My top 16 of 2009

2009 had an abundance of quality but if you wanted it you had to get away from the studio system and into the Independent and Foreign circuit. 12 of the 17 movies I've chosen were not given a wide release and -in some cases- came and went in the fury of blockbusters available to the mainstream public. I'm not about to call anything the best movie I saw in 2009. The top five changes on a daily basis- all of them can be called singular and unforgettable. I will only know in time which one will be regarded as timeless and my favourite. What makes the first five films below unique and outstanding to any others this year is due to their uniqueness and bold auteurism. They might be flawed but they decided to fly like no other movies released.

1) Up In The Air (Jason Reitman)

Part of the triumph of Jason Reitman's 3rd movie as director is the fact that he manages to sketch out 3 remarkable characters (Clooney, Famriga, Kendrick) in a movie that is possibly the most relevant one of 2009. George Clooney also manages to give another great performance- in a role that would usually make one feel resentful for his character- instead you kind of like him. (he fires people for a living) However, the real star is not Clooney, it's Farmiga, whom I've adored for years now and is finally getting her due with her last few movies becoming instant critical darlings. Reviewed here.

2) The Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson)

Best Wes Anderson movie. Need I say more? Considered here. It's actually quite surprising that I would say his best movie is an animated one about a rebellious fox that steals chickens for a living but hey that's why I love cinema so damn much, it surprises you in ways you can never expect. The stop motion is just astounding in this one and the humor so good- I recommend watching this on DVD just because you can actually freeze many of its frames and catch the hidden jokes you missed the first time around. Justifiably won Best Animated feature from both the New York and Los Angeles critics.

3) The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

Taut, Tense and incredibly terrific movie that -for some- takes more than one viewing to grasp its brilliant execution. It's episodic and I couldn't have liked it more. Think of Jeremy Renner's incredible performance or Bigelow's incredibly controlled command of the action form. She deserves a directing award in the coming Oscars and if she doesn't get it, call it a definite steal. This is the real front runner for Best Picture at this year's Oscars and for very good reason. It deals with male testosterone and adrenaline by studying a man that thrives on it, it the most dangerous of situations. reviewed right here folks.

4) Two Lovers (James Gray)

Here's a movie that came and went but still stuck with me after all these months. It might be the movie that has personally hit me the most and created a kind of emotion that rarely occurs. Starting with a brilliant performance by Joaquin Pheonix as a man confused with the love around him -a never better Vinessa Shaw- and Gwyneth Paltrow as the muse he can never have in his life. It is James Gray's best film and his most maturely assured work. Reviewed in this very blog right here.

5) An Education (Lone Scherfing)

There are two things that make this a remarkable & entertaining movie about how it was to grow up female in 60's London. 1- The great screenplay by the always good Nick Hornsby and 2- Carrey Muligan's amazing performance as the girl that ends up not being the victim but instead the educated and mature one in her relationship with a sneaky 40 year old playboy schlub(Peter Sarsgard). Excellent cast. Excellent movie. dissected right here when I first saw it @ the Festival Du Nouveau Cinema in October.

6) A Serious Man (Joel Coen)

Dillema'ed here & a more thorough review to come at some point in the near future, possibly after the DVD release. The Coen Brothers have made a very problematic but brilliant feature that damn near floored me in its depiction of Jewish society in the 60's and the Almighty's place -or for some lack thereof- in our lives. Features some of the great scenes of the movie year- including a trippy Bar Mitzvah sequence. Has the structure of The Big Lebowski -in its episodic falvour- but has the depth of some of their best work. Opens with a whimsically brilliant short Yiddish story. The most Jewish movie of the year. (& yes I'm counting the Jewish wet Dream of Inglourious Basterds)

7) The Cove (Louis Psihoyos)

This was a completely immersive documentary -about dolphin slaughtering in Japan- that played like a thriller and had me on the edge of my seat for its entire duration. & given the fact that after the movies' wide popularity among cinephiles in the summer, it influenced Japan to think twice and change the rules of their own cruel game. Psihoyos' film proved that movies weren't just made to entertain but to also change the world. Pondered upon during the summer right here.

