Dec 30, 2009

Favourite Films Of 2009

2009, the year in cinema, will be remembered by me for one thing above all. It was the year that Australian cinema came of age. After many years of mixed results, 2009 was a truly memorable and consistently great year for Australian cinema. Even if they still failed to top the box office, these cinematic offerings were original, heartfelt, intelligent and packed a huge emotional punch. Plus, in compiling my top ten I had to omit some gems that I absolutely loved. Such as the claymation marvel Mary and Max or the heartbreaking Beautiful Kate. Both of these films were superb. Then there were films like Blessed and Balibo that I missed at the cinema, but were both criticically praised. Two other films, that were heavily blogged about because of their soundtracks, that I thoroughly enjoyed were (500) Days Of Summer and Where The Wild Things Are. Both of these films were original and in equal parts sad and fun. I just couldn't find a spot on my final list. The ones that finally made the cut were the films that in the end affected me the most. In my heart and in my mind.

1. Synecdoche New York, directed by Charlie Kaufman.
This truly astounding and confounding film didn't receive a release in Australia until May. But it was truly worth the wait. A film of big ideas and huge imagination it didn't hit all of its targets, but when it did...Holy cow! It would seem that this film was either mostly loved or hated. Well, I loved it. The story of the eternally frustrated theatre director who searched for the meaning in his life was full of scope and daring ideas. The great Philip Seymour Hoffman was wonderful, as usual, as the man of frustration. His surrounding cast of women actors were amazing too, giving us a rainbow of emotions to sink our teeth into.

2. Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme.
In which Anne Hathaway proved she was a rare talent. As the caustic Kym she was superb in portraying an anguished and pained character, dominating the screen through out. This film was hugely intimate and at times painful to watch. Probably because it felt so real with much of it shot with hand held camera and with some scenes improvised by the cast. This was warts and all film making, showing us the full array of the human condition. It was entertaining, beautiful, moving and sometimes very sad.

3. Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.
This life affirming film was rich in detail and flowing over with humanity. The true and tragic story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk was handled with care by Van Sant, never at any time descending into cliche. Sean Penn was stunning as the lead character, deserving his many awards, including the Oscar for Best Actor. In fact, this film probably should have won Best Picture. It was just that damn good.

4. A Serious Man, directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.
Another chapter was written this year in the storied book of Coen film. This darkly comedic film was also painful to watch at times. Probably because this film was also perhaps the Coens' most personal film to date. The story of a troubled Jewish man in suburban Minnesota was real, very real. Although it still contained that treasured Coen humour. The non all star cast was also very effective, allowing us to concentrate on the story at hand.

5. Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino.
This romp of cinema was, I believe, Tarantino's best film in quite a while. Dialogue, dialogue made this very special. Long scenes of inventive and dazzling dialogue allowed the audience to luxuriate in tension filled scenes. I was in awe at the cinematic art that was presented before me. Hopefully this might be an Oscar contender in 2010.

6. Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion.
I only saw this wondrous film yesterday, but it is now indelibly stamped on my memory. Jane Campion has done it again. The sad and tragic tale of the short lived love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne is told with utmost care and tenderness. Each scene is an exploration in light and beauty. Abbie Cornish simply shines. Brightly.

7. Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard.
A superb film that was nominated for Best Picture in 2009. It didn't win, but it was surely worthy. Two superb performances, especially Frank Langella, in the title roles elevated this film into greatness. A wonderful, tight script paved the way for cinema magic as the protagonists probed each other before our dedicated eyes.

8. Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.
Small in budget, but big in stature, this film was entrancing and totally compelling. Mainly thanks to the genius that is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell is basically the film, his character never leaving the screen, giving us amazing insight into the human psyche. This is science fiction as it should be. Thoughtful and based in reality. A superb film.

9. Last Ride, directed by Glendyn Ivin.
One of the best Australian films that I have ever seen. It is certainly perhaps the best shot. Breathtaking cinematography formed the back drop to the stark story of a man and his son on the run. At times funny, at times heart breaking, it features superb performances from the great Hugo Weaving and also the newcomer Tom Russell.

10. Samson & Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton.
It has won widespread acclaim here and overseas. And with good reason. As mature an Australian film that I have ever seen, it cuts like a knife. With little dialogue it paints a stark and unrelenting picture of indigenous life in Australia. Totally real. Totally compelling.

Films I am looking forward to-
Fantastic Mr Fox
Up In The Air
The Road
The Hurt Locker
Shutter Island
Alice In Wonderland
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Beneath Hill 60


  • At December 31, 2009 , Anonymous James said...

    Great list Wayne. I didn't see this Synecdoche New York this year although I have it on my list for rentals.

    My Top 5's go up later today :)

  • At January 03, 2010 , Blogger Philippe said...

    Lovely list. Some gems in there I need to see.

    I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox today - it was swell. Very well animated as well.blectio

  • At January 05, 2010 , Anonymous Bill said...

    I think Synecdoche was Roger Ebert's favorite film of the decade, or very high on that list. I never saw it -- never actually heard of it, but it's definitely going on my to see list.


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