Wednesday, December 16, 2009

my 50 favorite movies of 2009!

Quite a year for movies! Best haul ever! Some of these I was able to catch on video before the year was over so I don't have a stub for every single movie. Some stubs are from special screenings of old movies too, so they don't all match up. whatever.

50. Gigantic
I hesitate to put this movie in here as my least favorite movie of the year. Honestly, I kind of gleefully love to hate it. I have more schadenfreude for this flick than any other. You've probably never heard of it, but that's fine. It's a quirky indie comedy that's trying SO HARD to be a quirky indie comedy that it's the phoniest thing ever. EVER! I'm not going to complain about quirk-queen Zooey Deschanel (although for this one I easily couls). I will very much complain about Paul Dano -- the indie mumble king kill-joy. Hey, at least that super-funny Zach Galifianakis is in it. Everything that guy says is funny. Too bad he doesn't say one thing in the movie. I'm totally serious. I do wish everybody sees this though. For sure anybody making a quirky comedy needs to see this to learn what not to do.

49. Confessions of a Shopaholic
I confess! I'm addicted to shopahol! I was so excited to see this because I've been on an Isla Fisher high ever since Hot Rod. It's tragic that this movie was petty and dull -- even for girls.

48. Duplicity
This was confusing -- but not so confusing that I couldn't follow it. I simply didn't follow it though because it was even less interesting.

47. Push
Yeah, it's a superhero movie, but it has the distinct disadvantage of not being based on anything specific. I guess that would make it original in the purest sense -- but it sure didn't feel original at all. Also it had the distinct disadvantage of also having Dakota Fanning's obnoxiousness and Djimoun Hounsou's weird voice and accent. Oh, and not to be confused with Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, which has the most overdone title in history and I haven't seen it yet.

46. Adventureland
Okay, fine there's something TOTALLY wrong with me, because I wasn't affected in the slightest by this movie. I went in knowing that it wasn't meaning to be a straight-up comedy like the marketing attempted to sell. Still, I was totally lost wondering where the heart of it all was. Friends and critics I trust told me it was touching, but it simply didn't exist for me. Part of the problem may be with the two leads: Columbus and Bella Swan. They have the most stilting, distracting deliveries of any actors I've ever seen.

45. Monsters vs. Aliens
I remember having a modest amount of fun, but I mostly remember thinking that a lot more potential was blown. I mean, it could've ransacked all sorts of tales from both mythologies.

44. Surrogates
Five problems: 1) nothing much happened at all, 2) the ending was revealed in the trailer (although edited in the trailer to deceive us as to what actually happens), 3) the protagonist and the antagonist pretty much had the same agenda, 4) Bruce Willis looked better as a normal person than he did as a surrogate, which kind of defeats the purpose of what they're used for, 5) the debate could have been explored far more interestingly and applied to today's concept of on-line avatars.

43. Friday the 13th
I've always been a bit more of a Freddy guy myself. This one had the kid who plays Dick Casablancas in Veronica Mars pretty much playing the exact same character. That's all I really remember. I think I should be remembering the gruesome, imaginative deaths; but I don't.

42. Gentlemen Broncos
I think the trailer was amazing. Seriously. I went to a showing of this with the director and much of the crew. Sad to say that even that audience seemed to be pity-laughing. Jemaine Clement is seriously funny; but, not to blame the other actors, the story isn't.

41. The Men Who Stare at Goats
There is sort of a running joke about Ewan McGregor being confused about what a "Jedi" is. I liked that joke even though the meta-reference cheaply takes us out of the movie we're watching. I was glad to be taken out though. It either needed to be played straighter or more absurdly. I guess the people who made the movie were all good friends and had a good time making the movie. It'd be nice if they let the audience in on that good time.

40. Terminator Salvation
I've got a huge beef with the entire Terminator franchise of movies and TV shows. I've explained this several times over the past few days as part of an effort to get people to boycott Avatar. Long story. The point is, every piece of work involving the Terminator universe beyond the first movie (which was awesome btw) is derivative of the first work and retroactively takes away from the stakes of that first work. On a less abstract note: the decision to have the focus shared between the characters of Christian Bale and Sam Worthington was an encumbering mistake. The focus should have been on one of them -- and based on the charisma and performances, it should have definitely been Worthington.

