Just a note: I count any movie I saw in theatres (or on DVD that was released in '09) as an '09 movie. My ten favourite, and five least favourite (yes, this means I watch a lot of films):
10. Gran Torino: I was amazed by just how funny this film was. It has been reported that this will be Clint Eastwood's last work as an actor, and it is hard for me to think of a better way to go out. I found this movie didn't get the attention it deserved, especially because it didn't receive a single Oscar nomination. I thought it presented an interesting dynamic: a very prejudiced man being admired by his Hmong neighbours for saving the son of the family. The young actors aren't particularly strong, but the relationship between Walt and Thao (and his family) was moving. How I wish it had gotten more attention.
9. Amreeka: Palestinian mother and son who come to America after receiving green cards. It tells the story of adjustment, and racism with a fairly light touch, and despite a rather weak ending, it remains moving and fun.
8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: I'm a Harry Potter fan. And this was a great adaptation, and a real improvement on the one prior to it, The Order of the Phoenix (though to be fair, that was the weakest of the books). It actually feels like a movie, instead of an adaptation of a book.
7. Milk: The story of late politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man elected to office in California. Sean Penn does a fantastic job playing Harvey Milk, a character very different from the other characters I've seen him play. I full expected Mickey Rourke to win the Oscar last year, but I was pleasantly surprised when Penn got it. He deserved it. James Franco and Josh Brolin also gave excellent performances, and this was my favourites of the Oscar nominated movies of that year.
6. Star Trek: What I respect about this movie is that it brought a whole new audience to the Star Trek series. Before I saw it, I wouldn't have watched the TV show, but now I probably would if I saw it on. If they come out with a new TV series, I'll be watching it. It's fun, and worked great as a summer movie. I have it on DVD.
5. The Soviet Story: I caught this documentary at the Cinematheque in late August. I didn't know what to expect when my friend told me we were seeing it, but it was one of the most interesting documentaries I've ever seen. It's about Communism, and how Russia and Germany collaborated prior to 1941. I've studied European history in University, including some Russian history, but I didn't know a whole lot that I learned during the film. Some of the footage shown was shocking, but used to good effect.
4. Inglourious Basterds: I'll admit that I have not seen a lot of films by Quentin Tarantino, but I intend to rectify that one day. I'd heard about this project for years, and was not disappointed when I finally saw it. I love World War II history, so obviously WWII films are of great interest to myself, even ones that present an alternate history. I sure hope Christoph Waltz is nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hans Landa, because he played the best villain I've seen all year. And I figure it's probably harder to play an "evil" character than it is to play a hero. I picked it up on DVD today.
3. District 9: I love science fiction. I especially love it when it has a heart as strong as this film did. I was amazed by how much was done on such a low budget--it looked like it should have cost at least three times more than it did. This is the type of movie that NEEDS good special effects to work. If the aliens didn't look convincing, it wouldn't have been moving, and I wouldn't have bought into it as strongly as I did. Some people I talked to thought the CNN style used on occasion in the film was distracting but I think it gave an added boost of realism, when I really think about it. Also picked this one up today.
2. (500) Days of Summer: This was my favourite of the year until I saw my number 1, and it is still the one I can relate to most. I'm sure we've all had a "Summer"; someone you love more than they love you. While seeing it, I found myself laughing and crying, sometimes simultaneously, because it hit so close to home. Joseph Gordon-Levitt really made it for me, he's very heartfelt and a really great actor. I hope he goes far in his career, because I've consistently been impressed with his work. I grabbed this one as well, and can't wait to watch it again.
1. The Road: I've made very clear how much I love this movie by my review of it. The saddest, most depressing movie I've seen all year, and even over a month later, it has stuck with me. Most interesting, is how much the unnamed apocalyptic event didn't matter. I don't wonder what happened, because it's a movie about human nature, about love, and relationships. How does one maintain hope when there is no hope to be had? Do you give up when it is easier to do so than fight? Like Gran Torino, it breaks my heart that it's not getting very much attention. I've recommended it to anyone who asks what to see.
I also picked up Cinema Paradiso today, and am hoping to watch it tomorrow, if not maybe next weekend or during the week in the evening if I get a quiet night. I just want to note that I have not seen the following movies, but would very much like to: The Hurt Locker, Moon, Precious, Nine, The Last Station, A Single Man, Invictus, An Education, or A Serious Man, as well as many others. It seems you never see all the ones you want to.
5. Bruno: I really liked Borat, but Bruno just proved that the concept can only work once. I found it tired, and rather unfunny for the most part. I wasn't expecting much, so I wasn't necessarily disappointed, just rather...bored when I saw it.
4. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: It's kind of my own fault I didn't enjoy this. I only saw the first Underworld, so I didn't really understand a lot of it. But even then, I thought it was rather stupid anyway. The only really awesome bit is Billy Nighy, who's just an all around cool guy. Michael Sheen was pretty good as well. All in all...pretty mediocre and completely forgettable.
3. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: My friend and I saw it one day because we were bored and wanted to do something. Complete waste of time, amazingly enough...worse than the first one!
2. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: I was curious about this one, because I saw the first one (and had the book forced on me). It slightly improves on the first one, but it's still trash, and I found many elements of the movie to be quite awful. This is a series directed at tweens, but some of the stuff that is justified disgusts me. Young women are so easily moldable and I think some themes and elements of the series that are seen as being "okay" will give women the wrong impression of what a healthy relationship is. So I found it to be sickening, but slightly amusing because all the tween girls squealed when the men took their shirts off.
1. He's Just Not That Into You: The only entry I saw on DVD, and only because I own it. Yes, I own it. I won it off a radio station over the summer, after swearing I'll never see it, because it looked like pathetic, stereotypical trash. But after winning it, I accepted that the world just wanted me to see the movie, and I watched it, only to confirm my suspicions. I have friends who swear that I am just like Gigi, and afterwards, I wanted to give them a good talking to, because how can I be like a character so stupid? I'll admit that as a single girl, I wasn't all that great with men, and did hold onto hope when hope wasn't there, but I found her character to be abrasive, bland and nothing but a stereotype. Actually, all of the characters were hollow, and I didn't care for any of them.
The only reason I still have it is because my Mom expressed interest in seeing it. Her and my Dad watched it over New Years and neither of them liked it. My Dad summed it up by saying: "it wasn't quite a comedy, it wasn't quite a drama, but it sure was dumb." Now that nobody has any interest in watching it again, I'm hoping to get rid of it. Does anyone want it?
And that was my '09. I think it was a decent year, but other than The Hurt Locker, I haven't been overly interested in many of the movies getting Oscar buzz. But it has still been a good year, with many quality movies being released.
And if you haven't seen The Road, see it at the earliest opportunity. Really. I'm doing all I can to get it seen by people.