It was a year when auteurs Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen and James Cameron spun magic, even as films in other genres made a mark
With the quirkily-named “Inglourious Basterds”, it was time to pop the bubbly to celebrate the return of Quentin Tarantino. This weird and wonderful take on World War II was standard Tarantino, with long conversations and sudden violence, a heavy-duty star cast, eccentric subtitling and a phenomenal music score.
Just as we feasted on Tarantino's luscious storytelling, came “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, an undiluted Woody Allen film, with insightful dialogues and sharply-delineated characters. The year ended with the biggest of them all —“Avatar”, signalling the return of James Cameron to the screen 12 years after “Titanic”.
Roland Emmerich, too, returned after last year's tepid “10,000 BC” to his favourite disaster arena with “2012”, filled in equal measure with eye-popping special effects and gaping plot holes. Tom Tykwer, who made the mind-altering “Run Lola Run”, made his big screen debut in India with the high-octane thriller “The International”.
There was a whole bunch of animation films — “Up”, the charming story of an unlikely friendship between a 78-year-old balloon salesman and an eight-year-old wilderness expert, was the pick of the pack, with “Monsters vs. Aliens” and Robert Zemeckis' “Christmas Carol” following close behind.
All chick flicks were uniformly hideous, from the tasteless “Confessions of a Shopaholic” to the awful “The Proposal”, which woefully underused the feisty Sandra Bullock. In “Julie & Julia”, Meryl Streep turned in a super performance as Julia Childs who revolutionised French cooking for Americans.
Angelina Jolie turned in a robust performance in Clint Eastwood's “The Changeling”, and Matt Damon hid behind layers of fat, glasses and a little moustache as “The Informant!.” Sean Penn wowed us as Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's “Milk”. Kate Winslet finally won the Oscar, and the Golden Globe for her performance as Hanna Schmitz in Stephen Daldry's holocaust drama “The Reader”.
Johnny Depp was the smooth criminal John Dillinger in Michael Mann's “Public Enemies”, while Tom Cruise, eye patch and all, was distracting as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in Bryan Singer's “Valkyrie”.
Of the reboots — “Star Trek” was a text book on how to reinvent a well-beloved franchise, while “Terminator Salvation” and “The Fast and Furious” proved there is a time to let terminators and speed demons walk into the sunset.
Comic books came alive with Hugh Jackman's act in “Wolverine”, while the iconic graphic novel “Watchmen” was elegantly translated to film with a rocking sound track. In the horror genre, there was the done-to-death “Final Destination” and the unintentionally hilarious “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”. And, we finally saw “Twilight” and “New Moon”, the movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyers' cult books. For sheer testosterone, there was Tony Scott's uber stylish “Taking of the Pelham 123”, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. “G.I. Joe”, directed by Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy” movies) was also high-octane entertainment with good-looking dudes and dudettes strutting around on screen in slow motion. And, our Aishwarya Rai Bachchan made the screen sizzle as Sonya in “Pink Panther 2”.
The coming year will see a lot more 3D, and it also seems to be the year of the talented Robert Downey Jr. Posters are already up for Guy Ritchie's “Sherlock Holmes”. Ritchie promises the film will show you a Victorian England never before seen on screen. Downey Jr will be seen in his metal suit all over again, for “Iron Man 2”. Good looks, great acting and handsome production values, the cineaste's cup runneth over!