39. The Class
I heard this movie was really good. It was a lot like sitting through class -- with subtitles.

38. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
It is refreshing to see Hugh Jackman go back into the role that made him a star. Plus I appreciate that he takes the Wolverine role so seriously when in real life he's like a song and dance man or something. However, I would have done quite a few things differently with this movie. I can't believe they gagged Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. His mouth is his best asset. That goes for the comic book character of Deadpool as well. Seems a waste to not let him speak when speaking is a key quality of the way the character was conceived. It looked like they tried to stitch some kind of story together from actors and characters they had on hand. The stitching wasn't done well. Lots of people may think something like that doesn't matter in a film such as this -- but honestly it totally does.

37. The Informers
This movie is horrible. It does not deserve to score this well on the list. It's creepy and grimy and depressing and has no real redeeming qualities and has characters you wouldn't mind getting tortured. However, Bret Easton Ellis captured some really awesome 80s gloss. Bonus 80s points! And this is some of my favorite 80s sights and sounds too -- Patrick Nagel and New Order. I have no idea why it's called The Informers.

36. Whatever Works
This one gets bonus points for being a Woody Allen movie, but it is possibly my least favorite Woody Allen movie I've seen (I've seen 27 of them). I guess it's a re-working of something he started a while ago. It feels very immature and petty. It's one thing that I don't agree much with what the movie says, but another thing entirely when the movie isn't interesting or funny enough to even merit the discussion.

35. I Love You, Beth Cooper
I love the book, which was written by a guy who used to write for The Simpsons. As I read it, I thought to myself how good the movie would be. I was naive to think that because so much of the book has to do with the humorous thought processes of the main characters. It had its parts, but much of the timing was way off. Better than I thought it would be though, since the critics panned it so hard.

34. Public Enemies
The best thing about this one is the sweet hillbilly-type jazz music that played while Dillinger cruised in his sweet ride. I also have a little crush on Marion Cotillard. Lots of missed potential, though. The video did not look right to me. It may have been the way it was projected in my theater, but the night scenes especially looked like 1985-era camcorder material. I guess the digital filming was kind of a big deal. I think it was a big mistake. I sort of got involved in Johnny Depp's character, but no others. Too many close ups on him and not enough wide angles to let us into the story.

33. Milk
This is actually a film from 2008, but I saw it in 2009 (we go through this every year). Ummm... it was a while ago. Pretty good. Seems like I had a problem with how it ended, but it is a true story after all. How can I complain about history?

32. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Pretty good. I expected as much since it's the second-best book. The people I saw it with who hadn't read the book didn't really gel with it much at all. Understandable.

31. Twilight Saga: New Moon
I think I like this one more now that I've seen Taylor Lautner do a laudable job on Saturday Night Live. This thing did have a bunch more quality than the first one, and I still think the humor in the movies puts them a step above the books.

30. The Time Traveler's Wife
Liked it more than I thought I would. Lost my ticket stub though. That will bug me until the day I die.

29. Fast and Furious
For me, there was something mysteriously magical about the first one. This captured a lot of that again -- whatever it is. Glad to see they're going back to hijacking moving semi trucks at high speed. That's the least sensible thing to do ever, but I'm glad they make movies about it.

28. Prom Night in Mississippi
My good friend Shanna (maybe you shouldn't click on that, since she NEVER updates her blog) nabbed me tickets to this Sundance documentary. The story is about a certain high school's first black/white integrated prom. Interesting to see how the kids felt in comparison to the generation above them.

27. Fanboys
Here's an interesting one. I liked it a lot, even though hardly anybody else did. Kind of the opposite of Adventureland. Hmmm. Curious. Joe and I watched Adventureland together and we both hated it while tons of other people liked that one. Joe and I also watched this one together. Anyway, it's Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Few things interest me more.

26. Zombieland
I did have a lot of fun with this, but I had a ton of complaints where all I heard was praise from everyone else. It was funny, but I didn't appreciate having time to figure out the punchlines before they happened. This was the second-to-last zombie movie ever.

25. Sunshine Cleaning
This is sort of an indie chick flick, but I enjoyed Amy Adams and Emily Blunt cavorting around. The movie received some complaints about starting up plot threads and going nowhere with them. I didn't mind that. I think it worked simply for the purposes of throwing the audience off and playing with expectations.

24. RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space
What can I say? It's the worst movie ever made and I got to sit back and watch someone else make fun of it. I could've done without the musical guests and extra filler they threw in, but once the movie started: gut-busting.

