Saturday, January 2, 2010


Technically, neither Up in the Air or Avatar are 2010 releases, but they are the first two films I've seen this new decade, and they were both fantastic in their own ways.

Up in the Air is as timely a movie as I've ever seen, a dramatic comedy with both visual and narrative wit, three tremendously appealing lead performances, and an on-point, sharp-as-a-tack screenplay that hits some surprisingly dark notes. It's a wonderful movie and a film that I look forward to wathching again for all its nuances and subtle moments of sly, perceptive humor and smarts. Jason Reitman is 3 for 3 (though I still think Juno is a tad overrated, solid and fun, but overrated).

Avatar is nothing less than a glimpse into the future of what cinematic technology holds. The film, for me, was like The New World set in Iraq with a lot of uber-fancy special effects. And God bless us were those special effects special; simply put, you've never seen anything like the sights in Avatar until you finally see Avatar. And see it you should. Even sci-fi resistant folks will enjoy this film. It's a classic Hollywood story (it could've been called Dances with the Na'vi) made exhiliratingly fresh by up-to-the-moment 3-D technology. Leave it to Jim Cameron to set the bar once again. Does Avatar re-invent cinema? For me, no. But it's a dazzling piece of action filmmaking and a work that demands to be seen on the big screen.

I'll have more in depth reviews of both of these films, along with more on The Road, in the next few days.

I'll also be posting my final Best of 2009 list, along with a run-down of the movies from 2009 that I missed in the theaters and don't appear on my Best of the Year list. I'm also close to having my Best of the Decade list completed; that'll be up in the next few weeks.


Sara Hansemann said...

Avatar was good, not great. I actually thought the redundancy of the story line (to other movies, a la Dances with Wolves) detracted from the film. That being said, the movie was a lot of fun and well worth the inflated ticket price. Of course, I saw it in Michigan so it was still less than a regular Arclight viewing. OH - and that Leona Lewis song at the end is simply awful.

Joel said...

Sara: I HATE it when people mark down a sci-fi film for its unoriginality. You can argue, "Well, they could put some sort of originality in it!" all day long, but the fact of the matter is: there is NO original idea in sci-fi anymore. Even something like "District 9" (which is superior to "Avatar," I will give you that) has its basic premise in films that have been made. Original ideas are pretty much over; now, we must focus on how well the formula is done.

You do imply this, though, so don't take my comment personally. I just had to get it off my chest.

Sara Hansemann said...

I said it detracted from the film, which, for my personal viewing experience, it did. The point is that of course storylines are recycled and utilized again and again, but I still I shouldn't be able to know EXACTLY what will happen in every scene before it occurs on screen. I love Sci Fi, but story is still important. As to your point in mentioning District 9, which was an outstanding film, yes its basic premise is similar to past films, but I was still surprised by the way the relationships unraveled and many of the outcomes. So for me "the formula" was better executed in D9, than Avatar, because while the premise wasn't unique there was plenty of originality in dialogue and story throughout D9 that I didn't see coming - unlike Avatar.

Actionman said...

I also enjoyed District 9 more, overall, than Avatar. I loved the grittiness. Don't get me wrong -- Avatar was still incredible in its own way -- but I agree with Sara in that the narrative took some interesting turns that I didn't see coming in District 9, whereas with Avatar, I found it to be mostly predictable.