Another year has passed, the time for closure is upon us again. I'm happy to repeat what I did last year. The following list of films is not the top pick of 2009-released films but rather the best films I've seen in 2009. It was not an easy pick, plenty of films didn't make the list, but the following films all deserve a little extra attention. Enjoy!
I wasn't a big fan of Refn until I watched Bronson. It was everything his previous films promised they'd be. Refn shows us a very quirky character played by an undefeatable Hardy. The film is visually pretty cool and refreshing, has a very strange but fun choice in music and some very memorable scenes. It's a rather short film, delivering plenty of fun and cool scenes wrapped up tightly without ever boring the audience.
09. Spring Subway
There can't be enough love for Zhang Yibai, a fresh wind sailing through the Chinese film industry. Spring Subway is a film that starts off cute and light-hearted, but gradually delivers more and more dramatic punches. The trouble of communication is always an interesting theme, and when it's done so beautifully as in this film there's little else I can do than love it to bits.
08. Late Bloomer
I have a thing for little films like this. High-contrast black and white, IDM/industrial soundtrack, weird themes. Sumida plays himself and does a terrific job at that. He's strange, endearing and a little scary. The films flips back between highly stylized bits and hand-held scenes, adding an extra layer of realism while keeping it a pleasure to watch. Recommended if you like your film a touch weird.
Miyazaki's newest is a trip to the past. Back to the good old days of simple tales, minimal dramatic tension and bucket loads of childlike wonder. The characters are extremely cute, the surroundings simply magical. The background story is pretty forgettable, but the characters and animation wonders will stay with you long after all the other CG/3D crap hype has died out.
06. The Warrior And The Wolf
Tian doesn't make too many films, but when he does he makes sure to deliver something special. His venture into the world of epic history cinema turned out quite unlike all the other films in the genre, carrying a much darker atmosphere and focusing more on pain and hardships rather than heroism and success. Visually astounding, superb soundtrack and solid acting.
05. Heaven's Door
After Tekon Kinkreet Michael Arias was ready to take on live-action. The result is a lovely road movie capturing Japan like few outsiders have ever done before him. A fun and visually pleasing film focusing on the relationship of two deadly ill kids trying to enjoy their last days together, with a pretty smashing ending.
04. Genius Party (pt1 & pt2)
Best animation film I've seen in a long, long time. The whole collection was split into two parts of which the second was clearly the best, but the whole anthology just oozes style and class. There are only two or three shorts that remain below the insane high standards of Studio 4C, the rest is just prime animation material. Just again proof of Studio 4C's superiority in the field of animation. Best in the world.
03. Tachiguishi Retsuden
This is a weird one, most likely only appreciated by people loving the funny side of Oshii. A combination of history, fake documentary and photography animation, it's completely unwatchable without a good set of subs. Luckily my knowledge of the French language is fair enough, but don't try this with auto-translated subs, I promise you you won't get far. As crazy and deadpan as could be.
02. Mary And Max
I have a natural love for claymation films and Mary and Max is everything and more I'd expect from a film like this. Beautifully made, funny, cute yet with a little dark edge. Some touching moments and never a moment of boredom. The amount of work and love that went into this project shows. A rarity that should be treasured for years to come and which turns out to be surprisingly accessible.
01. Pop Skull
Ah yes, the film with the epilepsy warning. No kidding, there's no way to imagine how flashy this film really is without actually watching it. Shoestring budget and no familiar face in sight, but with the limited means director Wingard had to his disposal he simply trashed all the competition. A superb triumph for independent film making and easily the best thing I've seen all year.