Top Ten of 2009

I know it’s June already, but I don’t care. This is my top ten list from last year. Besides, I didn’t have a blog back in January and this list wasn’t ready anyways. I was catching up on things I missed until March, and now I can safely say there is only a 1% chance I missed a movie last year that might belong on this list.

Think of it as fodder for your Netflix queue.


Me and Orson Welles – Dir. Richard Linklater: A swell little movie with a great performance from Christian McKay as Welles. Nothing earth shattering, but full of simple and sweet delights.

Adventureland – Dir. Greg Mottola: Grossly misrepresented by the advertisements, this is actually a lovely coming-of-age movie with a great soundtrack and many fine supporting turns.

In The Loop – Dir. Armando Iannucci: Quite possibly the best use of swearing in any movie ever. Seriously funny, with my only complaint being that it felt like a 90 min. TV show (The funniest 90 min. TV show ever).

The White Ribbon – Dir. Michael Haneke: Careful observational tale about a small provincial town plagued by random (or not) violent events. A great looking film with a measured approach that will either enthrall or frustrate.

District 9 – Dir. Neill Blomkamp: Old school sci-fi action with a well-stated message and plenty of carnage. There are a number of small issues, but not enough to detract from the overall experience.

10. Star Trek – Dir. J.J. Abrams

Scotty: I like this ship, you know, It’s exciting!

After recently re-watching this, what stood out the most was the amazing sound design. But the whole film is great and sidesteps being an overstuffed pile of walking clichés and CGI because of its great cast and break-neck pacing. The movie doesn’t allow you time to pick it apart (actually a good thing) before it moves on to the next interesting place. Of course, I could pick it apart afterward, but why would I want to when I had such a good time.

9. Where the Wild Things Are – Dir. Spike Jonze

Max: Let the wild rumpus start!

While the movie doesn’t always work as a piece of entertainment, it is a great piece of poetry and a great big ball of emotion. Not depressing, as some might have you think, but overflowing with emotion all the same. It most definitely struck a chord with me, for I too have an older sister and had some of the same “issues” as Max. Mr. Jonze wondrously captures a specific moment of childhood with fantastic technical skill, while making you feel nostalgia, regret, and loss simultaneously.

8. Mary and Max – Dir. Adam Elliot

Max: You are my best friend. You are my only friend

Since this isn’t so well-known, I will give a little background. Mary and Max is a claymation movie from the Oscar-winning director of the short film Harvie Krumpet. If you’ve seen Krumpet, you will have an idea what this feature is like (if not, what’s wrong with you, it’s awesome). It is about a lonely little girl in Australia who randomly becomes pen pals with a Jewish, 40-year-old, aspergers-afflicted man living in New York. That might sound a little tacky, but it is handled with such grace. Sweet and poignant, Mary and Max is most definitely one of last years best films. (Even if it went unnoticed.)

7. Up in the Air – Dir. Jason Reitman

Ryan: That’s kind of like getting fired over the internet

I know a lot of people think this one was over-hyped, and so do I. The difference is, I think it almost lived up to the hype. The three leads are stupendous. Their performances look effortless when they’re anything but. This was one of the most well-paced movies I’ve seen in a while, due mostly to the tight editing and tighter script. There wasn’t a false note in the whole thing. It was thoughtful, but not boring, funny but not crude, and light but not irrelevant.

6. Avatar (3D) – Dir. James Cameron

Jake: You are not gonna believe where I am

I was dead tired when I saw this. I had to hold my hand to my face to keep the 3D glasses from falling off for 3 hours. The hype was beyond measure. Still, I walked away from the biggest movie of all time quite satisfied. I’m well aware that the story is Dances with Wolves/Last Samurai/Ferngully in space, but I don’t care because I like that story. And here it is told very well, with great action, groundbreaking (understatement) fx, immersive 3D, and breathtaking scope. I hope it plays just as well at home.

5. The Hurt Locker – Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

James: There’s enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus.

This year’s Best Picture recipient was a worthy choice, as its placement on my list might suggest. Forget whether or not it was political (it was), whether or not it was best picture material (it was, duh!), or whether it was deep enough or not (I think the back home scenes made it so), the real reason this film is on my list and what I suspect resonates with so many others is the tension. Scene after scene was filled with taut, gripping moments that had such a visceral effect on me. I can’t recall the last film to have me literally on the edge of my seat, and for that alone it belongs on this list.

4. A Serious Man – Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen

Larry: Why does he make us feel the questions if he’s not gonna give us any answers?

The latest from the distinguished Coen brothers is quite a puzzler. From the ballsy, strange, subtitled prologue to the imminent, frustrating final cut to black, the Coen’s don’t make it easy. But they do make it funny and just the right kind of strange to entertain. You might not get answers, but you do get a wholly original movie that attempts to make some sense of it all.

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Dir. Wes Anderson

Ash: I don’t have one, but I modified this tube sock

I think Wes Anderson might have found his true calling. After a couple of so-so films, Anderson tries his hand at animating (and adaptation) and has returned with what might just be his best work to date. This beautifully hand-crafted, stop-motion animated gem works as both a fun kids movie and an insightful romp about adulthood wrapped in the guise of anthropomorphic animals. The score is flat-out brilliant, and all the little details (on the walls and in the script) will keep you entertained viewing after viewing.

2. Up – Dir. Pete Docter

Dug: Oh please, oh please, oh please be my prisoner!

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: the opening montage is amazing. You have no soul if it doesn’t touch you just a little bit. But, the greatness of those first few wordless moments shouldn’t overshadow the rest of this great Pixar film. The rest of the movie is just as good, as Pixar continues their streak of greatness with this high adventure tale. The writing is as clever as ever. The design is immaculate, but it’s the heart that really makes this something special. It also doesn’t hurt to have one of the best scores in recent years. (Just a little better than Mr. Fox.)

1. Inglourious Basterds – Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Stiglitz: Say “auf wiedersehen” to your Nazi balls!

I guess it helps that I’m a huge, unapologetic, Tarantino fan. I think it also helps that he keeps making fantastic movies and his latest is no exception. This could have been as simple as its premise (or misleading trailer), “Jews take revenge, killing a shitload of Nazis for almost 3 hours” and I would have been satisfied. But, it turns out to be that and so much more. Loaded with great dialogue, great camera work, great acting, and some of the most memorable scenes committed to film in the last decade. I see nothing to apologize for.


2 responses to “Top Ten of 2009

  1. Pingback: Fall Preview: Films I Can’t Wait to See #20-16 | Shooting the Script

  2. Pingback: The Trouble with Quibbles: Star Trek Into Darkness | Shooting the Script

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