As long time readers (all five of you) of this blog know, I love movies. Not films, though I like them very much - but movies. Explosions, profanity, bare breasts, mythical creatures, loud music, and endless tracking shots.
The art house stuff is fine and dandy, if you're into that sort of thing. Me, I like my entertainment to be, oh I don't know, entertaining? I've got enough angst in my life, and there is enough pain in the real world, I generally don't need to subject myself to it for $12 in an uncomfortable seat while someone can't shut up two rows behind me.
I also don't get out much - so you're getting a pretty slim view of 2009 overall; for the most part these are the flicks that I actually dragged my ass out of the house for - and happened to enjoy. There are a few exceptions where I had to wait for Netflix.
My Top Ten MOVIES of 2009
11. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Okay, this one is number 11 - but I couldn't resist mentioning it, because it's so dern good!
Yes, I have a five year old. So whenever I get a chance to see a movie with her, and she absolutely loves it, it changes my perspective a bit. I can even tolerate watching the entire "Alvin and the Chipmunks" crapathon because my daughter thinks it's the greatest.
Thankfully, I probably would have loved "Meatballs" even if I was childless. It is a fun hoot and a holler, with great not so sub sub-text on our gluttony as Americans. Plus it's loaded with amazing non-eye-straining 3D and fantastic gags. And it's got Mr. T!
10. Whip It
A recent rental, this is one of the sweetest pro-female movies I can remember. Under Drew Berrymore's gifted light touch in her first directorial debut, along with that Juno chick's ultra-natural performance, this coming of age story quietly soars without even a hint of the inevitable dread (you know, that something TERRIBLE is about to happen) that usually infects such fare. This alone makes "Whip-It" highly enjoyable, but a great supporting cast and an a-typically unpretentious script along with an amazingly three dimensional antagonist (Juno chick's mom) make this one to savor. Plus, it's about roller-derby!
9. Where the Wild Things Are
Very pretentious throughout (that is, up it's own ass) and slow in parts - Spike Jonez is such a talented filmmaker that this movie still works. It, like the book, is quietly heart wrenching - I have to see this again.
Like "Whip It" this is a fairly realistic but very sweet coming of age tale. There's quite a bit more angst here - and this time, as told from a male perspective, it can be a bit painful to watch occasionally. But the emotional resonance, and ultimately the positive outlook of this film make the journey well worth it. Plus, it has some very funny (to me, meaning either gross or broad) moments. A far, far, FAR better take on growing up 30 years ago than the incredibly overrated "Dazed and Confused".
7. Drag Me To Hell
If you love over the top horror, and in any way shape or form are a fan of Sam Raimi, this one is automatic. I did manage to sneak away and see this in the theater. Somehow they got away with a PG-13, but the gags are huge and gross in the best tradition of hard R scare-fests. It WILL make you jump.
Before I continue, let me just say, I really like the bottom five here - but the remaining top 6 of 2010 are the very best to come along in a long time. Any one of these films could easily make the top spot in other years over the last decade.
6. Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino returns to top form, though I've loved his recent works almost as much as his classics. This is a great war/satire adventure - of dialogue, suspense, shock and awe. The A-Story actually has naught to do with the titles namesakes; a rag tag bunch of Jewish nazi killers, and it is mesmerizing. Only Tarantino, master of tongue in cheek schlock, could pull off such an over the top and historically deviant circus. The climax has to be seen to be believed.
5. Star Trek
As a life-long Trekker, yes I've been to conventions, I have to say that the team behind this one got it and even more impressive - they didn't fuck it up.
It is, and remember I love Star Trek - including all the other movies, even the bad ones - BY FAR, the best Star Trek film.
It moves, it has emotion beyond the scope of any of it's predecessors. The gags and VFX are first rate. The story is tight. The supporting cast is WAY more fleshed out than the old gang. The leads, with the exception of Nimoy, are all better actors than those who came before.
Most importantly, this movie succeeds because it is great on it's own, whether you are a fan or not, and still is at it's heart 100% Trek. Hallelujah, they got it. The biggest money maker by far, so far, for the franchise. My great love is back and better than ever.
4. The Hurt Locker
Though many troops have decried this film as an un-realistic portrayal - I was deeply moved by how powerful and how intense the scenes of a US IED bomb squad in action were.
I also love how finally, a film did not demonize our troops. It humanizes them, for sure, but great stories have to have this. I can say that I love this movie because it is not political, but I can also say that I love this movie because it very much IS political - in the very best of ways.
The bad guys are the terrorists. Period. They do horrible things in this movie - and Kathryn Bigelow does not flinch from showing us this. God bless you Kathryn, for shining light on what really goes on over there, and giving a truthful (and therefore sympathetic) insight into the soul wrenching sacrifices that our men and women overseas make so that the rest of us can be free.
3. District 9
Staggering; perhaps one of the best science-fiction movies ever made. A great message movie, that still delivers kick-ass action sequences and a tight story structure driven by first class actors and a unique hybrid film-style of documentary and traditional narrative.
The CGI is remarkable, and when it's combined with jaw-dropping location filming in the slums of Soweto, "District 9" is transformed from a story with potential to a classic for the ages. A purchase for sure.
Another triumph for the king of modern movie story telling. Avatar is a masterpiece of visuals wrapped around a classic tale. The dialogue can be clunky, but no line or scene for that matter, is wasted. At just under 3 hours, "Avatar" flies by, releasing us from it's grasp of wonder all too quickly.
It is powerful, it is great. It is a movie experience unlike any other this year.
I love "The Hurt Locker" - it's another great movie. And of course you all know I love the troops, more than just about anything that isn't God or my family. But the Academy was wrong on this one. THL is an important movie. Avatar is ground breaking and has changed the game.
At least the Oscars are consistent - they did it before in 1977, preposterously giving Annie Hall best picture over Star Wars. What a joke. This time it isn't quite so egregious, but still a pretty big blunder that will be looked back on with a similar eye-roll as the Annie Hall idiocy.
So after all my gushing praise for Avatar and how ground breaking it is, how could another movie top it?
Simple - have the best movie studio, with 9 perfect movies so far, put out their best movie ever.
Up, is a remarkable adventure for the heart and soul. It makes me cry. Every. Single. Time. Even Avatar can't do that. Up, in all ways that matter the most - is the perfect movie, and the perfect film.
If you've seen it, you know I need not say more. If you haven't seen it, do so.
I also enjoyed...
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
While I was initially disappointed in the theatrical release, I've watched it a couple of times on DVD, and there is a lot of good stuff to chew on - and it's very faithful to the spirit of the book, which is one of my favorites in the series.
Saw it in 2D at home, and really enjoyed it. It's not great like Nightmare Before Christmas, but it has lots of fun stuff to look at - and an interesting subtext to ponder.
Overrated? Sure. Funny as hell? Absolutely. My kind of comedy - ridiculous and crude. My favorite character - one that I still quote, is the crazy Asian guy who jumps out of the trunk naked. Good stuff.
And my biggest disappointment...
Though again, this one fares much better on DVD - it still pales in comparison to the original, which was an absolute blast. Trans2 is just too loud and explosion-y for too long - and for me to say that, you know it has to be BAD. :)