Saving the some of the best Best and Worst for last...
1.A Serious Man
2.The Hurt Locker
3.Observe and Report
7.In the Loop
8.Fantastic Mr. Fox
9.Where the Wild Things Are
10.World's Greatest Dad
I should preface this list with two caveats: 1) I actually
didn't see as many films as I would have liked this year, so that might account
for some egregious gaps. Also, 2) I have a deep and abiding love of schlock. So
bear with me.
10) UpI don't know what's wrong with me that I can't decree this one the best
movie of 2009 like everyone else, but I can at least say I was thoroughly
charmed. (And, yes, I did get a little misty at Russell's Wilderness Explorer
ceremony at the end.) So good on you, Pixar.
Sure, yeah, zombie films -- and even post-zombie films, like Fido -- are a dime a dozen these days.
But Zombieland brought more to the
table than just gore and goofiness. It's all about the Cameo That Shall Not Be
Spoilered and strange little meta flourishes like "Kill of the Week."
(The slo-mo "For Whom the Bell Tolls" opening was pretty clutch, too.) This was originally
envisioned as a TV series, and it's kind of a shame that didn't happen, because
I think I'd watch the shit out of that.
8) The September Issue
In the first draft of this list, the top documentary spot went to Anvil, a rockumentary that delivers a
feel-good haymaker straight to my emotional solar plexus. But then I remembered
how The September Issue (a profile of
Anna Wintour and the behind-the-scenes goings-on at Vogue) left me totally dumbstruck when it whipped out its own
little almost-too-good-to-be-true cathartic ending -- only this one involved
turning the cameras around on the film crew. Just fantastic. And speaking of
7) Fantastic Mr. Fox
I tend to run hot and cold on Wes Anderson, but I'm a sucker for stop-motion
animation; and here, the marriage of the two was sublime. Also weird as hell.
Nagging my conscience is the sense that I'm being a complete hypocrite for
cursing Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
for desecrating the memory of the beloved kids' book by totally fucking with
the story, and yet loving this movie (which only vaguely resembles Roald Dahl's
original classic). But I can live with that.
As much as I liked Dogville and Manderlay, I'm glad Lars Von Trier got
away from that bare-bones soundstage for a while -- the sheer vile lushness of Antichrist's forest primeval is simply
gobsmacking. It's suffocatingly moody and atmospheric in all the right ways.
Excellent performances from Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (who'll be performing at the ICA later this month). We haven't seen a tree
rape this masterful since Evil Dead.
And while we're on the subject of such Raimi-isms ...
5) Drag Me to Hell
How good it is to see Sam Raimi return to form, after the deeply confusing
clusterfuck that was Spider-Man 3. Drag Me to Hell is Raimi's best horror
comedy since Army of Darkness.
Protagonist Alison Lohman pulls off the gory slapstick perfectly, whether she's
getting mauled by an enraged gypsy or clawing her way out of an open grave. And
even if you see it coming from a mile away, the twist ending is still a corker.
4) The Hurt Locker
Right off the bat, The Hurt Locker
throws a vise grip on your senses, and doesn't let go for the next two hours.
At times almost unbearably tense, Kathryn Bigelow's illuminating look at the
Iraq War's bomb diffusers is thrilling and tender and just plain brilliant.
3) The Road
I've never met a post-apocalypse film I didn't like: Beyond Thunderdome, Doomsday,
I Am Legend -- I'll take 'em all. But
while The Road owes a certain debt to
the genre, it utterly transcends it. A fully realized vision, this gray
heart-breaker practically feels like a documentary about the end of the world
in comparison to the gaudy grandeur of Mad Max and his ilk. Viggo Mortensen and
Kodi Smit-McPhee manage to shoulder the weight of Cormac McCarthy's story
without faltering once. Haunting.
2) Star Trek
Best reboot since Batman, and a total
joy to watch. The Kirk-Spock-Bones triumvirate is spooky-good. Like Batman Begins, this film suffers a
little from the pains taken to properly set up the story and give this universe
context, while larding it up a bit with a cockamamie plot to satisfy the
canon-loving horde; but I'm hoping that means there's a Dark Knight-caliber sequel waiting around the corner.
1) Inglourious Basterds
Turns out, Quentin Tarantino siccing Brad Pitt and Eli Roth on a bunch of
Nazis was exactly what I needed to see on the big screen this year. Let's not
dwell on what that says about my critical sensibilities.
5) The Uninvited
On its own merit, this was merely mediocre. But for Hollywood to take the amazing Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (perhaps one of
the most chilling horror flicks of the last decade) and blorp out this bland
snoozer is just too tragic to ignore. This movie was bad, and it should feel
4) The Time Traveler's Wife
It's true, when you adapt a book into a film, you gotta cut out a lot of
stuff. But next time they adapt Audrey Niffenegger's best-seller, they could
cut out the part where Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana are the most annoying
couple ever to straddle a tesseract, and make sure to leave in the parts that
make Bana not look like a sexual
predator. Ugh times a jillion.
3) Play the Game
You can never un-see Andy Griffith's terrible, terrible O-face.
2) Couples Retreat
I had not known rage before seeing this film. I am still not over it.
1) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
There's nothing I could say about Revenge
of the Fallen that io9's Charlie Jane Anders hasn't said better (see "Michael Bay Finally Made an Art Movie"), so I'll leave it at this: RotF is so bad, it's transcendent. You
really must see it to believe it.
Pandorum What can I say? I loved every second of this film -- a bizarre sci-fi
boullion cube made from the entrails of Alien,
Cube, Pitch Black, The Matrix, The Thing, and countless other sci-fi
dorkfests -- and I kind of hate myself for it.