Happy Holidays and Happy viewing! (When the January rental doldrums hit, I will offer up some additional good films of the past year)
2) The Cove (2009) - A dramatic doc on the battle to save dolphins from slaughter and captivity.
4) Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father – Began as a project to tell a son about his murdered father, director Kurt Kuenne successfully covers additional tragic twists in one of the most heart-wrenching films you'll ever see.
5) District 9 (2009) – A great sci-fi film on lost humanity that I think was totally overlooked this summer. Director Neill Blomkamp gives us an exciting story about aliens who become refugees in South Africa and how the corporation tasked with relocating them then seeks to exploit them for their weapons technology. 5 Shakers
8) Frozen River - Another story of personal survival, Melissa Leo brings amazing truth and believability to her role of a mother struggling to keep her family afloat by any means possible. Jessi's Review here.
9) The Hangover (2009) - Todd Phillips directs a believable and likeable cast in a tale of the ultimate bachelor party gone bad in Las Vegas. Comedies about men who don't want to grow up are a Hollywood stable, but this one avoids the usual bathroom humor to deliver a fun and clever flick.
10) I've Loved You So Long – Another tale of family dynamics, this time two siblings who struggle to get reacquainted after a fifteen year absence. Kristin Scott Thomas is compelling as a shell-shocked woman who slowly reveals her secrets to her well-meaning but puzzled younger sister (Elsa Zylbertstein). Jessi's Review here.
11) Let the Right One In – An alternative vampire flick to the one which shall remain nameless. Original and creepy, the setting of a cold, dark, depressing Swedish town is spot on and the concept of a little girl vampire is spooky. Review here.
12) Milk – Director Gus Van Sant really captures the details and tone of the era in this timely biopic of Harvey Milk (Oscar winner Sean Penn) the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. A great supporting cast includes Josh Brolin who is brooding and intense as Dan White, a troubled fellow official on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who feels threatened enough to murder.
13) Revolutionary Road – Though I didn't notice the trend before this is my third pick to focus on a troubled marriage. Based on the novel by Richard Yates, Sam Mendes delivers a film not really about the homogenized suburbs but about the compromises of marriage and conformity. Very similar in time period and theme to "Mad Men", seeing April (Oscar winner Kate Winslet) framed behind a picture window like a caged bird is tragic. Review here.
15) Slumdog Millionaire – Last years' big Oscar winner tells the fairy tale odyssey of an 18-year-old Mumbai "slumdog" (Dev Patel) attempting to find his lost love (Freida Pinto) by going on a TV game show. Director Danny Boyle directs this story with energy and heart and a breakout final song unexpectedly paying tribute to big Bollywood dance numbers. Jessi's review here.
17) Summer Hours - As an aging widow reunites her adult children and their families to their childhood home; she realizes her possessions and legacy will become devalued once she passes on. A subtle but powerful film on how the global economy is not only splintering families, but undermining cultures, creating a society does not value its’ own history.
18) Up (2009) – Pixar does it again with an amazingly touching film on never being too old to live out your dreams.
20) The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke's amazing comeback film of a tortured middle-aged wrestler trying to come to terms with his life while staging a final bout. This is the wrestling picture Barton Fink should have written.