To avoid a big, long, pretentious speech about what the year 2009 meant for film, here’s my favorites of the year.
First up, several honorable mentions. “Adventureland”, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”, “Brothers”, “Bruno”, “500 Days of Summer”, “Food, Inc.”, “The Hangover”, “Julie and Julia“, “The Messenger”, “Moon”, “Paranormal Activity”, the directors cut of “Watchmen”, “Zombieland”, and especially “Star Trek”.
The best film of 2009 was “Inglourious Basterds”. Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, and especially Christoph Waltz are all fantastic here. The cinematography is gorgeous, the dialogue is the year’s best, and the ending isn’t afraid to re-write history. This ranks as one of the great men-on-a-mission films, and simply as great entertainment.
The second-greatest film: “Up in the Air”. Funny, angry, romantic, tragic, relevant. This is an old-fashioned Hollywood film that also documents living in these tumultuous modern times. They truly don’t make them like this anymore.
At three: “Where the Wild Things Are” was probably the one of the most purely joyful children’s films ever made, and it’s literally a crime that it received no Academy Award nominations.
Four: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Up” compose some of the great animated films of our time: Each unique in its own way, each impeccably written. Not just great children’s movies, or great entertainment, but truly fantastic films in their own right.
Five: “Precious” is an almost unbearably tragic film, but also incredibly uplifting. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique each deserve Academy Awards for their portrayal as an abused, obese daughter and her vicious mother.
Six: Joel and Ethan Coen’s “A Serious Man” is their best film in a decade. It concerns a Jewish professor under-going a mid-life crisis. It poses a great deal of questions, offers few answers, and is wickedly funny. Unmissable.
At seven: You’ve seen “Avatar”. I’ve seen “Avatar”. I really needn’t explain its greatness to you.
Coming in at number eight, Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fantastic in “Crazy Heart”, a film about an alcoholic country singer inspired to clean himself up when he falls in love.
The moving coming-of-age story “An Education” is my ninth favorite film of the year: With stunning performances by Carey Mulligan, Peter Saarsgard and Alfred Molina, it’s probably the most well-acted film of 2009. Funny, poignant, but above all moving, the film masterfully displays the cultural turmoil in 1960’s-era Britain.
And the tenth best of the year: Two very different action movies. “District 9” is a science fiction film set in Johannesburg, where an alien ship has floated in the sky for 30-odd years whilst the aliens are put in refugee camps below. It’s likely to be remembered for years to come, amongst the likes of “Alien” and “Star Wars” for original, ground-breaking science-fiction. “The Hurt Locker” follows a team stationed in Iraq, whose sole purpose is to defuse bombs. Its scenes depicting the defusing of such bombs are almost unbearably tense. Emotionally involving, expertly directed by Kathryn Bigelow and very well-acted from relative newcomers like Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.