVD - ideal Xmas presents for the cinephile in your life.

5. The Last House on the Left and A Perfect Getaway - Because gems sometimes lurk in the unlikeliest of places: your local multiplex, for example...

Ben Haller, Duty Manager and Film Programmer, Bradford International Film Festival:

1. Frozen River – Hauntingly atmospheric and chillingly thrilling, a gripping narrative about characters with very little to live for desperately holding on to the precious little they have.

2. Fish Tank – Brilliantly manoeuvres through a story strife with lost innocence and edgy promiscuity, unveiling what I think is a shattering reality of modern-day England.

3. Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Public Enemy No.1 - Engagingly explosive and refreshingly innovative. Both had me glued to the screen throughout.

4. When Life Was Good – Gaining its European Premiere at BIFF 2009, Terry Miles’ poignant vignette is an intriguing insight into the lives of twenty-somethings in Canada today.

5. The Visitor – Robbed of the Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars, Richard Jenkins is majestic as a man who re-discovers the importance of love and friendship at a time in his life when he believed them gone forever.

Sarah Crowther, Internet Gallery Researcher & Film Programmer, Fantastic Films Weekend:

1. Martyrs - Possibly not a film you’d watch twice but it’s brave, brutal filmmaking and further proof that the French are currently leading the world in the horror genre.

2. Drag Me to Hell - Welcome home Sam Raimi – now please stop playing with that Peter Parker boy, you’re in with the wrong crowd.

3. Moon - Finally a strong cerebral sci-fi to chew over – great first time direction by Duncan Jones and a poignant performance by Sam Rockwell.

4. Colin - A zombie movie with a heart – and an incredible achievement by director Marc Price who brought the film in for just £45 (mainly spent on biscuits).

5. Let the Right One In and Dead Snow - A haunting Scandinavian take on the vampire legend in Let the Right One In, then more supernatural problems for the Scandinavians as Nazi zombies battle snowboarding holidaymakers in Dead Snow - what’s not to like?

Ben Eagle, Film Festival Producer:

1. Mary and Max – A near-perfect animated film, with amazing comedy timing and the ability to tug every possible string of the heart.

2. The Wrestler – With a very honest and authentic performance from Mickey Rourke as a fading wrestling star, the film was definitely a firm fave.

3. Moon – A surprising and very different take on so many sci-fi classics. A very original and intelligent film with a stunning performance from Sam Rockwell.

4. Looking for Eric – An entertaining and fresh look at obsession, loneliness, friendship, football and the reasons why seagulls follow trawlers...

5. Frost/Nixon – Adapted from the electric stage play, this equally stunning film version is full to the brim with tension and excellent performances from Frank Langella and Michael Sheen as the on-screen battle of words commences.

Tom Woolley, Curator of New Media:

1. Let the Right One In - A chilling and beautiful tale of friendship and first love.

2. In the Loop - Venomous, often hilarious dialogue and an excellent cast.

3. Looking For Eric - Another Loach classic and an inspired turn by Cantona.

4. Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee - A fun mockumentary – great banter between Considine and Meadows but the real star is rapper Scor-Zay-Zee.

5. Star Trek - Fantastical reboot of a classic movie franchise.


Destroy Apathy said...

Michael McKenny, persistent customer, occasional evening film school attendee and BAF volunteer.
1. District 9 - Social commentary - tick. Special effects and spectacle - tick. Engaging characters - tick. Funny accent, especially when he drops the F-Bomb - check
2. Fish Tank - Fantastic portrayal of the charms of estate life and the minefield that it is for an adolescent trying to find them self. I didn't find it as grim as many made out; thought it was pretty liberating the way she could experiment in trying to find herself. It both criticised the urban landscape i.e. locking her in (like a fish tank) but also celebrated some elements of urban life, i.e. her passion for hip-hop and its ability to help form her identity. It was the self expression she nurtured through this that led her to find her own way out of this trap.
3. In The Loop Having not experienced The Thick of It, this was completely new to me and truly captured the headless chicken-like organisation of big (and small) government. It really reminded me of what the Coen Brothers were going for in Burn After Reading although they used the secret services rather than elected government.
4. Paranormal Activity I must admit that just writing that surprised me, I didn't realise I liked it so much but it just feels right to go in my top five. Love the way they utilised their resources to such a horrifying effect. I was right in there and it completely made up for the two hours of my life I will never get back from watching the dross that was The Blair Witch Project.
5. Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon) - Excellent filmmaking. Really caught a feeling of societal claustrophobia and paranoia. Want to know what I think about it (tenuous plug) see destroy-apathy

Tom Vincent said...

Thanks Michael, another highly placed vote for District 9. I have to say I regret not programming this, though it doesn't quite fit with the fare that usually does best at the Museum, and we would have been competing directly with the multiplexes.

I think the films I admire most are those that manage to be subversive or personal within a commerical context. I think District 9 is exactly that.

If I could have included a sixth film, it would likely have been Fish Tank

Ben Haller said...

Now now Tom, no 6th film allowed remember!! But I have to agree as I chose Fish Tank too.

And thanks Michael, I found your selections very interesting indeed. Especially The White Ribbon...I thought the last hour was captivating but felt that it ended where it should have began. Maybe that's because I have a pet hate of films where plenty of questions are offered up at the end. And I dont think there will be a "The White Ribbon 2" either!

It is always interesting and valuable to receive the views of our dedicated audience so thanks again!

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