Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Favorites of 2009

It’s a little late for this end of the year stuff at this point, but I didn’t get to catch up with a lot of the big ’09 films until the very last minute. So consider the following my belated take on the ten best releases of the year. Also, I might as well start a tradition by once again including the ten best films, both new and old, that I caught up with on video this year.

1. The Hurt Locker

Someone finally realized that the way to make a movie about the Iraq war is to not mention any of the details specific to it. To watch this movie is to understand why Jeremy Renner’s Sergeant James character is so addicted to war: it’s just plain exhilarating. That might be a bit appalling if this wasn’t also one of the first films to truly address the #1 problem of all war movies: that for all their horror, they will always be way too cinematically exciting to really be anti-conflict. That it does that while easily being the most gripping film of the year only adds to its greatness.

2. Inglourious Basterds

3. An Education

People who say “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” apparently haven’t seen this film. It’s classically constructed, beautifully written, and features one of the very best acting performances of the year from Carey Mulligan.

4. Moon

5. Summer Hours

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen even a single one of Olivier Assayas’ other films, but this was enough to make me want to go through his whole catalogue. A deeply moving and meaningful story that tackles subjects rarely covered in the movies. This also features my favorite ending of any movie this year.

6. Goodbye, Solo

7. Thirst

Korean priest-vampires having lots of kinky sex? Count me in! Seriously, though, beyond being one of the most gorgeous looking movies of the year, this one finds a way to take the now very tired concept of the vampire, strip it of all it pretensions, and make one of the most oddly moving morality tales I’ve seen in a good while.

8. Big Fan

Not only is it as creepy as it is funny, but it has the originality (that is, balls) to portray characters that most movies wouldn’t touch. Patton Oswalt also proves once and for all that he’s got the skills to be a truly great actor.

9. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

10. In the Loop

The year’s most scathing satire, this story of the political spin machine at work is full of delightfully obscene dialogue where nearly every other line is something so clever that you feel you should write it down.

Honorable Mentions:

Up in the Air, District 9, Zombieland, Sugar, Not Quite Hollywood, I Love You Man

Video Discoveries of 2009:

Le Corbeau
(1943) D: Henri Georges Clouzot
Elevator to the Gallows (1958) D: Louis Malle
The Young One (1960) D: Louis Bunuel
Le Trou (1960) D: Jacques Becker
Downhill Racer (1969) D: Michael Ritchie
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) D: Peter Yates
Wings of Desire (1987) D: Wim Wenders
Withnail and I (1987) D: Bruce Robinson
The Hidden (1987) D: Jack Sholder
Joint Security Area (2000) D: Park Chan Wook

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