Dec 312009

The second, and probably final, installment of my tops of 2009 is devoted to the silver screen. This was an especially hard list to pare down to five because I saw a lot of really good movies this year.

As I said, this was a tough list to put together, and a bunch of films I really enjoyed had to be left off. Just missing the cut were movies like Inglorious Basterds (a mess of a Tarantino film in all the right ways), District 9 (tremendous work by Sharlto Copley made this movie), Avatar (the most remarkable effects I’ve ever seen), Zombieland (dark, bloody fun), and Coraline (an enchanting fairytale). There are also obvious holes in this list because I didn’t get to see, or didn’t want to see, a lot of the real critically acclaimed movies. This then is the list of the five best movies I saw in 2009.

Starting the list off at number five is the comedy Men Who Stare at Goats. By turns a breezy satire of the bizarre lengths the Cold War military went to in order to keep pace with the Soviets, and a commentary on the excesses of the “War on Terror.” What buoys the movie are the performances of Clooney, MacGregor, and Bridges.

Number four on my list is Sherlock Holmes. A film I went into with a lot of trepidation. I trusted that Downey would turn in his usual excellent work, but the ads made me worried they’d go too action hero and lose a lot of the analytical nature that define Holmes. It turned out I had nothing to worry about. If anything this Holmes is more faithful to the Doyle original than his tweeded up predecessors. A rollicking fun film that hits all the classic Holmes tropes, bring on the sequel!

The third film is Pixar’s remarkable Up. A movie filled with both a sense of whimsy — is there any other word that describes the image of a house tethered to thousands of party balloons floating through the sky? – and depth – the opening montage is one of the most elegant pieces of cinema ever. It’s a film about loss that nevertheless provides plenty of genuine humor. Up continues to prove that Pixar is the single best studio in movie business. It’s a shame that animated films have been relegated to their own little ghetto in the Oscars because I strongly feel this movie should be a contender for Best Picture.

As hard a time I had putting this list together, deciding between Up and this next picture was even more difficult, but in the end Jason Reitman’s challenging Up in the Air won out. I’ve already discussed this movie in length, and won’t bother to rehash the reasons why I find it so brilliant. It is worth noting the remarkable run Clooney’s had to end the year between Up in the Air, Men Who Stare at Goats, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (which I did not find the time to see sadly).

My top movie of the year is, in all honesty, not the best pure film I saw, that honor goes to Up In the Air. However we’re not talking about the best pure film, but the film I enjoyed the most; and that hands down goes to Star Trek. JJ Abrams’ resurrection of the old franchise was a blast of fun. I admit I was incredibly skeptical about the idea of casting new actors in the roles of the original cast, but I will freely admit I was wrong. The new cast and crew injected a sense of fun that had been missing from recent Trek offerings. My only complaint with Star Trek is that since it was an origin film you didn’t get nearly enough time seeing the entire crew of the Enterprise in action together. For that reason alone I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, and am confident that Abrams and his crew will put out another film worthy of the Trek moniker.

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