My Favorite Movies of 2009

2009 was a pretty good year for film. I hadn’t noticed until I thought about compiling a personal top ten list and realized there were at least 25 serious contenders. Few stand-out masterpieces, perhaps, but unusually many good movies. Here are my…

2009 was a pretty good year for film. I hadn’t noticed until I thought about compiling a personal top ten list and realized there were at least 25 serious contenders. Few stand-out masterpieces, perhaps, but unusually many good movies. Here are my ten favorites as of today:

* * * 

Loop

1. In the Loop
Directed by Armando Iannucci

Absurd but disturbingly plausible political satire about the lead-up to a war in the Middle East. It introduced a larger audience to the character Malcolm Tucker of the brilliant BBC series The Thick of It (and also to his sidekick, the crossest man in Scotland). Shockingly, the inspiration for Tucker didn’t like it much.

* * *

Serious

2. A Serious Man
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Sixties Minnesota Jewish college professor tries to understand life and… fails? Succeeds? This is apparently the Coen Brothers’ ”most personal” film to date, hot neighbor and all, and it’s among their very best. It’s even better than Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which I feel like comparing it to for no reason at all.

* * *

Coraline

3. Coraline
Directed by Henry Selick

When I heard that Neil Gaiman’s children’s book would be adapted, stop-motion style, by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I guess I expected it to turn out pretty much exactly like this. Having your expectations met is not always a bad thing, though. I haven’t seen the 3-D version, but in two dimensions, this is the companion piece to Nightmare that Tim Burton’s disappointing Corpse Bride wasn’t.

(By the way: I didn’t make room for it on the list, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is another very good stop-motion film. Thoroughly steeped in the Wes Anderson esthetic, it’s probably hard to take if you’re allergic to upper-middle class hipsterism. Fortunately, I thrive on it.)

* * *

Worlds

4. World’s Greatest Dad
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait

It’s easy to forget that Robin Williams can do anything other than monkey around, but when given the chance (and a good script), he can actually act! Here he plays a high-school teacher and unsuccessful author whose dreams unexpectedly come true. It’s dark and funny and probably better the less you know about it in advance.

* * *

Hurt

5. The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

US Army bomb squad adventures in 2004 Iraq. Although not entirely believable, it’s still a very-nearly-great movie. Don’t hold the fact that it won the Best Picture Academy Award against it; that doesn’t necessarily mean that a film is mediocre.

* * *

Ilove

6. I Love You, Man
Directed by John Hamburg

My choice for best Hollywood Comedy of the year. (Technically, I guess several of the ones above would count, but they’re all various shades of black. This one’s just fun.) The Hangover got a lot more attention but I found this modest bromance flick funnier, more true to life, and generally a lot more likable. This could partly be because Paul Rudd always seems like the nicest guy on the planet, whereas Bradley Cooper, regardless of what picture he’s in, radiates jockish assholeness.

* * *

Moon

7. Moon
Directed by Duncan Jones

Starring Sam Rockwell as a dude on the moon. Also starring Sam Rockwell and Sam Rockwell. Oh, and Kevin Spacey’s voice is in it too, as a HAL-like character. While parts are similar to 2001, what Moon reminds me of the most is ”socially aware” 1970s science fiction films, in particular Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running. Moon is better, though.

* * *

Trick

8. Trick ‘r Treat
Directed by Michael Dougherty

Probably the most effective horror film I watched in 2009 was Paranormal Activity. Movies that are genuinely scary (rather than just disturbing or disgusting) are few and far between. Having said that, I don’t think it will hold up to repeat viewings. On the other hand, the Halloween-themed slasher anthology Trick ‘r Treat, while not frightening in the least, could well be a future cult classic. It’s a lot of fun, and Anna Paquin is much less awful than in True Blood.
No Metacritic score

* * *

Drag

9. Drag Me to Hell
Directed by Sam Raimi

It’s weird to see Alison Lohman play an actual grown-up, since she (like Michael J. Fox back in the day) has spent most of her career portraying characters a decade younger than herself. In Drag Me to Hell she gets cursed by a gypsy, and as a result is haunted and beaten up Bruce Campbell-style! The story is mostly predictable, including the ending, but – fittingly – I haven’t seen anything as energetic and entertaining since the first two Evil Dead movies.

* * *

Where

10. Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze

Sad and beautiful, just like Maurice Sendak’s picture book. This may be the best non-animated (it does rely partly on CGI, but still) children’s movie since Return to Oz, the awesome 1985 follow-up to The Wizard of Oz. Some say the film is too depressing for kids, or too scary. Sendak himself responded to this in a Newsweek interview: ”If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like.”

Okay, that’s it.

11 reaktioner till “My Favorite Movies of 2009”

  1. I still have some 2009’ers to see, but Antichrist and Inglourious Basterds would probably be on my list.

  2. <em>Inglourious Basterds</em> and <em>Watchmen</em> (!) were actually on the original draft of the list but when I started to write about them I realized I was mostly enumerating their flaws. Still, <em>Basterds</em> is Tarantino’s best film in over a decade IMHO. It would probably come in at around #13.Haven’t seen <em>Antichrist</em>. Should I? As you know, I hate <em>Dogville</em> and <em>Dancer in the Dark</em> with a passion, and they were way less <a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1210830-antichrist/">dissed</a&gt; by the critics. I have a pretty low tolerance for misogyny and sadism.

  3. I think you should watch as many films as possible, and always try to do so with an open mind. And who doesn’t have a low tolerance for misogyny and sadism? I myself, though, would only dismiss a movie if I felt that it advocated related content (and I certainly don’t see any advocating for misogyny and sadism in Trier’s movies). Still, I don’t think you would enjoy AC very much 🙂

  4. Lars von Trier may not be "advocating" misogyny, but it’s unquestionable that he likes to make movies in which women are victimized and raped. That’s simply his genre of choice, and for several reasons I’m not a big fan of it.How about discussing some film we’ve both seen instead?

  5. I agree those are common themes in his movies.We could discuss Where the Wild Things Are! I acknowledge it as a very good movie: I adore its music, and I really think it says something about the reasoning and logic of kids. Still, I had a very hard time getting emotionally involved with it, and I don’t really know why. ‘Cos I don’t consider myself to be so much of a grown-up!

  6. I thought WTWTA was a very emotional movie. I didn’t exactly identify with Max (I was never much for rumpus and I rarely had tantrums), but I enjoyed watching the exploration of his inner life. I took the wild things to be, more or less, aspects of his personality.

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