I've been away for some weeks, finishing up the dreaded graduate school applications, and so progress on my top 100 and posting all together has come to a screeching halt. But it's over now, and I wasn't being entirely productive, because I still managed to squeeze in a bounty of 2009 releases, the quality of which I will update you on...now:
Bright Star is the story of John Keats - before death made him poet extraordinare - and the woman who through no particularly remarkable qualities informs and inspires his work up until death. Tenderly made and carried by two evocative performances by Abby Cornish and Ben Whishaw, Jane Campion's latest has one unfortunate blight upon it, and that would be the bombastic Paul Schneider. Of course, I realize that's just how his character was, but he intrudes upon almost every scene of the film and he's just too insufferable for me to find the slightest pleasure in these (many) moments. He is loud and boorish, and never comes to a satisfying end, and the film is much worse for his presence. But...the film does enough else right for this not to be a total drag. Recommended, but with just the one notable reservation.
The Limits of ControlJim Jarmusch sends Isaac De Bankole on an assassin's odyssey by way of a series of representatives of an enraged art community. At least that's the idea I got from it all, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself right up to the end - when of all things - I think Jarmusch gives us one line too many towards a possible elucidation. But the whole ordeal is pretty fascinating, and though very little happens in the way of plot, every odd rendezvous was interesting enough on its own terms. If I stop short of loving it, it's because for all the intrigue, I'm not convinced there's a whole lot going on here. Still, there's worse things to be than slight, and if you generally like what Jarmusch serves up, you won't be wasting your time here.
It's an absolute delight through and through. The story comes out of Britain in the early 1960s and centers on a sharp young girl with her sights set on Oxford. The unforeseen obstacle here becomes the nearly 30 year old man she meets and begins seeing, seducing her with the aristocratic tastes and charms she's always dreamed of. Carey Mulligan is magnetic and sophisticated and lovely without being some model for perfection. I do think when my mind's at last made up that she'll have given my favorite performance of the year. The film wouldn't be the joy that it is without her presence. But everyone else does admirably as well. Alfred Molina, Peter Sarsgaard and Rosamund Pike all deserve loads of credit, but the best supporting performance is easily Olivia Williams as the icy, but well-meaning, school teacher. Seeing this during the final throes of my grad school application process was perfect timing, and the whole film is smart, stylish and kind of invigorating. Among the finest I've seen thus far in 2009.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
And today I got around to my long-anticipated next installment of Wes Anderson's oeuvre. I loved it, not as much as The Royal T's, but loved seems an appropriate word. The voice-work is uniformly excellent with my favorite turns coming from Jason Schwartzman and Michael Gambon. Clooney is great, and not distracting at all, considering you know it's his voice propping up the character. The single best thing the film has going for it though is Anderson's style, which slips right on into the animated world quite effortlessly. From the camera movements to the music, it's the same Wes we know from before, and how great his style looks in stop motion! So The Fantastic Mr. Fox will be the third animated film this year (after Ponyo and Coraline) that I'm rooting for to kick Up's ass in the animated feature category at the Oscars. And unlike the other two, this may actually have a chance at doing just that.