$9.99 (2008) Poster

(2008)

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Third terrific Animated film out of the Middle East recently
Joe Stemme22 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The U.S. is dominant at the world box office for animated films, with Pixar at the top of the top of that particular food chain. And, Japan paces the planet for sheer volume of animated movies.

So, who woulda thunk that not one, not two, but THREE of the more interesting animated features of the past couple of years would come out of the Middle East?? First, the Iranian filmmaker working in France, Marjane Satrapi made the superlative PERSEPOLIS -- and, with this past week's events, it's worth revisiting for it shows some of the seeds of rebellion that has lead to the protest marches. Then, came last year's Foreign Language film nominee, WALTZ WITH BASHIR out of Israel.

Now, there's $9.99, made by another Israeli, this time working out of Australia - Tatia Rosenthal. $9.99 got a brief, ill-fated Oscar qualifying run in December in NYC and L.A.. It is now back in those two cities before, hopefully, opening wider across the country. *(see Oscar rant below)

$9.99 is a well done claymation feature which weaves some short stories by writer Etgar Keret into an entertaining composite story centering around an "angel" and how he interacts with the inhabitants of unnamed small city. Don't expect a strict narrative and some of its best moments are just that - moments in time. It has a bit of the hallucinatory effect of Richard Linklater's animated features - SCANNER DARKLY and, especially, WAKING LIFE. Really hard to describe because the plotting is so loose that to give away many details both ruins the effect, and don't do the film justice. Best to let its brief 78 minutes just wash over you.

The Claymation (augmented with CGI) is interestingly done, with an oddly effective sculptured look to the characters. Australians including Geoffrey Rush as the Angel and Anthony LaPaglia head up a solid voice cast. And, this must be the year of animated male member. First, there was the big blue meanie in WATCHMAN, and now, a clay one here. Yes, this is an R-rated film - also, for some language, clay-sex and drug use.

* Oscar Rant. As noted, $9.99 played for a week in NYC and L.A. in order to qualify for the Animation Oscar category. So, not only didn't $9.99 not get a nomination, neither did WALTZ WITH BASHIR. But, BOLT did!?? The members of the Animation branch should be utterly embarrassed. What?!! Did these two films split the Israeli animation vote? Of course, animators in Hollywood further humiliated themselves by voting for the lite-weight KUNG FU PANDA over WALL-E at their Annie awards (in fact, a near sweep of their many categories).
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10/10
The meaning of life...
vic-23225 February 2010
One character in this beautifully crafted film buys a book entitled "The Meaning of Life." While we never discover exactly what that book contains, "$9.99" peruses questions about life's meaning with poignancy and affection. It's sad, silly, very human characters are people we know, and real enough so that we might occasionally forget we are watching animation.

This is not a film for the young — there is no "action," no "romance," and little to make a viewer laugh out loud. Rather, we are offered a wryly comic look at human nature, best suited for those who have lived enough of life so as to be able to identify with the film's pathetically flawed characters, and look on them with affection rather than impatience or contempt.

Human beings, the filmmakers suggest, are rarely able to communicate with other human beings, even to express love to those they love most. They are even less likely to fulfill each other's hopes and expectations. It is a pessimistic outlook, to be sure, and rather depressing — but, in the end, we are left with the message that love not only is possible, it is the only thing that gives life any meaning at all. Love — crazy, misguided, or bizarre as it may be — is all that matters.
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Unique & Brilliant. In turns depressing and uplifting.
howgoldenboi8 April 2010
I was so surprised to see so many negative reviews for this movie because I thought it was absolutely brilliant!

Some people found the animation ugly whereas the movement seemed very smooth to me and the realistic expression and emotion they were able to portray with clay faces astounded me! The claymation style was too realistic for me at first, not cartoon-y enough, which gave the movie a very creepy disturbing feel. There are a lot of reds and purples used in the faces that can make the characters seem sickly, but you come to realise that this is a stylistic choice that makes the faces more varied and more like pieces of art than just moving toys. Art is supposed to disturb the comfortable anyhow and this movie does it very well.

I have also heard the movie be critiqued for its jumpy, disconnected plot (it is based on a collection of short stories) whereas I felt that the thematic connections were strong enough that this movie very much felt like a unified whole. The characters are connected by the apartment complex they share and by the kinds of lives they lead and the kinds of problems they face in the plot.

I loved the dialogue in this movie, one of those great works where subtle, very real moments and shifts in relationships are defined by the idiosyncratic way a line is worded in a conversation between characters. I was wrapped entirely in every conversation and each line seemed to carry so much meaning (in a light-hearted kind of way).

