Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best of Movies 2009

So here are my picks for the Best of Movies for 2009 (based on either a North American theatrical release date or if I saw it at a festival in 2009 since some have yet to open):

(UPDATED Sep. 19th 2010: This post will constantly updated as I see more films from 2009. *** indicates latest new review)

1. (Tie) A Single Man and Up
A Single Man: Directed by Tom Ford
Written by Tom Ford and David Scearce, based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood
Original Review

Up: Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Written by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy
Original Review

I chose these two very different movies independently but when I did, I realized they were actually far more similar than I thought. Both films follows a grieving man as he loses his love of his life, and the life choices he must make in the aftermath. Both are visually stunning, using colours and tones to tell the story and enhance the emotions.

A Single Man, Tom Ford's brilliant directorial debut imbues all his talent as a fashion designer in a well focused, beautifully shot film that manages to present a glossy stylistic surface that pulsates with a human core yearning to crack the perfect outline. The film's style manages to mirror the central single man's emotional swings as Colin Firth creates an intimate portrait of a man yearning to show his broken soul while living in the glass house society of LA in the 60's.

Up follows an old man finally takes the dream trip he planned with his longtime wife and takes his house, and a boyscout along for the adventurous fantastical ride. But not before we get a quick explanation of the old couple's entire life that is guaranteed to make you tear up in the first 10 minutes of the movie, only to be replaced by tears of laughter during the rest of the trip Pixar has so brazenly imagined.

3. The Class (Entre Des Murs)
Directed by Laurent Cantet
Written by Laurent Cantet, Robin Campillo and François Bégaudeau, inspired by the memoirs of François Bégaudeau
Original Review

The lines blur between real and re-created when Bégaudeau recreates his own life in a dramatic re-telling of his own memoirs based on his life as a teacher in France. The scenes feel so raw and real that it seems like a documentary, which only makes Bégaudeau's unsaintly portrayal all the more moving and all the more honest. (This was technically a 2008 film and nominated already for an Oscar last year, but it didn't get a Canadian release until 2009)

4. (500) Days of Summer
Directed by Marc Webb
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Original Review

A wonderful and witty spin on the romantic comedy that pulls you in with the wonders of romance, spits it back on the floor with the truths of relationships, and gives a ray of hope for a happy ending. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a manly performance that carries the film in the relationships ups and downs, and we are willing to follow the chopped up tale told backwards and forwards because we've all seen ourselves in Gordon-Levitt's Tom Hansen and we've all yearned to fall in love the way he does.

5. District 9
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Original Review

A clever and highly entertaining satire on the segregation in South Africa using space aliens and the sad state of our human hospitality. Sharlto Copley and a father and son extra-terrestrial manage to create a humane look at a government's treatment of a differing race.

6. Inglourious Basterds
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino's Nazi revenge film is furiously funny and moving and strangely deliciously entertaining and cathartic, with all round great performances from its multi-lingual cast. The beautiful visuals and the different chapters have a nice stylistic approach that balances between Quentin's usual over-the-top energy and the gravity of the WWII story.

7. The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal

A dizzying heated look at a bomb diffuser in the Iraq war with Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Garaghty giving harrowing performances in a intensely plain direction (and I mean that as a compliment). Gripping in its almost mundane look at a very dangerous job.

8. A Serious Man
Written and Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

Speaking of mundane, the mundane life of a Jewish man living in a very American suburb during the 60's manages to be totally fascinating in a nicely restrained new film by the Coen brothers. Michael Stuhlbarg's delivers a seriously great performance as a man trying to do good in his life as things spin beyond his control.

9. Up in the Air
Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, based on a novel by Walter Kirn
Original Review

It's about the economy, it's about our life decisions, it's about flying and racking up points. George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga form a perfect triad of semi-lost souls who may still actually have a better grip of their destiny than everyone else around them. Reitman makes a patient film with some nice documentary-like interviews with people being fired which mixes nicely against the story of one man's skyward journeys.

10. The September Issue
Directed by RJ Cutler

It made Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (rumoured inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada) seem human and understandable and I could see how and why she worked the way she does. That alone makes this fascinating look into the fashion editing world one to admire. But that we get to peer into the creative process of this mythical world (a world that I really don't care for) and we get fascinating characters like Anna's right hand woman Grace Coddington or Anna's daughter's response to the "silly" fashion industry.

