A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Films of 2009

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I always try to write my favorite films list last simply because most of the prestige pictures don't come out until after the year is out. It's a sad fact of movies, especially to us Alaskans. We're subjected to delays upon the already delayed nature of those movies.

What does that mean for my list? Well, before I get to my favorite films of 2009 list I'll list out the movies that would likely be contenders for my list. Also, the movies that just missed the cut are below.

Note: This was a weird year for movies. It seems like there weren't as many movies later on in the year that blew me away like last year with Let the Right One In and Slumdog Millionaire. No less, it was a good one, just weird.

Haven't Watched Yet: The Road, The White Ribbon, The Lovely Bones, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Informant!, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, In the Loop, Precious, Invictus, A Single Man

Missed the Cut: A Serious Man, Coraline, Zombieland

Best Documentary of the Year: The Cove

Why it's the best: I won't go into any details because a lot of this movie is based off the shock value and going in blind, but I can tell you this: when I was little I wanted to be a Marine Biologist because my affinity for Cetaceans (whales and dolphins, essentially). This movie is essentially a look into their treatment by certain communities in Japan and what the world is doing to confront these travesties.

What goes on in this hour and a half long documentary is horrific and heartwrenching, and really deserves to be watched. Some have called this film manipulative and even propaganda, but I disagree. It is an often beautiful film with a very important message. Highly recommended by yours truly.

15. Where The Wild Things Are (Directed by Spike Jonze, Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers)

14. I Love You, Man (Directed by John Hamburg, Written by John Hamburg and Larry Levin)

13. Moon (Directed by Duncan Jones, Written by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker)

12. The Hangover (Directed by Todd Phillips, Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore)

11. The Brothers Bloom (Written and directed by Rian Johnson)

10. An Education (Directed by Lone Scherfig, Written by Nick Hornby)

9. Star Trek (Directed by JJ Abrams, Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman)

8. Avatar (Written and directed by James Cameron)

7. The Hurt Locker (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Written by Mark Boal)

6. District 9 (Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

5. Away We Go (Directed by Sam Mendes, Written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida)

Why It's #5: This film didn't get the esteem that it deserved in my mind. It shouldn't be surprising that this film could be a success given that it is co-written by literary giant Dave Eggers and directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, but I think some discount it because of the rather unassuming leads in The Office's John Krasinski and Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph and the fact it is perhaps a bit twee.

One way or another, it is a movie to me that feels very real and easy to relate to. This film finds Rudolph five and a half months pregnant (but looking VERY close to labor) and Kransinski perpetually jovial as they are faced with the reality of starting a family without really having a home. Not a home in the sense of a having a house, but in having a place that emotionally and spiritually feels like the place they belong. What transpires in the length of this film is a journey from location to location to find the right place for themselves, and it is often hilarious and touching.

It also features an exceptional supporting cast, as we're given appearances from Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, Allison Janney, Paul Schneider, Jim Gaffigan, Melanie Lynskey, and more, all of whom do their jobs just as well as you expect them to. The soundtrack is mostly Alexi Murdoch, and his Nick Drake like sound really connects with the central themes of the movie.

Sure, this isn't a movie that is going to earn any nominations come Oscar time, but it is the type of movie that will connect with you as a viewer if you find yourself at the right point in your life. For myself, it is something that resonates.

4. Up in the Air (Directed by Jason Reitman, Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

Why It's #4: I wrote a more extensive review in December of this film, but I can summarize my feelings pretty well: this is a movie that finds writer/director Jason Reitman building on the considerable abilities he has demonstrated so far in Thank You For Smoking and Juno. The skills he shows within this film are of a master storyteller, ably handling the pacing and the look of the film to perfectly convey the emotion and power of the story on screen.

George Clooney gives another patented Clooney performance, although this time he mixes a bit of vulnerability into his concoction of effortless charm and complete self control. However, he is possibly overshadowed by his supporting cast, as the ridiculously sexy Vera Farmiga and the incredible Anna Kendrick frequently steal scene after scene. Kendrick in particular is excellent, as she manages to create a character that is a know-it-all on the surface and filled with regret and doubt internally. She wears it on her face like a seasoned veteran, and she has a hell of a future as an actress - not just in the Twilight films.

As I said to close my previous review, "This film is poignant, hopeful, funny, touching, and occasionally devestating. While it is predictable at times, I think that stems greatly from Reitman's naturalistic storytelling ability. It is a movie that demands you as a viewer to reassess your life and to think about what you want in your backpack. Powerful stuff, and in my mind is deserving of every accolade it has received so far."

