My Top 10 Films of ’09

Fashionably late once again, I’ve finally managed to compile a list of my favorite films of ’09! As always, I’ve tried to view as many films as humanly possible in an effort to come up with a slightly above average bunch that will hopefully reflect my still burgeoning fondness of film itself. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to comment!

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): An Education, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Messenger, The Vicious KindUp, Whip It

10. Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze)

On the surface, it may seem like Spike Jonze has done nothing but reimagine Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s tale. Beyond that, it becomes apparent that Jonze has accurately and meticulously envisioned how the mind of a young boy works, from his grappling with rarely felt emotions to the more simple wonders of a child’s imagination, Where the Wild Things Are establishes itself as more than just a literary adaptation. Some unexpected moodiness may prove to be a bit much for younger audiences, but for those can appreciate it, the film remains remarkably insightful and entertaining as such.

9. In the Loop (dir. Armando Iannucci)

Remaining intelligent and socially relevant amid barrage after barrage of vulgarity, In the Loop proves to be an immensely successful satirical take on one of today’s most pressing political issues. It isn’t perfect, but it effectively manages to compensate for what it lacks via a pitch perfect sense of humor.

8. District 9 (dir. Neill Blomkamp)

Equal parts thought-provoking and relentlessly entertaining, District 9 is ample proof that intelligence can still be found within the realm of contemporary science-fiction. Coupling some obvious social commentary with an otherwise straightforward, undeniably engrossing central premise, Neil Blomkamp has successfully crafted one seriously well-rounded film that will certainly give imitators a run for their money.

7. The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

An intended focus on the addictive quality warfare possesses inevitably makes The Hurt Locker stand out among countless other war-related films, zoning in on one individual’s inexplicable thirst for action as war irrevocably changes him for the worse. An adequate script depicting the uneasy bonds Sgt. James forms with his fellow soldiers introduces a welcome shift in the narrative, and thanks to a dynamite portrayal of the character in question by one Jeremy Renner, the circumstances surrounding his erratic behavior are heartbreaking and appealingly honest in nature. Remaining appropriately tense when appropriate while effectively humanizing an otherwise straightforward war movie, The Hurt Locker is as much an emotional experience as it is a visceral one.

6. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold)

A startlingly honest depiction of misguided youth, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is a simplistic yet crushing portrait of Mia: a 15-year-old girl merely struggling to find her place in the world as the individuals in her life continually push her away. Using dance and the occasional alcoholic beverage as barely functional coping strategies, young Mia finds solace in her mother’s new boyfriend, Connor, that is until his involvement manages to further complicate matters. Featuring stellar performances across the board including one hell of a debut from newcomer Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank is a beautifully shot, thoughtfully paced and altogether authentic piece of independent filmmaking.

5. Adventureland (dir. Greg Mottola)

“While several marketing mishaps may have had Superbad fans scrambling to their seats opening day, Adventureland is assuredly not in the same vein as Mottola’s previous directorial effort, to say the least. Instead, we’re graced with a sweet, believable semi-autobiographical account of what it’s like to work that dreadful summer job just about everyone would never like to have. This in mind, Adventureland’s laid back, yet undoubtedly effective style of humor helps contribute to this all-too-appealing believability factor, allowing us as viewers to revel in copious amounts of nostalgia if appropriate and appreciate the film’s wholly original approach to a genre that’s become a little too familiar over the past few years…” Full review found here.

4. Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

“Tarantino’s latest can quite easily be considered both a triumph and one of the acclaimed writer/director’s best efforts to date. What Basterds provides us with to support such a statement lies partly within QT’s overly frenetic yet refreshingly original style of writing and the sometimes cartoonish editing that often coincides with it; a formula that if applied to a previously vapid World War II setting would potentially blow the minds of theatergoers everywhere. This being said, the film in question does just that, thanks to some wonderfully charismatic and just plain hilarious characters in conjunction with a purposeful ignorance towards political history that succeeds in every way possible…” Full review found here.

3. Moon (dir. Duncan Jones)

While its immediate influences are almost embarrassingly identifiable, it’s hard to deny the brilliance of Duncan Jones’ directorial debut. As it progresses, Moon reveals itself to be one of the most engrossing pieces of science-fiction cinema to come along in quite some time, with Jones deftly mixing equal parts sci-fi and suspense to serve as the proverbial icing on the cake. Sam Rockwell’s mesmerizing performance is without a doubt the film’s most appealing quality, portraying two entirely different characters so well it’s a wonder why he’ll most likely not receive an Oscar nod this time around.

2. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman)

“Few films have been so daring as to hold a mirror up to our society and expose parts of it for what they really are. Jason Reitman’s simply stellar Up in the Air is just that type of film, mixing equal parts social relevance and brutal honesty to make one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences in recent memory. Aside from touching upon the ever-present economic ruin currently plaguing our country, Up in the Air uses the central character Ryan’s career as a means of exploring the importance of love and relationships to those who are too selfish to commit to anything but themselves, thus potentially forcing us as viewers to reevaluate the states of our own lives as well…” Full review found here.

1. (500) Days of Summer (dir. Marc Webb)

“After finally getting the chance to see this much-anticipated film of mine, I can safely conclude that it’s quite easily the best of the year thus far. It succeeds where a plethora of other films of its type clearly haven’t, mostly due to how unconventionally and borderline brutally honest it is from start to finish, even though the film’s intentions are made abundantly clear no more than several minutes in thanks to some clever albeit sometimes inconsistent narration. It’s with this characteristic that (500) Days of Summer poses some interesting and refreshingly original thoughts on love and the different theories certain individuals have on the matter, further setting it apart from other run-of-the-mill romcoms by staying unpredictable throughout thanks to this and its unique back-and-forth narrative structure…” Full review found here.

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