What an underwhelming year 2009 was for movies. That is not said in disrespect to the ten (well, 11) pictures I’ve selected as the best of the year, but besides those films and the few honorable mentions, it was a scarce year for a good or great picture. With my Top Ten List, please remember some films have not been seen (“The Messenger”, “Crazy Heart”, “The Lovely Bones”, “A Single Man”…). After the rest of these movies are seen, my full end of the year awards will be posted.
And now, the Top Ten Movies of 2009:
10. Adventureland\Zombieland: I have never made a Top Ten List with a ‘tie’, but I went with an “amusement park” theme for my number 10 spot. “Adventureland” was a wonderful comedy, that was highly overlooked, only grossing $16 million. It was a combination of funny performances and great music and some very sophisticated comedic writing. It was a joy to watch this movie, and it has been a joy to re-watch it on DVD. As for “Zombieland”, I think this was the most fun I had at the movies this year. It is one hell of a funny adrenaline ride, with a funny turn from Woody Harrelson.
9. In the Loop: My year end lists are usually littered with heavy Oscar bait dramas, but there were several small comedies that are worth mentioning. “In the Loop” was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, with great turns from James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy and Peter Capaldi. If this film was more widely seen, this is a movie that could have gathered some steam for Oscar nominations in the supporting categories, as well as the Adapted Screenplay category.
8. Sunshine Cleaning: Amy Adams and Emily Blunt where the perfect pair to play sisters in this funny and heartbreaking story about how two sisters form a business that cleans up crime scenes. It is heavy material, told in a light and breezy fashion, and Adams and Blunt are what make this movie enjoyable every step of the way. Alan Arkin co-stars as there father, and he is essentially recreating his “Little Miss Sunshine” role. One of the year’s most enjoyable films.
7. The Road: The dark visual imagery of “The Road” is what makes this journey so enjoyable to watch. It’s devastating material, and by no means an uplifting film, but it’s still wonderfully crafted by John Hillcoat. What made this even greater, was how faithful it is to the masterful novel by Cormac McCarthy. Viggo Mortensen stars as a father who searches for life after the world ends with his son.
6. Where the Wild Things Are: Spike Jonze never ceases to amaze. “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” were some of the greatest movies of the last 10 years, and “Where the Wild Things Are” does not disappoint. It is an ambitious adaptation of the classic children’s book, and one of the greatest escapist films I’ve ever seen. The young Max Records is terrific as the young boy whose wild imagination roams free, along with the wild things. I loved this movie.
5. Public Enemies: Michael Mann’s gangster drama opened to mixed reviews and a modest income at the box office. I loved every minute of this authentically looking gangster picture. Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger, who was high on the FBI’s list throughout the Depression. He and co-star Marion Cotillard deserved Oscar nominations for their performances.
4. The Hurt Locker: “The Hurt Locker” is a fine achievement for director Kathryn Bigalow. Her present day Iraq set film is one of the most intense movie going experience in the last several years. Most of these Iraq themed films have fallen flat, but this one gets it right. It’s beautifully shot and wonderfully executed.
3. State of Play: For the majority of the year, this was the best movie I had seen. So intense and smartly written, with great performances from the cast. There are twists and turns along the way, but it is not overstuffed. Ben Affleck impresses as the Congressman at the center of a scandal, and Russell Crowe gives a strong performances has his reporter friend trying to make sense of the scandal.
2. Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire: This is the most difficult movie of the year. It’s heartbreaking, and unsettling, but ultimeately uplifting. Newcomer Gabby Sidbie delivers such a controlled performance, that one would argue that she has been acting for years. She stars as Precious, who has dealt with more than anyone’s share of pain and sorrow, no thanks to the monster of a mother she has (played by an amazingly terrifying Mo’Nique)
And the best film of 2009 is…
1. Up in the Air: George Clooney has an Oscar, and another acting nomination under his belt, but he has never felt like a true, bona fide movie star until now. His performance as Ryan, a corporate down sizer, allows us to analyze the life of being on the road constantly. The supporting players, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, are wonderful as the woman in Ryan’s life. It’s funny, touching and director Jason Reitman’s most mature film to date.
Honorable Mentions: “Julie and Julia”, “The Blind Side”, “Moon”, “The Merry Gentleman”