... according to me, of course. 2009 was a pretty fucking good year for film. Anyone telling you differently just hasn't been looking hard enough. I'm just gonna give my short commentary. Plots you can watch the linked trailers for or look up your damned selves. Feel free to add your lists.
My Top 20:
- A surprisingly heartfelt and compelling movie. The characters and their relationships feel real and believably developed, and while the comedy isn't as constant as Superbad
, it definitely highlights the story of maturity quite well. Great pacing too.Trailer
19. Castaway on the Moon
- A much wider-reaching film than you would expect, given its sharp narrative focus. The parallels between the two Kim's lives are explored really well. Quite funny too. While one Kim struggles through humanity's past development towards the achievements of modern life (black bean noodles), the other wrestles with the tech and ease of modern fantasy she has completely replaced life with. (Life overlooked is life unlived?) The ending is too dragged out and cliched, unfortunately.Trailer
18. The Hangover
- There are a lot of jokes douchebags'll like in this film. But behind that are also some pretty damn good, meaty laughs as well. Zach Galifianakis carries his role really well, and brings a quirkiness that is at times endearing, and at times seriously dark. Ken Jeong is great as always in his small role. Some of the writing can feel a bit forced at times, but, like Role Models
, the film shines in the acting.Trailer
17. The White Ribbon
- Tension and suspense of a much different sort than The Hurt Locker. A long running time of people being horrible to each other, which certainly isn't a bad thing when handled by a director like Haneke. The acting is awesome, the contrast... unsettling, and the mysteries of the plot reminded me of a darker, wider-reaching, and more sinister version of The Draughtsman's Contract
. The length did, unfortunately, start to wear on me, though that may have been a circumstance of the viewing (festivals are hectic).Trailer
16. The Hurt Locker
- Excellent directing and acting. The tension and suspense in several scenes are thick as hell. Does really well to show how this type of combat situation wears on soldiers' minds. Best Iraq War film hands down, and probably the best war film, period, I've seen in quite a while. Yes it's unrealistic. It's a hyperbolized character study, and a great one at that.Trailer
- The social commentary this project makes seems more effective than in Borat
. Some obviously staged scenes and story development are more than made up for with the painfully authentic pieces. While there's a lot of shock for shock's sake, it's all handled in a blatantly comedic fashion. Those driven blindly by fame are equally as lampooned as homophobes in this. Bruno's TV pilot test screening and baby photoshoot are phenomenal.Trailer
- A powerful, ambitious, and blunt film. Mo'Nique puts on a very brave and strong performance, but the star, Gabby Sidibe is even more impressive. This movie deals with very painful issues in a very raw manner, but offers reprieves in some good jokes and Precious's own escapist dream sequences. (Although, her fantasies become more devastating when they are rooted in the real events of her life.) The story is well-scripted, save for the occasional reliance on narration. While overall uplifting, the film will take you through incredibly rough scenes to demonstrate the indomitable human spirit. Loses points for some heavy-handedness and cliches in places.Trailer
- This dark comedy has a pretty blunt message: war is dehumanizing. How it goes about telling you this, however, is really entertaining. Like most East Asian dark comedies, the humor and emotion are thoroughly interwoven through the story. The acting is really good, and the director makes excellent use of a gray-dominant color scheme. At one point, they do have the biggest cliche in animals-in-movies-history:
animals cry tears when their human friends are in trouble!
But everything else with the cow is really enjoyable.Trailer
12. District 9
- A really effective and affective sci-fi piece and blunt social commentary... sometimes too blunt. The film's three acts seem pretty disjointed from each other, like each a different genre, but you are intrigued and enjoying almost every minute of it. The CGI is excellent, and the violence/gore surprisingly refreshing. Not perfect, but really, really good. (The plot and action in the third act is really formulaic, but fun to see unfold.)Trailer
11. A Prophet
- A mix between Pusher
and The Godfather
. The acting and directing were superb, especially in the action/violent scenes, which can often be jarringly realistic and suspenseful. I'm pretty sure there were more metaphorical, thematic overtones that I missed because it was another long-ish film in a long day at the festival, but the actors' performances and some of the directorial choices still really
stick with me.Trailer
- A very effective murder mystery that delves deep into character and carries a lot more emotion than you would expect. Typical of Joon-ho Bong: the cinematography is great, overt and subtle comedy is peppered throughout, and a lot of characters do strange or over-the-top things out of grief. The theme of ignorance, both willful and otherwise is looked at pretty closely. Hye-ja Kim does incredibly well in the titular lead role. Her concern for her son is believable and palpable, making the final act of the film all the more crushing.Trailer
9. Tales from the Golden Age
- Several short films by several Romanian directors adapted from popular urban myths in the terrible, final years of the Chochescu era of the Romanian Communist regime. The official website summarizes the stories the best:
On the occasion of Ceausescu's working visits, countryside mayors ended up hanging fruit in trees to make sure their villages would be noticed, obeying even the strangest orders from the ferocious Party activists.
