Graduation Date: The Top 10 Films Of 2009
- Written by Matthew Toomey
One of my favourite parts of any day is the moment when I lie in bed and first put my head on the pillow. The day is complete. I’ve given it all that I can and now I can rest and relax. Any troubles fade away as I slip into the world of unconsciousness.
I kind of have that same feeling when putting together my list of the year’s best movies. I’ve reached the end of a long journey and this is the last thing I must do before saying good-bye to the movie-going year. I can then close the book, take a quick break and then charge myself up for a fresh year, filled with new adventures.
I love putting together my top 10 list each year for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a way of honouring and recognising these wonderful movies. They have provided me great satisfaction and if anyone subsequently watches them based on my recommendation, I felt that I’ve done a service to the filmmaker.
Secondly, it provides a record of what the year was like in terms of movies. Given that I’ve been reviewing seriously for more than a decade, I’ve now got plenty of lists to look back upon. The films from some years have definitely aged better than others. It’s hard to believe that my first top 10 list, including such “classics” as Romeo & Juliet and The Ice Storm, was something I prepared 14 years ago.
On that note, here’s the quick honour role of my top films by year – Romeo & Juliet (1996), Titanic (1997), The Sweet Hereafter (1998), Being John Malkovich (1999), Billy Elliot (2000), Requiem For A Dream (2001), Mulholland Dr. (2002), Chicago (2003), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), Million Dollar Baby (2005), Capote (2006), The Lives Of Others (2007) and Juno (2008).
I need to point out that there’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to compiling a top 10 list. We’ve all got different tastes and no two lists will ever be the same. There’ll be some out there who will agree with most of my selections and there’ll be some who think the exact opposite. That’s part of the reason why I love going to the movies.
I had some fun talk back calls on 612ABC just over a week ago when I went through my top 10 list. You can listen by clicking here and you can also find it on the front page of my website.
Before I get to my top 10 for 2009, I have to name a few honourable mentions. They were great movies but I couldn’t squeeze them into my list. They are The Reader, Whip It, Changeling, Doubt, The Class, The International, Duplicity, State Of Play, Mary & Max, Let The Right One In, A Serious Man, Coraline, Up, Eden Is West, I Love You Man, Paranormal Activity, Drag Me To Hell, Balibo, Public Enemies, The Hangover and Where The Wild Things Are. Wow, that’s a lot.
In all, I’ve seen 235 movies this year. That’s my second best effort behind 2006 (when I saw 238 movies). Without further adieu, I present the graduating class of 2009…
This is a deeply affecting film about life, love and loss. Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz give brilliant performances. I actually had the chance to see it twice at the cinemas and I loved it just as much the second time. It just squeezes into my top 10.
9. An Education
An Education is a beautiful coming of age story. It's about a conservative girl in her final year of school who is swept off her feet by a much older guy. He opens her eyes to an exciting world outside her comfort zone. I went through every emotion watching this one and I think it’ll pop up at next year’s Oscars. Star Carey Mulligan, who was in Brisbane to promote the film, is the front runner for best actress.
Milk won 2 Oscars earlier in the year and brings to the screen the real life story of Harvey Milk, who in 1977 became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He was assassinated one year later. Sean Penn gives an incredible performance and I really enjoyed the movie for what it has to say. Director Gus Van Sant placed me in a time-machine, took me back 30 years, and opened my eyes.
7. The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
I only saw this film a few weeks ago and it’s a doco which looks at the lives of Jools and Lynda Topp - a yodeling, folk singing comedy duo to come out New Zealand. This is pure, joyous entertainment. I had a smile on my face the whole time. Their songs are terrific but we also see some of the great work they've done in their roles as political activists. This is the year's best documentary.
6. 500 Days Of Summer
Romantic comedies are usually my least favoured films but 500 Days Of Summer flips the genre on its head. The boy (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is the emotional character who believes in love at first sight. The girl (Zooey Deschanel) is the care-free character with a fear of commitment. Told creatively through flashbacks, this is a terrific film with an awesome soundtrack.
Departures was an uplifting tear-jerker about an unemployed cellist who finds work in a funeral home. He helps prepare the dead for whatever lies beyond. This Japanese film won the Oscar for best foreign language film earlier in the year and now I know why. Softly directed and deeply moving. Just incredible.
