It might just be because I hadn't seen a single movie all throughout 2007 and 2008 and therefore was wanting a fix real, real bad, BUT I thought that this was an amazing year for movies--especially children's movies. Let's have a re-cap:
This is one of the best movies I've ever seen for playing an audience. From the moment the movie starts, you care about those characters, and although there are jokes with talking dogs, the immediacy of the characters' crises are ever present. How can that tension survive all the squirrel jokes? Because those characters are real and complicated and MEAN something to us. This is a movie that dealt with infertility, society's treatment of the elderly, dead-beat dads, industrialization and bereavement. And using a bunch of balloons to take your house to South America. It is a hilarious, beautiful and profound journey.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Like Pan's Labyrinth, this film was a masterful balance of puppetry and CGI, and took away CG as an excuse for a lack of drive for innovation in other fields of special effects. Plus, it was a thoroughly daring movie, successfully expanding on themes found in the original book, while slicing into and making significant commentary on the issue of the self and other. Like UP!, it has complex emotions: goofy, terrifying, tragic and hopeful.
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX
I would not at all be disappointed if Wes Anderson decided to do nothing but kids' movies after this. I may have enjoyed this movie more than any other I saw this year. It was, like my last two selections, so refreshing. The humor was sharp, the soundtrack perfectly suited, and the look of the movie was just a delight. I hate to pick favorites, but this movie is definitely a contendor.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
I was so happy that this movie was not a dud. The future of Disney's 2D animation (and therefore, all 2D animation in the West) hung desperately on this film. I have to say that it was largely a triumph. I don't think the songs will be as classic as Elton John's in The Lion King or Tchaikovsky's in Sleeping Beauty, but they were enough to convince the world that we still want to see this kind of Disney film. This was a genuinely funny movie. I laughed out loud several times, and I have to say, that in terms of look and sound, it does great justice to New Orleans. That's because of the extensive research and time they spent in the city, as well as hiring locals like Randy Newman and Dr. John to pay homage to their native city. Well Disney, keep up the Renaissance.
This was not a great film, but James Cameron showed us what $300 million can look like. It can look awesome, and I mean that in the original sense of the word--inducing awe. If I laughed out loud in The Princess and the Frog, I audibly exclaimed "Wow!" just as many times while watching Avatar. I don't know if this will be a "movie that changes movies...forever," but it did temper my hatred for CGI and 3D. This film managed to do both--dare I say it--gracefully. It's really a beautiful movie, if just a touch predictable and anti-human. But hey, aren't we all?
This is a stupidly fun, smart movie. The dialogue is so crisp and fresh. Somehow, despite all the dirty and at times repulsive imagery on screen, the one-liners and comebacks between Holmes and Watson felt like a hot shower. Or a really, really good episode of House. The actual mystery is engaging enough, but the real draw of the movie is the chemistry, wit and delivery between the actors. I honestly did not care for the fight-scenes--especially The Big Climactic Fight Scene necessary in all blockbusters. But I guess people like that kind of thing. Also, this was, by a LONG shot, my favorite Hans Zimmer score ever. Now I just need to wait and see who he plagiarized it from.
(In no way is this list supposed to be exhaustive, because since time and money are factors in my life, my movie attendance is not exhaustive. Invictus is probably a great film, but I haven't seen it. Same thing for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Also, go see Gentlemen Broncos like your life depended on it.)