The stores range from touching, sweet and hopeful to disturbing and depressing send-ups of life in a post-modern age. You really can take from this what you want- but not because the filmmakers have made ideas vague and unfleshed, but because they have taken so many ideas and fleshed them out in so many different and unexpected ways that you have a whole smorgasboard of meaning to pick, choose, riff on, dissect, abstract and so on.

I don't want to hype it too much because I think part of my love for this movie was due to similarities I have with some characters and how connected this made me feel but please don't dismiss this movie, because it is definitely something very special!
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10/10
Very artistic and underrated film
Warning: Spoilers
I really liked this adult-aimed Australian animated film. The humor and the mood was somewhat dark and cynical, but I still enjoyed a lot seeing this movie, mostly because of the animation, which is quite detailed and well made. Unlike other stop- motion animated films, the characters aren't cartoonish, but are portrayed in a realistic way, something that contrast with the surreal and strange situations. The movie keeps a very interesting tone from beginning to end and all the characters are unique and interesting. Geoffrey Rush made a great voice performance as the "angel" and the rest of the cast made a wonderful work as well. This movie deserves more appreciation and recognition. I highly recommend it.
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8/10
a strange, episodic movie that contains some very weird moments
MisterWhiplash14 June 2010
$9.99 came and went from theaters, but it sticks out very nicely on On Demand, which is where I ultimately saw the little 70-minute claymation movie (I could say stop-motion animated, which it is, but it is very much in the clay tradition of practically being able to see the fingerprints on the characters' bodies and faces). It's about... I suppose how to live a life, I suppose, and that's emphasized by the book that keeps popping up periodically in the film- which you can buy for $9.99 (in the movie, not in real life, I think anyway)- that tells what the Meaning of Life is... that is, it gives a lot of other offers for books on how to deal with this or that in life. It almost looks like a coupon book, which is a shame since the character who is most in love with it, a nice kid, seems very much engrossed by it.

But the title of Tatia Rosenthal's film is more like rounding off reality, perhaps. It's not a full $10, but the characters do try to make that price in their lives. To put it another way, no one character in this film is quite happy, but they keep trying, and maybe life will have some meaning when they can attain some happiness - or not, as case might be. Rosenthal's film, based on short stories Etgar Keret, focus on a group of people who have some, um, quirks to them, or are just painfully normal. The film begins with a middle-aged businessman turning down a homeless man a dollar for a coffee, and the homeless guy pulls out a gun and shoots himself. He later returns as an Angel and hangs out with an old guy on his porch, smoking cigarettes and wondering what Heaven is like. The businessman's sons: one is the Meaning of Life book-reader, and the other is a repo man who falls hard for a sexy (as sexy as claymation can be) model, and proceeds to shave his whole body with hair - and then takes a cue from the organ-less men who removed their body parts until they were heads and blobs. All for love, I guess.

Other stories are a little more ordinary, more or less. More: a little boy is told by his father to put away fifty cents in his piggy bank so he can save up to buy a toy, but he finds that he grows attached to the piggy bank, who he names, and finds the piggy's smile very comforting ("I put money in, he smiles, I don't put money in... he smiles!"). Less: a guy whose girl really wants to settle down and marry and have kids and all of that, but finds that he would rather spend time in his room, listening to records with his three little "friends", little men ala Gulliver's Travels, and getting wasted on beer and pot. So the stories are mostly by themselves, but intertwine by certain events (such as the Angel doing a test "fly" off of the patio and with everyone else looking out the window), or by thematic context.

The stories have a lot of humor to them, with one-liners that zing ("I found that there's not one meaning to life, there's six!"), and the look of the film feels similar but is original in its own right of character design and approach (and, for once, we get a rated-R claymation movie, including full frontal nudity!), but it also goes for deep moments and resonance, and Rosenthal strikes some good ground here. She doesn't try and over-do the messages, but lets them speak for themselves through the stories. It's genuinely odd, but it also gives heart-felt scenes and passages, such as the little boy with the piggy bank (the end of his story with the bank is quite touching), and it values the power of human responsibility with fantasy in equal measure. If it were a little longer it might really be something great, but as it stands it's a curious little find.
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7/10
A Fairy Tale for Grown-ups
chemingineer30 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A man steps out of an apartment block and is accosted by a vagrant who pulls out a gun and politely requests for a dollar to buy a cup of coffee. The man refuses saying he is feeling manipulated and the vagrant promptly shoots himself. Yes, kills himself! This is the stunningly surreal opening sequence of the film. This stop motion animation film is populated with more such oddballs. . There is a drug addict who has for his buddies three Lilliputians straight out of Gulliver's World. We have a supermodel who likes her men so smooth that she can tolerate neither hair nor bones on their body. There is a little kid who gets a coin every time he drinks milk, which he saves in a piggybank; yet when it gets full does not have the heart to break it.