Communist Party secret regulations stated that in official pictures President Ceausescu couldn't take his hat off in front of the representatives of the rotten capitalistic world, President d'Estaing included.
A professional driver decides to open his sealed truck for the first time in his career and discovers the connection between eggs, Easter and marital love.
A policeman gets a live pig as gift before Christmas and decides that gas poisoning would be the best way to kill the animal silently amongst his hungry neighbors.
In the 80s Romania, Bughi and Crina play Bonnie and Clyde, robbing people of bottled air.
This is a wonderful rendering of interesting tales. They are all loaded with metaphors for various aspects of the contemporary failing communist regime. The first (... Official Visit) is easily the best: tightly directed and edited, with a lot of humor and fun character. ... Party Photographer and ... Greedy Policeman are almost as great in their own styles. The remaining two meander and are paced much slower, with less to keep your attention, but certainly aren't bad.Teaser Full Trailer
- Superb acting. After the first act gets the reveal out of the way, the film gets much more engrossing watching the personal interactions and introspection. To quote theficionado "existential paranoia and Cartesian horror... sanctity of memory" are issues you will be faced with, and not bored by, in Moon
. Some really cool shots and GERTY is way too compelling. Very impressive for a debut film.Trailer
- A wonderful method of exploring such a fascinating persona: give him the receptive, empathetic audience he's always wanted. Terrific, nuanced acting, and I loved everything about the character. The score also ensures that you feel what Bronson wants you to feel as you watch his tale unfold. I want to use the term "nihilistic revelry," but that lacks the seemingly "good-natured fun" aspect Bronson finds in his violent antics. Just a great film.Trailer
6. Brothers Bloom
- Cons are stories. A film is a story. A film about cons and story-telling is a story about stories, or maybe it's a con about story-telling. But that's been done, hasn't it? What if the story itself is a con? Who's the mark? Regardless, this is an impressive film. Johnson's crafting of narrative and character, on multiple levels, is very skilled. The acting is at the least
adequate, but the characters are definitely lots of fun. Production design is great, and pushes the film's themes even further. Ask yourself, every scene, whose narrative you're watching, and who's being conned, because I think it changes and evolves as the audience's understanding does.Trailer
- Incredibly allegorical. This is a story of ambiguous and ancient archetypes. It actualizes traditional, and maybe even esoteric, Christian teachings about the female body and condition, that the creative power of woman is to be feared as much as revered. "Nature is Satan's church" is an apt summation of this film's themes, extending Satan's poisonous touch from nature through to Mother Nature, to the mother herself. A lot is going on in this film, and the cinematography is beautiful and haunting. The digital camera is occasionally jarring, but you quickly forget about it with what's happening on screen.Trailer
4. Black Dynamite
- Somewhere in the middle of this film, it drags a little. Now that I've made that clear, fucking forget it, because this is a magnificent genre parody almost on the level of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. If you ever liked ANYTHING about Blaxploitation films, you owe it to yourself to see this. A lot of hilarity and meta-ness throughout, and the final scenes are just incredible. I won't spoil the main showdown, but it fucking works on a lot of levels.Trailer
- Park is still in amazing form. I loved everything about this film. His visual composition, music, and sound design are all superb yet again. The main characters are existentially tortured and desperate in their own ways. Religious and moral bargaining, faith, vengeance, redemption, humanity, and sacrifice are all explored with alternating humor, repulsion, and indulgence. Funny, beautiful, suspenseful, deep, violent, and fulfilling. See it. Forgetting for a second that it's an adaptation of Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin, America doesn't know what the fuck a vampire movie is
2. Inglourious Basterds
- Tarantino returns to the top of his game in this epic, WWII-transplanted pseudo-western about the power of performance and cinema. There are a few missteps peppered throughout (narration or a soundtrack choice here, slow-mo shot there, maybe a tasteless insert), but almost everything else is crafted with surprising, acute attention to thematic, metaphorical, and cinematic detail. This is Tarantino's dissertation on the rhetorical strength film, as a medium, holds in society, and it is FILLED with exquisite filmmaking to drive the point home.Trailer
1. A Serious Man
