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John’s Top Ten Movies of 2009

I didn’t see a lot of really great flicks in 09′ but as usual the tale end of the year brought a few gems. Nothing good enough to add to my “Favorite Film’s of the 2000s” list but it’s all too new in my mind. One thing I do know is I’ll definitely be prepared for the Oscars this year.

Honorable Mention
A Serious Man – Recently added this to my “Honorable Mentions” as my appreciation for it continues to grow. It’s highly unconventional but it’s got such an original feel to it and Michael Stuhlbarg steals the show.

Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans – Nicholas Cage’s manic over-the-top performance is reason enough to see this movie. If only it didn’t wrap up in such a bland finale.

District 9 – Excellent docudrama style debut from Neill Blomkamp. Sharlto Copely could and should have a nice acting career ahead of him after playing the sympathetic hero. Convincing effects tied up in some great sci-fi action.

Watchmen – It’s almost as if this film has been completely forgotten. I thought it was damn impressive back in March and was deeply immersed. Ambitious in style and content, I really just need to see it again to see how I feel about now.

10. The Hangover
Not quite as hilarious or outrageous with my second viewing but still a great comedy nonetheless. Who would of thought that a so-so director and a small time cast could pull off such a blockbuster? Zach Galifianakis (I’m not even going to attempt to spell check that) is the obvious breakout star (don’t ask me why Bradley Cooper’s career has taken off) but everybody has their moments… Even Mike Tyson. Maybe watching it with my mom present in the room wasn’t the best setting for a second viewing but I still found a great deal enjoyable. By the way she thought it was kind of funny but too much of a guy movie, I think that’s completely understandable

9. Precious
Sometimes I have trouble watching such heavy handed dramas but I was surprised to find in all of the film’s brooding subject matter, shined little glimpses of hope and happiness. Precious is an intimate and immensely moving film worth seeing for the outstanding performances (even Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz aren’t bad.) Mo’nique has already been given overwhelming acclaim for her performance as the cruel overbearing mother but I was just as impressed by the debut from star Gabourey Sidibe. It may sound like a hard film to watch for it’s controversial subject matter but I assure you that you won’t regret it.

8. Bruno
An onslaught of non-stop jokes, I applaud Sacha Baron Cohen’s fearlessness which results in more laughs than I can count. Bruno is dumb fun at it’s most extreme level and I just couldn’t and still can’t get enough of it. I watched it again (special features included) last November and was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. It’s an odd choice for a “Top Ten of the Year” list but I won’t deny my fondness for Austria’s biggest celebrity since Hitler.

7. Inglourious Basterds
Slick, stylish and unconventional (You know typical Tarantino), Inglorious Basterds is like a B-movie but pumped full of great performances, a good story and countless tributes to cult cinema. It’s got all of Q.T’s known trademarks so it’s not surprising that it’s quite unlike any war movie I’ve ever seen. It drags a little in spots, I mean Quentin can get kind of self indulgent with dialogue sometimes but it’s all in good fun. It’s worth checking out to see Christoph Waltz’s as the strangely likable villain “Hans Landa”.

6. The Hurt Locker
I’ll need to see it again but The Hurt Locker was easily one of the best war themed movies I’ve seen in a long time. A strikingly real feeling (probably due to the fact that it was filmed in the Middle East) with strong performances from a group of skilled character actors. There’s some pretty damn tense scenes here, remember the “Sniping Part”? That’s got to be the most nerve-wracking sniper scene I’ve ever seen. It’s high adrenaline and has no shortage of drama. It would appear this flick is the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars and I have no problem with that.

5. Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi’s return to his roots is gooey, zany, thrill ride. There’s just not enough slapstick horror movies but I guess it would be hard to imagine any other director taking on such an obserd sub-genre. Some good scares and good laughs, it’s full on popcorn entertainment at it’s finest. It’s good to see that fame and success haven’t gone to Sam’s head but we’ll see what happens when he tackles that World of Warcraft project.

4. The Road
Perhaps the most underrated movie of the year. It’s brief limited release didn’t help but I was surprised there wasn’t much talk about this emotional post-apocalyptic thriller. Viggo Mortensen and the young Kodi Smit-McPhee are quite believable in the role of father and son and I’m shocked their names haven’t come up now that were in award season… Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a popularity contest. Anyhow I loved the strikingly realistic settings of a world gone downhill and the story although simple is incredibly engaging.

3. Avatar
What looks like it’s on it’s way to being the most bankable movie of all time is also the most entertaining of 2009. A mind blowing visual smorgasbord with no shortage of action or beauty, or even a single dull moment. Being entertained is in my opinion the most important thing a movie can accomplish and this did not disappointment. Really all that’s holding it back is a lack of originality in the concept. We’ve seen plenty of movies that are your typical “Man learns to embrace nature” and what not but I guess it’s a plus that Avatarblows all of those film’s out of the water technically. This will forever be remembered as a landmark in film effects and technology.

2. Up in the Air
Ahh George Clooney, he really is the Cary Grant of this generation. A highly skilled actor who can’t be beat on charm, George Clooney leads a talented cast in this fascinating dramedy from the unstoppable Jason Reitman. An inventive take on a unique occupation leads to no end of silly situations and downbeat misunderstandings. It’s got heart and it reaches you on a deeper level which is something that can be hard to come by.

1. Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart is by no means a perfect film, taking a light approach to what could of been a much darker drama but I don’t think I walked out of any other movie this year with such a feeling of satisfaction and joy. Jeff Bridges warm performance combined with his lazy charm makes Bad Blake one of the best characters of his career. Though it may not of worked if it wasn’t for the outstanding score, most notably the main theme “The Weary Kind”. I loved all the concert scenes and especially Jeff Bridges playing off a solid cast featuring the likes of; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall. It was a true feel good experience for me and I still got some of the tunes stuck in my head, one of the best movies about music of the 2000s.


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