The one common thread that binds these disparate characters staying in the same apartment block is their deep melancholy. They are bored by the monotony of their lives and are in search of a meaning. We can readily empathise with these characters despite the comic book feel of the film.

The film takes a dig at the self help books available for $9.99. Despite shot in vivid colours, this is a grim film asking some uncomfortable questions about the meaning of life and happiness. The film ends on a positive note though with two of its characters teaching themselves to swim like a dolphin from a self help book. They have managed to discover their happiness. A fairy tale for today's grown-ups.

The animation is a treat for the eyes
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10/10
A Nutshell Review: $9.99
DICK STEEL25 April 2009
Personally I dig stop-motion animation, for the simple conscious fact that there's a lot of blood and sweat going on behind the scenes just to get an object to move. You can imagine what it takes to get a character to move an arm, and you extrapolate that effort into a feature length film with a lot more things happening concurrently on screen, and you're likely to appreciate this artform a lot more, with new found respect for it.

$9.99 is an amazing piece of stop-motion animation coupled with a tremendously engaging story made up of multiple narrative threads, and a myriad of characters attempting to tackle their respective problems in life. It begins with a bang literally, where a homeless man (Geoffrey Rush) with a gun in hand, asks Jim Peck (Anthony LaPaglia) for a cigarette and a light, before launching into some really clever moments about manipulation. It's an excellent start to jolt you into realizing that this film isn't just another walk in the park, and as it plays on, you'd discover its brilliance in its commentary about life, as seen from the experiences of the residents in an apartment block.

We have a family of three, with Jim who might just need his karma checked for encountering really antagonizing moments involving death, and his two sons Dave (Samuel Johnson) and Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn), the former being unemployed and is found to be central to the narrative, and the latter being a Repo-man finding himself falling, and obsessing over the love by new neighbour and supermodel Tanita (Leeanna Walsman), who has a fetish for a hairless body. Then there's a lonely old man who finds the world contents passing him by with nobody interested in hearing him talk a bit (well, because he's long-winded as well), finding a companion in an angel, whom he asks incessantly about Heaven. Then there's a boy who has a friend in his piggy bank, and a couple on the verge of being married having to fall out because one of them refuses to grow up.

The "$9.99" comes from the price of a catalog of books, one of which touts to hold The Meaning of Life which Dave buys. Unfortunately, the characters here seem to be caught up in living their own lives and falling victim to respective challenges life presents itself, and so every effort that Dave wants to share gets spurned, and we the audience, unfortunately, don't get to hear if there are any insights to that. But of course we all know that there's no silver bullet, and the characters here, though the course of this emotionally moving film, learn of that meaning as it applies in their own, with the old man determined to take a more proactive approach, to a connection between a father and a son, to love found and running parallel to that, a love broken because of sacrifices that one has to make, or the lack thereof, and the maturing of a young child.

I guess nobody scoffs at animation, especially one that targets the mature audience – check out that Dr Manhatten moment. I've new found respect for stop-motion animation, and for the filmmakers involved in producing this fine piece of work. The attention to detail is incredible, never at any moment hinting that they had cut some corners and compromised quality. Definitely highly recommended, and easily one of the few films I thoroughly enjoyed in the festival lineup.
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5/10
Would you still appreciate the miracle of being alive, after seeing $9.99 ? Personally, I would not.
Made up of Israeli writer Etgar Keret's several short stories, $9.99 is a black comedy satirizing social manners and discontents of today's urban nation. Within a high density of morbid humour, the purpose of black comedy is somewhat achieved. Israeli animation director Tatia Rosenthal is trying to provoke discomfort and serious thought about the social matters that makes life unbearable, in the audience. From couple years earlier another animation of her "A Buck's Worth" seems to be the nucleus of $9.99.

Besides the production values, technical values are at a very low-level. Of course, it's not fair to expect a flawless claymation like they do in Hollywood, but still the characters look and move very distractive. Audio mix is not satisfying either. Plus it's very silent and the music is very boring, while the social lampoon is in charge of the mood. Alongside with the unpleasant characters, these are the main reasons why a lot of people hated this film.