23. The Hangover
A noble comedic effort (but quite overrated).

22. I Love You Man
Very funny, but this movie helped me realize why Paul Rudd is funny in Role Models and Wet Hot American Summer. He looks like a nice guy, but isn't at all. In this movie he's actually playing a nice guy and looks like a nice guy. The absurdity isn't there.

21. Drag Me to Hell
Bonus points for the awesome title. Also, that chick from Matchstick Men I think is in it. Good to see her again! Anyway, maybe people were put off by the title. It's actually more of a morality tale than a horror movie. Sort of a gruesome Aesop's fable. Plus also the girl accidentally trips over a coffin corpse and the embalming fluid spills all over her.

20. It Might Get Loud
I love love love Jack White. Jimmy Page is awesome. And honestly, I sort of do consider myself a fan of The Edge. So there's not much to miss about a documentary that gets them all together. Their scenes together seem a bit forced, though. The solitary stuff is gold, though. The real money though is some of the old footage -- like an early Jimmy Page performance when he was like 15 or something.

19. Extract
Poor Mike Judge. His show goes on tv for 10 seasons but all of his movies fail, and the movies are what I'm a fan of. Judge's sly observations of working life plus Jason Bateman's exquisite delivery make for a great time. Where Office Space skewers management, Extract skewers the workforce. Great bookends.

18. Gran Torino
This came out in 2008, but I saw it in the theater in 2009. It was good.

17. Fired Up
It really is funny. "You know what John Lennon always said?" "No I don't. I'm not in my fifties. I could ask my dad, though." This movie got a lot of flack because of what it is. For me, it's just funny. And way better than Bring it On which it sort of honors/lampoons. At least this one kept the joke to the end. "Did we win? Are we going to state?" "No, we came in nineteenth."

16. The Brothers Bloom
Here's a quirky indie comedy, but it's not annoying like Gigantic. This one lets us really enjoy the characters and make friends with them. The ending drags slightly. Bonus points go to the director, Rian Johnson, for recording an audio commentary on mp3 so that I could take my iPod into the theater and listen to the commentary there.

15. Michael Jackson: This is It
This movie wasn't supposed to be released in theaters, but since what happened happened I guess it was inevitable. This is a business movie though. It was awesome to see Michael Jackson doing his business. He was lousy at living in the real world, but when it came to work he was awesome. A great employer and an incredibly hard, serious worker. At least that's what the movie showed. I'm not a big fan of dance at all, but his putting together of the choreography is fascinating. At the moment, I don't think he molested those kids. It also helped that most of the film is dedicated to the Thriller/Bad era. Good good stuff. One other thing to watch for: the very pretty blond girl who is one of the dancers.

14. Paranormal Activity
Well, either the gimmick works for you or it doesn't. Here's why it worked for me. When I see a big-budget special effects horror movie I see a swift technical crane shot with some cgi monster thrown in under the score of Hans Zimmer or something. That's at least three movie-making techniques that come to my attention and take me out of the movie if I notice them. In Paranormal Activity they take some time to establish this world of a home-video camera. After we're established in that world the unusual events of that world really seem like they're happening -- and not just in movie-world.

13. District 9
Could you believe this extravaganza is considered low-budget? Nice. Hey Blomkamp! Teach James Cameron a thing or two!

12. An Education
Just saw this a couple of days ago by myself. It's still playing if you wanna see it. This movie made me feel like a 16-year-old British schoolgirl again. And Carey Mulligan is yet another new crush. She's not 16 in real life, so it's okay.

11. Funny People
This was way too long, but I think I liked it way more than most people who also saw it. It's kind of like Adam Sandler's version of The Wrestler.

10. Mary and Max
Thanks again to Shanna for getting me the tickets to this Sundance claymation heart-warmer. It's a touching story of two very mismatched pen pals. Awww. Seriously, awww.

9. A Serious Man
The Coen's version of the story of Job -- but not quite. If we're alone in the universe, how do we behave? Is personal morality enough or do we need a higher power watching over us? Is what we're suffering from unnecessary and random or is the true storm around the corner? I wouldn't call this movie a dark comedy at all. It's more of a light, philosophical drama.

8. Watchmen
A very faithful adaptation of a story I love. I wrote lots about it here and here.

7. Up
I didn't cry. That's because I was dehydrated that day.

6. Moon
Even if the idea of science fiction and ghosts and clones or whatever puts you off -- see this movie to see Sam Rockwell play three different parts that are all the same and also completely different.

