IN HONOR OF BEING JEWISH ON CHRISTMAS DAY . . . I present my take on the year in film.

So, in 2009 I saw 31 new movies. Doesn’t seem like nearly enough. I’ve got a movie page where I list all of them, in order, but I figured a post would be cool, too.  [Caveat: I haven’t seen Avatar yet.  I’m not stupid enough to drag my ass to that movie during opening week.]

Everyone’s gonna talk about how good Up in the Air and Blind Side were, and they were very good, but my absolute favorite movie this year was Sam Raimi’s, Drag Me To HellIt’s actually kind of a remake of a foreign film that I can’t recall the name of.  I think it was Italian.  It was almost an identical plot, except at the end I think the train actually hits the guy or something.  I can’t remember.  And it’s not important.

Sam Raimi made one of the scariest films of his career, and easily the most frightening film of the year.  It didn’t rely on a lot of digital effects or cheap startling moments–it was genuinely terrifying, from the images to the concept.  (Old ladies are always scary.)

One of the coolest things about the movie is the way it managed to make conventional horror gimmicks (The bad guy’s in the back seat!  Don’t open your mouth!) unpredictable.

I can’t wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD.

Zooey is the hottest weirdo chick in history.

The surprise for me this year was (500) Days of Summer.  As you can guess from the list of all the movies I’ve seen over the past few years, I’m not a romantic comedy kinda guy.  But this film captivated me from beginning to end, with it’s unusual, brilliant take on a tired genre.  It was touching, funny, adorable . . . And it’ll get you laid, too.  Can’t ask for more than that.

The breakout crew of the year belongs to District 9.  A bunch of never-heard-of-you actors and a first-time writer/director made an exciting and visually amazing sci fi film for $30 million.  In comparison, Avatar cost $500 million.  And was that film really that much better than D9?  I’m not trying to hate on James Cameron, I’m just saying that a great film doesn’t have to cost more money than it would take to bail out an entire state’s worth of distressed mortgagees.

D9 was shocking, violent, scary, and wholly unpredictable.  Awesome.

Another film worth mentioning are Zombieland, which was as refreshing as 28 Days Later in its vision of this tired genre.  Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson deserve kudos for their work here.

I also want to say that despite it’s terrible title and technical problems that a seasoned director like Werner Herzog should have been able to avoid, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was a hell of a lot better than it should have been.

Oh, and you should all go see Hurt Locker.  Amazing, powerful war film.

The best kid film of the year?  Hands down, Where the Wild Things Are.  Unlike PixarDisneyAndTheRest, this movie neither talked down to kids nor expected them to behave like toy-hungry, simplistic morons.  Instead, it told a narrative that a young mind could understand on an emotional level, if not a literal one.  So few movies avoid the heartstrings and instead try to reach the soul.  This is one of those rare movies.

Plus, every scene was like a painting.  And on top of all that: It got my kids into Arcade Fire.  So there.

Finally, Wolverine didn’t suck, but it wasn’t a classic.  The same was true of Watchmen and G.I. Joe.  A good but not great year for superhero movies–unlike the renaissance of 2008, which brought us two classics (The Dark Knight and Iron Man), one better-than-the-first-one sequel (Hellboy II), and a pretty good relaunch (The Incredible Hulk).   But it was a short breather: 2010 promises Iron Man 2, Jonah Hex, Justice League and Planet Hulk animated DVDs, Scott Pilgrim, possibly Sin City 2, Flash Gordon (iffy), Y The Last Man, Kick Ass, and possibly Red Sonja and Nick Fury movies.  Whew.

Iron Man 2 trailer (featuring Gary Shandling)

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