Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Best of Oh Nine: Movies*

December 28th, 2009 · 17 Comments

Before the film geeks among you point out that the photo above is from a movie released in 2005, please note the asterisk. See, our deal is that we didn’t really get out to the theater much this year—blame Microkhan Jr. and the economic decline, both of which conspired to keep us at home much more than we would have liked. So, alas, the bulk of our movie-watching this year was done in the living room, which means we’re ill-equipped to comment on 2009’s celluloid bounty.

But we did make our way through a bunch of classics, overlooked gems, and flicks we just plain missed during their theatrical runs. Our list, then, is a collection of the best movies that flared across our headquarters’ LCD screen this year, thanks to the magic of Netflix. In no particular order:

Pusher 3: I’m the Angel of Death By far our favorite entry in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy, due to a truly terrific performance by leading man Zlatko Buric. No need to have watched the two preceding films in order to enjoy this one. One caveat, though—it gets ridiculously grisly in the last 15 minutes.

Stray Dog Our first Kurosawa crime flick, but hopefully not our last. The baseball scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Tyson Having grown up smack-dab in the middle of Iron Mike’s reign, we couldn’t resist James Toback’s shamelessly one-sided documentary about our generation’s most feared pugilist. Hearing the ex-champ describe his sexual preferences is something we’re unlikely to soon forget.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly We caught this on the tail end of a Werner Herzog binge. We still have mixed feelings about Dengler—it’s never quite clear why he wanted to return to the scene of his darkest hour. Was it therapeutic for him to recreate his forced march through the Laotian jungle?

Waltz with Bashir Hallucinogenic and haunting, with a particularly memorable turn by the composite character who made a fortune selling falafel in Amsterdam.

Rachel Getting Married We’re a tough audience for tearjerkers, but this one works. Anne Hathaway gets all the accolades here, but the real revelation is Tunde Adebimpe. Go ahead, Tunde, quit your day job.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God The film that launched our lingering Klaus Kinski obsession. Also, Helena Rojo is absolutely smoking hot here, as the doomed lover of Aguirre’s arch-nemesis.

Chop Shop If there was an Oscar for “Most Alternately Creepy and Endearing Brother-Sister Relationship,” this would win hands-down.

There Will Be Blood Sorry, took us a while to catch up with this one. An absolute beast.

Things We Re-watched and Loved Again Das Boot, Apocalypto, Bridge on the River Kwai, Fitzcarraldo, GoodFellas, Paths of Glory

Utter Nonsense Redbelt, Cruising, Smart People, Broken Flowers

Please leave your own picks and pans in comments. Microkhan Jr. is still a couple months shy of two, so we reckon 2010 will again involve an considerable amount of Netflixing. We could thus use some recs.


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17 Comments so far ↓

  • eraserhead

    Aguirre… oh boy! We’re lucky enough to have a good art house here (the AFI’s theater) so I got to see it on the big screen. Mesmerizing. (Note to self: need to get Kinski’s book you’ve already mentioned)

    Did you get to see Werner’s “Encounter at the End of the World”? Best line from Werner: “I loathe the sun on my celluloid and my skin.”

    And I did get to see “Little Dieter”. Dengler was certainly an odd fellow. The follow-on fictionalization “Rescue Dawn” was an interesting take on the whole affair with a disturbingly upbeat/manic performance by Christian Bale that I had thought was a little over the top until I saw “Little Dieter”. Some spot-on “nature hates you” Werner and recommended.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @eraserhead: Haven’t yet seen “Encounter,” but it’s high on the queue. Werner seems incapable of making an uninteresting documentary.

    The thing I didn’t get about Dengler in “Little Dieter” was his motive for cooperating with Herzog–and in such a massive, massive way, too. That scene where he lets the Laotian villagers recreate his forced march through the jungle bowled me over, esp. how Dengler just casually remarks how getting his hands tied behind his back was bringing back some bad memories. Yeah, I’ll bet.

    I do sort of wish there had been more in the flick about Dengler’s readjustment to normal life upon his miraculous rescue, though. I’m eternally fascinated by how people cope with the mundane after enduring the unimaginable.

  • eraserhead

    @microkhan: well, I remember Dieter’s house with the crawlspace loaded with provisions in case he needed to run, so I’d argue his adjustment had a long way to go.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Ah, yes, I’d forgotten about that exceedingly bizarre scene, and how Dengler claimed the stashed food helped him sleep better at night–or, rather, sleep at all. Good point.

  • scottstev

    I’m with you on “Rachael Getting Married”, “Waltz with Bashir”, and especially “Redbelt”. How three things I love (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, David Mamet, and Chiwetel Ejiofor) combined so horribly, I don’t know why. I think Mamet needs to stop making “The Spanish Prisoner” over and over again.

    Going through my netflix history, standouts were “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,” the original “Pelham One Two Three” and this wonderful animated version of Peter and the Wolf .

