The Movie Club

Some People Hate Westerns. I Hate Navel-Gazers.
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 8 2010 5:48 PM

The Movie Club

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Girls and boys, it is with a deep sense of WTF that I bid you adieu. I don't know how Monday became Friday, but here I am on my way to a shitty happy hour margarita. But before I go, I'd like to thank Dana for her sagacity and hospitality. Stephanie, Dan, and Roger, I'll continue to savor your words in this forum and in your respective outlets over the next couple of months.

As Dan pointed out, there wasn't enough time to do 2009 total justice. I still need someone to make a convincing case for Adventureland, a movie in an indulgent genre (Caucasian virgin boys from the burbs!) that annually clogs Sundance and simply won't die. Some people hate Westerns. I hate navel-gazers. But I did love Fighting, that movie with Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum that nobody saw last spring. The story was just this side of trite, but Dito Montiel made a movie with the conviction of its energy and physicality. It had a real sense of place, too—the back alleys of Brooklyn and Queens.

He also let Howard do some of last year's oddest, most ornately appealing pieces of acting: This was the Ratso Rizzo you'd sleep with. And what of Duplicity, a perfectly good caper movie with an ingenious anticlimactic dismount that should have been a bigger hit. It's true that Tony Gilroy still can't buy himself a sense of humor—this was the leaden version of Sydney Pollack. But there was so much to appreciate, anyway, like the fact that Julia Roberts is aging into an exotic—and, at last, sexy—beauty. 

We never got to discuss all the superb non-American movies that came our way: 35 Shots of Rum, The White Ribbon, The Headless Woman, 24 City, The Baader Meinhof Complex, A Woman in Berlin, Still Walking,and Summer Hours. Readers, you can download or rent most of these films—and you should. We never got to pick the Day-Glo carcass of The LovelyBones and to consider among ourselves the ongoing creepiness of Peter Jackson. He could have played the flasher in Observe and Report, a comedy from last winter that is morally awful and heartlessly heartfelt. (I can hear you Coen brothers fanatics about to object: "What's the difference?!" The Coens can be numb, even to themselves.)

We never really talked about the decade that just passed and how I managed to draw up three different top 50 lists, none of which was included in Film Comment's terrific recent poll(Gavin, I swear I thought BeauTravail was 2000!). I also said nothing about the late Robin Wood, who gave me quite an invaluable (and discounted) formative education in Antonioni and Hitchcock. A comparison of the young women in Precious and An Education slipped through our fingers, as did a discussion of how incredible it would be if they switched movies.

This was also a decent year for women who direct movies. I rolled my eyes when the New York Times ran a story from the Toronto International Film Festival pointing out the mere fact that women make movies. But this year was slightly better than last. Many of the films were very good. Some of them made money.

Anyway, I leave you, Slate readers, and colleagues in criticism. The bar awaits. I wish all good heath and better moviegoing in the next 12 months.

I love you all.
Wesley

Wesley Morris is a staff writer at Grantland.