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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Rochelle's Top 10 Picks for 2009

Here's my rather eclectic list, based on the fact that I didn't see nearly as many films as I should have. List compiled for The Big Issue Summer Edition #345. Only includes films that were given an Australian cinema release.

District 9 (pictured)

Most movies about alien ships landing on earth set the invasion somewhere in the vicinity of the White House – or certainly within the US. Much of the thrill of this (relatively) low budget sci fi adventure comes from seeing the action take place in the dusty grimy shanty-towns of Johannesburg, where the accents are all South African and the post-apartheid politics are complex. The aliens themselves are refugees. Their ship ran out of gas 20 years ago and now they live in segregated slums, serviced by Nigerian prostitutes, and with a disturbing penchant for cat food – cans and all. They look like a disgusting cross between lobsters and insects, and they’re nicknamed ‘prawns’. When a rather dim-witted human bureaucrat ,Wikus van der Merve (Sharlto Copley) becomes infected with alien DNA he finds refuge with the aliens and discovers his own heroism.

Directed by Peter Jackson protégé Neill Blomkamp, District 9 may not be the year’s most perfect film, but it’s certainly one of the most startling and original. Combining faux documentary footage, excellent CG effects and a central character whose journey reminds us of The Fly, it’s an exciting riff on themes of racism and xenophia.

Bright Star
True love has rarely been so beautifully evoked on screen as in this tale of the poet Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his romance with the sassy seamstress Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Visually glorious, Jane Campion’s return to filmmaking is simply sublime.

The September Issue
This documentary about the production of the September issue of US Vogue magazine is actually a portrait of two women: the legendary ice-queen Anna Wintour and the inspired art director, Grace Cossington Jones. The shallow world of fashion provides surprising insight into the nature of art, truth, beauty and commerce.

A pitch-perfect adaptation of JM Coetzee’s subtle and multi-layered masterpiece, this film sees John Malkovich in fine form as a disgraced middle-aged professor who flees the city to live with his adult daughter on her isolated South African farm. Directed by Steve Jacobs it’s deep, complex and surprisingly entertaining.

Samson & Delilah
This is certainly the most acclaimed Australian film of the year, and a surprising box office hit. Beautifully written, directed and shot by indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton it’s a tough love story about aboriginal teenagers in remote central Australia. Winner of this year’s Cannes Camera d’Or.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
Now in their fifties, Jules and Linda Topp are New Zealand’s famous singing, dancing lesbian twins. Involved in social justice and protest movements since their youth, this documentary shows them in all their wholesome home-knitted glory. It’s a joy to witness their cheerful good humour and their palpable sisterly bond.

Star Trek
JJ Abrams picks up the beloved franchise and runs with it, gleefully taking us back to a time when Kirk and Spock first meet as academy graduates. It’s a joy to see the familiar characters reinterpreted by hot young actors. A typically silly space opera plot is loads of fun, with Eric Bana as a seething Romulan villain.

Two Lovers
Joaquin Phoenix is at his best as a conflicted and troubled young man who can’t decide between two women. Tender, funny and true.

The Choir
Set in a harsh South African prison (South Africa seems the theme this year!) this uplifting documentary shows the transformative power of music as a charismatic choir master brings discipline and meaning into the lives of young prisoners.

Rachel Getting Married
Anne Hathaway proves she’s more than a fresh-faced ingénue. She trails tragedy and angst as a young woman who leaves rehab to attend her sister’s wedding. Directed by Jonathan Demme this is a small verite masterpiece.

Rochelle Siemienowicz


  1. Nice list, Rochelle. My pick of them is Samson and Delilah, which will probably make my top 10 also. That's right, I still haven't compiled it. tsk! tsk!

  2. Paul, you must do your list asap! Waiting with baited breath.