Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 12 Best Movies of 2009

This year's film class (as opposed to last year) was so viably good I needed to include a 2+ category and thought an extra two films deserved acclaim. Last year I could have done a top five and ended it at that. Not this year. The films were plentiful, full of wonder in some cases. I think film, in the end represents the times in which we live and at their best hold a mirror up to us. These 12 films I think did that best. Other films of interest that I liked are An Education, 500 Days of Summer, the Hangover (hilarious) and Adventureland. But, these are the best.

#12 Precious

Precious is a wonderful film. When I heard Oprah and Tyler Perry were producing I sought to avoid it at all costs. But, then I read the reviews and they were good. I saw it and was quite frankly blown away. Gabourney Sidibe gives a remarkable performance and is highly deserving of an Oscar nomination. Mariah Carey also stars in her role as the social worker. The teacher, I think gives the weakest performance. Mo'Nique gives one of the most emotionally charged performances on film I have ever seen. Amazing film.

#11 Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges gives the performance of a lifetime, in what has been a remarkable career. I don't believe he has any competition for Best Actor this year. It is a great film, though Maggie Gyllenhall aggravated me. I am not sure why. She is usually wonderful on screen. It is a movie of hope, in a pretty hopeless and depressing situation with a completely unsentimental ending.

#10 UP

(Sorry for the terrible trailer for some reason Disney unembedded them). Up is a great film, though so visually beautiful it is hard to focus. Unlike any animated film you have seen. It follows Carl Fredrickson to his dream vacation, one that he has wanted to take for 75 years.

#9 The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox was Wes Anderson's latest brain child and he delivers. George Clooney stars as the lead who likes to steal and Jason Schwarzman as Ash, his young overlooked son. The Village Voice summed this film up delightfully, "in the end this film is entirely human." When animation does that you have something special. The Fantastic Mr. Fox steals from some nasty farmers and we root like crazy for them.

#8 Sugar

This film, Sugar is like bizarro Bull Durham. And it is an entirely American film. We follow Miguel "Sugar" Santos through the travails of the Dominican camps to play in the major leagues. He comes to the states with a rocket for an arm and what he finds here is wholly surprising and the story becomes a story of survival, of immigration, hard work and of what dreams are really made of. Amazing film.

#7 Up in the Air

I loved "Up in the Air." I didn't expect to like so many movies more than this one. But, it is a great film. We watch Clooney and his new employee, Anna Kendrick completely derail everything they know about themselves and their world. Phenomenal performances from everyone involved. But, we watch a highly believable Clooney who has organized his life so as not to get hurt, so as not to have any surprises. But, it falls apart in the hands of Kendrick and then Vera Farmiga. Many surprises along the way wield crises for all involved. It is entirely about our society, what we hold dear, strong, together, organized, when none of us are that way at all. We are a hopeless lot, but we try anyway.

#6 The Messenger

The Messenger is the most provocative film of the year. It was startling to watch. Th emotional trauma of war has never been captured like it has here. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton give beautiful performances, all worthy of an Oscar. The fact that the Messenger isn't nominated and trash, like the Blind Side tells you everything you need to know about the Oscars.

#5 The Cove

"The Cove" is the rare film that is both brilliant and a social commentary. It acts as a caper, like the Brinks Job, but it is so much more. Because there is also something the viewer can do to stop the inhumane treatment of animals, that also corrodes the food supply and is helping to destroy the planet. The film follows the lead, who was a trainer on the show "Flipper" who is now the premier activist to shut down a Japanese cove known for massacring dolphins. Best documentary of the year.

#4 Sin Nombre

I didn't think I would see a better film this year when I saw this in early 2009. It is both terrifying and heartbreaking. A young Honduran girl travels a trail of horror to attempt emigration to the United States through the Mexican/Texas border. What she has to do to get there is chilling. It is a story of beauty and the triumph of the human spirit.

#3 The Hurt Locker

This is the best American film of the year (only trailer I could find). Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackey give startling performances. Technically difficult, a great script and Katherine Bigelow's direction is astonishing. Like the great "Stop Loss" and "the Messenger" it is provocative and it feels as if we are there with them. An uncanny piece of filmmaking.

