I've played fast and loose with the "standard" rules. A film is a 2009 entry if I saw it in a theater in 2009. Also, don't count the number of entries in my top ten list too closely if your a stickler for numeric accuracy. ;-)
As always I retain the right to randomly update the list over time - though I will always clearly note when doing so. In a perfect world I'd also wait until the year is actually over. I'll do a final update in 2010 - but I think I'm reaching the end of the releases for the year so things aren't likely to change much. Some of the most promising things I haven't seen include Broken Embraces and Crazy Heart. I've also heard decent things about Sherlock Holmes which I'll try to see Monday. Also, I haven't seen Did You Hear about the Morgans? - not thinking I will - though as I suspect it'd make my top ten worst films I'm slightly tempted.
To give myself a big of wiggle room I've actually produced a series of lists. None are ordered in any particular way. I'll admit to some selection bias with a goal over getting a cross section of my favorite types of films into the mix. I've linked to my main review if there's anything of substance there. Some of the ones I caught at festivals have never been properly reviewed in the blog. Don't let that stop you though.
- A Prophet - for me this was an absolutely pure expression of cinematic entertainment. Both raw and fun at the same time - with a great lead performance. A Rags to riches prison drama that flew by even though I believe it's well over 2 hrs. Other that it's in French I think it'd be competing for the best film Oscar. Even then it truly should be.
- The White Ribbon - From the director of Cache this gorgeous black and white film set in pre WW-I Europe kept me glued to the screen even at a 10:30pm screening. I don't think its appeal is as broad as that of A Prophet but I'd be very pleased to see either win the Foreign Language Oscar.
- The Hurt Locker - you've probably heard about the hype on this Iraq war thriller. It's all true - a very realistically shot pure adrenaline ride.
- A Serious Man - My favorite recent Coen brothers movie. It's black comedy that does a fine job being both dark and truly funny - a very hard line to walk in my experience. Forget to bring your favorite Jew for deeper post-film insight at your peril.
- Gigante - Another top ten entry I saw at Telluride this year. Absolutely the best heavy metal themed stalking = love story I've ever seen. 'nuff said.
- Inglourious Basterds - I did not expect to like this film. Morally question its subject matter all you want - I dug this film.
- A Single Man - Colin Firth and great visuals make this movie about a pivotal day in the life of a grieving in the closet professor into something special and very watchable. Not perfect still very good.
- Castaway on the Moon - Weird quirky voyeuristic love story out of South Korea. Maybe I've rated this higher than I would have had I not seen it on a day that started with a screening of Antichrist. But I was pulled into this crazy little world where a guy could be a castaway on an island within sight of a major city and enter into a long distance relationship with a shut-in living in distant skyscraper.
- Humpday - Not putting this on a top list for the comedy. I laughed, but I more often found the film slightly painful to watch. Makes the list for Shelton's continued ability to nail the male psyche in dialog and make watchable films on human scaled budgets.
- Kisses - Irish film with a sweet relationship between a boy and a girl built over some rather dark background. Simply worked for me - if you're similarly inclined likely will work for you too.
- Laila's Birthday - This Palestinian film is understated but manages to make its points dead on about fatherhood, the horrible situation for residents there, and the benefits keeping one's cool (up to a point)
There were some films that either made me very sad to have wasted the time, want to flee during the presentation, or just felt the movie shouldn't have been made on principle. Sometimes all three.
- Baby Formula - Bad even for a mockumentary. It sounded relatively promising but it went from bad to worse, to worse, and then to me leaving before the end. Folks who stayed then it just got horrible. It's hard to really do it justice in words.
- Last Chance Harvey - On second thought, even if they added zombies this probably still would have sucked.
- Spring Breakdown - I can reproduce my entire review here. Friends don't let friends see Spring Breakdown.
- The Limits of Control - This will likely be on your top ten list if you either (a) want to mainly see films that are artistic experiments and not character/story/plot driven or (b) really enjoy saying "what the fuck?" over and over again. Sorry, I didn't get it.
- Final Arrangements - Covering similar territory to Departures this film would have been equally unexciting. Not truly awfull - just at the bottom of my list for the year - I suppose a positive testament to my picks in 2009.
- Bandslam - Too embarrassed to even make a case for it. But I enjoyed this silly teen film.
- Bart Got a Room - Colorful, filled with stupid movie cliche's and the worst hairdo in movie history it still held my interest right to the point we finally see Bart after the credits. At least my own iffy prom experiences weren't quite this bad.
- Cold Souls -On the list in large part due to a joke about shipping your soul to New Jersy for tax purposes.
- Crank: High Voltage -Too stupid to be ignored. Clearly you can make a sequel no matter what. Still wonder if my imagined conversation about green lighting this film has any truth to it.
- Four Boxes - also wins my award for best low budget mind-fuck of the year. By a wide margin.
- Hachi - A Dog's Tale - Manipulate my emotions all you like. If there's a cute dog I'll happily come along for the ride.
- Julie & Julia - Still haven't read the book that's been sitting on my shelf for years, but watching Streep was a hoot. Even liked the "Julie" segments.
- Sexykiller - Over the top genre fun at it's near best via Spain. "More of everything" is the spirit and it totally delivers.
- Sounds Like Teen Spirit - A Popumentary - European youth singing competition. Interesting and pop music make this film hard to dislike.
- The Bad Lieutentant - Port of Call New Orleans - Nicholas Cage and Werner Herzog deliver the goods in this zany take on the banality of evil. Or something about iguanas. Who cares? It's a hoot.
- The Hangover -Come - on.... Did you really think this wouldn't make anyone's 2009 guilty pleasures list?
- Zift - Luscious black and white, Bulgarian film noir version of Crank. But WAY better.
- ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction -If you enjoyed Zombieland I think you'll love ZMD. Lower budget but far more ooomf - not to mention substance. Not 100% sure about the 9-11 related metaphor stuff - but a very entertaining ride.
- 9.99 - Israel
- A Police Romance - France
- A Prophet - France
- A Serious Man - USA
- A Single Man - USA
- About Elly - Iran
- Castaway on the Moon - Korea
- Daytime Drinking - S. Korea
- Departures - Japan
- Funny People - USA
- Gigante - Uruguay
- Humpday - USA
- Il Divo - Italy
- In the Loop - UK
- Inglourious Basterds - USA
- Julie & Julia - USA
- Kisses - Ireland
- Laila's Birthday - Palestine
- Mommy Is at the Hairdresser - Canada
- Red Riding 1974 - UK
- Red Riding 1980 - UK
- Red Riding 1983 - UK
- Rembrandt's J'Accuse - Netherlands
- The Class - France
- The Hurt Locker - USA
- The Maid - Chile
- The Market - A Tale of Trade - Germany
- The White Ribbon - Germany
- Up in the Air - USA
- Welcome - France
- Will Not Stop There - Croatia
- Zift - Bulgaria
- Avatar - USA