Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Top Films of 2009

I think I realized upon making this list that I enjoy films with true innovation incorporated; a non-tired formula, a breathtaking frame, something that might have looked crazy on paper but perfect on film, etc. I liked a lot of movies this year, and it was probably the hardest time I've had narrowing this list down - I had to cut some films I thought were near perfect like Bright Star and Precious because I so enjoyed another film even more. That's hard to say for many other years of movie-going; I had to add a second half of the list enumerating those who were also top ten material, and perhaps in another year could have been numero uno. What are your top ten movies?

01 Star Trek

I was surprised myself when I learned that Star Trek was my favourite film this year. Perhaps I shouldn't have, as I saw it FOUR TIMES in the theaters. But when putting this list together I'd face two movies against each other and ask myself which one I liked more. Star Trek won every time! JJ Abrams delivered such an original take on the old (boring!) franchise and added in some fresh talent (Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana) to a truly captivating and smart story. I never thought I'd say I liked Star Trek, but here I am, and Abrams has been entertaining me for years!

02 Broken Embraces

I am in love with every single frame of this film. I think ENTHRALLED is the word. While watching I wanted to scream, "TE AMO ALMODOVAR" from my seat: it's all so beautiful even in tragedy. Penelope Cruz was mesmerizing, as she always is when working in one of his films. As a film lover, there was almost nothing better than this ode to art and filmmaking.

03 The Hurt Locker

I wasn't sure what to expect from this war film, but I was completely captivated from the start. The movie is tense and introspective; it's not a typical war movie driven by politics. It's almost a character study of a man as soldier, and the changing effects of war on his person. The movie has action and director Kathryn Bigelow certainly knows action (she directed Point Break), but there's also a level of intimacy here that draws you in more than any explosion.

04 District 9

With Star Trek, 2009 was a banner year in science fiction film. (Remember how last year ended with the dismally awful The Day the Earth Stood Still?!) In the same way that sci-fi movies/literature used to be (is it still?) powerful in their metaphors-as-commentary, District 9 hit the scene in Orwellian tradition. Not only did I enjoy the film on an intellectual level, but it was packed with action, emotion, great special effects, and a lead character you cheered for. Sharlto Copley wins for best debut acting I've seen this year.

05 UP

Just when I thought Pixar couldn't top Wall-E comes this lovely, tragic, and hilarious gem. I saw it twice in the theaters and cried both times. I may even tear up thinking about it now (what a loser). It looked amazing and the story was near-perfect in it's unfolding; I always feel insanely happy after watching it.

06 Inglourious Basterds

I can't deny how much I enjoyed Tarantino's WWII let's-rewrite-history extravaganza. I was most skeptical when it was in production: Tarantino's doing a movie about Nazis? But, it proved to be the least jumpy film he's made in the last few years, with wonderfully paced scenes and brilliant acting. I don't know if anyone can beat Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa; perhaps my favourite character of all the movies I've seen this year. Not to mention Melanie Laurent as Shoshana and the rest of an fantastic ensemble cast. Well done indeed, Mr. Tarantino.

07 I Love You, Man

I was so surprised. I seriously love this movie It was probably my least favourite theater-going experience ever, but I still laughed to the brink of crying and did so again when I watched it on a plane a few months later. Comedies these days tend to rely on old tricks of the trade over and over and over again: let's be grosser, sexier, more outlandish. There was some heart here with minimal stupidity and just straight up comedy. It didn't do what most comedies have done to me in the past few years: offend me or my brain. And for that, I love it. I was surprised, also, to learn that Entertainment Weekly bestowed it as the #4 movie on their year-end list and to wit - "Hamburg crams I Love You, Man with gags as wild as anything in The Hangover (only far better executed). Yet what makes the film a keeper is its understanding that a strong friendship can be as complicated as a romance because it is a romance." Agreed!

08 The Fantastic Mr. Fox

What can I say? I love Wes Anderson, but his movies tend to be too cartoony for the stories he's telling (not a fan of The Life Aquatic or Darjeeling Limited), and with this film all I can say is: you've found your medium, Wes! Go for it! The film made me laugh with the characters, get sad with the characters, and want to dance around with FURRY ANIMATED CHARACTERS. I love you, Mr. Fox.

09 500 Days of Summer

I am going to refer to a section of the post I wrote when I first saw the movie:

[500 Days of Summer] could be a little heartwrenching at times, but it was mostly funny. As much as it reminds you of the crap parts of relationships, it also reminds you of the good stuff. The feeling of a mutual smile or thought, the feeling of requiting a crush, or the feeling of keeping a good moment always.

It's still true and you can read the rest of it which includes praising the GREAT performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel right HERE.

