Here we are. Very late, but here nonetheless. Even though there were plenty of stinkers this year in film, 2009 was a truly fantastic year for cinema (in my opinion anyway). Dear "Oscar" has already declared its love with its top ten nominees, and tomorrow, we will learn which movie is Hollywood's pick of the year. However, below you will find my #1 in addition to 19 more that round out a top 20. There were so many worth mentioning this year, that I finalize my list with a few honorable mentions as well.
Without further ado...
Continue reading after the jump...
1. The Hurt Locker: A riveting, grab-you-by-the-throat, taut, verite-style film that is as authentic as it is important, as suspensful as it is detailed. The buzz ever since the film's July 2009 release was that it is the best Iraqi War film ever made. That buzz is spot-on, but I would add that it is among the best war movies ever lensed. Kathryn Bigelow's direction is brilliant for a film that should win the Best Picture Oscar as well as bring us our first Oscar-winning female director. It's about time and so utterly deserved.
2. A Single Man: The most beautifully-photographed film ever made. Big words? Yes, and I mean them. Each scene is an exquisite study of lush details and aching love. Nuanced and brilliantly anchored by Colin Firth's shattering performance, A Single Man is a delicate portrait of the potential beauty present in every waking moment of life.
3. Precious: A vibrant but harrowing story of identity, love, and hope in the face of such tribulations most of us could never even grasp. Precious takes us on a journey of honest and triumphant searching for tenderness in a world full of bitter, horrific pain. To be so genuine and unflinching in its rendering of truth, Precious is truly a priceless treasure.
4. Up in the Air: Timely, relevant and surprisingly complex, Up in the Air keeps its cynical wit about itself and keeps the painful spots sharply perky. Even as the film makes us question deep ironies and human angst, it keeps us gliding along safely in its witty embrace. The film has a surprising amount to say about gray areas of moral uncertainty, and I found that refreshing.
5. Up: The first 30 minutes of Up is perhaps the sweetest, most tender narrative in the history of cinema. Yeah, I said it. It may be a cartoon, but this buoyant, life-affirming, hopeful, witty film captured my heart completely and thoroughly.
6. Inglorious Basterds: Tarantino is my favorite director and I respect the hell out of his ability to revel and play with the genere. Here, war drama meets pulp fiction in an explosively gutsy way. Basterds is scrumptiously indulgent. I could listen to Tarantino's characters talk for days. For me, when I think of "film as art," I think Tarantino, period. This film is yet another reason why.
7. The Messenger: Can there be anything as horrible as losing a loved one to senseless war? Having to inform their loved ones would. The Messenger is a sobering drama which is a necessary companion piece to Hurt Locker. It is a wrenching, stunningly sad, deeply raw human character study--one which is important to see.
8. Mammoth: A huge, heartfelt film about what we sacrifice and how we become disconnected and isolated from what matters. The film subtly exposes how capitalism and solitude affects family and what we value.
9. Julia: Julia takes us on an intense, mesmerizing trainwreck of a journey where we feel as hopped up on liquor as the titular character is. Tilda Swinton is beyond brilliant as Julia, and the movie is seems to be one thing, morphes into another, and then seamlessly shifts into yet another--Each transformation more interesting and compelling than the last. The uncompromising realism of Julia needs reckoned with, but be ready to take a few aspirins after the pulverizing night of consuming this movie. To be sure though, its worth the hangover.
10. Amreeka: Equal parts tragic drama and comedy,this enlightened immigration story is honestly authentic, scathing, but also deeply tender. No other movie exposes the plight of people victim of xenophobia as deftly and sensitively as this one. Ever american should have to see this film and ask themselve what a real american, nay, a real human should look and act like.
The Runners-Up:11. Bad Lieutenant:Port of Call New Orleans: A psychedelic and nastily fun joy ride.
12. Food Inc.,: This expose changed my life forever; it brought this vegetarian out of the closet. Plant a garden, buy organic, and eat less meat (or no meat) everyone!
13. The Cove: Brilliant and riveting documentary that left me shaking, screaming, and moved.
14. Zombieland: Exhuberantly fun, classically gratuitious and wickedly hilarious.
15. Coco Before Chanel: A sumptious and piercing biopic made even more divine through Tautou's mesmerizingly perfect performance.
16. An Education: A sharply honest study of sexual politics and the dangers of youthful decisions.
17. Thirst: Wasn't expecting this gluttonously bloody and weird japanese vampire flick to take such a bite and leave its mark on me.
18. Broken Embraces: Almodovar's latest lushly vibrant soap opera about love, loss, and the blindness each create.
19. Moon: Rockwell superbly explores the depths of isolation, humanity, and the ethics involved in science.
20. This is It: An exuberant celebration of the most consumate and defining artist of our time.
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
(500) Days of Summer
Drag Me to Hell
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Observe and Report
The Princess and the Frog
A Serious Man
Where the Wild Things Are