4 households of one apartment block form the main characters and the plot. The first one is a broken family, a father and his two adult sons leaving apart from the mother of their home. Dave, the youngest kid is the leading character in the story. He is a very likable kid; honest but dupe, helpful and skillful but unemployed. His brother works as a bailiff; smart, self-confident, happy-go-lucky. The father of the family is self-disciplined, strict, introverted, snooty; throughout the story Dave's father always ignores his son and always extremely ironic incidents happen to him, thus he becomes depressed and turns out to be pessimistic. While the story comes to a resolution, he no longer has any eagerness to do a thing; he loses his aim of life. That's when Dave comes to his rescue, offering him fresh ideas of finding the hidden meaning of life.

Opening with a dark view of life, that view becomes brighter and softer even though the story develops with sad and ironic incidents happening to regular people. Rather than some intelligent black humour, there's nothing interesting or to be of liking. I watched this film with my friends and their friends altogether on a boring Saturday afternoon, and everyone hated it, so we turned it off in the middle; since no one really cared whatever is going to happen to those unpleasant and uninteresting people. Then after a while, I watched it on my own forcing myself to see how the conclusion is going to be. I've seen much more awful animations. This was somewhat tolerable.
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9/10
Find your own meaning.
Naman Kamdrimar3 June 2010
I guess a lot of people went into this movie expecting something more straightforward and "meaningful" due to its premise. Perhaps they were expecting some sort of insight into the meaning of life; after all, one of the main characters does buy a book for the titular $9.99 which purports to know.

Instead what we have is a delightful collection of interwoven short stories, all sharing in a similar theme of what it means to be happy, with surrealist angle that gives it an almost fairytale feel, but which never detracts from its believability.

The characters are made out of clay, but they're people, and even in their mundane lives, they still have interesting stories to see play out. None of them are heroes, or villains, or otherwise anything more or less than ordinary enough people. They have flaws, and fears, and insecurities, but they manage to make do with what they have to give their lives meaning, and it's the sort of thing that happens all the time in the real world, just sans some feathers and swimming techniques.

This movie never bludgeons you over the head with things the director feels are profound or meaningful, it sits down with you for some tea and chats amiably about its day, and lets you draw your own conclusions. If you want a movie to just relax and get lost in, you probably won't go wrong with $9.99.
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7/10
Raw Australia without sweetener
Imdbidia25 February 2011
An Australian-Israel independent animation clay movie that tells the story of a group of lonely people living in the same block of apartments. The story is told, mainly through 28y.o. unemployed Dave Peck, who buys books by post for only $9.99, one of them about the meaning of life. But we also see his depressive father, his disconnected brother, a commercial sexy model, an elderly widower, a father living with his only child, a young couple in crisis, an "angel", and a former magician.

This is a film for adults that examines adult themes (loneliness, immaturity, lack of love and purpose in life, lack of communication in society), with drug use, nudity and explicit sex scenes included. It also has some surrealist touches in between, that I found delightful.

The clay animation is very cartoonish in a way, odd-looking at first, but very original, with great movement and good facial expressions, realistic clothing and body language. I loved all the decoration of the flats, all the little details inside them, which help to draw visually the character of the people living in them. The city landscapes and city spots are also lovely. The colours and mood of the movie are excellent, and also the music.

The individual stories are great - fresh, believable, and poignant. They depict well the sins and deficiencies of modern society, and the social distress in which many people live. They also show real Australian characters and attitudes, those that you'd find in real world, in your own block of apartments. Raw Australia without sweetener.

The main problem of the movie is the lack of a real plot. In most cases we are just witnesses of the lives of those people, but we do not understand why are in a certain state or why they act in a certain way, what troubles them inside and moves them to act in a certain way - Lack of depth. Only after watching the movie, I learnt that the story is based in different short stories by Etgar Keret, which explains in part the lack of harmony of the film, and the disconnection of some of the individual stories. The scriptwriter is to blame for not finding an element that gives consistency to the whole film and not blending well the individual stories.

In fact, the aim of the movie might not be clear to the viewer. All the part about the purchase of books is unnecessary. Many people will think that the meaning of life is what the movie is all about, when in fact the movie shows that life does not have any meaning, at least for the characters of the story, and that life is what it is. So, why confusing the viewer with elements that don't add anything to the characters or the story line? I think it is a very interesting and original film with great characters that deserves to be watched despite its flaws.
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10/10
Impressive And Far More Interesting Than Movies With Live Actors And Live Action
Rodrigo Amaro26 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"$9,99" is an animated feature about real people with real problems and perhaps real solutions, yet is a far more interesting portrayal of human perspective of life than live action movies with real actors. It has some strange appearances of talking objects and tiny little persons and a "Angel" but it's a very impressive movie and his proposition couldn't be better for the nowadays audience: What's the purpose of life? If live has a purpose it can be bought or purchased by the price of $9,99?