#2 White Ribbon

This masterwork may be the most memorable of all films of 2009. It won the palm d'or at Cannes last year. It is about a German village just before the onset of World War I. It has been misconstrued as a film about German fascism. What it actually is about is terrorism and our treatment of people who have no recourse, but to resort to their own savagery to survive. Haneke has made many a provocative film, Cache comes to mind, but none like this one. He pushes the envelope and never lets on exactly what is happening leaving the viewer to imagine their own secrets. This film is scarier than any horror film I have ever seen. Wonderfully acted and directed. Wow.

#1 Fish Tank

This film actually came in 2nd at Cannes to "White Ribbon." I think it is better, however. It is like "Precious" in that it exposes horrendous childhood trauma and like "An Education" with an older man in the mix, but it goes far deeper than both films, exposing a raw emotional charge rarely seen on film. Newcomer Katie Jarvis gives a performance 30 year veterans wish they gave. Nothing about this film is predictable and it left me searing afterwards unable to leave the conjured images of children as unwanted victims in a world gone mad.

Best Actor - Jeff Bridges
Best Actress - Carey Mulligan
Supporting Actor - Woody Harrelson (I haven't seen inglorious basterds)
Supporting Actress - Mo'nique
Director - Katherine Bigelow
Screenplay - The Hurt Locker
Adapted screenplay - Up in the Air
Song - The weary Kind
Film - The Hurt Locker

Prediction: Sandra Bullock wins. They will give her an Oscar for giving an ok performance in what has been a disastrous career. That is how they roll.


R. Thelonious said...

Crazy Heart sucked something awful. Jeff Bridges however as you point out did a good job. I haven't seen the other films on your list except for Up (which was awesome: "Squirrel!") and Sin Nombre.

While you're making lists, care to tackle worst films of the year that everyone said were great. Avatar (great F/X but the rest???) and Invictus (flat; oh excuse me was I snoring through that). Crazy Heart (a shittier Wrestler with a country music soundtrack; Colin Ferrell really?!)

Ok, I'm done being a curmudgeon for the morning.

alright I'm done bitching for now.

Anonymous said...

It was the music that did it for me. I thought the music was great. Maggie Gyllenhall I thought sucked, but I liked the down and outedness of it. Most films are oh, look how wonderful things, I thought they got what an alcoholic loser with potential might be like. And it was based on the guy that wrote the music for the film. His name is Steven Breton. Supposedly he wrote several songs for Kris Kristoferson.

The worst movies of the year would be a long list. It is basically the fucking rest. I get your point though. The Blind Side would top my list. White lady from the south saves poor black kid from all those nasty black people. Kind of like last year's the Reader. You know, we should care about a lady who can't read though she fucking killed three hundred jews and believes in genocide. Thanks Hollywood.

Glory to the Union said...

Oh, hell's no. What about
"500 Days of Summer"? I loved loved loved that movie. "Up in the Air" was my close second.

As for "The Reader", let go, just like the 2000 election. You'll feel better. xo

Anonymous said...

KR, I am as much a Tarantino-hater as the rest of us, but Basterds was pretty interesting. I really think it has to be up there if you are going to put Sugar, which I liked, but is not really anything fantastic or different from a bunch of hard-luck tales. And A Serious Man, even if you don't give a damn about religion, is a great look at desperation. And a great acting job by the lead. I just watched it yesterday, and really liked it, although did not really know what the hell was going on.

I just downloaded Up in the Air. Hope to watch it in the next couple days, as well as An Education. I may get around to Precious, but I may not. I have been really avoiding it, for some (Oprah) reason.

Anonymous said...

Oh, KR, you are totally right about Sandra Bullock. She may just get a sympathy vote for being one of the worst actresses to somehow stay sort of A-List ever. Horrendous.

Anonymous said...

Glory 500 Days was about #14 for me. Nearly there. Good movie, but not anywhere near the top of the list. I actually think Adventureland was that genre anyway. I liked it though.

I won't get over either the 2000 election or Kate Winslet winning for the Reader. It was a putrid mess.

Agreed, Daddy. I didn't see Inglorious Basterds (which by the way I have been trying to get la francaise to go to, but she won't) or a Single Man and a Serious Man.

I do disagree about Sugar though. I think it was a great film. It really stayed with me for a while. It has been a great year for film I think.