Saturday, January 02, 2010
Its been a hectic December, devoting my work, health, and love, on some bold and brave show … and now it is time to recap some fine movies that I had watched over this past year, the last year of this decade, 2009.
For those of you who know me, this requires no introduction. For those who are new and older friends, well, I consider all the films that I had watched on the big screen for the past year in my list. So, on the one hand, films that are watched via vcd / dvd, hence on the television screen, will not be considered; on the other hand, films screened in Alliance Francaise, National Museum Gallery Theatre, Screening Room at the Arts House, are considered too … This also means that period, or b/w, films, may be considered too. I TRY to consider only one film per film festival, or else the commercial releases will all fall by the wayside … I always pride myself for having an eclectic and tasteful list … Since the films were viewed some time back, I have forgotten most of what I remembered, why I liked or loathed them, so I will just type what I remember and think of, now … I am not a film critic, so I just write as I please …
20. Sincerely Yours (SIFF Screening)
The Opening film of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival is a tender love story of two illegal foreign workers in Taiwan, who can only communicate in simple Chinese, but somehow bond in a hostile foreign land, that is always on the lookout to evict them. A harsh but poignant study of the difficulties faced by those who were force to go away to make a living, leaving their loved ones behind. We should be kinder to our domestic helpers …
19. Julie & Julia
There is really only one reason to watch this movie – Meryl Streep. She was the reason why the old cookbooks of Julia Child are selling like hot cakes again. An over-the-top performance, I am sure she had great fun with the film. Amy Adams put in a gallant performance, but is unfortunately overshadowed by her more senior fellow actress. Stanley Tucci put in a great performance as well. Nora Ephron has written and directed a tour de force this time, since Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.
18. Afghan Star (SFS Screening)
This is more than an idol show. This is about belief, faith (and there is a lot of conflicting faith in here), and bringing a nation together to perhaps put down their arms, their wars and conflicts, and hopefully bring back to a time when life was peaceful. Following the journeys of four contestants, it sometimes felt that they were politician candidates, sometimes political refugees … Seeing the smiling faces, glued to the television sets, smsing to vote, were heart-wrenching moments of the film.
17. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The epic movie, that shows that one has to appreciate life, accept adversity, people are not what they seem, and give love. There are beautiful lessons to be learnt, scattered throughout the film, rather enjoyable ... but perhaps weighted down by much expectations … who knew that the original story was a short one? Brad Pitt puts up a great performance, despite mostly in much make-up, or digital touch-ups. Cate Blanchett is the wonderful partner that helps to weave this beautiful tapestry together.
16. Slumdog Millionaire
If not for Born Into Brothels, I guessed I would have enjoyed the film even more. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great film, the funky music made the film very well paced, the child actors were gems, and while the language got a while to get used to, yet the cinematography was commendable. However, the biggest star, or not, of the film, was the sprawling city, the slums, that overwhelms the people, everybody in the film, that shapes their destinies, their lives.
15. Little Shop of Horror (Under the Banyan Tree by National Museum)
One of the few musical movies that I have always enjoyed, not just because of the songs (Skid Row and Suddenly, Seymour), but also to see that fine generation of comedians when they were younger (Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray, etc). To have written a story with comedy, science fiction, horror, in a musical, although very campy, the writers certainly deserve a lot of credit … as well as putting off a whole generation of young people away from vegetables …
14. Star Trek
I approached the film with great skepticm, there had been many Star Trek films before, and so can this be any better? I am not a Trekkie, so I find myself enjoying the film very much. I thought the opening sequence where Captain George Kirk sacrificed himself to save his crew, including his family, showed that the franchise might be in good hands in the future. J J Abrams introduced a whole new “good-looking” cast into the Starship Enterprise, and they certainly don’t look too out of place either. I look forward to the sequel.
13. Alice in the Cities (SFS Screening)
I was very grateful for SFS for bringing this old gem in. I had heard good things about this film, and I was not disappointed. This is easily one of my favorite road movies of all time. The uneasy friendship between the photojournalist and the little girl was a joy to watch and treasure. Alice brought the film to life, otherwise the shots were littered by much urban decay in parts of old Germany. The optimistic ending scene was very satisfying too.
12. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Spanish Film Festival)
I have a weakness for Julio Medem’s films. I know his films are often associated with our Golden and Yangtze cinemas, but there has always been something … exotic, about his films. I discovered his films before Almodovar … don’t ask me why. Anyway, this film is one of his best, fusing love, destiny, romance, coincidences, and so forth. It is such an art house film, which is gorgeous and enjoyable. This is a love story like none other, with equal parts joy, and heartache, naturally.
11. A Town Called Panic (Animation Nation)
This has to be the wackiest, funniest, and most inventive film of the year, definitely. This is exactly the type of animation I would had made when I was 5 years old … so I wonder where did the animators get their ideas. The animation (clay, stop-motion) style is very crude, but who cares when you have an unbelievable story, and very adult lines … to boot (literally) the storyline along. In a perfect world, I would had recommended this film to all primary school children to watch.