Dave Peck (Samuel Johnson) is a young and unemployed guy who realizes that his life hasn't a great purpose. He can't work with something he would like to do and occasionally works along with his brother Lenny (Ben Mendelsohn) convicting people who doesn't pay their rent (something he doesn't like to work at) and lives with his old father (Anthony LaPaglia) in a apartment. One day Dave reads a catalog and in it he discovers a book called "The Meaning of Life", and it costs $9,99. He goes forward and buys it. While reading he sees that are things he can use to make his life and everyone's life a positive things (the biggest disappointment here is that we never seen what's in the book but we have a clue: there are six things that everyone really needs, once again no answers).

But it looks like no one wants to hear Dave. His father's still shocked with a strange event where a homeless guy asked him for money to buy a cup of coffee and then after his refuse the homeless shoot himself; his brother get involved in a bizarre love relationship with a famous model (Leeanna Walsman) where he does everything to work the way she wants even she didn't ask for it (such as cut all his hair because she's too sensible to it). Along with these characters there are a little boy who desperately wants a toy but instead his father teaches him a lesson and gives to the boy a piggy bank to save all the money he gets after drink his milk. But the boy end up having more affection for the smiling pig with his savings. There's also the bored old man whose life is a tedious thing until the appearance of an strange and ruthless angel (Geoffrey Rush) that tells him how Heaven is. The last character is a immature young man in love by a girl but don't want to get married with her. He starts to take drugs and have conversations with some tiny little and playful figures.

What's the interesting thing here? This stop-motion animated film is not concerned in show to its audience no kind of answers about the meaning of life but it has a more deeper focus on the things we don't said, or don't heard and why happiness is in the little things. It's about change of perspective and with that you might get some meaning to your life. Examples: Many of the characters are so much enclosed and locked in their own worlds that they don't know the dangers surrounding him. There's suicides and possible murderers risking their lives and other people's lives but something happens and their route is suddenly changed here. Dave despite all the problems he has it's a good and positive character. His sadness comes not only because he can't work by making polls by the phone but also because no one hears what he's got to say. His desperation in to be heard make him buys another book (the same $9,99 price) that can make him be a people that is heard by everyone. The irony (yes it has lots of good humor here) is when that book isn't delivered because the publisher doesn't print that book anymore and he's got his money back and another book about "how to swim like a dolphin". This book reveals to be more powerful than the one he wanted to buy.

I don't think I ever saw a more plausible and non downer film about how changes are important in people's life and that life might have a meaning if you want it to have a meaning. Each person must finds his own truths, sometimes we need help and other times we don't, but certainly we need other people around us because that's what human race is all about: help each other in the best way we can. The film is filled with many thoughts and ideas, it's very easy to follow, in no way is a depressive thing despite it's subject and has more relevant things to say than Disney's and DreamWorks's cartoons. It could be a little bit more longer than it is, it makes you want more when it gets closer to the end. 10/10
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4/10
interesting stop-motion look
SnoopyStyle20 August 2016
In a Sydney apartment building, Dave Peck is an unemployed 28 year old living with his father Jim. Jim encounters a homeless man who pulls out a gun. He's not robbing him but only wants a dollar. Jim doesn't give him the dollar and he shoots himself. Dave buys a book giving the meaning of life for $9.99 in the mail. His brother Lenny gets him a job as a repossessor. Lenny has model girlfriend Tanita who is obsessed with smooth hairless guys. The homeless man returns as an Angel and talks to old man Albert. Zacky is a soccer obsessed boy. His father gives him a piggy bank instead of a soccer toy. Ron asks Michelle to get marry but she rejects him.

The stop-motion claymation looks interesting. It gives the movie an originality. The story has plenty of weird touches although it's too scattered. The narrative meanders a lot following quite a few main characters. It opens with an intriguing scene. Then it grounds down a bit. Dave is an annoying character. I can't tell if he's mentally handicap. He's slow and clueless like a 10 year old. I don't understand Michelle although her phrase "I'm not yelling. I'm just talking very loud." is kinda funny. Angel falling off the building should have been the climax. It is definitely a great scene. In general, the story is a bit too scattered and it needs a more compelling lead than Dave.
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5/10
been done before - But note, you could also do a lot worse
djhuckel14 July 2009
Recently I was invited to a mystery movie – it was called '$9.99' (nine, ninety nine). But obviously I didn't know what it was 'til it was about to start... if I knew before.. I wouldn't have gone – I'd seen an ad a few weeks back and… it hadn't grabbed me.

