Monday, February 01, 2010

My Favorite Films of 2009

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More than any other year, I'm embarrassed to reveal my list of favorite films from this past movie season. I swear I'm not an immature fan boy. Despite what one might think by looking at this list. I kept waiting to find those great dramas to push some of these films off, but they simply never came. As a result, I kept postponing my selections. But I thought that since the Academy is revealing their nominations for Best Picture tomorrow, I thought it was finally time for me to reveal my favorite films of 2009.

Honorable mentions:
Drag Me to Hell
Observe and Report
The Lovely Bones

10. Up in the Air

To be honest, I went back and forth with this film. On one hand it's an entertaining character study of a man who happily lives a life of simple goals. On the other hand it is a naive look at the troubles of our economy and the devastation that it has left in its wake. I think what finally convinced me to place it on my list, is that I feel that the movie MAY perhaps serve as a representative of this turbulent time period in years to come. Much like Wall Street did in the 80's. I also felt the film hit close to home, since in 2009, I like many others, was laid off from my full-time job.

9. Fantastic Mr. Fox

I enjoy Wes Anderson films. But he's not necessarily one of my favorite directors. I feel that his films suffer from being over stylized and too witty for their own good. But his latest film Fantastic Mr. Fox seems to capitalize on his unique style and brand of humor, more than any of his other films. The animation, timing and humor all just seems to come together in a perfect storm of entertainment.

8. Watchmen

So much for being un-film-able. The Watchmen is an excellent AND accurate adaption of the award winning graphic novel. Excellent performances and action. I'm aware that there are significant changes and omissions. But I feel the film really captures the themes and feel of the original novel. Which in itself is an amazing feat, nevermind that it actually is also a really good film.

7. Zombieland

I'm not a fan of horror films in general. I just find that the suspense and humor are typically over-the-top and very poor in most of the horror genre. That's why I'm pleasantly surprised when I run across a good genre film. Granted Zombieland is more of a comedy than horror. But it's still, technically, a Zombie film and a fun one at that, which stands up to repeat viewing.

6. Whatever Works

It's well documented that I'm an avid fan of Woody Allen films. I find satisfying humor and drama in even his less accomplished movies. Whatever Works however, is one of his better, dare I say great films. It is a hilarious and ultimately poignant look at the ups and downs of this journey we call life. Excellent and surprising heartfelt performances from Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood.

5. The Hurt Locker

At one point during my viewing, I felt that this film may actually be the best movie of the year. But somewhere in the third act, I could feel myself start to disconnect. After watching the bomb squad go on mission after mission, the film sorely starts to feel like it needs more character development and less action. Nevertheless, a fascinating, suspenseful movie and well deserving as one of the best of the year.

4. Avatar

There's not much more than can be said about this ground breaking film. Amazing special effects and breathtaking 3D. My only complaint is that the plot and dialogue don't measure up to the visuals. Not even close. But one can argue that audiences don't go to movies like this for plot and dialogue. They go for the exciting ride, which this film genuinely is.

3. Inglourious Basterds

I wasn't expecting THIS film. I was actually expecting a men-on-a-mission movie in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or even Saving Private Ryan. Inglourious Basterds isn't even really about the so-called Basterds. What it is, is a fascinating homage and testament to the power of film and entertainment. The movie demonstrates that the medium is so powerful...that it can even re-write history, and brutally and gloriously assassinate the most evil man in the history of the world. Not only will audiences not complain about the historical inaccuracies, they'll love every minute of it.

2. Public Enemies

Easily the best drama of the year. Unfortunately, in all the Avatar hoopla, it has been overlooked during this awards season. Yes, this story has been told before and yes, the cops and robbers dynamic has been well explored by Michael Mann in the past. But it still doesn't take away from the breathtaking action, heartbreaking resolution and excellent performances by the entire cast, especially Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Stephen Lang.

1. Star Trek

I grew up a huge Star Trek fan. HUGE. For years, I literally fell asleep every night to a vhs cassette tape of my favorite old school and next generation episodes. I collected reference books, videos, and memorized names of episodes. But I never attended a convention. It just seemed too excessive. That's why this reboot version resonates with me. It respects the original series, but moves away from the fan boy fanaticism. Excellent action, drama, suspense, and special effects. So a combination of nostalgia and new blood excitement makes this easily, my favorite film of 2009.

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