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2009: A Pretty Good Year for Movies

December 25, 2009

By July of this year, I had already seen more movies in theater than I had all of 2008.  While that is in part due to laziness, it also seems that more interesting films graced the big screen in 2009.  The following is an incomplete and subjective list of my favorites, along with links to reviews we have written about them.

Best Science Fiction:  Star Trek.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of District 9, and I think Neill Blomkamp has a fantastic future in writing and directing.  Both D9 and Moon showed how gripping and inventive small-budget film-making can be.  But J. J. Abrams’ re-introduction of Star Trek to uber-fans and newbies alike threaded the needle, and will draw a lot more people into sci-fi as a genre.  Great visuals, an interesting plot, and some truly fine acting (think of the Uhura-Spock scene after his mother dies: touching, not maudlin, and adds real depth to the characters) within the realm of the deliberately campy.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen really brought the crazy and was everything we thought it would be, but it was by no means a good movie.  Worst by far: Terminator Salvation.  What a jumbled frigging mess.  I was so disappointed after watching it that I couldn’t even write a review.  You broke my heart, McG.  This film made me decide never to get excited about a movie ever again; in possibly related news, I haven’t seen Avatar yet.

Best Horror: Drag Me To Hell. Hell yeah, Sam Raimi.  Finally getting back to your strengths.  No Blair Witch black-and-white shaky cam stuff here (though I loved that movie, and I haven’t yet seen Paranormal Activity).  No high-concept, ground-breaking, off-speed scares.  Just good old gypsy-curse horror.  For real, watch this one.  Jennifer’s Body could have made some waves, but it was poorly marketed and just didn’t know exactly what it wanted to be.  Still worth watching, and I’ll keep an eye out for other Karen Kusama-directed stuff.  All in all, though, not a great year for horror.

Best Comedy:  The Hangover.  A very respectful hat tip to the almost absurdist Black Dynamite, but this one belongs solidly to The Hangover (sorry, Paul Blart: Mall Cop).  Yes, it was sophomoric and vulgar.  Yes it had lots of offensive, easy jokes.  But damn, I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.  Ed Helms nailed it and the smaller-part actors added great jokes, but Zach Galifianakis almost made me pass out a couple times from cackling so hard.  Apologies to my viewing neighbors, but in my defense, they had the same reaction.  Oh, and besides having the best Mike Tyson cameo in film history, The Hangover happens to be the top grossing rated R comedy ever, and is closing in on the #2 spot for top grossing rated R films of any genre.  Ever.  So sneer if you want at my low-brow tastes.  Just get ready for sequels.

Best Movie You Missed: The Hurt Locker.  Okay, maybe you saw it, but I missed it.  I have heard nothing but great things about this movie, which is another small-budget film, and will almost certainly be up for a Best Picture Oscar.  This might also win Most Asinine Discussion Surrounding A Movie, since a lot of folks were shocked that such an amazing war movie could be made by a woman (Kathryn Bigelow).  Imagine that!  And they can vote and drive, too!  (Note to those surprised: most male war movie directors have never been in combat either, if that was the basis of your head-scratching.)  A Serious Man, the newest Coen Brothers flick, is definitely in the queue.  Precious is supposed to be an intensely moving, five-hanky film.  I’m not ready for that yet.

Best Brown Tweed Society Movie Review:  Up.  Although a comparative analysis with other elements explored as well, this review of Up (and The Fountain) by fellow Tweeder Lloyd is simply masterful.  Insightful, touching, and honest, this may be the best TBTS post this year.  Keep ’em coming.

In spite of all the crappy remakes, reboots, and the beginning of the onslaught of shameless pandering to Gen Xers (G. I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, Transformers: ROTF), 2009 delivered.  There are enough movies that I didn’t see but eventually will to keep the DVD player humming well into 2010.

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