I should make a serious disclaimer before giving this list. I live in the middle of the state of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. This means many things, but what it means to my movie-watching possibilities is this: I cannot watch almost anything when it comes out in the US. So, lots of great movies haven´t made it here to this city of 370,000. Sadly. But, that said, I did see some great stuff.
So, without further ado, at the behest of Nicole, here is my list:
10. Coraline. Directed by one of Tim Burton´s disciples, this very creative work of animation is weird and fun on various levels. As A.O. Scott wrote in an article for the New York Times, the story focuses on how home and the concept of coming home, as did so many movies this year, and when the main character gets tired of her family and life at home, she enters a world that fascinates while scaring the hell out of the most jaded viewer.
9. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. A documentary that revolves around what happens to fame for most...it dries up all too quickly. And the mundane sets in. Directed by an avid fan of the Canadian heavy metal band that toured at one time, many moons ago, with the likes of Judas Priest, Bon Jovi and Anthrax, this is the story of love for something that seems like it will never love back. The stars, the two founding members of the band, are great to watch doing what we all try to do: not give up.
8. The Cove. I love documentaries, and The Cove loves back. It plays out like a crime thriller, but the plot is anything but played out. A group of environmentalists, techies, and thrill-seekers, do everything and anything to get into a place that no one in Japan wants to think about: a cove where dolphins are being butchered in cold blood, and sold as meat. The leader of this A-team, ironically, started the Flipper series that was immensely popular years ago. His sheer dedication to the cause is worth watching.
7. Disgrace. Based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee, this disturbing look at post-apartheid South Africa is a tour de force by John Malkovitch. He plays a college professor whose life is made up of cozying up to students and taking them back to his empty home, after divorcing his wife. One of these victims is a black student whose boyfriend finds out, and threatens to expose and/or beat the hell out of Malkovitch. So, fearing reality, he runs off to see his lesbian daughter, who lives in the middle of the country. There, life, in all its messiness, follows.
6. Departures. This film, which came out in Japan in 2008, actually won last year´s Best Foreign Picture Oscar. But it came out in the US, and Brazil, this year, so it counts on my list. It, like many movies from the Far East, is the story of family, and lacks much action. It makes up for it in real emotion, something that is never going to come out of a CGI-based blockbuster. The story centers around a guy who finds a job working for a very demanding boss sending people off to the next world. He learns how to help not only to reduce the suffering of those who are left behind, but to be proud of a job that is one of the least-wanted in Japan.
5. Sugar. The Dominican Republic, for anyone who knows anything about baseball, is a land of milk and honey for Major League scouts. It has, for years, exported more great players per capita than pretty much anywhere else. But, as in anything, only a few make it to the top. Sugar, one of the top prospects of the moment, is sent on an odyssey around the States, until he has to make a decision about whether this is all worth it.
4. District 9. As one review wrote: we have met the enemy, and he is us.
3. Gomorrah. The most un-Hollywood mafia drama ever made. Based on the investigative journalism of a Naples writer, who is now under witness protection. Life in and around the Camorra, Naples tentacle-like network of organized crime. Fascinating.
2. The Hurt Locker. As the movie says, for many: war is a drug. Sadly. The story of a US bomb squad...in Iraq. Not lacking in drama, obviously.
1. Inglourious Basterds. Any movie directed by Tarantino will draw varied critiques, and for good reason. Anything the overbearing diva directs is self-promoted and media-driven to death. That said, this film is a work of revisionist art. Whether it is the crisp and fast dialogue, the over-the-top action, or the wild plot, it does not disappoint. If you have held off from checking this out, give it a chance.