Monday, July 27, 2009

Five More Movies From 2009 Seen In 2009

The Hurt Locker is my new Favorite Film Of 2009, proving that a "celebrated art film" can engage me more than a "masterpiece of craft" like Drag Me To Hell (of course, that I'm calling a war thriller by the director of Point Break an "art film" says a lot about movies today). Sitting nervously through each tense, masterfully composed set-piece (yes, a film shot with hand-helds can feature composition!), I wondered if Kathryn Bigelow would eventually pull out In The Valley Of Elah's tattered American flags or the auteur-addled fury of Redacted. But where those films obsessed over crimes hidden in the name of wartime patriotism, The Hurt Locker finds plenty of madness and horror - as well as heroism - in war itself. And when it finally trades near-death experiences for the cereal aisle, the focus remains on soldiers and their reality, not the rest of us. As familiar as some of the observations and archetypes are, Bigelow makes them haunt.

Due to my monaural hearing, experiencing war has never been an option, let alone a threat. But with my impeding nuptuals, The Hangover struck close to the bone. While I'm more than a little burnt on the "perils of slumming, i.e. psychotic ethnics" strain of American comedy, this successfully exploited my desire for some obnoxious male camraderie before the Big Day. I'm thinking bowling.

The sci-fi psychodrama Moon could be titled Too Many Sam Rockwells! except you can never have too many Sam Rockwells. The closing voice-over suggests there may have actually been some kind of pointed message or metaphor to the hero's dilemma - something about corporations treating us like gristle, mabye? - but I enjoyed it as a b-movie no one bothered to put a serial killer in. Kevin Spacey's emoticon-loving HAL is nowhere as insufferable as you'd assume.

Dead Snow isn't so much the arrival of the next Sam Raimi, as the appearance of a Sam Raimi fan in Norway. The zombies are Nazis mostly for aesthetic purposes (those coats!) and for all the attention the filmmakers probably gave the international marketplace, I doubt any set piece or performance will make the whimsical gore canon. But hey, Nazi zombies.

I won't give away the novelty about the villain in Orphan, even though I guessed it from the trailer. Ok, I will. The child playing the Orphan is actually playing a 30-something serial killer with Andy Milonakis' hormone condition. I'm spoiling because a) the producers - who include Leonardo DiCaprio! - hired a 12 year old to play an adult serial killer that regularly traumatizes a deaf child - WHY, LEO? WHY? - and b) this knowledge shouldn't affect whether you find the movie entertaining as shameless trash. As in the superior Joshua (with Sam Rockwell!), Vera Farmiga plays the troubled mother of the Bad Seed. Unlike Flightplan and The Skeleton Key, Peter Sarsgaard doesn't signify his evil at the climax by turning around slowly and squinting. It's a shame - a real twist would have been that Papa Sarsgaard knowingly adopted an adult for some wife-offing, faux-Humbert Humbert shenanigans. Who else could have bought her all those blacklight markers for her secretly psychotic drawings?