4. Summer Hours
Summer Hours was a beautiful French film about three siblings who have some tough decisions to make following the death of their elderly mother. It makes you think about how much we really know our own families and the way in which we feel a connection with material possessions. Reflective, comforting and thought provoking. Director Olivier Assayas has done well.
3. Revolutionary Road
Revolutionary Road stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as a young couple in the 1950s having some serious marital problems. I loved the intricacies of the characters but boy, this was heavy going. It’s dark and depressing. Watching these two characters argue so heatedly on screen made me very sad. But this is a compliment and it shows just how powerful a movie can be.
Avatar . Can it win the Oscar? I’ve now seen it twice and think it’s a big chance.
1. The Wrestler
The Wrestler was released way back in January but all year I’ve had an inkling that it’d be my number 1 film of the year. As the credits started to roll, I wanted to stand up in my seat and cheer. Mickey Rourke plays a semi-retired wrestler who tries to resurrect his career and repair his relationship with his teenage daughter. It highlights the harsh realities of professional sport but it’s ultimately a movie about a broken man trying to find a purpose for his life. I won’t easy forget it.
The Film Pie banner on my website has been updated to show an image from these 10 films – a tradition I’ve adopted for the last five years.
As this is my final blog of 2009, I’d like to wish everyone “a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip-Top Tet, and a solemn and meaningful Ramadan.”
I look forward to a great year of cinema in 2010. See you at the movies!
The Two Best Films Of The Decade - Billy Elliot & Magnolia
- Written by Matthew Toomey
It’s the penultimate blog of 2009. Next week, I’ll unveil the final version of my top 10 list of 2009. If you’re looking for a sneak peak, you can listen my 612ABC show from last Thursday where I went through the list with Spencer. We also took some talkback on people’s favourites. You can listen right here -
One film which will be making the list (which wasn’t included in the show) is Avatar, which I saw last Friday night. It is simply stunning and you must see it. The reviews from most critics have been glowing and this is going to win a lot of Oscars (certainly in the technical categories). Whether it can win the big one remains to be seen but this movie has serious momentum and will make a lot of money.
The 2009 AFI Awards were held over the weekend and here were the major winners –
Best Film – Samson & Delilah
Best Director – Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah)
Best Original Screenplay – Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah)
Best Adapted Screenplay – David Williamson & Robert Connolly (Balibo)
Best Actor – Anthony LaPaglia (Balibo)
Best Actress – Frances O’Connor (Blessed)
Best Supporting Actor – Oscar Issac (Balibo)
Best Supporting Actress – Rachel Griffiths (Beautiful Kate)
Not to sound like a broken record but 2009 has been a great year for Australian cinema in terms of quality. I’ve seen plenty of amazing films and I can’t begrudge Samson & Delilah winning the top prize. I have a soft spot for Balibo after meeting Anthony LaPaglia and hosting a Q&A earlier in the year. It was nice to see that film recognised also – and LaPaglia deservedly winning the best actor prize. I also supported the win of Frances O’Connor for best actress after 4 previous nominations without a win.
I don’t know what’s in the works for 2010 but let’s hope some more terrific Aussie films will be seen.
3D Reaches Dendy Portside
The Dendy Portside cinemas are the latest to acquire a 3D projector. They’ve gotten in just in time and I think the Dendy would be a superb venue to watch the 3D version of Avatar. Tickets are $18.50 for adults and $15.00 for Club Dendy members. I know it sounds a little pricey but as I’ve spoken about previously, these projectors are expensive and the cinemas have to find some way of recouping the large cost.
Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Drama
For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been slowly revealing my best films of the decade.
We’re done to the grand finale this week – my two favourite drama films. And I have to admit that when I think about, these two films would be my OVERALL favourites of the decade. I’ve seen them a lot of times and I’ve never grown tired of them.
Both were released back in 2000 and they are…
Billy Elliot (released in 2000) – full review is here.
Magnolia (released in 2000) - full review is here.
I ended up seeing Billy Elliot five times at the cinema. That sounds a little crazy I know but I took different groups of friends each time. It’s an incredible story which is told so beautifully by director Stephen Daldry (who earned an Oscar nomination). There are so many great scenes and if I started talking about it now, I wouldn’t stop.
