10/ Control (England). Music video director Anton Corbijn’s first feature is a lovingly crafted look at the band Joy Division and their lead singer Ian Curtis. Joy Division created bleak, stark, drowning in gloom music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What I liked about this is it isn’t just a paint by numbers biopic—it’s arty (shot is some of the most beautiful black and white photography you will see in a modern movie) and looks at things you wouldn’t expect—Curtis stifling home life for example. I love this post-punk era in English rock and felt this was pretty faithful and an interesting document to that era.
9/ Hotel Chevalier/The Darjeeling Limited (USA). This was a pleasant surprise as I haven’t been a member of the Wes Anderson “cult” the last few films of his. Always superbly crafted, Anderson’s films never hit me on an emotional level—lots of style, no substance. This is still a very stylish, obsessed with design movie but I really enjoyed the story about three brothers who meet up to ride a train in India together to connect in some way. Watch the short Hotel Chevalier first if you can—it’s a related piece that will add to your enjoyment of The Darjeeling Limited.
8/ Rescue Dawn (USA). German eccentric (and completely engrossing) Werner Herzog remakes his documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly as a Hollywood P.O.W. film. Well, it’s as Hollywood as you could expect from a director like Herzog. Rescue Dawn is a raw, intense, thrilling, beautiful war film about American prisoners in a Vietnam prison camp with Christian Bale and Steve Zahn undergoing various deprivations to make the film more authentic. Great stuff from Herzog.
7/ Knocked Up (USA). Judd Apatow had a banner year in American comedy between this and his production/mentoring on Superbad. I preferred Knocked Up of the two because there was a little more character development instead of just a flurry of crude jokes. Sure, Knocked Up has its share of that but it’s also got that sweet, romantic element that Apatow has tapped into.
6/ Eastern Promises (Canada). David Cronenberg’s latest is a dark, gripping drama set around the Russian mafia as Viggo Mortenson plays a street tough with a tender spot for a mid wife despite his dealings with ruthless men around him. This film has one of the all-time fight scenes in movie history as Viggo takes on a couple of guys in the nude in a bathhouse. Brutal. Cronenberg makes these lean, spare, no nonsense films where he’s completely in control of everything on screen and Eastern Promises is another in a long line of good movies from him.