By: Roberto Rivera|Published: December 15, 2009 9:56 PM
Normally, I don't see enough new movies to have a meaningful top ten, but this year I can cobble one together and feel good about it. In an order that makes sense to me, they are:
Knowing -- it came and went without leaving much of a trace but it is probably the most intelligent, well-crafted apocalyptic thriller I've ever seen. That's because it understands the difference between apocalyptic and eschatological. This is really a movie about hope and last things, not fantastical speculation about the end of the world.
Star Trek -- I wanted to dislike this film but couldn't. I loved it despite myself. Zoe Saldana, that wondrous Afro-Antillean goddess, is a perfect Uhura, better than the original, and Zachary Quinto is a great Spock.
Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince -- not my favorite of the Harry Potter films (Order of the Phoenix is) but still very good. I love that Ginny Weasley is taller than Harry. By the coda in Deathly Hallows, she must be a full head taller than him.
That's it for American films, now for the foreign stuff. [Ed:* that's it? Three American films? One of them is British and the other Australian! Do you hate America that much?]
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi -- I first saw this, whose title translates "A Couple Made By God," (or as I would put it "What God Has Brought Together") on the flight from Paris to Delhi. By the end I was sitting in a darkened cabin in tears. A friend of mine, who has forgotten more about films than I'll ever know, was "amazed how much [he] enjoyed these strange amalgams of disparate genres." Me? I think that it is a wonderful depiction of the way that love, sacrifice and mutual submission come together in Christian marriage, made all the clearer because the characters are Sikhs. It also features my all-time favorite song from a musical, Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai, "I See (My) God in You."
Ghajini -- Take the central conceit of Memento, lose the telling the story backwards gimmick, which masked a weak story with characters you don't care for, add characters you care about, a leading lady who makes Carrie Moss look like a bag lady (any disagreement on this score is further proof that it's not only fish being affected by estrogen runoff in lakes and streams), throw in some action and a story about love, loss and hope and you have the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time.
The Drummer -- Jaycee Chan, Jackie's son, plays the callow son of a triad boss who sleeps with an even bigger bosses' girlfriend. All hell breaks loose and he is sent to Taiwan to hide. There he comes into contact with a group of Zen drummers in the mountains. What follows is your classic "coming of age" story, albeit very well told, beautifully photographed, in an exotic setting.
For My Father -- The story of a "suicide bomber who becomes stranded in Israel and is forced to interact with the very people he was meant to kill." A bit simplistic? Perhaps. Then again, so is our black and white, two-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon. The second-best love story about suicide bombing behind Dil Se.
Munyurangabo -- In 2006, director/writer Lee Isaac Chung went to Rwanda to teach a film class for Youth With a Mission. Yes, that YWAM. The end result was the first feature movie ever made in the Kinyarwanda language, an accomplishment made even more remarkable by Chung's total inability to speak it. The greatest accomplishment of all is this film, shot using local people in two weeks. Roger Ebert sums up the critical response: "a beautiful and powerful film — a masterpiece." A story of forgiveness and reconciliation. In any other year, it would be number one but that is reserved for . . .
Troubled Waters -- the best movie I've seen this year. Hands down. It's a film about the possibility of forgiveness. Its Norwegian title means "Atonement," which, because of a crappy movie starring the most overrated A-list actress, could not be used here. What a shame. Because in this film the difference between atonement and forgiveness is the central question: must we somehow set the moral balance right, i.e., "atone" for our past actions, or can we be forgiven? The Christian answer, I believe, is clearly the latter, albeit on God's terms, not our own. All of this is lost on the principals in the story, including the Lutheran pastor who, of all people, should appreciate what grace means.
I don't have a tenth pick -- I'm hoping Avatar and Invictus can make it a top eleven.
*There is no editor -- I'm borrowing a shtick from Mickey Kaus at Slate.**
**There is TOO an editor. She just didn't write that line. :-) --GRD