Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Moving Pictures, Top 10 & GUILTY PLEASURES

film_preciousLove, strong women among the themes found in the best films of 2009

Some movies are so great, I just want to grab people by the lapels and drag them off to the moviehouse. There weren't many films like that in 2009, but if it was an unexceptional movie year in general, there were still a few small gems worth noting. Here are my Top Ten films of the year, plus a few guilty pleasures. Enjoy!

1 UP Pixar combines exuberant animation with delicately rendered grown-up themes in this lovely fable of loss and redemption. A lonely old man fulfills a promise to his beloved late wife and his younger self and sails their house (via hot air balloons) to a South American jungle with a fatherless neighbor boy. Their adventures are funny and exciting, but the heart of the film is the love story of the man and his wife. A boisterous romp that's also incredibly moving. I cried more at this movie than at any other film of the year, and I mean that in a good way.

2 JULIE & JULIA The movie l most often recommended to people this year features Meryl Streep's delicious performance as Julia Child in all her witty, bawdy, irresistible humanity. Nora Ephron adapts Julie Powell's blog about cooking her way through Child's French cookbook, along with Child's own memoir, interweaving the stories of both women, and Child's adventures in 1950s Paris are way more fun onscreen. But kudos to Powell (and Streep) for introducing a new generation to the unique, original American eccentric that was Julia Child.

3 BROKEN EMBRACES (LOS ABRAZOS ROTOS) Lust, betrayal, and filmmaking are whipped into a gorgeous and volatile froth in this spicy drama from Pedro Almodóvar, served with a side of wry. Penélope Cruz at her most vibrant and earthy stars in the love triangle plot that keeps us on edge and enthralled. But it's Almodóvar's love affair with the art of filmic storytelling (from his artfully fragmented narrative and beauteous visuals, to sly comic homages) that make this a gift to be cherished by a master of rapturous storytelling.

4 PRECIOUS Gabourey Sidibe gives an astounding, adjective-defying performance as a hard-luck Harlem teen in Lee Daniels' masterful adaptation of the novel, "Push," by Sapphire, which shows how the tiniest flicker of compassion can transform a life of complete degradation into something triumphant. Mo'Nique is incendiary as the girl's toxic mother in this uncompromising, inventive and rewarding film.

5 (500) DAYS OF SUMMER In love, as in any other team effort, you get the best results when everyone's on the same page. If not, you might get a lopsided affair like the one in this fresh, funny, wistful and completely engaging romantic comedy from Marc Webb. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star, and Webb punches up the action with sharp use of savvy narrative techniques, and a non-stop soundtrack of tasty alt rock.

6 BRIGHT STAR Reconstructing a romance in the life of Romantic-era English poet John Keats, filmmaker Jane Campion creates a rapturous, mysterious, achingly lovely ode to youthful passion, and the wellspring of art. Campion gets it that in their day, people's emotions weren't pre-digested for them via pop culture; her protagonists' love is raw, stubborn, all-consuming. Seductive to watch, paced and rigorous in its accumulation of feeling, this is vivid storytelling by a filmmaker of astonishing craft and subtlety.

7 SIN NOMBRE A poor Honduran teenage girl and a tough, but disillusioned young gangbanger from the slums of Mexico meet on a freight train heading for redemption in El Norte in this debut feature from UCSC grad Cary Joji Fukunaga. Remarkable not only for the raw intensity of its action and the authenticity of its portrait of various Latin American sub-cultures, but for the fleet precision and moral force of Fukunaga's storytelling.

8 THE BOYS ARE BACK Neverland is more than a fairy tale for a carefree, globe-trotting sportswriter thrust suddenly into single fatherhood after losing his wife in this moving, yet buoyant film. Directed by Scott Hicks and featuring a marvelous performance by Clive Owen, it's a wry, poignant, and perceptive look at fathers and sons who use creative anarchy to navigate the process of growing up together.

9 MOSCOW, BELGIUM An exasperated older woman about one thread away from the end of her rope, and a young truck driver with a grudge against women, make an unlikely but delicious romantic pair in Christophe Van Rompaey's adroit, entertaining Belgian comedy-drama. Barbara Sarafian is exceptional as a character we don't see enough of in the movies—a middle-aged woman who doesn't fade into the wallpaper, but commands the screen with heart, wit, and sexual identity intact.

10 SÉRAPHINE This one is for Mort Marcus, who insisted this was one of his favorite movies of the year. I agree. The wonder of how Art claims its devotees propels Martin Provost's engrossing biographical drama about a charwoman in the turn-of-the-century rural France driven to spend her nights painting in a state of ecstatic creativity. Yolande Moreau brings intrepid spirit to the title role, and Provost's leisurely, enigmatic film refuses to tell us what to think about the effects of civilization and commerce on Séraphine's cranky and obsessive creative muse.

 

GUILTY PLEASURES

THE BROTHERS BLOOM This elaborate hokum about two con-artist brothers asks a lot from it’s audience. Stylized to a nutty degree, and spiked with humor and poetry, Rian Johnson's surreal fable never quite succeeds. But it never feels like an empty con game, either, and a gorgeous travelogue (Mexico, Montenegro, Greece, medieval Prague) makes it an entertaining ride while it lasts.

TETRO Francis Ford Coppola's experimental adventure in technique, style, and pure cinematic brio, runs on way too long, but there's plenty of swoony delight to be had in this delirious operatic melodrama of near-Biblical proportions. Shot in brooding black-and-white, with flashbacks inserted in spasms of saturated color created in homage to the lush, berserk Technicolor dance melodramas of the great Robert Powell.

WATCHMEN
A fighting force of masked superheroes (and heroines) in an increasingly violent and crime-riddled society, find themselves facing one last chance to save the world—and wondering if they should bother. This is the essence of the Alan Moore graphic novel that spawned this bold, kinetic, disturbing, fun-house carnival ride of a movie from Zack Snyder. When its not wallowing in human depravity, it's put together with audacity, wit, and a bracingly cynical, yet moral point of view.

 

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Kristi Fredrickson, January 27, 2010
Where is The Hurt Locker? The only reason I can think you didn't include it is that you didn't see it. Sleeper of the year, fer-sure; too many movie-goers didn't hear of it.



Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management