Everything 2009 Movie I saw, grouped within each grade, is listed below:

A Single Man = A (Review)
Up = A (Review)
The Class (Entre Des Murs) = A (Review)
(500) Days of Summer = A (Review)
District 9 = A (Review)
Inglourious Basterds = A
The Hurt Locker = A
A Serious Man = A
Up in the Air = A (Review)

The September Issue = A-
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire = A- (Review)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince = A- (Review)
Every Little Step = A- (Review)
One Week = A- (Review)
In the Loop = A-

City Island = B+ ***
Grey Gardens = B+
The Princess and the Frog = B+
Cairo Time = B+
Julie & Julia = B+ (Review)
Amreeka = B+
Avatar = B+
Good Hair = B+
The Blind Side = B+ (Review)
Broken Embraces = B+
Whip It = B+ (Review)
The Last Station = B+
An Education = B+ (Review)
Fantastic Mr. Fox = B+ (Review)
Terminator Salvation = B+ (Review)
Adam = B+ (Review)
Duplicity = B+ (Review)
I Love You, Man = B+ (Review)
Sunshine Cleaning = B+ (Review)
Adventureland = B+ (Review)
Earth = B+ (Review)
Sherlock Holmes = B+
Star Trek = B+ (Review)
The Informant = B+

Me and Orson Welles = B
Where The Wild Things Are = B (Review)
Bandslam = B
Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs = B
17 Again = B (Review)
The Damned United = B
The Proposal = B
The Invention of Lying = B
Prom Night in Mississippi = B
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus = B
My Sister's Keeper = B
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past = B
Coco Avant Chanel = B
The Boys Are Back = B (Review)
Michael Jackson's This Is It = B (Review)
Angels & Demons = B (Review)
Summer Hours (L'Heure d'été) = B (Review)
Extract = B (Review)

Hannah Montana The Movie = B- (Review)
Easy Virtue = B-
New York, I Love You = B-

It's Complicated = C+ (Review)
Nine = C+ (Review)
He's Just Not That Into You = C+ (Review)
Fifty Dead Men Walking = C+
My Life in Ruins = C+
I Love You Beth Cooper = C+
J'ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother) = C+
The Hangover = C+ (Review)
Monsters Vs. Aliens = C+ (Review)

Amelia = C (Review)
Post Grad = C (Review)
Coraline = C
Taken = C (Review)

All About Steve = C -
Youth In Revolt = C - (Review)

The Taking of Pelham 123 = D+
Bruno = D+

Bright Star = D
Gentlemen Broncos = D (Review)


Best of 2009 Lists:
Best of Music 2009
Best of Television 2009
Best of Stage 2009
Best of Movies 2009

Decadeworthy - The Best of 2000-2009 Lists:
SYTYCDworthy (w/ Videos) - List Format
Theatre of the Decade
Best Films of the Decade
Favorite Films of the Decade
Television of the Decade
Television of the Decade - 1 Season Wonders

Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of 2008 Lists:
Best of Music 2008
Best of Television 2008
Best of Stage 2008
Best of Movies 2008
Best of Television Fall '07 - Winter '08 List

Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List

Best of 2006 Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006
Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List

Best of 2005 Lists:
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005
Vance at


Dancemomma said...

I love your top movie list. I thought UP was sincerely one of the most poignant movies I've ever seen. I have a soft spot for animation, and specifically Pixar. That's all my son and I watch. I teared up so much after the first 10 minutes I ran and grabbed my husband and made him watch. Thanks Vance!

CS12 said...

2009 movies had too many similarities in title! A Single Man, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air, it's too confusing!lol. For a while I thought the Cohen brothers were directing a movie about Colin Firth playing a closeted gay man from the 60s...

Esther said...

Hey, I just watched "Up." And you are so right, it's terrific. It reminded me of the best parts of the Indiana Jones movies. The first 10 minutes are amazing, so heartbreaking. And the animation, especially in the South American scenes, was breathtaking, it looked so real. This is the first of the Best Picture nominees I've seen. Yeah, I know I'm behind! Really wish I'd seen this one in the movie theater.