5. The Wrestler
Another 2008. Very real.

4. The Hurt Locker
I guess this is the first good Iraq war movie. It's told in the hand-held camera style that I hate so much, BUT somehow it's effective here. It's obvious, but at the same time not noticeable. Perhaps because the story and setting are perfect for it. Still no idea what "the hurt locker" is though.

3. Star Trek
My biggest complaint about this movie is that it was so good. Now everybody who isn't a Trekkie like me has a surface knowledge of the Star Trek universe. You're all poseurs! Star Trek is mine! MINE!

2. (500) Days of Summer
This movie wins hard for being a chick flick that's not really a chick flick. It is more of a guy chick flick isn't it? Depressing and defeatist. There needs to be a term for guy chick flick. I was trying earlier to think of the term but couldn't. I also appreciate this one for being very similar in plot and structure to another favorite of mine, Annie Hall. Anyway, the scene of the year has to go to the beautifully done split screen that shows the expectations of the night and the actual reality. You can't disagree with me.

1. Inglourious Basterds
This movie has some major problems. I'll list those first. The title is wrong. In my opinion, the basterds are a minor point in the movie. Those who actually watched it were undoubtedly surprised that most of the screen time went toward the Nazi SS officer and the young Jewish woman who got away from him years earlier. That's what the movie is about. I'm sad that the marketing pushed the movie as nothing more than a violent WWII piece of pulp fiction (I type that as an actual term and not a reference to the other Tarantino movie). My other problem is with the sudden turning of character of Landa in the end. It may have been necessary to show the brutality of the basterds. I'm pretty sure that plot point and the entire re-writing of World War II was necessary for Tarantino to play with the concept of heroes and villains. The heroes of this movie really cross the line. I don't want to give too much away, but I really think the heroes completely become anti-heroes when, for lack of a better term, the Nazi holocaust happens. There is a lot of dialogue in this movie and I loved it. I savored it. It wasn't just talking. It's tension. One of the best scenes of the year goes to the opening 20 minutes when the SS officer is merely having a conversation with the French dairy farmer. They're not just talking. They're playing chess with words. But the reason I love going to movies is best represented by the scene in which Shoshanna is preparing her Nazi holocaust. She makes her preparations, puts on her red dress and vamps it up to the tune of the main theme from the movie Cat People. How absurd does that sound? Well, it works and it's absolutely wonderfully beautiful.


Blogger Laura Lee said...

So I only saw ten of those. But about 5 are on my list including Moon and An Education.

I agree with you on The Class. It just kind of ended without any satisfying conclusion. Kind of like class.

That split screen was my favorite part of 500 Days of Summer. It was so effective my heart was crushed right along with his.

December 18, 2009 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Dre said...

Very nice list jon and I know how you feel about lists. Funny I got down to the teens and thought "what a crappy list! This doesn't even have 500 days of summer!"
good post.
Please I hope everyone watches fired up! "I'll be watching you" "yeah, that's what most spectators do at a performance based event"

also I guess you didn't see year one. I thought it wa pretty funny. But that's me.

Speaking of funny, the hangover? Comeon man! That was funny. I love that movie so much! Most disagreed ranking. That and zombie land.

December 18, 2009 11:28 PM  
Blogger jaime said...

Sorry...I'm one of the Trekkie posers. I love that movie!!

Ps- I agree with a lot of your list, but like Dre said, Zombieland deserved a higher ranking.

December 21, 2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger Erica said...

Interesting list. I don't like how you put 2008 movies on here, though. It's for 2009! I saw your edit when you meant to put the Informant in close to the Men Who Stare at Goats (which I haven't see), but I highly disagree with the very low ranking. It is #2 on my list. But maybe I'm just biased because of my intense crush on Matt Damon.

We basically felt the same about most of the movies, though. Public Enemies was higher for me (but maybe it was the fact that I saw it at a screening in January so I was super stoked on that and not the actual movie). But the Brothers Bloom and Sunshine Cleaning were about the same. I have a list of movies you need to see that I know you'll like:

Sherlock Holmes (duh)
Away We Go
Bright Star

I think that's it actually. I'll be getting Inglorious Basterds this week probably from Netflix...pretty excited. I'll let you know what I think.

January 03, 2010 9:16 PM  

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