My favorite films of 2009
#1: The Hurt Locker
This is my favorite movie about the war in Iraq. The job of a bomb tech is naturally suspenseful, and that aspect certainly works. But what really elevates this film are the unique characters, excellent dialogue, and even the humor found in the tensest situations. The poster says the theme, that war is a drug, and the film thoughtfully and effectively explores this idea. There are amazing acting cameos in two memorable sequences.
#2: District 9
What a smart and interesting summer action film. The introductory documentary seamlessly transitions into the narrative. Sharlto Copley (who I can’t wait to see as Murdock in “The A-Team”) gives a best-actor caliber performance, which I fear will be overlooked for awards because of the genre and distance from the end of the year. The alien special effects are amazing, particularly with the handheld shooting style.
#3: Inglorious Basterds
There are certain sequences in this movie that just feel perfect. Tarantino masterfully builds suspense, and is able to take scenes to a conclusion that is satisfies while completely defying your expectations. Despite some self-indulgent dialogue and goofy anachronistic flourishes, it is a lot of fun.
#4: Up In the Air
George Clooney gives an understated performance that rivals “Michael Clayton” for his best work. The story is smart, funny, relatable, and even with a twist that I didn’t see coming.
#5: Drag Me to Hell
What a welcome break to have Sam Raimi not working on Spiderman. What I really liked is that this film not only had the humor of the Evil Dead movies, but it’s actually pretty scary at times, too. Alison Lohman, who was great in “Matchstick Men”, is such a charismatic protagonist. The shot that reveals the old lady in the car is perfect.
#6: The Cove
I could not get anybody to go see this movie. It’s about the slaughter of dolphins, which apparently is just too much for many to stomach. But if you didn’t see it yet, you really should. This documentary is informative, energetic, and even plays like a heist movie (within the film they reference assembling an “Ocean’s 11” team in order to uncover and document the killing of the dolphins).
James Cameron did it with the water alien in “The Abyss”, the liquid metal in “Terminator 2”, and once again dazzled me in “Avatar” with how he shows me special effects unlike anything I have ever seen before. 3D isn’t used in a gimmicky way, but to bring the fictional world to life. Watching “Avatar” makes you wish Cameron had made the 2nd trilogy of Star Wars films instead of Lucas, he is so much better at incorporating effects and story. I wish that some of the characters in “Avatar” weren’t so one-dimensional, and the movie was so long, but it was a dazzling experience.
#8: The Hangover
I was the only person on Earth to not see this movie in the theaters. I finally got it on DVD, and I get why it’s so popular. Great premise, and thankfully it is well-executed.
#9: World’s Greatest Dad
Bobcat Goldthwait makes great dark comedies. Seriously. His films could easily be described by their shocking and politically incorrect sequence that sets the story in motion, but that is not what makes the movies interesting. Rather it is the flawed characters and their very relatable experiences, as well as very dark humor. And in this film there is an extremely understated performance by Robin Williams, even in the comedic moments, which I wouldn’t have believed was possible until I saw it.
#10: Fantastic Mr. Fox
This is an animated movie whose humor is aimed directly at adults. Very smart dialogue, great vocal performances, and a stylized animation that is endearing.