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Blog // Thoughts
December 15, 2009

My Top Ten Films Of The Year

OK, I’m calling this one early, since I fly out on Christmas holidays at the end of the week. Before anyone posts comments about the films that were originally released before 2009, let me remind you that I live in Hong Kong, which means some films only open here long, long after they opened in […]

OK, I’m calling this one early, since I fly out on Christmas holidays at the end of the week.

Before anyone posts comments about the films that were originally released before 2009, let me remind you that I live in Hong Kong, which means some films only open here long, long after they opened in their home markets. Moreover many of the films making other writer’s lists (like The Road, The Hurt Locker and Broken Embraces) have yet to open here.

There are no documentaries on this list because, to be fair, I haven’t seen that many during 2009. Food Inc stands out, because it’s a topic that I’m very passionate about and it’s a documentary you can share with kids. However, it isn’t really a breakthrough as a film.

Finally, I should add that this year I haven’t been to the cinema as much as in previous years and so my sample is a little low. Anyway, enough with the caveats, here’s the list.

10. Up – I’m a huge Pixar fan. Most years, their films become my favourite animated feature of the year and get close to my top five. Not this time. Up is still a compelling film, with a really moving opening and a solid storyline. All the craft and humour is there, but not the magic. Will this be the first PIxar DVD I don’t buy?

9. Inglourious Basterds – At the risk of losing all credibility let me explain this choice. Yes, the movie is too long and in parts poorly edited. Yes, it creaks badly in the final act. But, the opening scene and, in fact, just about every scene with Christoph Waltz captivated me. Colonel Hans Landa will be remembered as one of the great villains of cinema history.

8. In The Loop – I didn’t include a documentary this year, but not including a straight-up comedy feels like a step too far. In The Loop is patchy, sub-cinematic (it’s really an extension of the TV comedy, In The Thick Of It) and not for everyone. But, the sharp, acidic wit held captivated me and left me wishing I was quick enough (and smart enough) to remember more of the lines and put-downs.

7. Rwanda: The Day God Walked Away – Breathtaking, thoughtful and beautifully constructed cinema. This is a tightly focussed story of one woman’s fight for survival during the genocide. That unrelenting focus demands that we meditate on the genocide in a way that other films haven’t managed. Evocative and discomforting.

6. Slumdog Millioniare – Yes, it only opened locally in February! The soundtrack alone would tempt me to put this in my top ten – A.R. Rahman is such a powerful and original composer. This film has everything – drama, love, action, humour, fantastic cinematography, solid scripting, great cast and inspired use of location. Deserved every accolade it received.

5. Coraline – Many great children’s stories are simultaneously cute and dark, which is where the genius of Coraline begins. This really is a film for kids of a certain age, who still the world with very childlike eyes, but are starting to realise the inconsistencies and contradictions of adult life. Of course, it helps that Coraline has a bold and original animated vision, great sound editing and a solid narrative arc.

4. Tony Manero – A film about serial killer who dresses like the lead character from Saturday Night Fever, during the Pinochet regime in Chile. Amazingly, this concept works, held together by very dark humour, brooding camera work and a political and cultural critique that never reaches the level of being preachy or overt.

3. Dev D – Devdas, is classic Indian novel that has spawned many film adaptions. What sets this version apart is the way it breaks from a lot of Bollywood conventions in search of a more modern voice. Dev D is a visually rich, stunning and original film, very well acted and rounded off with a killer soundtrack. Moreover, the film is the psychologically sophisticated (with rich symbolism) and at times quite dark and bleak. Not your typical Bollywood fare at all.

2. Black Ice – This dark and at times bleak romantic drama from Finland is not without some faults. But, the overall impression is very solid and the way the story of infidelity is explored is fresh and engaging. Could have done with a better soundtrack and maybe a few less scenes. However, it deserves recognition as one of the best, recent films in the “Hitchcock” style of film-making.

1. Un Prophète – A serious contender for one of the best films of the decade, this menacing drama, set in a Corsican prison (with dialogue in French, Italian and Arabic) is also worthy of consideration as one of the best prison dramas of all time. Meticulously constructed, rich in the breadth of human emotion and depravity and with a meaningful storyline, Un Prophète is the kind of film that stays with you for quite some time after you’ve left the cinema.

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Responses
Toni 13 years ago

Interesting selection. I’ve only even heard of 3 of that 10 (Basterds, Up and Slumdog) so I’m clearly out of the loop when it comes to cinema.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

I’ll admit this year’s list was quite international and a little obscure. Some of the best US films of the year haven’t opened here yet.

Toni 13 years ago

Wishing you and your family a happy Christmas, where ever you are in the world.

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