Here's a review I wrote.

'$9.99' is an Australian stop motion clay stop animation movie... It has voicing the characters - a veritable who's who of Aussie cinema – Geoffery Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, David Fields, Barry Otto, Claudia Karvan (soon to be seen in Daybreakers), Ben Mendelson - maybe it's all those who didn't get in to work in the other recent stop motion clay motion movie 'Mary & Max'.

It's nowhere as good as 'Mary & Max' (Directed by Adam Elliot. With Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana & Barry Humphries).

'$9.99' is very twee and feels like its been done before so many times - said in a sarcastic tone- ...'a movie about the depressing facts & fragility of life but wait.. it has resolve & gives us hope! Oh joy... ' This review is no comment on the artwork which was clever and impressive... how its done with the camera and move, shoot again etc... merely the story.

As said earlier, I'd seen the ad for it before at the Dendy cinema and I had thought 'oh no…' I just felt like it had nothing really new to offer.

Catch it on DVD or if you want to go to the movies and nothing else is on, or u want a small lift. But note, you could also do a lot worse than this.
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4/10
Worse than mediocre
maxgreis21 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
My girlfriend and I decided to see $9.99 after reading a large write up in the NY Times. We both like claymation, and were intrigued by the mature approach this movie was taking. It's not a kids film, but the problem is that it's simply not a good film.

The plot, if you can even call it that, is practically non-existent. The story meanders from one character to another, with very little rhyme or reason. I guess you could call it a character-based film, but the characters were less than intriguing. They either come off as not very believable or just simply boring. The filmmaker can't seem to make her mind up whether this should be a slice of life or a surreal journey, and it ends up failing at both. On the realism side- you get the boring old guy no one wants to talk to, the young adult who can't hold down a job, a little kid who decides that his piggy bank is his favorite toy, and a few more. On the surreal side- you have an abrasive homeless jerk who becomes an angel, an engaged man who decides he'd rather hang with miniature party buddies instead of getting married, and a man who shaves off all his hair for a beautiful woman and then turns into a chair at the end. Don't worry about explanations, character development, or intriguing dialogue because there isn't any.

When a plot is this weak, characters are this boring, and the conclusion is so unsatisfying, I struggle to find any redeeming qualities here. The sophomoric claymation certainly doesn't do it any favors either. $9.99 wants to be a surreal philosophical journey, but it's mostly just an underwhelming, unsatisfying series of vignettes that are poorly tied together. It's almost like someone took the film Waking Life, removed all the interesting dialogue and philosophy, and tacked on a sorry excuse for a plot. There's simply not much here worth watching, and you certainly won't find the meaning of life with $9.99.
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5/10
Crash? No. Altman? No? Bukowski without the fun? Perhaps.
Chris Knipp12 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This stop-motion clay animation film has a scattered, episodic plot -- a handicap that, despite some technical accomplishment and good actors doing the voices, it never overcomes. It concerns people living in an apartment building. Whether it's located in Sydney or Tel Aviv seems to be unclear. This is said to be the first Israeli-Australian film co-production. The filmmakers are Israeli, many of the the voice actors, Aussies. What is clear is that the effect of the collaboration is distinctly downbeat. It left me feeling depressed not only due to the subject matter but also from wasting two hours. Well, it felt like that. It was really only 78 minutes.

At the outset, before the opening credits, a man on the street resembling Bob Hoskins refuses to give a homeless man a dollar. The homeless man pulls out a revolver. The Hoskins type still refuses to give him money even under this extreme pressure, and as he walks away, the homeless man shoots himself. The film never achieves this level of intensity again.

Later the homeless man comes to visit the Hoskins type as an angel with wings. Hoskins' 28-year-old son lives with him and is unemployed; he has another employed son who's a re-possessor. The stay-at-home son gets fired from a one-day tryout on the repossession team for helping a man avoid having his appliance repossessed. A magician. A little boy grows so fond of his piggy bank (he takes it in to Show and Tell at school) that he won't smash it when it's full and secretly "sets it free" outdoors.

A supermodel likes her men smooth, not only hairless -- but boneless. Here the film moves into the realm of the grotesque and creepy, and it remains in a zone of the pointlessly weird to the end.

Also strange is another young man who is visited by matchstick-size frat boys who drink tiny beers and share joints with him. Is he the one who is heartsick because he and his girlfriend are estranged? The young men are hard to tell apart.

