Picks of 2009

Last night was one of those nights of the year that, as a film student, is supposed to mean so much to me. However, what happened last night was proof of how little awards season means to me. I understand that some people may have been fans of the ceremony last night. I was for most of the television awards, but when it came to the movie awards, I honestly found myself a little shocked. To be fair, when the nominations came out in the first place I was pretty disappointed that most of these films had been nominated, so I was already setting myself up to lose, which might have a lot to do with it. However, as I looked back on the year in film in 2009, I began to consider my own options. What would I have picked? Well, I can certainly tell you what I wouldn’t have picked, but I think that list might actually be longer. Others may find this to be a bit of a dramatic statement, but I honestly feel safe in saying that 2009 was the worst year for movies in a long time, possibly even my lifetime.
This isn’t to say that there were no good movies, but let’s be real, they were in rather limited supply. Even as I watch folks on facebook putting up their top 10 of 2009, I can’t even think of 10 movies that I liked this past year, but to be fair I haven’t seen all of them. In fact, these movies are disqualified on the basis of my not having seen them; The Hurt Locker, Up, and Inglorious Basterds. While I’m sure these are crucial films to see in order to evaluate the best of the best of 2009, I’ll get around to the first 2 movies. Don’t even bother asking about Inglorious Basterds. Regardless, in an attempt to follow suit, what follows is my list of my 10 favorite films of the year. Mind you, I’m going with favorite because I know some of these are imperfect movies, but they still remain the memorable ones, or at least sentimental favorites, in a largely forgettable year. Also, the list is in alphabetical order and no indication of their rank.

1. (500) days of Summer– While it might be a stretch to call this atypical romantic “comedy” award worthy, it’s an interesting approach to “boy meets girl”, turning at least some conventions on their heads.
2. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane– While the movie was actually made years ago, this horror gem only recently found minor distribution. It confronts the gender roles and sexual attitudes that are characteristic of horror films in a profoundly disturbing way.
3. Away We Go– One of those bittersweet films that knows just what to say and when to say it and even more beautifully, when to say nothing at all. Excellent dramatic performances from an otherwise comedic cast. Alexi Murdoch’s soundtrack alone makes the film worth watching.
4. The Brothers Bloom– Rian Johnson’s sophomore film effort is a playful con film with an amazing cast. Although it fluctuates in tone, I couldn’t help but be enthralled throughout it all.
5. Coraline– Beautiful animation combined with appropriately dark storytelling make this film enjoyable on both levels. Also, the voice acting from an all-star cast sets just the right tone for the film.
6. Drag Me to Hell– Even if it wasn’t a great year for movies, it was a good year for horror. Raimi returns to his campy origins, this time with a feisty female protagonist. Although Lohman is no Bruce Campbell, she’s fun and strangely endearing in the role.
7. Sin Nombre– My first and only foreign language film on the list, this subtle film about border-crossing is breathtaking in its gritty visuals, but also in its simplicity. One of the most beautiful things about it is its relevance, a trait that few films have these days.
8. A Single Man– A devastatingly beautiful story of loss and coming to terms with it, Tom Ford’s directorial debut is an utter triumph. Colin Firth’s performance is easily Oscar-worthy and the supporting cast is phenomenal.
9. Sunshine Cleaning– A sentimental favorite, Sunshine Cleaning finds a way to be simultaneously tragic and hopeful. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt have a wonderful established rapport as two sisters, both of whose lives have not turned out how they thought they would.
10. Zombieland– Like I said, it was a good year for the horror crossover. Zombieland provides ample laughs and gore for just about any zombie fan. While it may not be award-worthy, it certainly was memorable.

Although it may seem like a somewhat disoriented list, it’s a combination of movies that stood out in an otherwise bleak year. Sure, some of these movies don’t even deserve awards, and the ones that do, still probably won’t get them. Then again, that’s the politics of Hollywood. That’s why I feel a little more comfortable sticking with words like “favorite” as opposed to “best” because after all, who am I to say what’s best?


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