In 2005, I went to London to attend the British Open golf but also high on my list to do was see Billy Elliot: The Musical. I queued up for 3 hours to get tickets (front row, centre) and simply adored it. To see it with the original cast made the experience all the more special given it has become a worldwide sensation and is still being performed in both London and New York.
Magnolia is a completely different film – a 3 hour ensemble piece that you will either love or hate. Paul Thomas Anderson is a talented director and this is his masterpiece. He tells a compelling story but does so poetically – with the use of his camera lens and Jon Brion’s film score. My favourite scene is a continuous take where the camera follows around a group of characters with no editing whatsoever. He used the same technique in Boogie Nights and Punch Drunk Love. The opening is brilliant and the ending is poignant. This could be my most watched film on DVD.
Drama is a huge category and honourable mentions go to – American Beauty, Traffic, Monster’s Ball, The Quiet American, Million Dollar Baby, Capote, The Departed, United 93, The Wrestler, The Cider House Rules, The Insider, Topsy-Turvy, Wonder Boys, Almost Famous, Cast Away, The Contender, Thirteen Days, Bloody Sunday, Black Hawk Down, Last Orders, City Of God, The Emperor’s Club, The Pianist, 21 Grams, Elephant, House Of Sand & Fog, Touching The Void, The Constant Gardener, Good Night And Good Luck, Look Both Ways, Mysterious Skin, Sideways, Match Point, Atonement, Blood Diamond, Michael Clayton, The Namesake, No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, There Will Be Blood, Milk, The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Just to name a few…
If you missed past blogs, you can currently check out all my other favourite films of the decade on the front page of my website.
The Worst 10 Films Of 2009
- Written by Matthew Toomey
Award Season Has Begun!
The award season has begun with the National Board of Review announcing their picks for the best of the year. They are traditionally not a very good judge but they’ve gone with one of the favourites in giving Up In The Air the prize for best picture. The leading critic organisations will announce their awards in the next few weeks and it’s those which I’m more interested in. I’ll keep you posted.
A Cool Movie Poster
They say that a picture paints 1,000 words. That being the case, a movie poster should be able to do more than I feebly attempt in my reviews.
I really like the poster for The French Kissers which is out on Boxing Day. You can view it by clicking here. I can’t help but be drawn in by the awkward look on the boy’s face. The yellow background and quotes give it a really cool, hip look.
It was put together by Carnival Studio in Sydney and they get my kudos for the week.
Horror Spoof Trailers
You can find just about anything on Youtube and one craze I’ve stumbled upon are people taking classic movies and cutting them together to look like a horror trailer.
One of the best is for Mary Poppins which you can view by clicking here.
There are some other great ones out there which I’ll leave you to find. Very creative some people are.
Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Mind F***
We’re down to the last two weeks of my “best of the decade” series. I had to come up with a new genre so as to be able to include these two particular films.
I saw both of these movies at the Dendy George Street Cinemas and they blew me away. They are visually amazing and you could watch them 10 times without fully appreciating everything. Darren Aronofsky and David Lynch are two amazing directors.
These two films are…
Mulholland Drive (released in 2002) – full review is here.
Requiem For A Dream (released in 2001) - full review is here.
Next week is the last genre – drama. And the two films I’ve selected would be my favourite two films (of any kind) over the past 10 years. I look forward to revealing them.
Worst Of The Year - 2009
I’ve been reviewing movies since 1996 and I always love putting together my best and worst of the year lists. This time around, I’m splitting it up into two parts. This week, I’m going to cover my worst 10 films of 2009. Now I know there’s still a small number of films which I’m yet to see but since I’ve chalked up 225 reviews already in 2009, I think I’m in a fair position to be able to make the call.
Before I kick things off, my worst film by year since I’ve been doing this have been – The Crow: City Of Angels (1996), The Stupids (1997), Tarzan & The Lost City (1998), Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000), Glitter (2001), Blurred (2002), Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever (2003), Van Helsing (2004), Fun With Dick & Jane (2005), A Sound Of Thunder (2006), Daddy Day Camp (2007) and The Love Guru (2008).
