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It’s really weird: looking back on 2009 I seem to have only seen movies from the past decade… (2000-2009). Not consciously though!

Usually I’m quite conscientious in keeping track of what I’ve seen, but this time I noticed some titles were missing… I hope I recovered them all by thinking hard about it! That’s why I’m late posting my list ;)

I’ve chosen two pictures as best movies of 2009; a feature film and a ‘documation’, or ‘animentary’.

Starting with the motion picture: my favourite film of 2009 was Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank. Man, it was GOOD. We had a lot to talk about afterwards, but unfortunately I didn’t write it down so I forgot most of it :\ I guess I’m getting old! LOL

Fish Tank is a movie about Mia, a difficult adolescent in a working class environment. She’s got a pretty tough life, but she’s tough herself and strives to get the future she wants. It is not always an easy movie to watch (shouting and strong language being the least of it). But it is so much less depressing than a Ken Loach movie, the master of Social Realism! I found the story realistic, but hopeful and energizing. Inexperienced leading actress Katie Jarvis really is amazing as the angry teenager. It is said she was plucked off the street by director Arnold while she was having an argument with her boyfriend, LOL.

Really, if you get the chance: GO SEE FISH TANK! Meanwhile, I’m very much looking forward to Andrea Arnold’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights

But I said I have two favs for 2009. If you would put a gun to my head and force me to choose just one, I think it would be the other: Waltz With Bashir. I wrote a review on Graasland, in Dutch. It’s an animated documentary, hence my labels documation and animentary — I haven’t decided yet on the best term. What would you call it?

Waltz with Bashir depicts its Israeli director Ari Folman in search of his lost memories from the 1982 Lebanon War. All interviews were filmed in the ordinary way, and animated afterwards. That gives the images a certain atmosphere. Now that I’ve told you that, look for example at the house and garden of Ari’s friend in Holland. Thanks to the method used, the interviewees are relatively anonymous. But you do hear their actual voices.

I was really impressed by Waltz with Bashir. The story is interesting and humane. I didn’t know much about the Lebanon war and I usually don’t watch animation — so I didn’t expect to like it much. What a surprise that it turned out to be so good! I actually believe I understand a little better what it means to be (and have been) young in Israel and its surrounding countries. But not only that: the strong imagery of the film also makes it just very attractive to look at. And the soundtrack is great too! As I wrote in my Hello Japan! post about Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, it is one of my two most popular music discoveries of 2009 as well :)

Waltz with Bashir is the first animated film ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Foreign Language Film.

Now, before I close with my complete list of all 35 films and 13 tv-series I watched in 2009: what is your favourite movie of 2009???

Movies watched in 2009

Mourning Forest ( Mogari no Mori ) Naomi Kawase ( 2007 )
Slumdog Millionaire Danny Boyle ( 2008 )
The Wrestler Darren Aronofsky ( 2008 )
Changeling Clint Eastwood ( 2008 )
Waltz with Bashir ( Vals Im Bashir ) Ari Folman ( 2008 )
Frost / Nixon Ron Howard ( 2008 )
Contractpensions, Djangan Loepah! Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmich ( 2008 )
Man on Wire James Marsh ( 2008 )
The Reader Stephen Daldry ( 2008 )
Tokyo Sonata Kiyoshi Kurosawa ( 2008 )
Brideshead Revisited Julian Jarrold ( 2008 )
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Greg MacGillivray ( 2008 )
Milk Gus van Sant ( 2008 )
Chérie Stephen Frears ( 2009 )
Adaptation. Spike Jonze ( 2002 )
Departures ( Okuribito ) Yôjirô Takita ( 2008 )
Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure Sean MacLeod Phillips ( 2007 )
La tourneuse de pages Denis Dercourt ( 2006 )
Megane Naoko Ogigami ( 2007 )
Dark Water ( Honogurai mizu no soko kara ) Hideo Nakata ( 2002 )
30 Days of Night David Slade ( 2007 )
Boy A John Crowley ( 2007 )
Frozen River Courtney Hunt ( 2008 )
Fish Tank Andrea Arnold ( 2009 )
Grizzly Man Werner Herzog ( 2005 )
The Number 23 Joel Schumacher ( 2007 )
Revolutionary Road Sam Mendes ( 2008 )
Incendiary Sharon Maguire ( 2008 )
Surveillance Jennifer Chambers Lynch ( 2008 )
Bug William Friedkin ( 2006 )
Survivor Marjolein Duermeijer ( 2009 )
Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino ( 2009 )
Snatch Guy Ritchie ( 2000 )
La Siciliana Ribelle Marco Amenta ( 2009 )
Flags of Our Fathers Clint Eastwood ( 2006 )

Television series

It’s impossible to say which one I liked best. In 2009 I saw Six Feet Under, Dexter and Ashes to Ashes, all series to die for!