3. Inglourious Basterds (Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino)

Why It's #3: If you've seen this movie you know why it deserves to be near the top of everyone's Best of 2009 list. This is Quentin Tarantino at his very best, as he manages to make a film that doesn't fall in love with its own voice and is incredible assured, yet is still incredibly cool and badass. I mean come on, this movie features a number of different stories at the beginning (the Basterds, Hans Landa and his quest to be the biggest badass ever, Shosanna and her revenge, Frederick Zoller and his quest to make Shosanna love him) that all converge at the end for a completely awesome finale. Even the chapter's name is fantastic - Revenge of the Giant Face. How is that not awesome?

I do want to note: while everyone in the cast is great, from Brad Pitt to Diane Kruger to Daniel Bruhl to Michael Fassbender to Mélanie Laurent, they are all greatly overshadowed. Christoph Waltz dominates this film as Hans Landa in a way that is rarely thought possible. His creation is one of the greatest villains I've ever seen, as he is fiercely intelligent, wildly unpredictable, despicable, and strangely hilarious. Every scene he is in is appreciably better than the ones that surround it, and to me, if he doesn't win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar they might as well simply stop the festivities because that would delegitimize the whole experience.

Amazingly enough too, this movie gets better every time I watch it. And I LOVED it the first time. To quote Tony Shalhoub in Galaxy Quest, that's a hell of a thing.

1 (tie). Up (Written and directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

Why It's Co #1: You can read my full review here, but really, if you've seen Up or know me, you know why it is finishing at the top of my list. Up is perhaps Pixar's finest hour, taking maybe their most outlandish plot yet (yes more so than talking cars) and turning it into something that is quotable, touching, hilarious, action packed, and incredibly rewatchable.

Better yet, they managed to create some of the best characters in their history. Whether you're talking about Kevin, Dug, Russell, or Carl Fredricksen, you have four characters who are on par with Woody and Buzz, Wall-E, Mike Wazowski, Remy, and all of their other masterful creations. Their relationships form the backbone of this film, and if this isn't the year Pixar finally earns their Best Picture nomination, I'll just assume it's never going to come.

In short, I hid under Up's porch because I love it. If you've seen the movie you know what I mean.

1 (tie). (500) Days of Summer (Directed by Marc Webb, Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber)

Why It's Co #1: Every year there is a movie that comes out of nowhere that I connect with entirely. It's always a quirky, charming romantic comedy with leads I've previously liked and it always features an awesome soundtrack. This year? It's (500) Days of Summer, and unlike previous years this movie has managed to have legs for me and hasn't fallen off the face of the Earth upon further viewings.

I think one of the main reasons is because unlike previous quirky romcoms that have sucked me in, this one has a strangely universal feel to it. Who hasn't found that one girl who when you think of her, you can't think of anyone else? That one girl who has no flaws and only stunning positives? That one girl who makes everything else go away? This movie captures that feeling, and the feeling of how you feel when she's no longer in your life.

I've been told by others that it is a kind of depressing movie, but I disagree entirely. I think it's an extremely hopeful movie in fact. By the end, you really get the feeling that all involved really are telling you that no matter what happens, the one for you could easily be right around the corner. There's something magical about that, and I think this movie does that and captures the wonders of love (like dance sequences the day after you first sleep with someone or IKEA ridiculousness) as well as any movie in recent memory.

While the cast is across the board great, this movie wouldn't be the same with a different lead. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has long been a very underrated actor (possibly because he started with 3rd Rock From the Sun), as he has blown people away throughout the years in under the radar films like Brick, Mysterious Skin, and The Lookout. This film earned him the spotlight for once, not to mention a Golden Globe nomination. He carries this movie on his back, selling every scene from an emotional standpoint as well as any male lead this year in my mind.

While he almost certainly won't earn an Oscar nomination this year, his performance helped make this my co-favorite film this year. Well done sir, and here's hoping DJ Caruso stops taking crazy pills and casts you as Yorick Brown in his adaptation of Y the Last Man.


Troy Olson said...

I'm with you on UP -- it has a good chance to be my #1 of the year as well. That would make back to back years of Pixar films topping my list -- they seem to have me pegged. I loved HURT LOCKER, didn't so much love UP IN THE AIR, and I can't offer up much of an opinion on the rest, as I still haven't seen tons from 2009.

Of the films you haven't seen, IN THE LOOP and THE WHITE RIBBON are both worth a viewing. I'd especially love to hear your take on the Haneke film...it's an interesting formal experiment, if nothing else.

Post a Comment