Monday, February 22, 2010

Annie Hall(1977, Woody Allen)

My major concern is that part of me is all too much like Alvy Singer, the movie’s protagonist. We all have our own neurotic idiocies, but Alvy’s are magnified tenfold. He has serious manifestations of self-loathing, self-doubt, misanthropy, and is highly sarcastic. All of this makes him a great comedian-very witty and sharp-but leave him deficient as a human being. Why him and Annie Hall, the titular character, hook up is either a testament Avy having some kind of hidden charisma, or perhaps the fact that sometimes women see things in guys that, in all likelihood, one wouldn’t think they would be interested in having a relationship with.

I really don’t know, as love is a mystery, a secret element of life that I highly doubt I will ever understand. I commend Allen for not only skipping any attempts to rationalize romance, but also for so willfully breaking the “Fourth Wall” so that we can get a better look into his characters. One could call it the “Window into the soul,” if one was so inclined, but its better known as a great and popular film technique and narrative device.

Thus, despite the risk of such a move being perceived as a gimmick, thanks its use we emphasize even more with the movie’s characters. While not every movie should utilize it, but Allen appears to excel at doing so, and therefore we get hilarious moments such as when Annie and Avy’s families are jabbering back and forth. During that particular scene, subtitles are used to broadcast the character’s real, actual thoughts in their heads, and in another scene Annie’s feeling of being distant, which is unsaid verbally, is literally broadcasted.

Having seen more of his movies, such a move is something he has been known to do, although being limited in my viewing of his films I am not sure if this is something that he does on a regular basis. I imagine it is part of his quest to expand beyond convention cinema, as he has been known to do, but I’m not entirely sure.

Despite being a rather small part, I also liked Christopher Walken’s cameo, if only for its sheer comedic value, and because its quite possibly my favorite part of the movie. With that scene, Walken showcases that eerie, fantastic acting quality that he would showcase later on in his movies. With a couple of other heavy hitting movies already under her belt, Diane Keaton used this film to become even more respected as an actress, and it’s a shame that Allen didn’t make even more movies than he did with Keaton. She’s a lovely leading lady, very capable of emoting so many different feelings and actions. Through her in this movie, we not only get the sense of why modern day feminism truly emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, but that strangely thanks to Singer she makes something of herself.

Unfortunately for the couple, this all leads to an on-off again relationship that I’ve witnessed first hand in friends before, where they are not really working as a couple, but after breaking up they, for reasons unknown or unrealistic to me, they get back together again. The line “Relationships are like a shark, they have to keep constantly moving. And um, what we’ve got on our hands here is a dead shark,” is not only brilliant but very true as well. In the grand scheme of things, the trials and tribulations of love and relationships are a funny and complex thing. Which is what is finalized and actualized in this fantastic and rather moving, film. 100

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top 10 Of 2009

To break in this blog, I'm going to post my current Top 10 of 2009:

Average Rating: 96

1. A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers)-100

Further embracing their brand of dark comedy that has gotten only stronger and more harsh lately (see: Burn After Reading), the Brothers Coen craft a truly amazing movie. Hilarious, unforgiving, honest, never flinching, and not providing any easy answers (perhaps even no answers at all), this is one of their best movies to date. In fact it bests their previous two efforts, which is no easy feat, and proves that they are among the top tier directors working today. The ending is flat out gutsy, and the dream sequences are hands down the best thing about the entire movie.

2. In The Loop (Armando Iannucci)-100

Brilliant, funny, a sharp political satire that rivals such classics as Dr. Strangelove and Network, this movie crafted by a British TV creator is a riot. Yet also manages to be highly relevant, filled to the brim with sharp dialogue, clever and often profane one-liners, and characters who resemble certain powerful people all too well. The most interesting thing about this movie is how it shifts tone from humor to serious drama with ease, and how by the final act Iannucci and company refuse to give any easy or neatly tied answers.

3. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)-97

Working from the standard horror movie template, Von Trier manages to craft a disturbing nightmare that is not only a creepy journey into the mind of a psychologically scarred person but also a very effective horror movie. Using the forces of nature as a backdrop, he creates a controversial film that also examines both male and female, and could even be viewed as a twisted take on the old age story of Adam and Eve. A must view for those who take cinema seriously, but not for the faint of heart.

4. Up (Bob Peterson, Pete Docter)-97

Despite not having yet seen Cars or Wall-E, for now I’m assured that this is the best movie Pixar has ever produced. Featuring a montage sequence early on that is so emotionally gripping I was almost moved to tears, and building upon that with expertly created action sequences, entertaining characters (Dug is one of the best dogs ever), and even mediating upon growing old and fatherhood, this is an intelligent, truly great film. They just keep hitting home runs out of the park, and this movie is also noteworthy for really being geared more so to older audiences and not just younger ones.

5. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog)-95

Driven by an Oscar worthy performance from Nicholas Cage, in the hands of the amazing Herzog this goes merely beyond standard cop dramas. Spending most of the movie in a drug induced stupor, Cage's back pain suffering detective is pushed beyond his normal limits, operating and playing by only his rules in a city left in ruins by Katrina. As much an examination of one man's struggle to hold it altogether as it is about a unique place determined to rebuild itself after suffering near destruction, this movie is also a clever dark comedy, too. The iguana cam is really a moment that one probably won't see in another movie again anytime soon.

6. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)-95

Existing as his most daring and magnificent film in quite a while, QT recreates the WW II epic and in the process breaks many of the rules. The Germans actually speak German, the dialogue mostly requires subtitles, and Brad Pitt and the film’s title bunch actually take a backseat to a murderous but charming SS officer and the woman who’s family he had murdered. While I’m not sure if this or Kill Bill Vol. 2 is QT’s second best movie, I think that in some ways he has created another masterpiece, although only a second viewing will say for sure.

7. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)-95

Completely brushing aside the politics of the Iraq War, this tense and suspenseful action/drama artfully explores some of the soldiers involved in the conflict. More so like previous war movies that focused more on the soldiers and what they are going through than on the big picture of the actual war that they are fighting, this movie is skillfully made. Several scenes are painstakingly crafted and maintained, and the movie sports some of the best camera work of the year.

8. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)-95

Perhaps one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade, this quite smart sci-fi/action movie is not only sharp, but covers so many different themes. Although its rather easy to read too much into the movie, the topics covered range from apartheid (the most obvious) to even the War on Terror and the troubling use of private security companies around the globe. There’s even Cronenberg style body mutation and the nightmare of becoming a second class citizen in your very own country. Not only lives up to the hype, but may result in a sequel that has the potential to be even more interesting and groundbreaking.

9. Up In the Air (Jason Reitman)-95

Even though this is billed as a comedy, there is a surprising amount of drama involved, although the subject matter calls for it. Covering the shattered remains of the American dream, and the current recession in a rather brutal and honest manner, Reitman’s follow up to Juno also artfully explores the life and times of a man. Played by George Clooney in an expert and daft performance, this anti-hero goes through a transformation and uncovers his humanity, although in doing so he discovers that nothing comes without a price tag attached. Funny, sad, even a bit on the tragic side, and easily one of the year’s best.

10. Moon (Ducan Jones)-94

Powered by Sam Rockwell, who was unfairly snubbed by the Oscars, this rather odd and strange sci-fi movie is the equivalent of Castaway in space. Only instead of Tom Hanks on an island, its Rockwell alone on the moon, left to mine its resources with a lone computer voiced by Kevin Spacy for company. What happens next is rather unexpected, even for those who have seen the previews, and it completely changes the notions of identity and reality as well. Even more remarkable is the film's special effects, and how Rockwell is able to utilize his incredible acting abilities-and the ending is something you do not see coming at all.

HM: Where the Wild Things Are, Partly Cloudy, Public Enemies, Zombieland, The Informant!