The Last Enemy
Criminal Justice
6 Feet Under
(all series)
Spooks (several series)
Burn Notice
Ashes to Ashes II
Tess
Sense & Sensibility
X-Files
Dexter I
Dexter II

24 day 7
Sopranos (several series)

Note: television series are NOT included in the diagrams.

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Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to #2! And enjoy your weekend :)

After last week’s New Year’s post I’d like to stay just a little longer within the Holiday theme and talk about the extremely melancholic song Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Here’s the short version, called Father Christmas.

Quite a contrast to the ‘happy’ popgroup Pizzicato Five that I presented you with on January 1st, eh?

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is the theme song from the 1983 cult movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, for which the great musician Ryuichi Sakomoto composed the complete score. Nagisa Oshima’s film might be best known for its starring actor, pop star David Bowie playing a Japanese prisoner of war on Java in World War II. Ryuichi Sakamoto is Bowie’s opponent as a young camp commandant.

I was hugely impressed when I saw Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence as a teenager. It’s a dramatic history of the Second World War, parts of which still get denied in Japan today. It is amazingly well performed and directed (as far as I can remember). A very powerful movie that should be compulsory for anyone interested in history and Japan. There, I’ve said it.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence album coverOf course that my father lived in Japanese internment in Indonesia as a child might have a lot to do with it. His aversion of all things Japanese never left him and I don’t think he would have appreciated my current interest in this country and its culture if he had been alive today.

But I’m getting sidetracked. The vocal version of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence has lyrics by David Sylvian and is called Forbidden Colours. This song has helped spread the movie’s fame as well. And as I’m sitting in the confessional already, I might as well tell you Forbidden Colours was one of the tracks on the goodbye tape of my first boyfriend when he left for the US… Need I say more?

The title of the song is derived from Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors. Both film and book explore homosexual themes, but that’s the end of their relation; the movie was based on some memoirs by Laurens van der Post.

Because of his soundtracks (and his influence in developing the technopop style in Japan), kyoju Ryuichi Sakamoto is internationally probably the best known Japanese musician.

For those of you who don’t know yet: I’m a real fan of movie soundtracks. I guess it’s because film music is supposed to be evocative and plays at people’s emotions. I’m a sucker for that ;) Of course it might help that I LOVE movies too!

Both favs of newly discovered music in 2009 were film scores: Nick Cave’s soundtrack of — the best movie of 2008 — The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Max Richter’s music for one of two best movies of 2009, Waltz with Bashir. Both pretty melancholic as well — and that tells you something more about me, doesn’t it? ;)

Parool Oscardag 2009

Nee, ik ben niet gek :) Ik weet heel goed dat de Oscars inmiddels zijn uitgereikt en dat Danny Boyle met Slumdog Millionaire de grote winnaar is. Maar wij genoten de zaterdag vóór de uitreiking op het Parool Oscarweekend van 5 nominaties voor de Academy Awards 2009. Onze favoriet van de dag was… Waltz with Bashir. En ja, we zagen óók Slumdog Millionaire. Want wat was ons volledige programma?

  • Slumdog Millionaire van Danny Boyle
    (o.a. genomineerd voor Beste Film, Beste Regie en Beste Muziek)
  • The Wrestler van Darren Aronofsky
    (Mickey Rourke genomineerd als Beste Mannelijke Hoofdrol, Marisa Tomei voor Vrouwelijke bijrol)
  • Changeling van Clint Eastwood
    (o.a. Beste Cinematografie en Angelina Jolie als Beste Vrouwelijke Hoofdrol)
  • Waltz with Bashir van Ari Folman
    (Beste Buitenlandse Film)
  • Frost / Nixon van Ron Howard
    (o.a. Beste Film, Beste Regie en Beste Mannelijke Hoofdrol)

De beste en minste film van de dag kan ik makkelijk benoemen, maar de 2e t/m 4e plaats kost meer moeite. Als ik nu moet beslissen ga ik voor de volgende ranglijst:

  1. Waltz with Bashir (indrukwekkende animatie-documentaire)
  2. Slumdog Millionaire (feelgood met een tintje heftig, heerlijke soundtrack)
  3. The Wrestler (had ik niet veel zin in maar was indrukwekkend en ontroerend)
  4. Frost / Nixon (boeiend)
  5. Changeling (eh.. aardig)

Ik wil dat binnenkort best wat meer toelichten maar nu heb ik geen tijd. Vanavond ga ik weer naar Amsterdam, nu voor een concert van The Sisters of Mercy :) Mede-groupies van Mark Kermode verwijs ik intussen graag naar zijn blog over de Oscars.

Dit was trouwens de 3e keer dat we naar het Parool Oscarweekend gingen. En ik ben van plan dat te blijven doen :) Hoewel sommige bezoekers klaagden dat ze het drukker vonden dan vorig jaar, was dat volgens mij niet het geval. Sympathiek dat het festival ondanks zijn populariteit niet groeit en zo zijn knusse kleinschaligheid behoudt! :) Vorig jaar heb ik trouwens ook over mijn ervaringen in het Parool Oscarweekend geschreven…

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