Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Best Films of 2009

Well after sitting through 95 films in 2009, I've narrowed it down to the 20 best. Enjoy.

Honorable Mention:

#19. "ADVENTURELAND" (Greg Motolla)
#17. "REVANCHE" (Gotz Spielman)
#16. "THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX" (Wes Anderson)
#15. "ZOMBIELAND" (Ruben Fleischer)
#14. "TWO LOVERS" (James Gray)
#13. "SUGAR" (Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden)
#12. "IN THE LOOP" (Armando Iannucci)
#11. "AN EDUCATION" (Lone Scherfig)


Directed by Cary Fukunaga

This immigration tale delicately weaves the stories of two lost souls hopping on-and-off the rusty, overcrowded northbound trains of Mexico's polluted and seemingly inescapable landscape. Debut director Cary Fukunaga and cinematographer Adriano Goldman find a way to capture the ravished beauty of the promise of freedom across the border while examining the trials and inner-workings of Mexico's gang-culture.


Directed by Tom Ford

Tom Ford's morosely exquisite debut film about grief and solitude charts a day in the life of a gay English professor (Colin Firth) as he attempts to cope with the loss of his life partner (Matthew Goode). Set in 1962, A Single Man examines the mechanics of the grieving process through social alienation and seclusion against the backdrop of the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Though detachment and social imprisonment reign supreme, A Single Man is finally about those life instances of unexpected clarity and reprieve.


Directed by Jan Troell

Perhaps the most aptly titled (or translated) film on this list is Jan Troell's Swedish family drama Everlasting Moments. Just as you would expect, it's a slice-of-life story following the ups-and-downs of a working-class family living in the early part of the 20th century. When their mother (Maria Heiskanen) stumbles upon a camera, it changes her perception of herself and the world around her. It's a sad film, honest and uncompromising, yet resolutely celebratory of life's defining (or everlasting) moments.


Directed by Jason Reitman

This topical, humanistic tale of a social outcast wandering the airways and high-rises of the recession-era Midwest is, despite the recent flare-up of negativity and cynicism, a wonderful achievement. The journey of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who lets people go (both in his personal and professional life) before facing and questioning his own isoloation. By the end, the film's title broadens its scope and becomes descriptive of a world caught in a haze of unpredictability and insecurity - unemployed or not.


Directed by Lars von Trier

Over the past few months since first seeing - or enduring - Lars von Trier's Antichrist, I can't shake the feeling that this is some kind of a major work. A gothic horror tale, a self-reflective psychoanalysis and a satanic, biblical deconstruction, Antichrist surely isn't for everyone with its startling violence and hideous self-mutilations. Nevertheless, its effect is hypnotic, permanent and indelible - I can't get it out of my head.


Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

There's really nothing left to be said about Kathryn Bigelow's hair-trigger adrenaline-rush of a war film. Refreshingly devoid of harmful political digressions, The Hurt Locker is simply about the intense vulnerability of combat and its effects on the soldiers who endure it - or perhaps live off of it. Jeremy Renner's Sgt. James, a thrill-seeking bomb diffuser extraordinaire, seems to be an iconic character in the making and a hell of an alter ego - the Antoine Doinel to Bigelow's Francois Truffaut.


Directed by Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze's supposed entry into the children's film market looks and sounds like the classic Maurice Sendak book, but it feels completely and wholly its own. Writing the script alongside novelist Dave Eggers, Jonze turns his Wild Things into a deep psychological portal into the mind and soul of its protagonist, the animalistic and confused Max. By taking us on this journey to an imaginary island, Jonze and Eggers are showing us the world through Max's point-of-view in a way that's more relatable to him. The result is a deeply felt and emotional portrait of childhood - or perhaps the end of it.


Directed by Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke applies his studious and static steadicam approach to a work comparable to that of an early Ingrid Bergman or Robert Bresson. Set within a rural German village on the outset of World War I and shot in stunning black-and-white, The White Ribbon isn't just plainly a precursor to Nazism, but a universal examination on the effects of a society founded on authority, obedience and stringency. It's a dreary, hopeless film, but what got me was its eternal sadness and compassion towards its subjects opposed to outright scrutiny.


Directed by Michael Mann

This digitally-enhanced gangster saga is an artful and narrowly-scoped Depression-era rumination on mortality and celebrity - restrained, transportative and Alain Delon cool. Writer/director Michael Mann refreshingly blurs the line between cops and robbers, turning in a layered and subtly effective work. Elliot Goldenthal's score doesn't just sound like the end of an outlaw, but the end of an era. The film, it its own minimal way, feels like nothing less than the last dance of the classic American gangster.


Directed Joel and Ethan Coen

The Coens' wicked black comedy out-misanthropes almost everything that the duo has churned out before in this darkly humorous yet fatalistic film about life's seemingly impossible odds. With satirical irony and personal scope (not to mention a clear disdain for organized, content religious culture), A Serious Man, through the unfortunate events bestowed upon the harmless Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), is an illustrative fable exploring existential questions of faith, destiny and truth. It's the answers - or lack thereof - that makes the film quintessential Coen Brothers.

So to recap:
1. "A Serious Man" (Coens)
2. "Public Enemies" (Mann)
3. "The White Ribbon" (Haneke)
4. "Where the Wild Things Are" (Jonze)
5. "The Hurt Locker" (Bigelow)
6. "Antichrist" (von Trier)
7. "Up in the Air" (Reitman)
8. "Everlasting Moments" (Troell)
9. "A Single Man" (Ford)
10. "Sin Nombre" (Fukunaga)


  1. We have the same top two films.

  2. I enjoyed looking over your list. I also have Up In The Air in my top 10. My favorite film from that year was Sin Nombre. The rest of my list is here: