I don’t know if I’m gonna regret writing this little disclaimer, but I want to make it clear that there’s a definite difference between “favourite” and “best”. “Best” tends to take in a number of other factors, including technical proficiencies and such that might get a pass in the “favourite” category which is generally measured more in terms of an emotional response.
5. It Might Get Loud (Davis Guggenhiem) “A documentary? Really?” Yes, really. I think it’s every 3 or 4 years that a documentary comes along that gets through my A.D.D. barricade and opens up a whole world for me. This time around it was a world that I thought I’d left behind along with my last cool bachelor pad. It Might Get Loud explores everything that people love about the guitar, cranks it up to 11 and blasts it back at the audience. At the heart of the film is a axe-swinger summit between Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, as they trade tips and talk about what it is they love so much about the guitar. When we’re not sitting in the room with them, drooling over their collective talent, we take a journey with each of them through their beginnings, to finding their sound, to where its taken them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had less and less occasion to sit amongst my guitar-playing friends and hear them jam – and if I can’t bask in the warm glow of Dan Clark, Ryan Moore or Corey Duncan, then Page, Edge and White will have to do.
4. Moon (Duncan Jones) Duncan Jones did something special with Science Fiction this year, he pried it out of over-the-top explosive craziness, and brought it back to the realm of being a great way to tell stories about the nature of humanity. Boring, you say? Hey, they’re still talking about 2001 in classrooms today, but who the heck wants to be reminded of Wing Commander or I Come In Peace? Moon takes place on… well, the Moon. Scientists have discovered a rare mineral (maybe not as rare as “Unobtainium”) called Helium 3 beneath the lunar surface that has been able to solve the Earth’s energy crisis. To support the mostly automated mining operation, they send up a single person crew for a 3 year contract and have him kept company by a computerized companion so he doesn’t go too crazy with cabin fever. However, when miner Sam Bell discovers a man who looks just like him in a wrecked harvester the plot thickens and Sam begins to question what’s really going on at this base and that his contract might be a heck of a lot longer than 3 years. While Sam is uncovering who he is, and who might be coming for him, the audience is uncovering nature of the human soul and how we might not all be born with one, but we all can earn one.
3. Watchmen (Zack Snyder) Remember this film? It came out so long ago that I almost forgot about it myself. Man, would that have been a tragedy. As an adaptation of what is arguably the greatest graphic novel ever written, the first comic book to win an actual literary award, this movie has been attempted by many directors, but nobody had their house as in order for this kind of work as 300 adapter Zack Snyder. While not what most people would have expected from a large budget superhero film, I see Watchmen as the greatest comic bookfilm ever made. What’s the distinction? Well, while The Dark Knight and Spider-Man might do a great job at examining the nature of heroics and certainly entertaining with over the top action sequences, Watchmen closely examines the world that comic books created, its rules, the nature of how heroes and villains co-exist. It’s a story, for someone who was essentially socialised to the world through comic books, that needed to be told. The performances were all spot on, especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach; he totally broke new ground in this film, that’s for sure. What’s very special about this film is that even though it took liberties with the adaptation at times, especially with the ending, I think the new version works so much better, and that’s no small feat.
2. Coraline (Henry Selick)It’s been no secret to anyone even remotely familiar with this blog that Coraline was a very special movie for me, even before I laid eyes on it. As my introduction to the work of Neil Gaiman, Coraline wasn’t exactly a challenging book, but it was special because Gaiman himself actually handed it to me with his autograph scribbled illegibly inside of it. Since then I’ve been trying to voraciously devour any of Neil’s work that makes it to the big or small screen, including Neverwhere, Stardust and even Beowulf. Coraline however, as interpreted by Henry Selick, offers the world the clearest picture of why more of his work needs to be optioned by Hollywood. Coraline Jones is an ordinary kid with distracted parents and a chip on her shoulder who moves away from her friends an into a rickety old house filled with quirky tenants. When Coraline finds a strange door that leads to an irresistibly more charming version of her own world, she finds her “other” mother who entices her with food, plants and fun in hopes that she will stay forever. But this other mother is not what she pretends to be, and Coraline soon finds that she has to escape with only her wits and her courage to guide her. I think that’s the key point that Gaiman wanted to reinforce: that Coraline had no super powers or magic wand to help her, just her brains. A stark contrast to the other idealised heroes presented to children and young adults these days. While a little too scary for young children, I’ll be keeping a close eye on when I think it’s appropriate to screen this for my daughter.
1. Star Trek (J. J. Abrams)This baby gets the number one spot for a lot of reasons, but the topping the list was that 5 minutes into it I was already so psyched to get it on blu-ray. Visually spectacular, emotionally compelling, narratively innovative, J. J. Abrams managed to do for Gene Roddenberry’s creation, what Christopher Nolan did for Bob Kane’s. Not only that, but even managed to do a story involving time travel that didn’t come off like I’d been cheated by the writers. As a TV series first and a film franchise second, it’s never been in the cards to do an origin story for Star Trek, the characters and actors are always well-established before they ever make it to the big screen. This time around, Abrams was able to start right from scratch, going all the way back to Kick and Spock’s childhood, to finally paint a picture that seemed familiar to many, even if they’d never seen it before – that’s called reverence to the source material. When a Romulan mining ship comes back from the future to wreak havoc on the Federation, the newly assembled crew of the Enterprise have to overcome their differences (Spock and Kirk totally hate each other) rally and together to save Earth from destruction. As a fusion of the old and the new, and for remaining true to the ideals by which the series was created, this movie deserves not only my respect, but to be commemorated for bringing something shiny, funny and exciting to the big screen in 2009.