- The Coen brothers are incredible storytellers. There are layers upon layers in this hilarious, simultaneously bleak, yet life-affirming parable. When I say parable, I mean it. Themes of perspective, abstract wisdom vs. applied knowledge, action/inaction, god's plans, possibility, acceptance, religious bargaining, and much, much more are deftly explored through a myriad of awesome scenes. The acting throughout is absolutely incredible, and, as usual, the Coens' cinematography is impressive. If you like anything Coen, see this ASAP! Schrodinger's cat. Think about it, people! </Andy Kindler>TrailerHonorable Mention
- A smarter, more developed, layered, and exploratory version of À l'intérieur [Inside]
. What that film did for wince-inducing violence/gore and advancing parallels of the home and womb, this film does for metaphors of the act of mothering, giving/sustaining life, and dealing with loss. Every character in this is quite creepy, dealing with loss in their own flawed way, yet they all think they strive for what's best for everyone. Great for a debut film.TrailerTaken
- The script is ridiculous. There, I said it. But Liam Neeson, despite his age, is a damn charismatic hardass death-dealer. The cinematography is effective, the sound design visceral, and Neeson's lines too damn quotable (probably just because of the voice). It's fun, like a "more serious" version of Crank
.TrailerObserve and Report
- Don't go into this looking for a comedy; it's a dark, bleak, spiraling character piece ala Taxi Driver
that has some solid jokes thrown in. Though the humor is few and far between, the absurdity and intensity of Rogen's character while he plays one of the biggest assholes in cinema history is a good bit of funny. An uneven piece for sure, except that almost all of the characters are pretty despicable.TrailerWorld's Greatest Dad
- Very formulaic structure (except for a major end of act one twist,) and somewhat hollow, tacked-on ending. That being said, the dark subject matter and emotional honesty are refreshing, and Goldthwait is a competent director. The humor is uneven, but the unfunny parts generally carry enough emotional weight to keep you interested. Williams and Sabara are both pretty good, and the comedian cameos are fun to spot if you're in the know. Goldthwait's cameo is under-stated and surprisingly hilarious (to me). Don't spoil this one before seeing it.TrailerCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
- A joke flies at you every few seconds. They certainly aren't all funny, but there's enough of so many types that you're bound to laugh at a good chunk of them (including somewhat meta-jokes about the genre as a whole). The story is as straight-forward as they come, but for a children's movie that's expected. The voice actors bring a lot to their roles, making jokes with their delivery alone from time-to-time.TrailerNinja Assassin
- This is a modern ninja action B-movie to end all modern ninja action B-movies. A writer was hired six weeks before shooting to completely rewrite the script, and he did in 53 hours. The result is the most cliched
piece of action cinema ever. If you accept from the beginning that none of the plot or dialog can be taken seriously (which is very easy to do), this instantly becomes a ridiculously gory and violent ninja action romp, complete with ninja magic, impossible weaponry, and super rare, story-relevant anatomical abnormalities identical in multiple people. A lot of fun with young adult friends and intoxicants.TrailerKnowing
- Some great visual compositions and directing by Proyas. Cage does fairly well in the role. Heavy religious imagery, but everything is ambiguous enough that viewers can draw several conclusions if they want to. Unfortunately, not everything was left myserious enough, and the denouement ruins a lot of the roomy ambiguity. Proyas needs more work with better scripts. This is almost worth the price of a rental just for the plane crash sequence.TrailerPolice, Adjective
- This is a really challenging film. It is very minimalist and very slowly paced. That said, the more the dialogue scenes play with meaning, intent, focus, perspective, roles an duties, etc. the more it seems like the quiet, voyeuristic, surveillance bits were gaining meaning. What that meaning was, I'm not sure. The scene near the end where the protagonist finally has a meeting with the chief and his partner had me almost crying with laughter and many others walking out of the theater in a confused, agitated huff. There's definitely something
in this film, but I'm afraid to revisit it, thinking I might just end up hating it.TrailerHunger
- Ok, technically this is a 2008 film, which is the only reason it's not in my top 20 above. But Criterion is only now getting it a DVD/Blu-ray release next month. This is an intense, emotional, beautifully shot and acted film. There's very little dialog save for a 20 minute, one-take scene in the middle. Dedicated, powerhouse performances and excellent, under-stated storytelling and character development.Trailer
This certainly isn't a comprehensive list, as I didn't get around to everything that was (allegedly
) supposed to be good, hehe. What are your guys' opinions or favorite films from '09?