I’m not particularly a fan of Lars von Trier. I’m not against the guy, but I’m not salivating for each of his films in advance. Antichrist could change that. Evil and surreal and beautiful and terrible, this film is a mindfuck of epic proportions. Is it serious? Is it a joke? Is it misogynistic? Is it crying out against misogyny? This is the kind of film that will first test your ability to watch it – the violence is as serious as you’ve heard – and then test your brainpower as you keep talking about it and going over it in your head. This is a movie that hit me on every single level I would want to be hit – it’s great to look at, it’s totally fucked up, and it has a ton of stuff to ponder afterwards. One part cabin in the woods horror movie, one part art film, one part bizarre head trip, Antichrist is a film that is only for the most serious filmgoer, and one that will push you to the very limits. An amazing, breathtaking work of sheer fucked upedness.
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Yeah, I wept. I wept when I saw the first half of the movie in rough animatic form. I wept when I saw the movie at a press screening. I wept when I saw the movie at 3 in the morning during an all-night movie marathon with friends for my birthday. I could probably weep now if I think about it too much. But none of that weeping feels manipulated; if anything Up undersells its most emotional moments, letting the characters and story do the work. Let’s face it, when you say that this is the best Pixar movie ever, you’re really making a statement. But it is, and it’s a pitch-perfect blend of heart, humor and adventure, all beautifully rendered and animated. But again, the focus isn’t on the whiz-bang, it’s on the characters, and while Pixar certainly offers up lots of eye candy it never, ever skimps on the people we can care about. This is the most adult animated movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s a solid PG. It isn’t tits or violence that make a movie adult, it’s the melancholy themes that Up bravely explores. For that alone, it deserves a spot on this list. But considering the fact that it’s utterly excellent, it gets the number 2.
Contributing Factors: Man, Ed Asner. How good is he in this? At first I was disappointed that Pixar didn’t populate its lost world with dinosaurs and monsters, but then I realized I was missing the point. They flew the dinosaur in and the monster had been living in his blimp for some time.
Performance to Savor: Bob Peterson’s Dug is such a warm and loving character that it’s hard not to fall right back in love with him.
CHUD.com Pull Quote: “This movie will grab your heartstrings and fly them straight Up!”
1. Inglourious Basterds
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When I first saw Basterds I knew it would be on this list. Then I saw it again and I knew it would be high on this list. Then I kept thinking about it and realized it’s the best movie of the year. It’s also the best movie of Quentin Tarantino’s career. It’s an incredibly mature work, a completely assured work and still a totally kick-ass work. After the misstep of Death Proof (great concept, poor execution), Tarantino is back with those trademark dialog scenes, only this time he’s wielding them as weapons of pure tension. It’s hard for me to imagine his other films being called Hitchcockian, but Basterds completely fits that bill. The only other movie this year that comes as close to being as nail-bitingly tense is The Hurt Locker (a movie that just missed being on this list), and that film had bombs in it. Tarantino does The Hurt Locker one better in scenes with people just sitting at tables, talking. And then of course there’s the end – an orgasmic catharsis as well as a stern reprimand, the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. Only a master of the cinema could deliver the blow so well.
Contributing Factors: Tarantino has made the ultimate cinephile movie – a film where cinema can end World War II. It’s exhilarating, even though it’s light on actual action. Tarantino promised us a men on a mission movie and he gave us something better. But the men that he gave us are great, and plenty of fun, especially in the final premiere scene. Quotability and rewatchability – Tarantino at his best.
Performance to Savor: Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, of course. He’s THE character of 2009. But also an amazing character is Shoshanna, played by the luminous Melanie Laurent. The Basterds may get the title, but Shoshanna is the hero of the film and the revenge of her giant face is not just the best cinematic moment of 2009, it tops the decade. When people make their YouTube montages of the 00s, that image of the face laughing on the smoke will be what they use to cap the whole thing off.
CHUD.com Pull Quote: “You get that medal for killin’ Jews… or watching Inglorious Basterds?”