Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five best films 2009

One of the many things I like about this time of year is the 'best of....' lists that start appearing about now. I haven't quite worked out what the fascination of such lists is - I can become absorbed in lists of favourite things about which I know nothing, but I particularly love lists about things where I know enough to at least have an opinion.

A unexpected benefit of keeping a blog has been recording in a side-bar the films I've seen over the last year. So, for the first time in my life I actually know what films I've seen (admittedly I did have to look up a couple of them as the titles no longer meant anything to me).

Before I list my five best films for 2009 this is a bit of background about my film viewing habits. I don't watch films at home on DVD. When I've tried to do this I find I get distracted and don't really focus on the film. I like to watch films in the cinema - in the dark, surrounded by sound, and on the big screen.

And perhaps I should give some background statistics for my rather odd list. I've seen 60 films in 2009. That's 1.2 films a week. Of these, 24 were American films, 12 from the UK, 12 from Australia, and nineteen from other countries - all non-English language films. There's a bit of double-counting here as some films were co-productions across countries. I'm astonished at how many of the films I saw were from the USA, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised as it simply reflects the dominance of the US film industry.

So, ta-da! In order of preference, my five best films of 2009.

1 Samson and Delilah. This is an Australian film about a two Indigenous teenagers in Central Australia. It's a love story, and it's a bleak survival story. Some critics have said there's hopefulness at the end of the film, but I think that's clutching at straws. It's superbly filmed, convincingly acted and edited to perfection. It's harrowing to watch, and every moment rings true.

I'm in good company with this choice as it's just been judged best Australian film for 2009 by the Australian Film Industry (AFI) awards and will be Australia's official entry in the best foreign language film for the Oscars. The film is notable for its sparse dialogue, but what little there is, is in Warlpiri. There's a good review (ie one with which I agree) here.

2 Disgrace. Another Australian film, but set in South Africa and faithfully taken from JM Coetzee's great novel of the same name. It features a chillingly true performance from John Malkovich and works both at the level of telling an emotionally shocking story about personal relationships and at the metaphorical level of a portrayal of the race dilemmas of modern South Africa.

3 Wake in Fright. Yet another Australian film - a new print of a film made in 1971. I remember seeing this film in 1971 and being shocked by a most recognisable portrayal of a violent, racist, misogynistic, achingly lonely, rural Australia. It still has the power to shock and has great value both as a depiction of a moment in our history, but also as an indicator of where many present values and practices have their derivation.

4 Revolution Road Finally, not an Australian film, but a film produced from the UK and set in the USA. A film about marriage and women's roles in increasingly affluent 1950s America. Brilliant script, movingly wonderful acting from Kate Winslett.

5 Genova. I don't think many critics would agree with me on this one. It's a film about grief and dealing with loss and about parental roles and relationships with children. Again, for me, a perfect script, with just enough said and left unsaid. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole film, willing that grief would not lead to disaster.

I'm rather surprised that my three best movies have all come out of Australia and are all, to some extent, films about race relations. Taken overall, these films are rather a grim lot, aren't they? However, if I'm going to take the trouble of going to the movies, I like to be well-rewarded for my time spent. I like film-makers who respect their audience and who believe there are tales worth telling.

I'd love to see other people's choices.


Rose Red said...

I'm not entirely sure I've even seen 5 movies this year. So my short list would be very short.

But I can't watch grim films. Well, I can, but I prefer not to. And I feel a bit bad about that, because I know I'm missing out on some excellent films.

Bells said...

My film viewing has been very limited this year but I did see S&D and thought it wonderful.

I'm with you on your assessment of grim films. While there's ample place for happy, joyful films, I like a bit of dark to go with my light and like to feel moved, engaged, enlightened etc and sometimes it takes a grim, powerful film to do that.

jp said...

I really love seeing films from a different perspective.

Samson and Delilah was amazing! So I am delighted it is at number one.

Top Five Films will be interesting for me.

Taphophile said...

Oh, so hard to choose. Samson and Delilah definitely up there and District 9. Not sure about Disgrace. Loved the book, not keen on Malkovich, which may have skewed my perspective. And The Wrestler (I think it was this year), with Mickey Rourke.

DrK said...

i dont think ive seen 5 films either. good lord! i loved easy virtue and the young victoria, and i have been assidiously avoiding anything serious. i went to film school with director thornton (S&D) and im so glad to see him do so well. when i feel ok about crying in a movie again i will watch! these are very informative and inspiring reviews lyn.

Unknown said...

I first saw Wake in Fright at Sydney Uni along with most of my class when I was a dip. ed. student. We all came out white and shaking and worrying about an obligatory country placement. When I saw it again, I was delighted by how well it had stood the time test.

I prefer grim films on the whole, but would advise against the brilliant and sometimes comically awful A Serious Man, watching someone's life unravelling in front of you is a distressing experience

Corrie said...

gosh with 3 children under the age of 4 I would so love to see more movies....but I had to say that I watched Samson & Delilah and wow.
I wanted to turn it off, switch channels, walk away from the reality of it but I couldn't...I just was so compelled to sit and watch it. It was haunting and it will never leave me!

The one time I went to the movies this year I saw Julie & Julia and I loved it..probably because it's the only movie I saw in the cinema!