As always, it was tough putting this list together. There were plenty of great movies but it seemed like there just as many bad ones. Here then is my 2009 graduating class in order of worseness.
10. Dragonball Evolution
When I saw this film, I said to the cinema ticket selling guy – “I would regrettably like two tickets to Dragonball: Evolution”. He laughed. So yes, I admit to going into the film with low expectations but this is one of those cases where the book can be judged by its cover. Based on the television series, it set a level for mediocrity that made most of the other films this year look very, very good.
9. Twelve Rounds
A guy has had his girlfriend kidnapped by some nasty people and he has to complete 12 challenges if he wants to save her. This action flick for adrenalin junkies was directed by Renny Harlin – the man responsible for Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. His best days may be behind him because this delivered one of my all time pet hates – stupid, unrealistic action sequences. I prefer story over mindless action.
8. My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine was a slasher film released over the Valentine’s Day weekend in Australia to give people an alternative (I guess) from your traditional, fluffy romantic comedies. I wish they hadn’t. This is as bad as a horror film can get. Poorly acted. No suspense. Silly ending.
7. I Really Hate My Job
The title might sound interesting but once you start watching this, you’ll realise how wrong you were. It's about 5 women and their one night trying to run a small restaurant. Was there worse acting in a film this year? It only received a tiny two week release in Brisbane cinemas but they needn’t of bothered. It should have gone straight to DVD… or even worse.
6. Bride Wars
I saw this film with a friend and the look of disbelief on our faces when the end credits started to roll said it all. Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson played two bitchy, selfish women who end up in an “all out” war over the date of their respective weddings. I didn’t end up writing a full length review because I didn’t think I had enough adjectives in my repertoire to fully express just how bad it was.
5. Seven Pounds
Ok, we’re getting close to the bottom of the barrel now. I’m not a Will Smith fan but I can usually tolerate his movies. Until now at least. Seven Pounds is manipulative garbage. A man thinks he can deem himself for his wrongdoings by going on some ridiculous journey which he knows will end in his own death. I could see the twists coming from the cinema car park. I know a lot of people liked this but NOT ME.
There’s usually one Aussie film which makes my worst list and this year’s contender is Prey. Interest in the film was high. I saw it Saturday night at 9pm at the Palace Barracks during its opening week. I was the only poor soul in the cinema. That’s a good thing for everyone except me. It was a horror flick starring Natalie Bassingthwaighte with some truly dreadful acting. It has 51 votes on the IMDB with an average score of 2.2. That says it all.
3. All About Steve
One day, Sandra Bullock is going to make an awesome movie which I will love. I’ll then regret all the negative comments I’ve said about her. Until that time comes, all I can do is chastise Bullock for her idiotic film choices. I hated The Proposal (which sits just outside my worst 10 list) but All About Steve, a romantic comedy where she is paired alongside Bradley Cooper, could be her worst yet.
It was a split between this one and my next film to decide which was the worst of the year. I decided I just couldn’t give that honour to a John Cusack movie. 2012 is just a farce. One unrealistic scenario after the other with no character development. I wasn’t even that impressed with the special effects.
1. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra
I almost fell asleep while I was watching this. I had no idea what was going on. All I saw on screen was a blur of incoherent nonsense. Some people will say it’s just a fun action film. I will say it’s the worst film of 2009. We’ve all entitled to our own opinions and yes, that’s mine. May they never make a sequel.
I feel so vindictive after all those evil words. I hope none of the filmmakers ever read this. But hey, maybe they’ll bounce back and make some really awesome movies in the future. Maybe. Perhaps they’ll end up living in a ditch. Damn, there I go again. Must stop it.
I’ll be revealing my best 10 films of the year on my 612ABC spot with Spencer Howson this week but I’m not yet sure if it’ll be on Thursday or Friday morning. Am waiting for confirmation. You can hear it first on 612ABC or see me write all about it in a future blog.
A Rory And Oli Update & The Decade's Best Comedies
- Written by Matthew Toomey
December is upon us and there are so many things I haven’t covered in my blogs this year. I haven’t updated my cinema reviews. I haven’t gone through my favourite actors, actresses and directors of the year. There have just been too many other things to talk about.
