Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cameron McCasland's tops in 2009

Cameron McCasland is a Texan who lives in Nashville, TN. He is an Emmy nominated film maker, who has also won several film festival awards and received commendations from the governors of both Texas and Tennessee. Currently he is developing his first feature length film after a series of shorts and music videos.   You can read his musings on film and life at and

12. House Of The Devil - I like this movie the more I think about it. After leaving the theater i felt a bit disjointed about the ending of Ti Wests low budget horror film, but came to realize that its absurdity played well to what it was--a riff on the satanic 80’s horror movies. It plays well as a period piece on a budget, though I still think the old dark house aspect was what I liked most about it. This movie might also stand as the last indie stand of Greta Gerwig, who follows this up with a Ben Stiller movie in 2010.

11. Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day - In college someone slid a VHS copy of The Boondock Saints under my door with a note that said “Watch this RIGHT NOW”. What I found was one of the better post-Pulp Fiction crime movies of the nineties. I watched it twice back to back, and wasn’t surprised when it became a cult classic a few years later on DVD.  Most people by now have heard the stories of Troy Duffy through online rumblings or the documentary Overnight. What everyone should take into consideration amongst all the hoopla is that he was able to pull the entire principle cast back in over ten years later, and he did it on his own terms. This is a solid sequel, that captures the humor and action of the first film. Duffy might not be a nice guy, but he did what good film makers do, which is to get their films made, even it did take ten years.

10. Zombieland - I have to admit, I’ve been pretty disgusted with most of the zombie fare that has been coming out in the past few years.  Everything seems to be a copy of a copy of a copy. And like a xerox of a xerox each generation is worse and worse.  Zombieland took the approach of building a comedy around the nuances of the classic zombie flicks. Woody Harrelson was a mustache away from being a Burt Reynolds double as he cracks zombie skulls on a hunt for product placement that rivals Marlboro and Coca-Cola in Superman: The Movie.

9. Fantastic Mr. Fox -  This wasn’t a book I read as a child, so their was no nostalgia factor for me.  I do consider myself a Wes Anderson fan and I think this is equal to any of his previous efforts, in dialogue and pacing. The movie is funny and heartfelt. While another animated feature got a better listing in my year end picks, I’ll be pulling for the Fox come Oscar season.

8. Paranormal Activity - If you didn’t see this movie last year during its mammoth October run then I feel bad for you. I don’t think it will have the same impact in a home theater setting, as something about a row of screaming high school girls behind you helps this movie along.  Of course the Blair Witch Project comes up in every conversation and debate on this film, but to its merit this movie had the giant obstacle of the internet to face. While the Blair Witch Project used the early days of the web to market the film, Paranormal  Activity had every blog in America giving up its secrets. Hopefully if you did miss it, you’ll get a chance to see a revival screening as the years progress, I have no doubt it will achieve the cult status that merits that type of viewing.

7. Fanboys - If you don’t love George Lucas Epic Star Wars then you won’t get eighty percent of the jokes in this movie. But lets face it, who doesn’t love Star Wars? Here's a movie that started off as a fan film in Austin around the time of Episode I. They started shooting it on a home video camera when someone read the script and said “wait a second, someone should really make this”.  Of course it was plagued by recuts and delays due to the financial woes of the Brothers Weinstein, but after some fierce backlash from supporters of the movie, a cut of director Kyle Newman's vision was delivered on screen. It's sugar coated, and possibly even a few years late to screens but still a great view for people who still make lightsaber noises with broomsticks when they are alone.

6. Tetro - Coppola writes again. While by no means is this his best work, the complexity of the story never feels forced, and Vincent Gallo really delivers the dialogue.  This was probably the most beautifully shot film of the year. Mihai Malaimare Jr. really should be moving into the upper echelon of cinematographers after this outing.  Coppola also delivered the best car crash scene I have ever witnessed, taking us inside the automobile as well as inside the hearts of the passengers. If this movie confuses you, then watch it again, and again, and again...

5. Up - Pixar, can you do no wrong? After last years Wall-E which used hardly any dialogue to tell a story, I thought the next entry into the Pixar lore would pale in comparison. Twenty minutes into the film, my five year old daughter was out of the movie asking me, “Daddy, why are you crying?” to which the answer is simply “because I love your mother”. Oddly enough the only part of the film that had me scratching my head was the dogs flying airplanes. The talking dogs didn’t bother me, the house flying across thousands of miles with nothing but helium balloons didn’t bother me. But you put a dog in a bi-plane and I tossed my hands up. Even with that little snafu, I loved it. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening short Partly Cloudy which in its own right is wonderful. I believe it is also the first of Pixar's shorts not to be nominated for the Oscar.

4. Drag Me To Hell - Do you like having fun at the movies? Do you buy the big popcorn, knowing full well that half of it will be on the floor when your knee jerks when Sam Raimi delivers the scares? Then you need to be watching this movie right now.  Raimi shook the proverbial cobwebs off and delivered a horror movie that was equally as camp as his early directing efforts. If you don’t believe me, then ask the talking goat.

3. Star Trek - For every complaint I lodge about remakes, and reboots, I will swallow my pride and say Star Trek delivered the goods. I was worried we were going to get Smallville, but instead I witnessed the best action film of the year . They even worked in the Beastie Boys! If you never liked Trek, give this a shot. If you do boldly go where you have never gone before, I have a feeling you’ll be in your seat for Star Trek 2 come summer 2011.

2. Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino tricked middle America into watching a foreign language film on the merits of Nazi retribution, and Brad Pitts monologue. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission, as one of the most suspenseful pieces of film ever made.  Love him or hate him, Tarantino is an American Treasure and I think this movie solidifies that he always will be.

1. Moon - Duncan Jones has truly wowed me with this movie. I love good Science Fiction, and those movies are few and far between these days.  Sam Rockwell delivered the greatest performance of the year, and probably his career playing against himself motivated only by time that encompasses his journey on the Moon. For every nod to Kubrick, or Alien, the film has something fresh to say about modern man and corporations view of the bottom line, as well as loneliness being inherent in anyone who has loved someone. I didn’t see a better film this year.

0. Some Notes - I saw all of these movies in 2009. Black Dynamite would have definitely made the list, but i didn’t actually catch it until a few weeks ago when it finally got around to the Belcourt here in Nashville. The same goes for the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. While not making the list above, my best theatrical experience was seeing Watchmen opening weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse. Those guys know how to put on a movie, with decor and special screening before the film that really built the moment. Its also worth saying that my least favorite theatrical experience this year was Antichrist.  It looked wonderful, but the subject matter was beyond tedious for my own tastes. The rest of the year was scattered with some good but not great movies. I also to date have still not viewed Avatar or the Hurt Locker, while I expect I will enjoy them both. I have a laundry lists of others i missed in 2009 that will get a DVD spin in the not to distant future.


Jillian said...

Thanks for the list, there are several I have not watched that I will have to catch up on, thanks!

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