Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Movies of 2009

I saw a total of 121 movies released in the United States in 2009.  74 of those I saw at an actual movie theater, the rest on various home video formats.  There are still a handful of movies I wish I had seen before making this list.  In particular Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Black Dynamite, Bright Star, Broken Embraces, Crazy Heart, The Lovely Bones, Moon, Sleep Dealer, and The World’s Greatest Dad all sound like movies I would enjoy.  But the year is almost over, and at least some of those movies aren’t going to be playing Cleveland until well into January, so it’s time to just give up and make my list. 

The Ten Best Films of 2009

  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Inglourious Basterds
  3. A Serious Man
  4. Antichrist
  5. Martyrs
  6. The Hangover
  7. Duplicity
  8. The Road
  9. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
  10. In the Loop

For more details on my top ten films of 2009, follow this link to the article in Cleveland’s Scene Magazine on the best films of the year.  There you’ll find my top ten, as well as the top ten lists of fellow Scene critics Charles Cassady, Michael Galluci, Milan Paurich, and Pamela Zoslov.   

Another 15 Movies from 2009 That You Should See

  1. Sin Nombre:  Had I seen it in time to make my deadline for Scene, this gripping drama about two young people trying to enter America illegally would have made my top ten (I probably would have cheated and put it in a tie with In the Loop).  Like The Hurt Locker, this is a film that largely sidesteps the politics of its subject matter without sacrificing substance.
  2. Watchmen:  I gave the theatrical version of Watchmen 3 out of 4 stars.  Having now seen the extended director’s cut (available on Blu Ray and DVD), I would have to say that longer version deserves an extra ½ a star and a place on this list. 
  3. Up:  Another excellent film from the folks at Pixar.  Occasionally the plot falls into clich√©, but there’s still way more heart and originality here than in all the other computer-animated kiddie fare from this past year combined.
  4. Goodbye Solo:  I found the plot a little contrived, but writer/director Ramin Bahrani and his cast create such real characters and make us invest in them so deeply that it doesn’t matter. 
  5. Drag Me To Hell:  Director Sam Raimi delivers a funhouse ride of horror.  Just avoid the “unrated” version, which includes some ugly, unfinished-looking shots of additional CGI gore and grue that were obviously never intended to be seen.
  6. The Great Buck Howard:  John Malkovich is excellent as Buck Howard, a fictionalized version of once popular mentalist The Amazing Kreskin.  No deep meaning here; just a great character piece, well written and directed by Sean McGinly. 
  7. Avatar:  The 3D and special effects are everything director James Cameron claimed they would be, and the story and characters aren’t bad, either.  The message is perhaps a bit “in your face”, and at times hypocritical, but I have to respect a big popcorn movie that has the courage to take a moral stance.
  8. The Burrowers:  This subtle, serious horror-western hybrid takes a while to build.  That’s fine, because we get to actually know and care about the characters, something most horror movies these days seem to have forgotten.   
  9. Food, Inc.:  The only documentary to make my list.  A calm, rational look at just how screwed up the food industry in America has become.  It may ruin your appetite, but you should see it anyway.
  10. Zombieland:  It’s not the classic zombie comedy that Shaun of the Dead is, but Zombieland is still a fun time at the movies. 
  11. Trick R Treat:  Four interconnected stories play out almost like a horror version of Pulp Fiction in this viciously fun Halloween film.  Some segments are better than others, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  12. District 9:  Like the best science fiction, District 9 has something to say about the real world.  That all goes out the window as the movie turns into a standard-issue action film in its third act, but overall I still liked it.
  13. The Men Who Stare at Goats:  This fictionalized version of the book by Jon Ronson lacks the bite of its source material.  Taken as pure entertainment, however, it’s very much worth a watch.
  14. Up in the Air:  Jason Reitman’s smart dramadey boasts great performances from George Clooney and Vera Farmiga.  It’s undermined by a few false notes and Anna Kendrick’s obnoxious caricature of a performance (not her fault, that’s the way the role was written), but for the most part I liked the movie.  Just not as much as everyone else seems to.
  15. The Informant!:  Like The Men Who Stare At Goats, this is based on a true story that’s so absurd you wouldn’t believe it as pure fiction. 


Brian White said...

Great list!

I really want to check out The Hurt Locker ASAP! I have heard nothing but stellar things about it.

Great to see Trick 'r Treat on this page too. That little gem of a film has been delayed for so long that I almost gave up hope that it even existed before seeing it this past summer in San Diego.

Have a great New Year all!

Brian said...

Well I finally checked out Hurt Locker over the weekend. While I can't say I liked it the best of 2009 I can say had I seen it in 2009 it definitely would have made a nest in my top 10. Thanks for your recommendation!