The following is a fairly thorough run-down of everything else that was annoying, infuriating, or brilliant about movies in 2009. I’m pretty sure that the majority of entries on this list address ideas or issues which haven’t been said or resaid by hundreds of writers already, because I have a unique perspective on movies: no one else is simultaneously as smart and as stupid as I am. I’m ready to own that claim. Read on and see if you agree or disagree – I welcome your comments!
(For the purposes of a visual imagining of the 2009 Slow-Motion Quick-Draw Awards, feel free to picture them happening not at the Kodak Theater on Highland, as the Oscars do, but instead at the Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, a few blocks away on Gower. Also, instead of a brigade of television personalities in tuxedos and evening gowns, the Slow-Motion Quick-Draw Awards are all read off by Eva Mendes. The house orchestra is Mastodon.)
Extract. More people paid opening weekend to see Gamer, All About Steve, and the latest Final Destination movie than the newest comedy from the creator of Beavis & Butthead and Office Space. Does that mean that Mike Judge ought to stop making movies that make fun of dumb people, or does it mean that he’s totally right?
Most Underrated (Runner-Up):
Moon. At least the critics were down with this one. Hopefully everyone else will catch up to it. Smart little brain-teaser of a flick.
A Few More Movies That Really Ought To Have Been Seen By More People:
World’s Greatest Dad.
Most Overrated (In Order Of Overrated-ness):
1. Up In The Air. Good movie, snappy and well-made, but in no way should it be considered a front-runner for Best Picture. No spoilers here, but what happens with the Vera Farmiga character turns out to be a huge problem for the movie.
2. Inglourious Basterds. I want to love a Tarantino movie every time out, but I can never entirely love a movie where the most memorable character is a Nazi, where a pivotal scene is a virtual restaging of his earlier work (the tavern scene plays out very similarly to climactic moments in True Romance and Reservoir Dogs), and where Eli Roth plays a character named The Bear Jew and it’s not meant as a joke. I can’t wait for whatever Tarantino does next, but when it come to this one, guess I’m the odd man out. Memorable as always, but not his best in my humble opinion.
3. Paranormal Activity. Well-sold, but as disappointing as The Blair Witch Project. A horror movie should never end ambiguously. Think of the all-time great horror movies, and notice that none of them left anybody asking “Is that it?”
Most Regrettable Pop-Cultural Trends of 2009:
1: The Great Flood of Celebrity-Death Crocodile Tears: This year, the masses switched back and forth from taking for granted or ridiculing a celebrity and on to “mourning a legend,” depending solely on one simple criteria: whether or not that celebrity was alive or dead.
2: “Geeksploitation”. Hordes of adult comic book fans submitted to their own exploitation – all it took to get their allegiance was superficial references to their favorite comic book characters. Examples: Television hit The Big Bang Theory; the career of Olivia Munn; the fact that Deadpool and Gambit were in the Wolverine movie despite having no story-based reason to be there.
3. Anything to do with Twilight. You will regret this crap one day soon, ladies. The reason why I think so is called “history.”
Nascent Movie Trend I Hope To See Continue:
Casting actors who strongly resemble each other as adversaries, the way Brothers did with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. Coming soon (in my dream-world): Helen Mirren vs. Meryl Streep! Sarah Jessica Parker vs. Barbra Streisand! Benicio Del Toro vs. Terrence Howard! Samantha Morton vs. Liev Schreiber! Adam Carolla vs. Gilbert Gottfried! John Cusack vs. Chow Yun-Fat! Steven Seagal vs. Jim Belushi!
Award-Worthy Performance Sure To Be Overlooked By Award-Givers:
Adam Sandler, Funny People. (Between overlooking this and Punch-Drunk Love, you’re really sending this guy the wrong message.)
Something That Bothers Me:
As usual, it’s not easy to come up with a list of great female roles comparable to the many great male roles in 2009. (500) Days Of Summer wouldn’t have worked for a second without Zooey, Leslie Mann was typically good at playing off-kilter in Funny People, and Marion Cotillard was affecting (to me) in Public Enemies… but watch how many other people won’t bother to give them their due credit as long as that Meryl Streep is around.
