Husband’s Number One film of 2009
Ingourious Basterds is not the movie that’s promised by the trailer. You’d be forgiven if you thought the entire movie was a typical semi self-indulgent Tarantino flick about gleefully killing Nazis – because that’s what the trailer promised, and that’s what you could expect, given his last few films.
That’s not what we get this though. For one thing, pretty much the entire movie is in French or German – it has so many subtitles that it might as well be a foreign film. Second, the film really isn’t about the Basterds (yup, it’s spelled that way in the movie) themselves. Yes, Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raines is a fantastic film creation, and his group of unlikely mercenaries are oddly loveable, but the film truly belongs to the character of Soshanna Dreyfus. It’s with her and her family that the story starts, and it’s with her that it really ends. Is it violent? Sure, but the moments of violence actually comprise of very little of the movie itself.
Look, I’m not saying anything new about this film. It’s been said hundreds of times already – the film is a masterpiece. It’s beautiful, shocking, exciting, and viscerally thrilling. It provides closure that other WWII films don’t (and can’t) offer, and highlights moments of humor, violence, and beauty throughout the length of the film. By the time we get to the film’s final chapter, it becomes clear that Tarantino is about to deliver on everything that the film had been leading up to. The climax of the film, which takes place in a French movie theater, is nothing short of perfection. The moment of Soshanna’s revenge is both ruthless and beautiful.
Some people are going to have a problem with the ending of the film. I don’t know how much I should go into it, but I don’t think that it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the film diverges from real history at some point, and it diverges so completely (and savagely) that it might cause some people to disconnect from the film. I don’t think that Tarantino is, at any point, condoning the savageness of the Basterds (or Soshanna), but his film does grant them the right to their actions. They have, at least in the context of the film, earned their actions. We know of the atrocities that the Nazi’s conducted, and it feels right, somehow, to see their actions being reversed against themselves. The film firmly reminds us that the Nazis did unspeakably awful things. It feels good to see characters that will stand up to those unspeakably awful things, and try to put an end to it. The ending not only gives our characters closure – in many ways, it gives us closure too.
I love this film – I love that it made me gasp, laugh, and (yes) cry. I love the moments of beauty, I love the way the dialogue sparkles. But most of all, I love that it still hasn’t left me. That, months later, I’m still thinking about it, and not just in the “oh wasn’t that cool” sort of way. I loved these characters, and I am truly glad that I was able to meet them through this film.
Wife’s Most Favorite Film of 2009
I know, you thought we would never get here. It seems like each year we get a little bit closer to finishing in January. To be perfectly honest, we had these reviews done a few days ago, but life got a bit crazy in the past week so it’s taken until now to get them posted for your perusal.
Here’s my number 1 –
If you have known me a decent amount of time, well, decent enough to know my film tastes, then this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I absolutely adore Miyazaki films. There is not a single one which I couldn’t watch over and over, and I am on pins and needles waiting for the entire collection to be released on Blu Ray in March.
You’ve already heard quite a bit about this film from husband’s review, so I’ll try to be original. This is a retelling of the (real) story of the little mermaid (not the Disney version). Ponyo is the daughter of a sea wizard and the queen goddess of the sea. She is a sea creature, but intrigued by the world beyond her father’s submarine, she sneaks out and meets a young human boy named Sosuke. After licking Sosuke’s finger when he cuts it, Ponyo endears herself to him and Sosuke promises to keep her and take care of her forever. That night, the ocean steals her back and she is returned to her father. However, with the power of magic and the sea on her side, Ponyo will do anything to return to Sosuke.
Husband has already explained how this is a story that is perfectly told for children. It’s been hailed as the new Totoro (also a Miyazaki film) – which means that kids of all ages will be entertained by it. It contains elements as deep as any drama that children must deal with as they grow up (separation, love, disaster, hunger, fear, responsibility) but in ways that kids would understand. There’s a hurricane and my mom is somewhere out in it? Of course that means I go out in a little boat and look for her the next morning. Simple and sweet in its storytelling, Ponyo is a movie which may seem weird to our Western sensibilities, but is as lovely and entertaining as any children’s movie.
The animation is gorgeous, as one would expect from Studio Ghibli. Fantastic and magical meets realistic and mundane and the collision is something gorgeous in both the visual and the sound themes. And as usual, Pixar studios (the company who puts out the English versions of Miyazaki films) does a wonderful job casting the voices, including Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman.
And the worst film I saw this year?
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
I would tell you the plot of this film, but I’m still not really sure what it was. I do know it is the origin story of Chun-Li of the Street Fighter video game series, and somewhat an origin story of Major Bison as well. Beyond that…I have no idea. It involves smuggling, kidnapping, lots of music montages of training, weird old scrolls, sting operations, and somehow…concert piano recitals. Kristin Kreuk plays Chun Li, and while I don’t think she’s a bad actress, I do think she made a bad choice in this film.
The plot, obviously, is horrific. To the point where I’m not sure the writers/directers, whoever had ANY idea what they were intending to make with this film other than money, which they failed at. The acting is good…I guess…if you want to come across as poorly voiced video game characters – in which I guess they could be staying true to the game series.
This movie could have redeemed itself just a smidge by having better fight scenes. I mean, that’s what Street Fighter is all about, right? Cool fighting moves and such? However, not even this was done well, with awkward photo angles, strange cutaways to accommodate for the actors’ inabilities to perform inhuman acts of contortion, and weird pacing problems.
All in all, I have nothing against the Street Fighter universe. However, after seeing this film, I might just go out of my way to avoid anything associated with them in the future.