In a final flight of fantasy the unemployed son and his by now deranged father (burdened by guilt after the "angel," apparently still mortal after all, falls to his death from the apartment), follow a book on "How to Swim Like a Dolphin." This film suffers from a screenplay that never seems to know where it's going.

The trouble with "claymation" figures is that even when they look like real people, they appear dead. All the figures' lips look stuck on. The effect of the story, limited to a confined world like a Christmas garden seen up close, is claustrophobic. It's not that the film isn't adept technically. Skillful it is, at making faces and figures move. Though when they walk there's a limping, jerky effect, facial expressions are lifelike. But when you see a clay face weep, it's disconcerting because that remind you the face is clay.

The film interweaves the lives of twelve characters, and is based on the stories of Israeli writer Etgar Keret. This interweaving has led to blurbs comparing '$9.99' with 'Crash' and Altman's 'Short Cuts:' false advertising. No such levels of significance or quality are achieved here. Several characters are voiced by famous actors, including Anthony La Paglia (the Hoskins type) and Geoffrey Rush (the suicidal homeless man). As a 'San Francisco Chronicle' review comments, most of the characters are "broke, addicted, depressed, or crazy." There is sex, one case of male frontal nudity, and profanity. This isn't for kids by a long sight.

Tatia Rosenthal is an Israeli animator of talent and dedication. The short stories of Keret are puzzling and grim; in these juxtapositions, though the screenplay is by Keret himself, they never really come together in a coherent way, except to produce a unified sense of futility. The effect of episodic storytelling, tendentiousness and failed or marginal characters suggests Charles Bukowski -- but without any of the liberating lowlife zest of Bukowski's don't-give-a-damn world-view. Fans of the bizarre may be attracted by the film, and devotees of stop-motion animation, one supposes, might consider it a must-see. Others should studiously avoid it.

('$9.99' was included in the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center in March 2009. It began a limited US theatrical release in June.)
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5/10
Witty, interesting and Just a Little Disturbing
Oh Boy was that just a little disturbing.

Stop motion puppets having sex (shudders)

Not really sure that this one had much in a way of a story line. I mean it was good for a one time viewing. But it was just a little to Salvador-Dali-Style-Surreal for my tastes. I mean, don't get me wrong, the script and the animation was amazing. I love a good bit of stop-motion animation, but this crazy Australian movie has just about turned my brain to stew.

We aren't saying that this film is bad. In fact considering the short synopsis that this movie has on IMDb we were expecting it to be quite dry and dull, what we actually got was a film that was fairly witty and meaningful...once you got passed the weirdness of it. Don't be fooled folks, just because this is an animation, does NOT mean that it is safe for children to view. This is very definitely an adult picture, just portrayed in a way that is slightly different than usual.
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7/10
an original mix
dromasca13 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
$9.99 is a very special kind of film. It combines a very classic style of animation called 'stop-motion' which I remember being used since the 60s in the East-European animation movies with modern and realistic setting, all based on a collection of touching and in many cases surprising and even disturbing stories written by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret. Whie many of Keret's original stories are located or inspired by his home city of Tel Aviv, the action this time is moved to some undisclosed metropolis, which could be in Australia, could be in Israel, could be in almost any place on Earth.

The stories develop in parallel with some intersecting threads. An angel befriends an old and lonely man, gives him company and some hope, but is he an angel? A kid dreams to become a football star and to buy a footballer action man, but his father turns aside his dream to a more concrete educational goal which may become a dream by itself. A young man tries to find his purpose in life from 9.99$ motivational books, and finds the lost connection with his uncommunicative father in an un-expected way. His brother falls for and beds the girl of his (and many men's) dreams but this relationship may demand unexpected sacrifices.

All the stories start in a conventional manner, we seem to know the characters, they can not only be neighbors in the same building but neighbors of ours as well. All the stories develop in ways we do not expect, and some end badly. Yet, there is a feeling of humanity and intrinsic kindness that is shared by all and the overall effect is unexpectedly positive, although at the end I cannot really point why. Maybe, for sure actually the fine cinematography, the voices belonging to such actors as Geoffrey Rush or Samuel Johnson play a role. This film delivers more charm than one can expect.
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1/10
bad enuf to turn me off this director forever
felicity-116 June 2009
I saw the film at a packed out cinema during the Sydney Film Festival. I have nothing good to say about this film. The characters were very low quality animation, hideous to watch for nearly 2 hours but I stayed. Luckily I am a huge fan of Altman as somehow his film 'Short Cuts' 1993, is mentioned in the promo for this film and my immediate thought after seeing the film was 'can I ever watch Short Cuts again without thinking of this crappy film.' Simply a vehicle for weak and meaningless cracks at religion with a pitiful gratuitous sex scene thrown in and it evoked very little of the ordinary life in the characters which was my expectation from its advertised linking of Short Cuts. Maybe they meant bacon short cuts at the supermarket as that was a huge porky. I unfortunately wasted more than $9.99 on this film.
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7/10
$9.99 is a series of unique short stories. However the tales are a bit uneven and get a little artsy at the end leaving you a bit confused.
DemiRonin16 April 2011
$9.99 is a series of unique short stories. However the tales are a bit uneven and get a little artsy at the end leaving you a bit confused.