What I have done every year at this time is devote a few words to a couple of golfers I have been following in recent years. For those keeping score at home, golf is my other love outside of movies.
Anyway, 4 years ago I had the chance to play a round in Melbourne with a 17-year-old named Oliver Fisher and a 16-year-old named Rory McIlroy. I wrote about it at the time and you can check my article right here.
For my annual update, the news is all good for both players. Rory McIlroy is now ranked 10th in the world. That’s pretty spectacular for someone his age. He notched his first professional win at the Dubai Masters back in February and made the cut in every major championship – including a 3rd at the U.S. PGA. He had 12 tops 10 finishes for the year and won $3.6m euro on the European Tour. Incredible stuff.
Oliver didn’t have as strong a year but he’s still going well for a 21 year old. He finished with $234,459 euro in earnings on the European Tour but will have to head back to tour school later in December to retain his card for next year. I hope he does.
With the Tiger Woods accident saga being played out in the media at the moment, it’s left me thinking about the private lives of sportspeople and celebrities. Do we have a right to know a little more about them?
Given the success of Tiger and the fact that he’s the most successful sportsman on the planet, it’s kind of surprising that he’s been able to keep his personal life so private. What does he do when he’s not playing golf? Where does he live? What’s he really like as a person?
I have to admit that I think that being somewhat open about your private life is just part of being a top athlete or entertainer. People pay to see you in action. The reasons some people can command more in endorsements is because they are more popular. People like them more – they idolise them, they want to be like them (in a healthy way of course). In the golfing world, I speak of younger stars like Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Camilo Villegas.
That said, I do detest agents, publicists, etc who feel it is their role to manipulate the image that we have of these people. They do it because these people are so successful that they are in fact a “brand”. To lose face with the public would equate to a severe loss of earnings. When something semi-controversial pops us, they go behind close doors and craft a statement to release to the media. Politicians are no different. Call me a cynic but everything seems to be about spin.
For this reason, I find it harder and harder to judge the filmmakers, actors and sports stars that I myself look up to. Are they really the people they purport to be?
I saw a wonderful movie last Saturday called The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls and this reaffirmed my stance on this issue. The Topp Twins are a lesbian, folk singing, yodelling, comedy duo to come out of New Zealand. Part of the reason they are so successful is that they’re not afraid to speak their mind and put themselves out there. Off the stage, they’re exactly the same as they are on stage. It’s refreshing. You must see the film too by the way – it’ll be in my top 10 list in a few weeks.
Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Comedy
I’ve said this many times but the hardest genre to master is that of comedy. We all have a different sense of humour and what one finds funny, another may find offensive. I think it’s for this reason why comedy films do so poorly in major award shows. It’s a lot easier to create a moving drama that will reduce audiences to tears.
The Simpsons is the greatest comedic television show ever made and it has moulded my own warped comedic stylings. When it comes to movies, I like my comedies dark. The blacker, the better. There’s nothing better than taking something serious and making light of it. Perhaps the best black comedies I’ve ever seen is Election, released in 1999 and starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon.
But as for the past decade, my two favourite comedies are…
Ghost World (released in 2002) – full review is here.
Juno (released in 2008) - full review is here.
Ghost World is pure brilliance. So many memorable one liners. And it ends in such brutal fashion too with regards to the Steve Buscemi character (which I won’t spoil for those yet to see the movie).
Juno came out just last year but it earned as swag of Oscar nominations and won an Academy Award for best original screenplay. It too has an edge and doesn’t always go in the direction you might think. The sarcastic Juno MacGuff is one of cinema’s great creations.
Honourable mentions in the comedy genre must go to Nurse Betty, Gosford Park, Galaxy Quest, Series 7: The Contenders, Shadow Of The Vampire, Adaptation, Igby Goes Down, Bend It Like Beckham, Intolerable Cruelty, Punch Drunk Love, The Rage In Placid Lake, The Spanish Apartment, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Squid And The Whale, Superbad, Bur After Reading and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. A long list.
We’ve got two weeks to go in my best of series. Next week, we’ve got my favourite “mind mess” movies (replace “mess” with another word starting with the letter “f” if you’re over 18) and then after that, we’ll have my favourite dramas.
Until next time!