8) District 9 (Neil Blomkampf)

I've already talked about how much I didn't like the ending to this movie (with its Transformers like change to action)- but that's just the ending. The rest of it is just phenomenal and as good as audiences and critics led you to believe. 2/3 of a great Sci Fi movie and -at the very least story wise- much much better than Cameron's 'Golden Globe Winning' Avatar. This is a real gem from South Africa and here's the infamous review that I already mentioned above. Word of caution- it's only the ending & I've learned to deal with that.

9) Moon (Duncan Jones)

First timer Jones -David Bowie's son- flawlessly debuts a movie that not only had tremendous tension, but originality to spare. As Sam Rockwell's astronaut goes nuts in his spacial isolation, the audience asks questions about who he really is and why there is a duplicate that appears all of a sudden. It is a movie that combines the retro feel of a 60's space opera with the limitless abandon of Kubrick's classic 2001. Here.

10) Up (Bob Peterson/Pete Docter)

I'm sure you've gotten used to me saying how great a Pixar movie is, every year- well get used to it 'cause it is being said for a reason- cause it's the truth. Up IS in fact a great movie filled with gags and character that have eccentricities you don't expect in your normal Animated movie. It features the best scene from any movie I've seen in 2009- The montage of a young couple meeting and facing life's challenges together, all the way till senior hood and sickness. It's a scene of touching gravity that defies description and really demands to be seen and awed at. Reviewed more in depth here.

10) 500 Days Of Summer (Marc Webb)

Marc Webb's "romantic comedy" is the best possible example of that -otherwise- vehemently desecrated genre. In it our main protagonist falls for Summer, a beauty of a girl that falls in love back. Webb refuses to romanticize love, which gives his film the edge over more by the books fare. He knows that love is a mash up of moments and images that stay in your head forever. He makes sure to show us that with a non-linear narrative that explores basically everything you might go through in a relationship.

11) Goodbye Solo, Ramin Bahrani

I sadly didn't write about this movie but it's a very well written character piece about immortality and the immigrant experience. Bahrani continues his odyssey of the forgotten American folk, featuring two very good performances at its center. Highly underrated and worth a look if its on DVD anywhere near you area. Bahrani's best -& most satisfying-movie so far.

12) Broken Embraces, Pedro Almodvar

Although not the best Almodovar I've seen this is right up their with his finest. It's -like his other films- a celebration of cinema, its actors and its dramatic belongings. The fact that this movie never really gained steam after its release reinforces my love for its structural dramatics and stylistic flourishes. A must see for any movie buff that live on the cinema and its countless limitless energy. All 17 of these movies have the same rebellious cry that keeps the art on movies alive to this day. Reviewed right here.

13) Public Enemies, Michael Mann

I'm a big Michael Mann Fan, so don't be too surprised I dug this one a lot during the summer. Pondered upon right over here. & a freshly stylized perspective on the gangster genre this decade. Not as good as prime Mann, but still Mann & with all the style and details we've come to expect from the master. This is criminally underrated and undeserving of its bad rep.

14) Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli

Scary beyond belief. Peli's low budget film is just as scary as The Blair Witch Project - which is high praise given that that 1999 movie was bloody horrific to begin with. In this film, make sure not to have all the lights off or else you'll be jumping out of your seat. A perfect theatrical experience.

15) Avatar, James Cameron

16) Anvil, Sacha Gervasi

17) Antichrist, Lars Von Trier

18) Drag Me To Hell, Sam Raimi

19) Bad Lieutenant, Werner herzog

20) The Girlfriend Experience, Steven Soderbergh

21) The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson

21) Julie And Julia, Nora Ephron

22) Taken, Pierre Morel

23) Observe And Report, Jody Hill

24) The Headless Woman, Lucrecia Martel

25) Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki

26) Duplicity, Tony Gilroy