There’s got to be a pixar film every year in everybody’s list, isn’t it? Last year’s Wall-E was sooo good. Up started very promisingly with Partly Cloudy, which already deserves to be nominated somewhere … the beginning sequence of Up, wow, nearly leaves tears in my eyes … as for the rest of the film, well, to be frank, I did not enjoy as much, but hey, it was still a great and uplifting (literally) film, and still stands very well with the rest of Pixar’s great body of works.
9. Avatar (3D)
The last film I watched from the last decade, ushers in what might future filmmaking look like. The plot was nothing to hoot about, but the visuals, wow, they made the humans NOT look out of place with the Na’Vi, and I think this is the greatest achievement that James Cameron can proudly claim. This is also the first film that, to me, looks good in 3D, hence worth the extra few dollars paid for those cumbersome glasses …
8. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son from his Father (SFS Screening)
By no means a well-made documentary film, but surely one that will make you want to take to arms, and this is perhaps this documentary’s greatest achievement. Together with the book that was inspired by the real unfortunate change of events in this tragic story, it has changed the lives of many who had followed the story, read the book, or watched this film. This will make you think twice about Justice and Goodness in this world, period.
There isn’t much else to say about this truly moving film that won Japan’s it’s first Foreign Film Oscar. Whether it is really better than previous year’s nominees, is debatable. The director has done a really great job to treat this very very underrated, understated, career, with utmost love and respect. The film is however not weighted down by the brevity of the subject matter, as there are often humorous moments in the film to remind us that, with due respect and love, life goes on.
6. Sell Out!
I bombarded my friends to go check out this film made by our fine neighbors at the North. There are many funny moments to savor in the film, not least because what the filmmakers want to make fun of at their own country and people, can well be applied to us as well, since we are so alike in many ways. Part musical, part art-house film, part parody, and such a great blend of languages (English, Malay and Cantonese), a Truly-Asia film!
5. Ponya on a Cliff by the Sea
As with every other Pixar film that will enter my year-end list, every other Hayao Miyazaki film will also enter my year-end list as well. This one is rather child-like when compared to his recent few works, but there is no mistaking the allegory about loving and protecting (Mother) Nature, and striking a balance between land and sea, man and others … The other noteworthy mention is that (annoying) theme song, that can get stuck in the brain for days …
4. Rainbow Troops (SIFF Screening)
And now for a great film coming from our neighbors at the South. A simple story about reminiscing childhood memories, growing up in a really poor neighborhood, although often living hand to mouth, but yet still able to have lots of fun with friends, and school, and all the other things that make growing up so fun, so bittersweet. This is the kind of childhood that we are missing now, and I think we would all pay to give this kind of childhood to our children now.
A very underrated and slow-paced science fiction film, but definitely worth catching again and again. Duncan Jones (Director) and Sam Rockwell (Actor) are two names that are worth looking out for in the future. For a science fiction that has no battles, no aliens, not much adventure beyond the planet, there is still enough suspense to keep the film pacey and intriguing, while delivering important messages about “scientific ethics, corporate greed, human identity, and compassion”.
2. Let the Right One In
I don’t watch horror and I don’t watch vampire films, cos I scared mah … but I had heard so much good things about this film that I had to go check it out. I was so impressed by the film. It was a rather interesting twist when the vampire is the female role, unlike conventional stereotype when the male is the vampire ... Therefore it got very poignant when she asked him if he still love her after knowing that she is not like him ... I am still stunned by how achingly quiet, beautiful, pure, the film and friendship is ... (The author came for this year’s Writer’s Fest, and I got his autograph! Yeah!)
As with every other … I have said this before already … it is with great sadness that a true, and still rather young, filmmaker, had moved on before her time. She had brought us so many great gems before, and this film is perhaps, in a fitting way, a perfect swansong for her. With this film, Yasmin tried her hand with a musical format?!?, and the result was quite stunning. It was incredible how she brought out the emotions and tender acting from her young actors … RIP Yasmin Ahmad.
Surprise! I have decided not to include a bottom list, as I have forgotten to list them down in the first place … heh heh heh
But I have not forgotten my special mention list:
1. Danse Macabre, Next Floor (Singapore Short Film Festival)
I love watching short films, and I bet I had watched hundreds of them in a year … these two offerings, from the SSFF, stand out, for sheer storytelling, choreography, and perhaps more importantly, originality. Dance Macabre is a music video about … a “dancing” corpse; Next floor is a short film with, (dirty) food, hungry diners, many floors, and just one line: “Next!” These prove that there is still room for great stories if one try hard enough.
2. This Is It
A one-of-a-kind film from a one-of-a-kind god.
3. Saint Jack (National Museum)
You have to watch this to watch old Singapore in the late 70s, and while the film drags halfway through the film, there is the great acting from Ben Gazzara that made this still rather compelling film to watch. National Museum also arranged a tour to visit the old locations that the film had shot, and it was with great sadness to see that many of the old locations are no more … I also bought Ben Slater’s book, but am still halfway reading through it.
Well, this is it! Here’s hoping that there will be a great bumper of films to watch in 2010!
♥ 11:19 am
Friday, January 01, 2010
♥ 11:36 pm
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
♥ 1:24 pm
Monday, January 12, 2009
♥ 10:15 pm
Saturday, January 10, 2009
♥ 9:18 am
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
♥ 2:58 am
Sunday, December 09, 2007
♥ 9:06 pm