Monday, December 28, 2009

My favorite films of 2009

Inglorious Basterds

I am hot and cold about Tarantino’s films, his last collaboration with Robert Rodriguez was really boring. In this film he is back, Quentin Tarantino is a natural and joyous filmmaker who feeds off his own story and fearlessly rewrites history. The story is told from a different point of view, from the wishful side. The film is brilliant, fun and entertaining a must see. Even Brad Pitt as a knife wielding American commando leader is really good. Christophe Waltz won best actor at Cannes 2009, has swept the critic's awards, as best supporting actor.

Hurt Locker

At first I wasn’t sure, I am not a fan of war movies. But this film is quite intense. "War is a drug," the opening title informs us, and in one of the best war movies ever. The movie is not selling a particular angle, not pro-war, not anti-war, not about the war in Iraq, but about the complex minds of soldiers. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; as one critic's group after another honored it in their year-end awards, it became a sure thing for picture, actor and director nominations.

An Education

It is an elegant and beautiful small film. The story of a young school girl (Carey Mulligan) being blown away and introduced to a new lifestyle by the experienced, attractive and mysterious man in his mid-30s is played by Peter Sarsgaard, one of my favorite actors. He's sophisticated, she's not. He is an opportunist and role-player, directed by Lone Scherfig's film is wise about what people want in a relationship and what they get, adapted by Nick Hornby from the memoirs of the well-known British journalist Lynn Barber.


It is an impressive film for those of us who grew up loving sci-fi stories. Sam Rockwell is for sure one of the best actors today, his performance is absolutely superb. It is the film debut of Duncan Jones. This complicated story as it unfolds is breathtakingly simple yet emotionally powerful. Kevin Spacey, providing the voice of a computer, is incredible, too. “Moon” is a low budget movie, a sub genre that generally brings out the best in story.

500 Days of Summer

My favorite summer movie, and perhaps one of my all-time favorites coming of age films. Critics have called it “This is not a love story. It’s a story about love.” How can I dislike a film where the young couple met in an elevator listening to a “Smith’s song”? Affectionately called an “anti-romantic comedy” by many, this film vividly illustrates the emotions and complex interpersonal dynamics of a relationship and the expectations we have of them. Directed by Marc Webb. The performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are beautiful, and natural.

Broken Embraces

Another great film by Pedro Almodóvar. Partly a film about films and partly a film about love, It is really an enjoyable genre-bender that combines melodrama, comedy and more noir-hued darkness than ever before, the film is held together by the extraordinary force of Almodovar’s cinematic personality. See my blog.

A Serious Man

This is yet another great film by the Coen Brothers, returning to their homeland of the Minneapolis suburbs to tell the story of a Jewish man who strives to be good, a "serious man," Takes place in the 60’s but it could happen today. Michael Stuhlbarg gives a great performance as the suffering man, who earnestly tries to do the right thing.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Another dysfunctional father to rival those in any Wes Anderson movie. After years as a smoothie thief, Mr. Fox has promised Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) he’ll take a job and settle down as daddy to Ash (Jason Schwartzman). A dozen fox years later, our hero is tired of writing a newspaper column no one reads. Mr. Fox embarks on a revenge against farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The villains are Brits and the heroes are voiced by Americans? Fantastic Mr. Fox, written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach is an adventure in pure imagination that plays to kids and adults.

Single Man

Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, the screenplay by Tom Ford and David Scearce is concise. This is Tom Ford’s first film and he does it elegantly and fearlessly. It opens with a fatal car crash in 1962, in which Jim (Matthew Goode) is killed. George Falconer (Firth) learns about his lover's death he lived with for 16 years. Brokenhearted and alone, he seeks comfort from his long-ago-flame-now-friend Charley (Julianne Moore) an alcoholic divorcee, who obviously still is in love with him. But George is too devastated to be interested in sex, instead, he makes plans for committing suicide.

Most of the action takes place over the course of a single day in Los Angeles in the early '60s, when being gay was socially disapproved. The film is sophisticated, cool and glamorous. Goode and especially Hoult (remember him as the kid in About a Boy?) are just too good to be true, but they serve the purpose of offering George good reasons to stay alive.

Up in the Air

George Clooney is not on list of favorite actors but he has a good sense of selecting films to produce, act or direct. Clooney plays a man that reflects the contemporary uncertainties. I definitely could relate to some of these premises. He wants no home, no wife, no family, and says he is happy. His job is depriving others of theirs; he fires people for a living. Vera Farmiga plays his friendly fellow road warrior who sleeps with him on the road. Anna Kendrick is the sincere young college grad whose first job is terminating others. The third film by Jason Reitman after "Thank You for Smoking" and "Juno."


Avatar is truly a complete new sensation. You've never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else.

Maybe you don’t like some of the films by writer-director James Cameron. He has always been a visionary in terms of film technology, as his pioneering computer-generated effects in "The Abyss" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" testify. He is not a director you want to underestimate, and with "Avatar's" story of futurist adventures on a place called Pandora, he restores a sense of wonder to the movie going experience that has been missing for far too long. See my blog.


One of the best digitally 3D animated films of the year. The story is about people but very different from “The Incredibles”, what Up achieves is something truly remarkable. In a short montage that chronicles the life of married couple Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, Pixar capture the essence of humanity so profoundly. Up is also an immensely joyous experience. It’s another near-perfect Pixar blend of escapist fun and heart-warming feelings, with dazzling animation, hilarious dialogue and adventurous spirit. It might not be as innovate or socially thematic as last year’s Wall-E. However, Up doesn’t initially burst onto the screen in a spectacle of color. Instead, it begins in the form of a black and white newsreel, where famous explorer Charles Muntz prepares his Zeppelin for a voyage to Paradise Falls, an uncharted part of the South American wilderness.


  1. the thing i liked about "fantastic mr. fox" and "where the wild things are" (which would be on my list) was that they were somewhat edgy movies for adults that kids could enjoy on a different level. the term "cluster cuss" immediately entered my vocabulary.

    random thought on julie and julia. a pleasant enough movie- if pleasant movies appeal to you. streep's take on julia child was spot-on, but i was always aware of how well streep was doing child. very hard for someone that recognizable to do someone that recognizable.

    the political allegory in the sci-fi "district 9" struck me as a bit too obvious, but i thought the characters: the "prawn" family, the warlord, and especially Wickus van de Merwe, where some of the most memorable written that i've seen in a while.

    any thoughts on the best of the decade?

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  3. Awesome. I look forward to this list each year. And now with comments!

    UP was the most thrilling Pixar film to date. The Incredibles was full of action, but because of the superhero type story, I never really got into the story. UP grabbed my emotions, and pushed me to the edge of my seat.

    Looking forward to Avatar this week. Especially after your review.

  4. Nice list!

    Avatar was simply beautiful. You are right, Cameron created yet another blockbuster, except this time the effects were pushed even further. If I am not mistaken, both Weta and Industrial Light & Magic were collaborative in the making which is quite interesting since both names are some of the best in digital.

    The renderings were vivid colors and with ultimate realism. The story was nice, and I think this goes way beyond movies with the same sort of plot like last sammarai, etc. The fantasy created here is one of science fiction's best and like you mentioned, established a pure "admiration" for fictional pandora. Was an extremely fun movie, especially in 3D.