So this is it! The final thing I’ll write about 2009. This is THE LIST, the one that I start compiling in my mind and argue with myself about from the moment I see the first new movie of any given year. Every year I swear to myself that I’m going to limit this list to ONLY the top 10 films of the year and every year I end up breaking that promise. Sadly this year is no different. What follows is my list of the 20 best films I saw in 2009. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on some of them and if you think there should only be 10 on this list than lop off 20-11. Either way I’m sure you’ll agree or disagree and more than anything else find some of my picks… interesting and that’s the whole point. I can’t wait to see how my partners’ lists shake out but until then this is mine. So no more yakking, let’s do this thing.
2O. DRAG ME TO HELL: Fun, lots of pure, unadulterated fun. Gross, silly, disturbing and everything I could have hoped for in a return to the Horror genre by Sam Raimi. PLEASE, PLEASE bring this level of energy and fun to SPIDER-MAN 4!
19. THE SOLOIST: This should have been released in time for Oscar consideration last year. Instead this beautiful gem of a movie was buried early this year and that’s a shame.
18. THE HANGOVER: An epic, iconic, instant comedy classic. Not the funniest movie of the year, but close and probably the one that will be the most remembered due to its guaranteed repeat viewings at college campuses and bachelor parties everywhere.
17. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: Probably the best HARRY POTTER film yet. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is because it’s only part of a much larger, epic story. Having said that, as someone that’s read the books, this may be one of the single greatest film adaptations of all time. I don’t know how Steve Cloves did it, but he did and God bless him for it.
16. MOON: On repeat viewings this could very well jump way higher on this list. As it is, after just one viewing all those months ago I can easily say this is one of the best sci-fi films of the last 5 or 10 years. 2009 was a great year for sci-fi and this is just one of several sterling examples.
15. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: Remember how much I loved this movie when it first came out? Remember my hyperbole filled rave review? Well, all that holds true and I’m just as surprised as you are to see this wind up as only number 15 on my list, but that just goes to show how great the rest of the movies on this list are. Regardless I still hold that this film is an utter masterpiece and I’m still in awe.
14. FANTASTIC MR. FOX: Why does this beat out WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE? Quality wise they’re both equally brilliant but at the end of the day this film is just more fun. Given the choice I know I’ll watch this film more than Spike Jonze’s opus just because this movie made me laugh out loud multiple times and thrill to the way Wes Anderson was somehow able to perfectly adapt his style to a stop-animated family film, yet still make it a quintessential Wes Anderson movie without sacrificing anything for any sort of audience that might be interested in viewing the film. It’s no feint praise when I say this film has leap-frogged to right behind RUSMORE as my second favorite Wes Anderson movie of all time.
13. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Watching this movie made me feel like I was a little kid again. Throughout the entire running time I could have sworn it was the late 80’s / early 90’s and that I was smack dab in the middle of the second golden age of Disney animation. It’s been a long, dark winter for hand-drawn animation but with this magical and enchanting bit of joy Disney announced that the reports of hand-drawn animation’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
12. ZOMBIELAND: In my opinion the next two films on this list are easily the two funniest movies of the year and if I had to pick a winner in the laughs department between the two ZOMBIELAND would probably be it. For my money this is an instant horror-comedy classic that while not quite as good SHAUN OF THE DEAD or AN AMERICA WEREWOLF IN LONDON still stands as a worthy successor. Mark my words this film will be teamed with SHAUN OF THE DEAD on innumerable midnight movie double-bills for years to come and rightly so, if for nothing other than one of the single greatest cameos in history of film alone.
11. OBSERVE AND REPORT: From the moment I saw this film way back in April I knew it was going to wind up on this list. Please, please, please believe me when I say this is not just some “R” rated version of PAUL BLART: MALL COP. One reviewer basically described this movie as a comedic version of TAXI DRIVER and while I’m not sure that’s the perfect way to sum up the movie it’s still the most fitting description I’ve heard yet. I have never seen a comedy quite like this movie and I’ve never seen an audience respond to a comedy quite like they did to this one. Make no bones about it, this movie is hilarious. You’ll laugh out loud, you’ll cheer and root for Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen turning in easily the best, most nuanced and genuinely unique performance of his career) and then when all is said and done, as you’re walking out of the theatre you’ll realize you maybe shouldn’t have. I promise you this film is brilliant, it’s unlike any comedy you’ve seen in recent memory, its dark, subversive, poignant and disturbing. After only two films writer / director Jody Hill has proven he is a force to be reckoned with and I’m completely convinced he’ll be a director that develops a cult following ala Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne. I think I can safely say this because after OBSERVE AND REPORT I know I’ll see anything the man touches.
10. SHERLOCK HOLMES: I had a big stupid grin on my face throughout the entire length of this movie. I had an absolute ball with this movie, so much so that the idiot seated next to me thought I was having too much fun with it and asked me to tone it down. I admit I enjoyed explaining to him such a thing wouldn’t happen, but that’s a story for another time. For my money this is the single best and yes, most faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character that’s ever been committed to film. Yes, even more faithful and loveable than THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE and that’s saying something. I can’t wait to see where they go with this franchise because I’ll sure as heck be along for the ride.
9. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER: I saw this movie about a week and a half ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. I am MADLY in love with this flick and I’m fairly certain if I had more time go gestate on it and watch it again (Which guaranteed I will multiple times) this movie would probably jump even higher up this list. The tag line for this movie sums it up perfectly, “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.” This movie has it all, a great script, brilliant direction and a pair of leads that you will instantly fall in love with. This movie is truly magical and an absolute blessing for film fans everywhere, I simply can’t recommend it enough.
8. THE HURT LOCKER: There’s a reason this film is winning all the awards and accolades it has been, the movie really is THAT good! Kathryn Bigelow has churned out a pulse-pounding, nerve rattling, edge of your seat thriller that also adeptly delves into the minds and fractured psyches of the kind of men that live to put themselves in the kind of harm’s way that you and I would run screaming from. This movie works on every level and that’s why it’s really the first movie about the war in Iraq to connect with people in such a big way, and deservedly so.
7. AVATAR: I don’t think I can sum up my thoughts on this film any better than I already did in the blurb I wrote for Adam’s post about our mutual love for this film. As such I’m going to plagiarize myself and just run that blurb again.
“Twelve years is a long time to wait for anything but James Cameron has made it more than worth the wait. AVATAR is unlike anything you have ever seen before, it’ll dazzle your senses, melt your eyeballs and pin you to your seat. It immerses you in a world up until now you only thought you could see in your dreams. In short AVATAR is the reason they make movie theatres. If you want to see the future of film making converge with the best that modern story telling has to offer, get your butt to a theatre NOW!”
6. THE BROTHERS BLOOM: I love this movie so much I don’t even know where to begin. It works as a great con / heist film, a love story, a family drama. – you name it this film does it in spades. There were very few better written or directed films this year and the entire cast was spot-on, pitch perfect. After only two films Rian Johnson has proven he is for sure the real deal and I can’t wait to see what he has hidden up his sleeve next.
5. UP IN THE AIR: When it comes to this film I’ve said it all already. This movie deserves to win Best Picture. It deserves to sweep every award imaginable because it really is that brilliant, that poignant and best of all that topical. No other film that was released over the past 12 months better summed up 2009 and perhaps even the preceding years before it. I already consider this film a classic and I think in time everyone else will as well.
4. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS: Now that I’ve had time to give it more thought there’s not a doubt in my mind that this is my favorite Quentin Tarantino film yet. This is his masterpiece, the opus that he’s been working towards since he blazed onto the scene way back in 1992 with RESERVOIR DOGS. There is nothing about this film that I’m not madly, deeply in love with. This is darn near a perfect film, heck it probably is a perfect film and like the other 5 films that round out the top of this list, an instant classic.
3. DISTRICT 9: Easily the most original science fiction film of the year and perhaps the most original science fiction film since THE MATRIX, if not before that. Over the course of 112 minutes Neill Blomkamp proved he is a force to be reckoned with and Sharlto Copley proved he may be one of the greatest undiscovered talents of this new century. This is the kind of science fiction film we need A LOT more of, sharp, edgy, provocative, scary, thrilling and action packed all at the same time. In any other year this film would be at the very top of my list.
2. UP: Hand’s down the best movie of the year. It’s not my favorite (It was just barely beaten out by the number one film) which is why it comes in at the number 2 spot but trust me there was no better crafted film to hit the big screen in 2009 than UP. I’m not the kind of guy that gets emotional at movies. It just doesn’t happen, I’m weirdly wired so while most of the time I realize I should be having an emotional reaction I very rarely actually have one. Well UP turned me into a blubbering little girl. No joke this brilliant piece of cinema brought me to the point of tears 4 TIMES the first time I watched. I kept hoping it was a fluke but I’ve had the same, exact emotional reaction on subsequent viewings as well. I don’t think any scene in any movie in the last 5 years has struck me as hard as when Carl discovers what Ellie put in their “Adventure Journal”. There’s a pretty good chance that because of the new 10 nominee way of doing things this year with the Oscars that this film might actually get nominated for Best Picture and while I don’t think it has a chance of winning if by some miracle it did then one could honestly say the Oscars chose right and THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR was rewarded.
1. STAR TREK: So after all that high praise why is UP only my number 2 movie of the year? Simply because I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun watching a movie as I did watching STAR TREK. You’ve heard me raving about this film all year long so it should really come as no surprise that this film tops my list. I love this movie so much there is no way I can ever adequately explain it in words. STAR TREK is the kind of movie that inspired me to be a writer and make movies in the first place. From the moment it starts until the moment it ends J.J. Abrams rollicking reboot of a long thought dead franchise is an absolute ball. I saw this movie 5 times in the theatre and I’ve watched it at least 3 more times since it came out on DVD. This movie makes me happy, it thrills me and excites me and it reminds me why I love this medium so much. Does it have the emotional resonance of something like UP or UP IN THE AIR? Heck no! But what it does have is loads of very smart, very well made, popcorn munching fun, enough for 10 movies. Hands down STAR TREK is one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen and without a doubt more than any other film this year it is the one I will find myself revisiting the most. That is why amongst all of the other truly brilliant, ground breaking, CLASSIC films that came out this year it still stands heads and shoulders above them all as my favorite!