    I hate to do this on your wonderful blog, and I say this as a fan who is sure he’ll do wonderful things with “Now the Hell Will Start,” but I must put “Miracle at St. Anna” in my disappointment category

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @scottstev: Glad to hear I wasn’t alone in loathing Redbelt. The second it was over, I turned to my wife and said, “I’m sorry.” Rarely have I been so wrong about a flick.

    Netflix keeps on recommending the original Pelham, but I’ve never taken the plunge. Now it’s on the queue, with a bullet–thanks for the rec. The Mishima movie scares me a bit, just because a) I know how it ends (the most spectacular suicide EVER), and b) Paul Schrader’s other directorial efforts (notably Auto Focus tend to be inveterate downers. But maybe I’ll give it a whirl some night–I do love Confessions of a Mask, after all.

    Your comments re: Miracle have been forwarded to the appropriate authorities. Expect a visit from a none-too-happy Radio Raheem shortly.

  • minderbender

    I just watched “Coffee and Cigarettes,” and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Another good one that will be available on DVD soon is “Revanche.” And if you haven’t seen it, everyone is talking about the YouTube critique of Phantom Menace. I like it quite a bit, though many of its jokes are in very bad taste and the running “I’m a serial killer” gag largely falls flat.

  • Jordan

    I am completely and utterly out of date when it comes to movies, so the only one from this last year that I can suggest is Zombieland. Everyone I know who’s seen it, even the ones who usually aren’t into zombie flicks, absolutely loved it. Definitely one I’m going to buy on DVD as soon as I can find a copy for a decent price.

    Digging much further back into the crates, “City of God” is one of my favorite films ever. For side-splitting comedy, “The Dinner Game” is hard to beat. However it’s one of those films that’s difficult to watch more than once. Continuing in the French comedy genre, the original version of the “Les Visiteurs” is pretty awesome.

    In a totally different vein, the PBS series “People’s Century” was an amazing overview of the 20th century in different thematic or event chunks. Sadly it looks like very few of these have been released on DVD.

  • Gramsci

    I finally got to “The Lives of Other People” this year– incredible.

    Speaking of films and Herzog, Elvis Mitchell’s “The Treatment” is a great program, especially this episode:

    Who knew Werner is a huge football fan?

  • Gramsci

    Sorry, it’s “The Lives of Others” (seeking coffee).

  • scottstev

    @Gramsci – I did find that “The Lives of Other Ordinary People” hasn’t aged well, despite strong performances from Mary Tyler Moore and a young Timothy Hutton playing Mary’s confused and lonely son, who happens to be a Stasi agent.

  • Gramsci

    @scottstev — Nice. Also not aging well is “The Lives of Everyday People,” a tale of a young East German singer arrested for singing Sly and the Family Stone in the shower.

  • growler

    “Big Fan” was tremendously great. And you, as a football fan, must see it. Patton Oswalt was fantastic. Dark, uncomfortable, and very good writing of the “Show, don’t tell” nature. Put it on your queue.

    “The Hurt Locker.” One of the best war movies in years. Jeremy Renner was fantastic.

    Old movies I saw this year for the first time:

    “Killer of Sheep.” A masterpiece about urban blacks in ’60s L.A.

    “Lars and the Real Girl.” Looked stupid in trailers; was actually quite touching on DirecTV.

    “Slasher” — doc about a hard-drinking redneckish guy who goes to hurting auto dealerships and organizes weekend sales to move cars. Fascinating guy.

    “Man on Wire.” Watch this without crying at some point, or at the least feeling tremendously inspired. If you can, I don’t want to know you.

  • growler

    Oh, and if you want more Herzog, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” was _out there._ Nicholas Cage finally came back with his best performance in years.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @growler: Can’t wait for “Big Fan” or “The Hurt Locker,” both of which are slated to hit Netflix shortly. And I’ve long kicked myself for missing “Killer of Sheep” when it had a revival here in NYC a couple of years ago. Thanks for all the recs (esp. the one about “Slasher,” a movie I’d never even heard about).

    A couple of weeks back, the missus and I received a rare gratis night of babysitting from a pal. We decided to use the gift as an excuse to check out a flick. I voted for the new “Bad Lieutenant”; she opted for “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” To my everlasting regret, I gave in. (Not that the Anderson flick was terrible or anything–just “meh.”)

    The original “Bad Lieutenant” remains one of my all-time favorite films–though only the version with the illicit Schoolly D. song featuring the “Kashmir” sample. And, of course, the unexpurgated traffic stop scene.

  • growler

    I caught “Killer of Sheep” when it had it’s run here, after either reading about it or hearing an NPR piece. I saw it again when it aired on IFC, and it held up just as well, so I can safely say you should put that on your queue too (it’s finally out on DVD).

    Oh, and one I forgot: “Rocket Science.” In a just world, this would be the model for teen comedies, not that “Juno” tripe. It revels in Hughes yet reinvents the genre and flips it on its head. The review that convinced me to rent it is here: http://www.pajiba.com/film_reviews/rocket-science.php Note: I realize this movie is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it really worked for me.

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