$9.99 is a stop motion claymation film that centers around an apartment complex in Australia and follows the tale of about eight or so of its inhabitants. To give you a sample: there is a boy who loves soccer and is saving up for a soccer toy. There is a father who witnesses two deaths right before his eyes and has two son's who aren't exactly successful. There is an old man who everyone ignores because he yammers constantly about his dead wife. And there is a stoner/alcoholic who gets faded and hallucinates about three miniature druggie friends.

I have to say... the intro to this film is really enthralling. I won't give it away but it definitely grabbed my attention. It's quirky, sad and violent which definitely covers the multiple tones of this film.

The characters and stories are sporadically interspersed and no one story gets priority over another. And I think because of that indecision it sort of holds the movie back. Some of the stories aren't that interesting in the beginning but about 20 minutes into the film one of the characters turns out to be a living Angel, with wings! Now the Angel of course is the most intriguing of the stories, which is why he is on the cover of the movie poster and also probably why an Israeli funded commission helped fund this film. Now I think if the film didn't have the angel $9.99 wouldn't have kept my attention the way it did. I stayed attentive because I wanted to know the significance of the angel. However the Angel story doesn't come to a conclusion like some of the others which drove me crazy! All the other stories had a solid but not always satisfying ending. However the angel story just sort of "dropped off" (inside joke). I understand the angel changed these characters lives in some way and manner but why did he change their lives and why not all in the same manner either positive or negative?

Perhaps there is some biblical homage that I don't understand because I'm not that well read in religious texts but I find this to be the biggest detraction from the film. Also I don't mind the surreal hallucinations by the druggie but the story about the man who shaves himself to satisfy his lover - WTF happened at the end!? Is that real or not real? I can't tell you what happens because it ruins the surprise but lets just say some world mechanics were definitely broken.

All in all the film is quite idiosyncratic and moves at a very odd pace. I think if I were stoned this movie might have been too much to handle, but definitely check it out if you have an open mind and like seeing weird things.
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2/10
Not even worth 99 cent
leiser183 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I do not recommend this film!!! "$9.99" was promoted as this interesting animated flick everyone should see. I did see it, at least half of it. I got so bored that I walked out of the movie theatre. It was shown in connection with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. I'm glad they didn't include this film in the actual festival which starts on July 23, 2009. First of all, there's nothing Jewish about this movie. The director may be, but that is neither here nor there. I hated the clay animation. The characters looked hideous. Even if the animation had been better, I still wouldn't have been able to get into the characters. The story is mediocre, at best; the guardian angel part was not well thought out, and who were those three little guys supposed to be? Maybe it would have been better to make this into an actual feature film, with a better script, of course. Since I left, I don't know how the movie ends, and frankly my dear, I don't give a damn...
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The best part about this movie is the deluded audience
Ersbel Oraph15 December 2016
The best part about this movie is the deluded audience out there to eviscerate the unbeliever. The most liked are ecstatic reviews and the most unliked are the reviews of people unimpressed about the performance. Never mind the button is called useful, people still use it as a facebook like.

Story? There is no story here. A few snapshots intertwined in strange ways. Sure, they are very you can say humane. As they, the snapshots, are useless. There is everything an old white man can dive in and have a go at his own memories. I doubt other demographics will find these pointless snaps as relevant.

The backgrounds are the second best thing about this movie. They are quite careful designed and in most cases the authors strike the right proportions. But the puppets are monstrosities. To say they are ugly it would be an understatement. Zombie movies creep me less than this ugly sort of animation. Which was a lot of work. But for what? For the laurels thrown by a few old men identifying the bits and pieces in their wasted, pointless lives? Yes, that might count as an explanation. Only the makers of this creep production are mystics and wise is some deepity like "do you know that if is the middle word in life?" **** off!

Contact me with Questions, Comments or Suggestions ryitfork @ bitmail.ch
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