Inching towards mediocrity.


The Great 2009 Wrap-Up, Continued! (Now with 100% more 2010 from here on in!)

We continue to look back on a year full of hits, misses, and misplaced Michael Jackson nostalgia.

Today, we’ll be focusing on the aspects of the 2009 film campaign. With the Golden Globes right around the corner, and the Oscars hot on their heels, it’s definitely a good time to get out there and soak in all the celluloid goodness you can – myself included. But, to get you set on the right track, here’s some of the best moments I personally witnessed on the big screen this past year. Enjoy!

Best Actor – George Clooney, “Up in the Air.”

You've come a long way, Dr. Ross.

 

George Clooney is fast becoming one of the greatest actors of our generation. I know that might seem a bit shocking for those of us who grew up with him on “ER”, but it’s absolutely true. Fearless and charismatic to the nth degree, Clooney has an easygoing Cary Grant-esque quality about him that is sadly missing from most leading men today. Here he’s at his charming best, while still allowing the all important vulnerability to shine through. Clooney is a rarity these days; he combines charisma, humor, impossibly good looks (I’m not gay, but COME ON) with incredible talent and an assured eye for quality. When it comes to leading men in the 2000’s, Clooney’s by far your safest bet.

Oh, and he’s also not completely bat-shit insane. Take THAT, Tom Cruise!

Best Actress – Mya Rudolph, “Away We Go.”

 

Please don't become Will Ferrell, please don't become Will Ferrell...

 

Best known for her wacky sketch work on television’s “Saturday Night Live”, Maya Rudolph has managed to acquit herself very well to the world of dramatic acting. In Sam Mendes follow-up to his brilliant (but impossibly dour) “Revolutionary Road”, Rudolph manages to project just the right amount of tenderness and toughness to make you fall right in love with her. While this may not technically be the single best performance by a woman in 2009, it’s one of the most interesting; without the usual bizarre make-up and voices to hide behind, Rudolph bravely tackles a real character in a real setting and does so beautifully. Say what you will about the film as a whole, this is the kind of performance that makes you take note. She’s certainly proven herself as a viable and fearless actress, and I look forward to seeing where she takes it from here.

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds.”

That's a bingo. Seriously.

 

“Inglourious Basterds” was not quite what I expected. It’s definitely a Tarantino film, of course – from the snappy dialogue to the brilliant cinematography to the over-the-top violence, this one has Tarantino’s name all over it. But it’s not the standard “men-on-a-mission” tale that Quentin had promised us; in fact, it’s barely about “the Basterds” themselves at all. Instead, it’s more about a young Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who escapes capture by the Nazis as a young girl, and her would-be captor, the German Jew Hunter, Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz).

Waltz owns this role – hell, he owns this entire movie. His deceptively charming Landa has been described by Tarantino as “the best character he’s ever written.” And I simply cannot disagree. Landa is quite simple one of the most brilliantly realized villains I’ve seen in a long time, and Waltz seems to relish the role. His ability to switch between calmly chilling to gregarious to full on crazy, seemingly on a whim, is fully realized – and at times can be both hilarious, and terrifying. He anchors the film, and steals (easily) every scene he’s in. Before this role, Waltz was relatively unknown to North American audiences. I think I can safely say that he’ll live in obscurity no longer; this is only the beginning for the  53-year-old Christoph Waltz.

Best Animated Film – “Up.”

 

You want to take a wild ride? Try typing "Up" into Google image search. Yikes.

 

Pixar is beginning to frighten me a little bit. At first I was all like, cool. These guys are alright. They make some decent movies. They seem like nice guys. I can get behind this.

But then they didn’t stop.

Movie after movie after movie…each one seemingly better than the last. And don’t give me that snobby bullshit about how “animated movies are just for kids.” The beauty of Pixar is that they aren’t for kids – well, they are, but they seem to be considering the adult audience as much and as importantly as the younger one. Pixar has consistently continued to churn out brilliant film after brilliant film, delighting children and adults the world over. They seemed to be an unstoppable, classic movie-making force, akin to a tsunami, or John Goodman. (Though, to be fair, tsunamis aren’t really known for their movie-making skills…more so just their wanton death and destruction skills. Goodman, too.)

Then came “Cars” and it brought me crashing back down to reality. Nobody’s perfect, it seems.

“Up” however, is. Or at least on a scale of one-to-ten…pretty damn. The opening sequence, as I’m sure you’ve all heard, is indeed quite heartbreaking. But the overall tone of the film soon shifts to something a little lighter (ha!) until it even becomes uplifting (ha, ha!). And, like all Pixar movies (even that deplorable piece “Cars”) it’s beautiful to look at…and of course contains the requisite message that, while obvious, is never preachy.

And I assure you, it’s not only for kids.

Best Movie – “Star Trek.”

William Shatner, eat your heart out. Right after you eat everything else. (He got fat).

 

This movie isn’t going to win any major awards, or even be nominated for any. (Minus the usual technical ones). But that doesn’t matter. Sometimes its just nice to go to a theatre, sit your ass down, and have a rollicking good time. Originally, I was even going to say that it’s sometimes nice to go into a movie, turn off your brain and have a rollicking good time, but “Star Trek” isn’t like that. It’s actually a very clever and very well written popcorn flick that holds you attention throughout. I’m not saying this is an incredibly deep movie; it’s not. But it does have a lot more intelligence, wit and general respect for both it’s audience, and the source material, than your average summer blockbuster. And that’s saying something.

Utilizing a clever plot device that allows it to not only reboot the Star Trek saga, but do so without completely messing up the already established canon, J.J. Abrams space opus simultaneously manages to be both a love letter to the series core fans, as well as a jumping off point for new viewers who don’t know a phaser from a Klingon.

Regardless if you’re a “trekker” or not, “Star Trek” hit all the right notes. It’s set up a new universe for these characters to explore and interact with, and I can’t wait to see where they boldly go from here.

(Where they “boldly go from here?” What am I, Gene Shalit?)

And, finally…

Most Badass Actor of the Year – Woody Harrelson, “Zombieland.”

 

Harrelson apparently attacked a photographer while filming this, claiming that he was still in character and thought the photo guy was a zombie. If only this had been a movie about killing Renee Zellwegers instead of zombies. If only.

 

I was really reaching for an excuse to include this movie on the list. I had briefly considered throwing the stunningly gorgeous Emma Stone out there as a Best Supporting Actress nominee, but that seemed just silly.

So I did this instead.

And apparently completely disregarded the Best Supporting Actress thing.

Moving on.

“Star Trek” was fun. “Zombieland” was bloody ridiculous bloody brilliance. Sure, “Star Trek” was the better movie; but “Zombieland” had zombie girl scouts attacking a minivan. So there.

And, as badass as all of the zombie related carnage was, it didn’t hold a candle to the extreme badassery that Woody Harrelson unleashed every minute he was on-screen.

Nobody plays “unhinged guy” better than Harrelson, and he lets it all loose here. His Tallahassee, while briefly showing signs of true humanity, and constantly craving the delicious, processed creaminess of  a Hostess’ Twinkie, remains a pretty memorable and badass addition to the pantheon of zombie-fighting badasses.

Bruce Campbell’s got some serious competition.

Well.

Alright, folks, that’s all for today – tomorrow I’ll try to make reasonable sense of the rest of the year to wrap this stuff up.

Toodles!

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