2009 Top Ten List

I would first like to send my sincerest and deepest apologies to Avatar, The Cove, An Education, A Single Man, and Up in the Air. I did not see these five films, which have all been lauded. I am relatively certain that if I had seen one or all of them, it would have affected this list.

However, I make due with what I have. Away we go!

10.) The House of the Devil: A tense, low budget, horror film that evokes the nostalgia of quality the 1980s. Ti West’s film works because it is minimal in all approaches and never tries to be anything more than it really is. Also, how can you not love its tagline: Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch T. V. DIE!

9.) In the Loop: The satirical take on the United States’ invasion of Iraq is hilarious. Utterly foul mouthed, this movie is blisteringly funny with a top notch cast. Most notably, Peter Capaldi delivers one of the most underrated (and probably under-seen) performances of the year as an offensive British Intelligence leader.

8.) District 9: I did not see this film until last weekend. Neil Blomkamp’s first true outing did not disappoint. What makes this movie action science fiction movie special is that it has a heart and its thought provoking. I also like to imagine that Peter Jackson prank calls Universal Studios periodically and reminds them that they could have had Blomkamp direct Halo.

7.) Sin Nombre: It’s poetic, touching, and beautifully shot. It’s also in a different language, which makes it even more artsy.

6.) Up: The much hyped opening 10 minutes of the film do not disappoint. It sets the tone for a movie that will make you smile and cry, sometimes at the same time. While Up is not the best entry in the Pixar canon, it ranks near the top.

5.) The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow’s mediation on the tensions that surround war is outstanding. Jeremy Renner breaks out in the most suspenseful film since The Bourne Ultimatum (I feel like Rex Reed when I say something like that). The tension created by Bigelow is mesmerizing and Mark Boal’s script hits all the right notes.

4.) A Serious Man: I enjoy every Coen Brothers’ film (even The Ladykillers). However, what made A Serious Man special was how personal it was. The Coen Brothers tend to focus on subversive people, while this film was about a college professor and his life’s troubles. I may be trivializing the film’s plot with that summation because it also deals with faith, family, adultery, and Jefferson Airplane.

3.) Drag Me to Hell: 2009 will be remembered – at least for me – as a fun year. 2007 had many films that could be called masterpieces, but this year was about being fun. Drag Me to Hell was easily the most fun I had at the movies this year. Raimi’s return to his roots was vintage form and Alison Lohman served admirably as the new Bruce Campbell.

2.) The Reader: I saw it in theatres five times in 2009, but it qualified for last year’s list.

2.) Fantastic Mr. Fox: On any given day, Drag Me to Hell and Wes Andersen’s first animated effort could swap places. However, this was the film I was most excited for this year and it delivered even more than I imagined. The meticulous attention to detail by Andersen proved to be rewarding because it was nice to have a film that was completely done by hand, as opposed to computer wizardry.

1.) Inglourious Basterds: This film has Quentin Tarantino’s pulp fetish fingerprints all over it. From the opening frame, to the screaming conclusion, the film is a masterpiece. The terrific performances supplied by all players, especially Christoph Waltz, rival the enthusiasm with which Tarantino directs. The film, while heavy on the dialogue, may disappoint the purest action fan, but it compares well to another World War II picture – The Dirty Dozen. This is a film that I can easily re-watch over and over again and still find it entertaining every time.

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