Movie That Suggested I Know Nothing:
People flocked to Paul Blart: Mall Cop in droves. Meanwhile, Observe & Report was compared to it. Unflatteringly. What the fuck already, America?
Movie That Suggested I Know Something:
Nobody remembers Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Meanwhile, Observe & Report made a bunch of cool year-end lists, including Quentin Tarantino’s.
Black Dynamite. Pitch-perfect homage to some of the greatest music of all time. I would listen to this score on loop if I could track the album down.
Most (and Best) Bare Titties In A 2009 Feature Film:
Most Ninjas In A 2009 Feature Film:
Movie That Found Room To Feature A Ninja Piloting A Jetpack:
GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.
Movie That Probably Could Have Used A Ninja On A Jetpack To Get Me To Watch It:
Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.
Movie You Will Probably Enjoy When It Shows Up On Cable:
Armored. A watchable crime flick featuring a bunch of cool actors in a B-picture of the classic mold, Armored is made up of the remnants of more familiar movies, but at least it steals from the best. It all goes down generally as you’d expect, though there are a few twists and surprises, and the cast is great, including Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, and the promising Columbus Short (Cadillac Records).
Best Use Of An End Title Song:
“First We Take Manhattan” by Leonard Cohen in Watchmen. After the obligatory rock cover of a Bob Dylan song, the credits downshift to this lesser-known 1980s tune by the classic songwriter. This song is the only possible fit – it sounds exactly like the theme song to a world where an evil gay superhero has conquered the planet. If Ozymandias wants your butthole, there’s no one left to stop him.
Best Johnny Knoxville Impression:
Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds.
Greatest Resemblance To “The Fonz”:
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.
Most Unfairly Maligned (Three-Way Tie):
Funny People. Not sure why this movie didn’t make my top ten, actually. I love the idea of a Lifetime movie where the dying guy does the tearful goodbyes but doesn’t end up dying – in a way, that’s the movie’s best joke. There are a ton of other great ones. I dig this movie, man. Maybe not for everybody, but definitely not a disappointment.
Public Enemies. See the aforementioned top ten for the people’s defense of this flick.
Jennifer’s Body. This isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. Check out my review (link is in the title) and give it a chance some night.
Most Fun To Watch With No Expectations:
Land Of The Lost. I just watched it after people telling me it was boring or whatever. Maybe I was just in the right mood at the right time, but I got no problem with watching Will Ferrell and Danny McBride run away from dinosaurs and weird monsters for two hours. I laughed. So there.
Funniest Scene In An Otherwise Very Average Comedy:
Will Ferrell, again, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, in freefall after jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, swatting falling dildos away from his face (long story), in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.
Most Enjoyable Straight-To-DVD Movie:
Blood And Bone. After Black Dynamite, I wanted to see what Michael Jai White would do with a straight-faced action film performance. Apparently, he’s also a fan of the action movies of the late ‘80s, because this is an urban martial-arts vengeance picture that would’ve fit right into that era – and I mean that as a complement! As long as you overlook the insanely annoying Asian hip-hop sidekick, everything about this movie is good late-night fun.
Most Disappointing Straight-To-DVD Movie:
Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead. Neat premise, even if it was ripped from Assault On Precinct 13 – this time the cannibal mutants from the earlier Wrong Turns pick on a truckload of escaped convicts. That’s where the promise ends: The performances are uniformly awful and the dialogue (always shouted) is brutally repetitive. The budget was spent on the wrong setpieces and every moment was thoroughly predictable. No reason this couldn’t have been fun.
Straight-To-DVD Movie I Should Not Admit To Having Watched:
Black Devil Doll. I couldn’t resist. Child’s Play with a blaxploitation twist? Sounds like an inappropriate good time, right? Unfortunately, they went the route of porn production value, and this movie even grossed me out, which is increasingly difficult to do.
