One of my favorite end of the year entertainments is looking at Ten Best lists, especially the Ten Best Movies. This year, I was surprised at, not only the movies I hadn't seen, but the number of movies I hadn't even heard of. So I thought I had better put my two cents in.
This has been a great year for good movies. Maybe not a great year for great movies; but, still, there were an amazing number of good movies. And…in the summer a burst of great movies. Granted, we didn't see very many movies this summer, having missed G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, for example, but what we did see was better than any summer I can remember.
The summer started with Up. An allegedly kids cartoon about growing old, the meaning of life, friendship, and other childish concerns. It was engaging and moving. Then in no particular order, came Funny People, The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, District 9, and Inglorious Basterds, ending with Julie and Julia.
Funny People is anything but funny and I think it got panned by a lot of critics because they were expecting fart jokes. Directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sadler who is as good and complicated as he was in Punch Drunk Love, Funny People is about dying and community, money and isolation, hero worship and reality, and humor. If you are looking for a truly funny movie, then The Hangover can't be beat. It is a very funny movie about men doing very stupid things in Las Vegas, but they are not stupid and that is what makes it work.These two movies sort of work together; the funny people not being funny and the serous people being very funny.
District 9 got great reviews but I thought it was the weakest of all the summer movies. But that really is only saying how good the other movies were. District 9 has lots to say while still being an engrossing scifi adventure.
The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds were two very different war movies. But not war movies in the classic, Aldo Ray, sense (although Inglorious Basterds wants us to believe it is a classic Aldo Ray movie). Of the two, at first glance, The Hurt Locker, wants to be the most serious and it was serious and excellent but… Looking back at it over dinner after the movie, or the next day, it didn't always make sense. And I am not sure that it was anatomically correct: a firefight at the center of the movie seems to just start and stop at random, and why are they driving around the desert without backup, and the Colonel is unrealistically over the top enthusiastic. But, still, a powerful movie about men at war. The best description I have read of Inglorious Basterds is Jewish porn – and it is. It is my favorite movie of the year. Quentin Tarantino switches from scene to scene with no transition shots but we always know exactly where (and when) we are. And each individual scene is a near masterpiece: the photography is staggeringly good, the dialog brilliant, the contribution to the story arc pitch perfect. At the start of the movie, the evil Nazi – and he is very evil – pulls out a ridiculously large German pipe: when I mentioned it to Michele, she said I think it is Tarantino's way of saying This is a fantasy
The summer ended with Julie and Julia. An obvious homage to cooking and food but also a uplifting movie about good marriages. A great way to end the summer.