What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.
As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.
It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.
Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:
“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.
“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.
“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.
“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.
“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…
“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!
“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.
“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.
“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.
There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!