Pixar’s latest is hilarious, affecting, beautiful and also my favorite film of 2009. The film’s biggest achievement is the opening montage of Carl and Ellie growing old together and how in a few wordless minutes the film manages to tell you everything you need to know about their lives. It also manages to make me cry uncontrollably every time I watch it, which seems to be the a common reaction. It’s also the funniest film of the year. How do they do it?
2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Quentin Tarantino’s WWII epic has a great cast, a twisty plot, and a few spurts of well placed violence among the memorable dialogue. It’s a thrill to watch and had a few of the stylishly self-conscious flourishes been shaved off, it might have been his best film since Pulp Fiction.
3. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Spike Jonze’s take on Maurice Sendak’s childhood classic is a film that will hopefully become more appreciated as time goes on. I knew there were brilliant moments in the film, but overall had mixed feelings about it. I don’t think Sendak would want it any other way.
4. A SERIOUS MAN
The Coen Bros. latest film seems built to frustrate, but that’s what I love about it. On first viewing I kept wondering where it was going and when it ends you want more answers, more explanation. When I watched it a second time I took pleasure in knowing how the film would end and just enjoyed watching it build towards the inevitable final —-
5. ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
My favorite documentary of the year. You start the film laughing at the Spinal Tap-ish nature of these guys but end it really hoping these guys will succeed. Funny, moving and a must-see for anyone who’s ever been in a band.
6. THE HURT LOCKER
The opening scene is one of the most suspenseful in recent memory and for another 90 minutes the film does not let up. Kathryn Bigelow’s adrenaline soaked character study about a bomb squad unit in Baghdad is smart, committed to realism and makes you want to get inside the head of someone who gets up everyday to do this kind of work.
7. STAR TREK
Probably the most fun movie of last year, this is the reason popcorn was invented. Without any prior Trek experience I was able to enjoy it without any baggage from the canon. For a “sleek” and “sexy” reboot, I thought JJ Abrams reboot was still really “dorky”, but also much funnier than I had expected.
8. DISTRICT 9
First-time filmmaker Neill Blomkamp emerged from relative obscurity to deliver a movie for all the geeks who grew up loving Robocop and The Fly as much as he did. The film is unpredictable, the effects are seamlessly integrated and lead Sharlto Copley gives an amazing performance that never feels improvised (even though it was).
9. FUNNY PEOPLE
Judd Apatow’s latest is not an especially enjoyable film. The film is a bit disjointed, the characters are mostly unlikable and there are a few too many dick jokes. But it would have been easy for him to crank out movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, and instead he decided to make the kind of drama they don’t really make anymore. And I have to admire that.
A stylized adaptation of one of the most respected graphic novels of all time. Definitely flawed, the film has brilliant sequences that can’t be ignored. The birth of Dr. Manhattan is just how I imagined it, and the opening credits are a stunning invention. The film is great to look at, but a little flat emotionally: just like a comic book.
NOTABLE: (500) Days of Summer, Avatar, Bright Star, Broken Embraces, Coraline, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, Il Divo, Moon, A Single Man, Up In The Air.