Update #2 (7/17/2010): Here’s my final take on the best films of 2009.
Update (5/19/2010): An updated version of this list will be posted in July (after I finally get to see A Single Man) as part of my overall 2009 in review
For me, this has been an odd year. Yes, there have been plenty of good movies, but I never thought that the movies that ended up in my top 10 would be there. I seriously never imagined a Zack Snyder movie making it there, or a sci-fi movie made for 25 cents. This goes to show how cinema has the power to surprise you.
I don’t have much to add to this intro because I want to let my selections speak for themselves. So now, here is my first list of the 10 movies of 2009, as well as the worst, on which I will not spend a lot of time.
P.S. I wanted to do this list until I got to see every movie that I wanted to see for the year. However, I realized that due to both economic reasons and the availability of the movies, I would not be able to watch some of them until they were released on DVD. However, as it stands, I think I am pretty satisfied with my list. Yes, it is not full of the usual highbrow fare that comes out at the end of the year, but I love all the films on my list. Later on in the year I will publish an updated list, probably around June, along with a list of superlatives.
Coraline | Henry Selick It was a joy to watch the stop-motion master Henry Selick go back to what he does best. He is helped by a good, creepy script, and great voice performances.
District 9 | Neil Blomkamp Although flawed and underwhelming, Neil Blomkamp’s directorial debut is an impressive achievement for having such a low budget. Sharlto Copley’s performance is great
Fanboys | Kyle Newman A lot of people hate it, but I honestly did not laugh this much during a comedy this year. What it lacks in production values and writing, it makes up witih passion.
Grey Gardens | Michael Sucsy I didn’t find the movie to be that impressive from a directorial/production stand point, but Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange are so amazing that they made the movie better than it should have been
The Hangover | Todd Phillips Not as hilarious as people made it out to be, but I did laugh a couple of times and was entertained by the rest. I love it for it’s clever ideas and the chemistry between the cast.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | David Yates Easily the the best Harry Potter movie yet. Although the script could have been better, Yates’s efforts as a director are the best the franchise has seen. Michael Gambon steals the show, and the cinematography is the best I’ve seen this year.
The Hurt Locker | Katrhyn Bigelow A very intense war movie that doesn’t take sides and focuses on telling the audience how hard a soldier’s work is. If Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t win the Oscar, I’m gonna be mad.
Knowing | Alex Proyas The script needed to be worked on a bit more, but Proyas does what he can with it, and he made an intense and thrilling film that sports Nicolas Cage’s best performance since The Weatherman and Lord of War.
Star Trek | J.J. Abrams I was not a fan of Star Trek, but I had so much fun. J.J. Abrams continues to impress as a director and the entire cast turns in inspired performances. I look forward to the sequel and I hope it has less lens flares.
State of Play | Kevin McDonald A lot of people don’t like it, and I can understand why. However, I’m a sucker for the kind of movies take on the man with power and end up winning.
The Top 10
Easily one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. The reason why it affected me the way it did was because the subject matters it takes on are completely true and things like that happen every day, and yet nothing is done to stop them. Cary Fukunaga makes an incredible directorial debut and the production is top notch. The cinematography is breath taking, and the music is great.
Sam Raimi returns to his roots and brings us the second-best horror movie of the decade. Unlike most horror movies, it uses atmosphere and creepy imagery instead of gore to inflict the scares upon the audience. Also, it is sometimes hilarious, as is usually the case with Raimi horror. He now movies to Spider-Man 4, but hopefully he’ll gives us another horror film soon.
District 9 and this movie taught me that you don’t need a huge budget to tell ambitious stories, but Moon is the greatest achievement of the two. First, Moon didn’t have someone like Peter Jackson backing it, which is why it’s studio didn’t push it that much. Second, it had a much smaller budget and still looked like an old school Hollywood movie. Also, it is pretty much a one man show for Sam Rockwell, and he gives the best performance of the year.
Although the production is great, and it took directly what was in the book and put it on the screen, the theatrical version felt cold and pointless. The director’s cut adds about 20 minutes, and it has the thoughtfulness and heart of the graphic novel, and that is enough to warrant it a post on the list. The performances may not be quite what they could have been, but still it is all I could have asked for in a Watchmen movie.
Although I did not live in the 80s, I know what it feels like to be young and not knowing what to do with your life, and this movie captures that feeling perfectly. It was directed by the guy who did Superbad, and although they are completely diffrent movies, Greg Mottola out did himself. I just love this movie.
Although not quite as good as WALL-E, Up is yet another achievement for Pixar. Only they could have made the story of an old man making his house fly with baloons to get to Venezuela work, and they did. They cast every part perfectly, the script is great, and the score by Michael Giacchino is amazing. Plus, the first 15 minutes have much more emotion than just about any other movie this year.
The Coens take on religion, and it is as crazy as one would expect it to be. I think this is the only movie that made me stay quiet and contemplate what was what I had just experienced. I’d rather not talk about it and let you experience it for your self
After a 12 year wait, James Cameron comes back with a bang. He promised he would give us ground breaking FX, and he delivered on his promise. The story and script may not be strong, but he makes up for it with his effects, the awesome action scenes, and the performances he got out of his cast.
Quentin Tarantino rushed the production of his latest movie because he said that, and I’m paraphrasing, that he wanted to have a masterpiece before the decade was over. Guess what? he succeeded. His script is as sharp and as engrossing as his previous work, his direction is the best he’s ever done. Also, his ensemble cast may just be the best he’s ever worked with.
A family movie is supposed to be something that doesn’t talk down to kids and something that doesn’t make the adults roll their eyes at how infantile it is. Where the Wild Things Are achieves that. Director Spike Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers have made a movie that captures what it’s like to be a child, which something that few other movies have captured this decade, plus it does it better. The amazing production is the cherry on top. Simply amazing.
The Bottom 10
I was warned, but I did not listen. Two hours of my life I will never get back.
2. The Pink Panther 2
Stever Martin, John Cleese, Jean Reno, Lily Tomlin, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Emily Mortimer, Jeremy Irons. Could have been the cast of the greates movie ever, yet they wasted their talent on this.
3. The Ugly Truth
I was offended by the topic it takes on and by how badly made and clichéd it was.
4. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Tony Scott was not the right guy for this. John Travolta is awful and Denzel Washington’s performance is wasted on a bad movie.
5. Terminator Salvation
Pointless and unnecessary
6. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
I don’t even know why I bother with Matthey McConaughey movies any more. At least it had Jennifer Garner.
7. Easy Virtue
Jessica Biel’s performance ruins what could have been a great movie.
Tried to replicate the brilliance of Borat with a bigger plot and failed.
Could have made a good TV show for kids, but in the movie each segment is not given enough room for development. It even had the look of a TV show.
10. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
I have learned to accept the ridiculousness of it all, but still, it sucks.
So, there you have it, my first stab at the top 10 of 2009. Do you disagree with my choices? Do you lieke them? Have your say in the comments.