Edinburgh 2009: RT's 10 Must-See Movies

We pick the handful of features you simply can't afford to miss.

by | June 28, 2009 | Comments

Edinburgh 2009

The Edinburgh Film Festival has come to a close and Rotten Tomatoes thought we’d make a traditional look back over all of the films playing at this year’s fest and present to you – in strictly alphabetical order – our 10 must-sees. As a public-facing festival, Edinburgh’s selection attempts to combine the accessible with the artistic, and delivers a collection of movies both diverse and outstanding. From spoof comedies to harsh drama, from in-depth documentaries to cutting-edge animation, Edinburgh dares to be different and programmes a festival that’s at turns youthful and experienced, offering movies for just about any cinemagoer imaginable. And for us, it’s two weeks of life in dark rooms — just how we like it.

Edinburgh 2009

Black DynamiteMichael Jai White is silencing the jive talkers in this hilarious spoof of Blaxsploitation capers of the 70s. It really is the grindhouse that Grindhouse should have been, as White — the titular Black Dynamite — attempts to foil a plot to deal drugs to orphans that goes all the way to the White House. The jokes wear a little thin towards the end, but for the large part it’ll have you in stitches, and Jai White revels in the period humour as booms enter shots, actors miss cues and them poor orphans are all drugged up. – Joe Utichi
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Edinburgh 2009

Le DonkShane Meadows and Paddy Considine are best known for their thoughtful, considered drama collaborations like Dead Man’s Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass, so news of a mockumentary shot in five days with Considine taking on the character of a Northern roadie called Le Donk was ever so slightly worrying. We needn’t have taken the time to fret, though, because the result is riotously hysterical, and Considine revels in creating a character so desperate for attention that you can’t help but fall in love with him. Le Donk is shifting gear for the Arctic Monkeys and brings along a documentary crew for the week while he tries to introduce the world to a rapping prodigy he’s discovered. Meadows’ forte is in finding real heart at the centre of any story, and that continues here, for while the journey is brilliantly funny, you also get a sense of the character as a human being. We want more. – JU

Edinburgh 2009

Exam – From Stuart Hazeldine, who’s already making Hollywood waves working with Alex Proyas and scripting Paradise Lost, Exam is a modest British sci-fi thriller set in one room as a group of candidates from all sorts of racial and social backgrounds compete for a mysterious job. A blank sheet of paper sits in front of them and they’re told to answer the question on it. Over 80 minutes of real time, we enjoy their interaction as they try to figure out their situation and work with and against one another. It’s the kind of small-scale/big-impact sci-fi flick we don’t see enough of these days and it’s simply gripping from start to finish. It transcends its modest budget to deliver a slickly shot and incredibly entertaining experience. Expect big things from Hazeldine, and cross fingers and toes that Exam finds a distributor willing to give it a big release – you won’t want to miss it. – JU
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Edinburgh 2009

Fish Tank
Red Road director Andrea Arnold proves she’s no one-trick pony with this stunning follow-up set on an Essex estate. Newcomer Katie Jarvis plays 15-year-old Mia, a would-be street dancer with a neglectful mother and a hilariously cheeky little sister. When charismatic Connor (Hunger’s Michael Fassbender) starts dating her mother, Mia’s world changes — but is it for the better? The ambiguity of their relationship drives both plot and characterisation forward in this beautifully observed, bitterly funny and utterly involving drama that marks Arnold as a true British talent. Watch out for a winning turn from up-and-comer Harry Treadaway, too. – Anna Smith
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Edinburgh 2009

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism – It wouldn’t be right if a site about film critics didn’t include a documentary about film critics in its top 10. A critic himself, Gerald Peary goes on a journey of the American film writer, starting right at the beginning and presenting a detailed history of the art. Along the way, he gives faces to the faceless critics of newspapers, TV shows and websites and profiles them on what made them critics. Incredibly eye opening, and featuring contributions from the likes of Roger Ebert and Harry Knowles, it’s a documentary well worth watching. – JU

Edinburgh 2009

HumpdayLynn Shelton‘s hilarious comedy is also the winner of our second Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus Award, and joins the powerful company of Let the Right One In. Mark Duplass and The Blair Witch Project‘s Joshua Leonard star as a pair of straight friends for whom a drunken night turns into a harsh reality as they realise they’ve talked each other into having sex with one another for a local amateur art-porn festival. Deftly exploring masculinity and homosexuality as well as relationships both intimate and not, Shelton’s indie is a real treat. – JU
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Edinburgh 2009

Mary and Max – This delightfully offbeat Australian stop-motion animation deserves to be a huge hit. Beautifully narrated by Barry Humphries, it tells the story of Mary Daisy Dinkle, a lonely Australian girl with a mother who spends all day “testing sherry” and a father who lives in his shed. After pulling a random address out of a New York phone box, Mary writes to Max Jerry Horovitz, an equally lonely middle-aged American. An unlikely pair of penpals is born as Mary and Max begin to share the intimate details of their lives. The animation is terrific, and the visual gags work just as hard as the verbal ones. Themes become darker as the film progresses, but Mary and Max never loses its sense of hope or Amelie-style charm. A must-see. – AS
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Edinburgh 2009

Moon – Sam Rockwell stars in a futuristic sci-fi made by David Bowie’s son: what’s not to like? Turns out Duncan Jones (famously born Zowie Bowie) has inherited his father’s talent: this debut is an assured, inventive film that makes good use of its tiny cast. Rockwell is Sam Bell, an astronaut working solo on a space station on the Moon. It’s a lonely life, but his sentient computer Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) keeps him company and tends to his needs. Their odd couple friendship sets the film off to an amusing start, but events turn sinister when Sam discovers his doppleganger on the moon. All sorts of possibilities spring to mind — time travel, cloning, twins, the lot — in this intriguing thriller that pays tribute to cult sci-fis such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. – AS
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Edinburgh 2009

Rudo and CursiGael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna are reunited on the big screen eight years after Y tu mama tambien introduced them to international audiences and made a hot name out of director Alfonso Cuaron. This time it’s his brother Carlos behind the camera (he scripted the previous film) but the chemistry is still there as the pair play brothers who are plucked out of the Mexican slums to become overnight soccer superstars. But the fun comes when the duo start enjoying their manic lives a little too readily and tensions start to form between them. – JU
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Edinburgh 2009

The September Issue – No-one in the fashion world commands more fascination and influence than Anna Wintour. The feared editor of US Vogue was the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, yet the real woman has remained shrouded in mystery — until now. Filmmaker RJ Cutler follows Wintour from the office to fashion shows, shoots and meetings as she plans the September issue of Vogue. The result is a fascinating portrait of a blunt, decisive and ambitious woman. And when Wintour ruthlessly kills pages commissioned by creative director Grace Coddington, the dynamic between the two strong-willed women becomes the centrepiece of an increasingly revealing documentary. – AS
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