Brad Pitt mulls stabbing in Inglourious Basterds.
Fine, I'll be the one to say it: 2009 was a crap year. San Diego's broke, the state's been terminated, the nation is plagued by fear and unemployment and the planet is ravaged by war and pollution. Oh, and the movies weren't even that good. So this list is really just the films I enjoyed the most. Does that mean there might be other pictures which were better crafted or had deeper messages? Sure, but it's my list. And, hey, even if '09 didn't go up to 11, this does:
(500) Days of Summer: This anti-romcom stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as 20-somethings whose relationship doesn't work out. It's cynical and hysterical and has the year's best musical number. That's why it's perfect for those of us no longer in our 20s.
A Serious Man: Lots of people didn't like the Coen brothers' examination of religion because it's confusing, complex and has an ending that's totally open to interpretation. Just like religion.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil: Somehow, a documentary about aging Canadians who want nothing more than to be gods of metal is the year's most inspiring film. Bang your head, people.
District 9: Neill Blomkamp's look at alien refugees in South Africa proved that you don't need monster budgets to create great sci-fi—just great storytelling.
Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson finally pulls it all together, using Roald Dahl's book as a roadmap. The old-school stop-action animation is gorgeous, and the acting, from the likes of George Clooney, Billy Murray and Meryl Streep, is top notch. But it's still a Wes Anderson film, and daddy issues abound, even amongst the wild animals.
In the Loop: We truly want to believe that politicians and their minions are, at least, smarter than us. Armando Ianucci's wonky satire will remind you, sadly, that they usually aren't.
Inglourious Basterds: They say that Quentin Tarantino's epic war movie is a throwback to the classic WWII flicks of the 1960s and '70s, like The Dirty Dozen or Kelly's Heroes. But those films weren't brutally violent—Inglourious Basterds most certainly is. In the old films, the good guys never tortured anyone. They do in Basterds. The movies were never that funny. Basterds is a riot. And, finally, someone gets around to killing Hitler.
Moon: Duncan Jones' debut has been largely passed over as the awards have rolled in, which is too bad. Sure, it's a cloning story that takes place on a Space 1999-looking moon base, but it's also an exploration about what makes us human, featuring a tremendous performance from Sam Rockwell.
Pulling John: Yes, this doc, which played the San Diego Film Festival in September, sounds like a gay porno, and yes, it's about the world of competitive arm wrestling, but once you've watched it, you'll be shocked that you'd never heard of John Brzenk, who's been more dominant in his sport than Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were in theirs, combined.
Up: Pixar's latest was the first movie my daughter watched. And the 10th. And the 50th. Ed Asner gives a vocal performance that's one of the year's best, and even though I've seen this beautiful tale of aging and balloons at least 200 times, I'm still glad every time it comes on.
Up in the Air: Yeah, Clooney's great in Jason Reitman's new film, about a professional downsizer in a boom period for downsizing. But so is Vera Farmiga, in a part that's been mostly overlooked.
Notables: A Single Man (painfully depressing, but Colin Firth is amazing), Adoration (Atom Egoyan's post 9/11 script is too deep for many people), Coraline (the first time someone really used 3-D right), The Cove (a documentary that does good), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (so long, Heath Ledger), The Road (cannibals R us), Taken (an action film that strives only to punch you in the throat).
The worst (reserved for big-budget crap): Land of the Lost (what a terrible idea), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (they didn't seem to actually care whether it was any good)
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