2009 forever is forever marked by the US –> Global economic recession; 2009, in my opinion, also marks the overlooked recession of the Hollywood and the corporately-funded independent film. More than ever, films are uninspired, boring, and unoriginal. Seemingly, there is no end in sight for the comic book film, the sequel to the comic book film, the comic book film prequel, the comic book film trilogy, and, of course, the comic book film franchise, which stretches far and wide, deep and high. Think Twilight and its Burger King and flavor-blasted zesty hot Fritos merchandise. Think of the doody in your toilet.
Then we have the producers, writers, and directors that perpetuate their shameless romp of the Hollywood remake film; my pants were blown off when I first heard the news of the upcoming Red Dawn (2010) and Robocop (2011) remakes. Remaking Red Dawn (1984) is absolutely absurd — Red Dawn is an anti-communist film — let Red Dawn and its star Patrick Swayze rest in peace … eternally in the ’80s … where they belong.
Unfortunately, nothing is sacred in the eyes of the Hollywood producer, for if he had any sort of sentimental thought, he would lose money. Instead, he swaps the premise of the WWIII Russian invasion with a WWIII Chinese invasion.
Futhermore, Daron Aronofsky cannot remake Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987). Making a Robocop film without Peter Weller is a grand crime. Paul Verhoeven will always remain a better director the Aronosky. If anyone wants to argue this, be my guest.
3. Michael Mann’s Public Enemies
Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard star in this Hollywood biopic of gangster John Dillinger, and this isn’t a perfect film, but the writing is pretty darn good, especially in the beginning of the film, most notably, the scene in the restaurant where Depp’s John Dillinger meets Cotillard’s Billie Freschette. When Depp and Cotillard sit at a table, discussing where they come from and where they plan to go, it’s 100% pure love, baby; it’s 100% classic Hollywood romance. However, the film sort of peaks at this point, unfolding into a gangster-action film, which is fine, because it’s supposed to be a action film, and it’s a fun action film. The directing of the action scenes and the sound design in these scenes is impeccable. In particular, the sounds of gunfire sounded damn realistic in the theatre. I saw the production crew filming some scenes from this film in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood — storefronts were boarded up, classic cars were parked along the streets — this was a monster production.
This is a satisfying star-studded, monster production. Depp and Cotillard’s love story is deeply moving and Marion Cotillard is such a beautiful gem. Depp and Cotillard have great on-screen chemistry. Cotillard needs to work on her American accent, though.
2. Götz Spielmann’s Revanche
Nominated for a 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Götz Spielmann’s Revanche is a dark allegory of the human mental fight — distinctly European; distinctly vanguard — an incisive influx of erotica, existentialism, optimism, pessimism, and, best of all, it’s told in a neo-realist fashion, therefore the film is tragically human and admirably perceptive of human nature and all its polarities. It certainly is an emotional piece; the surface of the film is painted morose, but under all that gloom is an indescribable and beautiful universal truth that’s relative to our human experience.
1. Deborah Stratman’s O’er the Land
The experimental documentary O’er the Land had its US premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and its international premiere at the 2009 International Film Festival of Rotterdam; however, this film hardly saw a national release. The film is a visceral meditation on American militarized culture and its narrative is centered around the true, but tall-tale, of a pilot who fell from his plane and through a thunderous sky, landing miles away from original starting point, thanks to a category five wind tunnel that sucked him in, threw him around, and made his ears/orifices bleed.
O’er the Land is unadulterated vanguard filmmaking and unadulterated post-modern filmmaking. One of a kind, and a pioneer in the documentary genre. The film comments on the relation of the ‘all-american’ culture to nature; contrasting are the punctuating moments when Stratman peers into the unseen abyss, where the magical forces dwell, forces both light and dark.
The pilot’s survival is present in a voice-over which plays over gorgeous, stormy cloud imagery. The film is beautifully shot on 16mm film and it certainly is Stratman’s strongest work to date. A DVD release of O’er the Land remains a possibility, but a release date is unknown — it may see a home video release within the next two years.
Other Honorable Mentions:
Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop
Robert Kenner’s Food Inc.
Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah