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Best Films 2009

Posted by: Matthew Turner 08/01/2010 @ 16:40
Subject: Film

Total number of films seen in 2009: 456
Films seen before December 31st: Fireball, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Post Grad, It Might Get Loud, Spread, My Father, My Lord, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, Small Time, The Swarm, Grey Gardens, Kiki's Delivery Service
Films seen so far this year: 9
Films seen since January 1st: The Verdict, Crossfire, Death Defying Acts, Night Tide, Mugabe and the White African, Treeless Mountain, Daybreakers, Armoured, Blur: No Distance Left to Run

Hidden Gems: Ten Great Films You Might Have Missed Last Year
Yes, that's right, it's another End of Year List. No! Wait! Come back!
Etc. You could be forgiven for being pretty fed up with lists at this point, but I thought this one was worth the risk. While I was researching it I had in my head that I'd try and find ten films that hadn't received much attention and had somehow never made it onto any critics' lists, including my own. Then I realised a) that actually I still wanted to plug a few films on my Best of 2009 list (notably Sugar, which has had great feedback from everyone I've recommended it to and which has thankfully come down in price since I took this picture and b) that some of these films really should have made my Also Ran list in the first place (e.g. The Cove, Wendy and Lucy, Kisses).

So the list below is a mixture of critical favourites that weren't widely seen (dolphin documentary The Cove, French family drama The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, weird Japanese epic Love Exposure, low budget girl-and-her-dog drama Wendy and Lucy), films that just missed the Also-Ran list (essentially in the top 30 – films like people smuggling drama Frozen River, Irish teen runaway drama Kisses and Herzog-esque documentary Big River Man) and personal favourites (Sugar, Anvil, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), which are the films that if we were standing in a DVD shop, I'd be thrusting them into your hand, urging you to watch them. Either way, the list below represents ten films that you might have missed and are well worth catching up with on DVD.

1. Sugar (on DVD)
2. The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (still in cinemas)
3. Anvil (on DVD)
4. The Cove (on DVD)
5. Love Exposure (on DVD)
6. Wendy and Lucy (on DVD)
7. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (due for release on DVD on January 25th)
8. Kisses (due for release on DVD on March 15th)
9. Frozen River (on DVD)
10. Big River Man (on DVD soon – see DVD of the Week)

Films I'm Looking Forward To: The Princess and the Frog
I missed a recent press screening of Disney's upcoming The Princess and the Frog but I've heard nothing but good things and am very much looking forward to seeing it. It marks a welcome return to traditional 2D animation in the Disney tradition (think Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and so on), complete with a traditional fairytale plot and everything. Well, almost – as the trailer indicates, this is the Princess and the Frog story with a novel twist, namely that the Princess gets turned into a frog too and the pair of them have to find the evil witch doctor that cursed the frog in the first place. The New Orleans setting is very promising, music-wise and it also makes a nice change that the two leads aren't being played by big name stars (Bruno Campos voices the frog and Anika Noni Rose voices the Princess), although the cast does feature Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard and John Goodman in supporting roles. At any rate, it opens here on January 29th and looks like a lot of fun. (The teaser, here, is also worth checking out).

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Only three new films in the top ten this week, which is a bit poor, considering there's been three week's worth of new releases since the last blog. Top of the new entries is John Hillcoat's superb adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with Ashton Kutcher fuckfest Spread and heartbreaking Korean drama Treeless Mountain making up the other two spaces. I'll also put in a good word for Ethan Hawke vampire flick Daybreakers, which is flawed but also stylish and a lot of fun in places. Similarly, I've dropped Humpday from the list because it doesn't seem to be playing anywhere, but it's worth seeing if you can find it.

1. Where the Wild Things Are
2. The Road
3. The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
4. A Serious Man
5. Avatar
6. The Informant!
7. Me and Orson Welles
8. Spread
9. Treeless Mountain
10. Paranormal Activity

DVD of the Week: Big River Man (out Monday 18th January, RRP £15.99)
This week's DVD of the Week (or, strictly speaking, of next week, because it's not out till the 18th) is Big River Man, a distinctly Herzog-esque documentary about eccentric Slovenian Martin Strel and his attempt to swim the length of the Amazon (all 4000+ kilometres of it). Directed by John Maringouin and narrated by the subject's son Borut (no relation to Borat), this is a thoroughly engaging and genuinely fascinating documentary that's by turns hilarious, awe-inspiring, disturbing and deeply moving. The extras package is disappointing though – just a six minute interview with Strel, rather than any input from Maringouin or Borut. Still, this is definitely one of the more interesting documentaries of last year and is well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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