Worst Movie With The Most Fun Title:
The Janky Promoters, starring Ice Cube and Mike Epps. And yes, I watched the whole thing. Not up to the exemplary standards of the previous Cube/Epps comedies, which is a sarcastic way of saying that it sucked worse than several other deeply sucky movies.)
Worst Movie Of The Year:
I guess it’d have to be X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Not just because the end product was awful, which it really was, but because, believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to it a little bit – expectation-versus-result added to its awfulness. Also, a David Benioff screen credit most likely means that somewhere there is a good screenplay draft of this movie, of which its makers did not use one single word. Extra credit for the weirdest bad decision of any blockbuster this year with the whole stapling-Deadpool’s-mouth-shut bit.
Most Awful Performance In An Otherwise Terrific Movie:
Anton Yelchin as Chekov in Star Trek. Awful, awful accent. You’re telling me that in a future where even the aliens speak unaccented English, this kid somehow retains a Russian accent? Is it important to the story AT ALL that this poor Yelchin kid has to keep up that pretense?
Most Inspiring Versatility:
Steven Soderbergh (The Girlfriend Experience/The Informant!) and Matt Damon (Invictus/ The Informant!)
Luckiest Supporting Player:
Dileep Rao, who worked for James Cameron on Avatar and for Sam Raimi on Drag Me To Hell, and will next appear in Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight.
Best Unofficial Sequel:
Good Hair, which reunited New Jack City stars Chris Rock and Ice T.
Movie That Gave Me Something I Loved, Only To Turn It Into Something I Hated:
Zombieland’s Big Cameo. They couldn’t have thought of a better way to resolve that scene? The characters did something stupid, yeah accidentally, but then they were laughing about it a moment later. Sorry, but I can’t root for characters who do THAT and laugh about it. I know it’s just a movie, but come on, some things are sacred.
Briefest, Most Joyous Cameo Of The Year:
Raj from What’s Happening? was in Funny People.
Simultaneously Funniest & Most Disappointing Cameo:
Harrison Ford in Bruno. (Though I’ve happily added “Fuck off” to the Ford imitation quotebook, which also includes “Chewie, is that you?”, “Get offa my plane!”, and “Mola Ram, prepare to meet Kali. In Hell!”)
Movie I Enjoyed Ridiculing The Most:
Twilight: New Moon, followed closely by It’s Complicated. Interestingly, the audience of the first movie and the audience of the second movie are the exact same people, the only difference being forty years and very little emotional growth.
Meryl Streep as Denise Richards in the feature film version of It’s Complicated.
Script That Ice Cube & Mike Epps Are Shopping Around Right Now:
Most Inevitable Casting:
Sandra Bullock in the next “Untitled Nancy Meyers Project”.
Most Disturbingly Suggestive Poster:
IMDB Credit That Could Just As Easily Have Appeared In A Porn Movie:
“Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood.” (Sherlock Holmes)
Only Thing More Potentially Intimidating Than James Gandolfini As Tony Soprano:
James Gandolfini in a monster suit. (Where The Wild Things Are)
Time To Change Your Stage Name, Buddy:
The now forty-something, potbellied Young MC (as himself in Up In The Air.)
Most Ironic Merchandising Tie-In:
Avatar Happy Meals at McDonald’s.
Special Achievement In Racist Stereotypes:
Badass Of The Year:
Stephen Lang. Before this year, the movie I’d most associated Lang with was Manhunter, in which he plays the obnoxious red-headed tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds. Of course, he’s worked steadily on stage and screen ever since, but clearly he really popped in geek minds this year. First, he gave a “who the hell was that badass?” performance as Charles Winstead, the agent who shot down John Dillinger in Public Enemies. (Not a spoiler.) Then he leaped off the screen as surely as any of the surrounding 3-D effects in Avatar did. His character as written was rather one-note, but then again, such a huge movie probably needed a villain of size to match, and Stephen Lang brought that to it. As I seem to have mentioned in everything I’ve ever written, there’s nothing better in movies than a badass old guy. There was no better badass old guy in movies in 2009 than Stephen Lang. Do not fuck with this guy.
Next up: My Top Ten Movies Of The Decade.