10 Whip It

I really, truly fell in love with this movie. Maybe I feel this way because I've always been obsessed with film, but Whip It is probably similar to the movie I would make if I were a filmmaker. I totally got director Drew Barrymore's thinking through the entire movie: there's far too many films with girls as wilting flowers, with girls who don't get along with other girls, with girls whose aspirations amount to "have a boyfriend" or "be a sexpot." Perhaps it navigated too many of these themes and could seem a bit cluttered, what with the sport and the interesting plotline of a daughter's relationship with her mother, among others - but it was FUN and well-acted and relatable and hilarious. And it made me super excited to see what Drew will cook up next.

Ah, the rest of my list, all who were serious contenders for top ten placement (but here in no particular order) - the whys and whynots:

An Education
Why: a story with nuances rarely played out well on the big screen, fine cast and great acting
Why not: gah, it was so hard not to put this in my top ten!

Bright Star
Why: Campion's one of my favourite directors and she doesn't disappoint here - the beauty of this film is in its subtleties, and I was in a trance watching
Why not: again - it was so hard not to put this in my top ten

Jennifer's Body
Why: because it was hilarious, smart, had the power to make me not hate Megan Fox, and it featured many a Motion City Soundtrack poster
Why not: a decent but flawed movie in a sea of big contenders

Sunshine Cleaning
Why: great ensemble; was in step with all of the characters and loved the humor
Why not: sometimes fell flat

Why: made me a believer in whatever technology Cameron cooked up to make it look the way it did - those landscapes and animals and people were lovely to watch
Why not: the story was a bit predictable

Why: probably the most dramatic film I saw this year, full of sadness and tension
Why not: little too real, too sad to truly say I "enjoyed" it, though it's a great, great film

The Hangover
Why: LAUGH RIOT, and Galiafinakis' character alone
Why not: uses some of those old comedy standbys that are funny, but not innovative in any way

Big Fan
Why: quite an original film to be sure, and had the power to make me feel uneasy
Why not: that feeling of uneasiness can't be enjoyed over and over again

The Road
Why: great book, wonderful translation of it to screen
Why not: that book was so depressing in itself that I don't think I needed the visuals, it was almost scarring to watch

Away We Go
Why: I'm a huge Sam Mendes fan and there was some real hilarious truths within the film
Why not: got a bit kitschy at times

Good, but not good enough:
Drag Me To Hell
The Brothers Bloom
The September Issue
The Proposal
The Blind Side
Sherlock Holmes

Not a fan:
Public Enemies
The Informant!
Bride Wars
The Girlfriend Experience

He's Just Not That Into You

Highly Anticipated in 2010:
Iron Man 2

And of course, there are those movies I've yet to see, which therefore, I couldn't include on any lists:
Where the Wild Things Are, Up in the Air, Nine, Invictus, A Single Man, A Serious Man, The Lovely Bones, etc.

FYI: I'm actually on my way right now to go see Up in the Air, so some part of this list may change by the end of tonight!

UPDATE: I remembered a few other movies (there are now TWO worst movies of the year!) and also I really liked Up in the Air - but I can't even fathom starting to insert it among this list. It's definitely TOPS material though. I feel like I should give it the same "settling time" I gave to the other films. 


  1. Rachel Weisz was the only thing that held me in my seat while watching "The Brothers Bloom". She was funny, soulful, intriguing and charming. Too bad the film itself did not live up to what she accomplishes with her performance. The movie is too pretencions for its own good and both Mark Rufferlo and Adrien Brody were miscast and should have traded roles. The ending is also too much of a downer as well.

  2. I haven't seen most of these but (500) Days of Summer WAS my film this year. (Along with 2012!)

    Weirdly, I expected so much from "The Hangover" because not one person said anything bad about it. And I ENJOYED it . . . but not the way everyone else seemed to.

    Perhaps I just need to watch it again,..

  3. Anon - we have differing opinions! Also, I am about to take Brothers Bloom out of contention because I just remembered about "Away We Go" !

    Paula - I loved the Hangover when I first saw it, given who I was with and the context of the time I saw it; upon second viewing it's still funny but not as hilarious as the first time. :)

  4. Add Moon and Sin Nombre to your must watch list.

  5. love that you referred to your phone when we were talking about this the other week. also, so fun to hang :)

  6. Jessica - I REALLY WANT TO SEE MOON! It comes out Jan 12th!! Obvs, Kevin Spacey's got a voice! Also, I dig the title "Sin Nombre" because I always said that would be the name of a band I would start.

    Ang - Hahahaha I AM SO DORKY!!! It's true. It's oh so fun! I Can't wait for the next time!

  7. AYO I love that you're such a movie goer. It is one of my favorite activities.I have a long list of movies to see on my phone and I add to it every time I am watching previews.

    And for the most part, I agree with your lists, minus the movies I haven't seen yet :)

    Let's go to a movie in February!!

  8. great list. I haven't seen Broken Embraces or Hurt Locker but they're on my list. I really liked Star Trek, LOVE JJ Abrahams