2009 Film Year Review

The is part of my continuing project to collect and publish all of my older film lists in one place. Check out the End-of-Year Lists menu at the top of the screen. There you can find links to all the lists I have published so far. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Stay tuned!

Side note: I did things a bit different this year. This article is more of a ‘quick-bites’ review of the year as a whole, without any rankings or ratings. But it refers to my  regular ranked list, which includes my Top 10, and which you can find over here

* The reviews referred to with the asterisk were originally published as Notes on my Facebook page. Eventually I plan to add them to the Reviews section of this blog.


The Disclaimers
Every year when I put out this list, I look at it and worry what readers will think about the disproportionate number of films I consider good versus the bad. For all you first time readers, here’s my stock excuse: I do my best to research the films I watch so as not to waste my time and money on a bad experience. Naturally a few slip through. Those of you who have followed me in previous years will notice that my list is about half as long as usual. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve become even more discerning. I’d like to believe it’s because I have a better social life. The reality is likely a mix of the two, plus a lack of funds and just a dash of laziness.

As usual, I stuck to fairly literal definitions of the ratings: 5 Stars = Outstanding, 4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Poor. Anything with 4 or greater is highly recommended; 2 or lower is a waste of your time. [see the complete ranked list here]

The Titles
Usually I write out full reviews for all my top rated films. This year I noticed some (purely coincidental) patterns cropping up in movie titles – the number 9, for instance – and thought: “Why not organize a year-end summary around these arbitrary and abstract connections?” Why not, indeed. This will leave out some of my favorites, but just trust me: if it’s in my Top 10, I loved it, and you should watch it.

So, where better to start than number one. That way there’s nowhere to go but up, both sequentially and in terms of quality. Year One has the distinction of being the very worst movie I watched all year. And really that’s saying quite a lot, especially given how much I like Michael Cera and Jack Black and David Cross. But their presences are completely wasted. This film has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. Avoid at all costs. And if you’ve already watched it, you have my sincerest condolences for the loss of your time and money.

Moving ever so slightly up the quality scale, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is an entertaining bit of fluff from Tony Scott. Say what you will about Scott, but he knows his niche. He is a master of using lots of quick edits and a super-fast pace to keep his audiences entertained and distracted enough to not notice all the plot holes and ridiculous contrivances in the script. Still, there’s no good reason to remake a movie, unless you can improve upon the original. This one does not.

(500) Days of Summer on the other hand is hugely entertaining and excellently crafted. It’s funny, heartbreaking and keeps you surprised and guessing. Quality romantic comedies are a breed on the brink of extinction; rare gems like this should be protected.

Three big films with the number nine seems like it should be an omen of some kind. As Richard Dreyfus would say: “this means something. This is important.” Or not. 9, Nine, and District 9 were, respectively, very good (though the original short film was better), terrible (see my Jan 3 review*), and excellent (see my Aug 15 review*). District 9 has actually grown on me since I first saw it. I still have the same few complaints, but they are so minor compared to everything that’s great about it.

The S Men
A Single Man and A Serious Man are actually two different movies. No really! I thought they were the same film at first, especially when they were never referred to in the same article. Upon seeing them, the similarities go beyond just title: amazing, unique visual styles and superb career-making performances by both leads, playing men unable to reconcile life in mid-century Americana.

Up, Up and Away
A couple of films took to the skies, flying high above the usual cinematic dreck. Up in the Air proves that Jason Reitman is no fluke. He is a serious talent who has gotten better and better with each film. Up proves that even an average Pixar movie is still far and away superior to pretty much everything else.

The Heart of the Matter
Paper Heart is a pseudo-documentary about and awkward hipster who doesn’t believe in love. Crazy Heart can’t be summed up so easily, except to say it’s definitely not that. They have nothing in common besides greatness.

There’s no connection, coincidental or otherwise, between the rest of these, but the following needs to be said:

Food, Inc. should be required viewing in every public school in the country. I lost 55 lbs in 5 months after watching it and deciding to change my eating habits.

Inglourious Basterds is a good movie, but it’s nowhere near as good as everybody else is saying. In fact, I would go so far as to call it Tarantino’s second worst film to date (slightly above Death Proof). (See my Sept 7 review*.)

And finally, you might have noticed in my list that I classified Antichrist as “unrateable.” Again I will direct you to my earlier review (this one from Nov 13*), but for now I will give a brief explanation. It is a very complex work, one of those arthouse films that take several viewings to even begin to unravel. One time through is not enough to give it a fair assessment. The problem is that it is so visually shocking and disturbing, I don’t see how anyone could stand to sit through the whole film and want to go back and watch it again. No one would willingly put themselves through that a second time. So I label it unrateable, except to say: do yourself a favor, don’t even try to watch it.

Instead, go treat yourself to Where the Wild Things Are.

* The reviews referred to with the asterisk were originally published as Notes on my Facebook page. Eventually I plan to add them to the Reviews section of this blog.

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