Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, a Middle East hot potato, headed the crowded fields of both animation and, strange to say, documentary, though it was challenged in the first by Hayao Miyazaki’s delicate and dreamlike Ponyo and in the second by James D. Stern’s and Adam Del Deo’s backstage Broadway drama, Every Little Step, Nati Baratz’s reincarnation mystery, Unmistaken Child, and Agnes Varda’s fanciful memoir, The Beaches of Agnes.

Eran Riklis’s Lemon Tree, a Middle East olive branch, and Lone Scherfig’s An Education, a coming-of-age period piece, were worthwhile if for nothing else than their leading ladies, Hiam Abbass and Carey Mulligan respectively. The Japanese Departures by Yojiro Takita and the German Cherry Blossoms by the Japanophile Doris Dörrie dealt tastefully and touchingly with the subject of death. And lastly: Majid Majidi’s slightly sentimental and acutely sensitive The Song of Sparrows, Laurent Cantet’s raw and realistic The Class, Olivier Assayas’s ruminative Summer Hours. I could say, after all those, that I really can’t complain. I could fib.

Tom Tykwer’s The International would have come in for a place of honor were the bulk of it anywhere near the level of the year’s standout action scene, the gunfight at the Guggenheim. Once I started to make that kind of concession, however, I should be obliged to find room as well, on different counts, for the likes of Avatar, 2012, Star Trek, Moon, Battle for Terra, Paranormal Activity, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 500 Days of Summer, Julie and Julia, The Girl from Monaco, Lorna’s Silence, Revanche, The Hurt Locker, Whatever Works, Hotel for Dogs, some others. The imminent sound of wooden spoon scraping bottom of barrel would be silenced in futility by one single statistic. Number of first-run films I watched this year: 268. Do the math.

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shizzyfinn Jan. 4, 2010 @ 8:27 p.m.

Props to Duncan for nailing it with his pick of A Serious Man as best film of 2009.

Just saw it this past weekend, and laughed the whole way through. In addition to the comedy, the philosophical questions at its center are intriguing and well developed. And the movie is a top-notch period piece, transporting viewers back to 1967 almost as effectively as a time machine would.

Man, those Coen bros are somethin' else.

Just read yesterday that their next project is another adaptation of the novel True Grit, the first of which came in 1969 and starred John Wayne and Glen Campbell. The Coens' version is due in 2011 and is set to feature Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and/or Josh Brolin.

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Josh Board Jan. 5, 2010 @ 9:57 p.m.

Don't get your hopes up, shizzy. I was so excited when the Coens bought the rights to an Elmore Leonard novel that had come out about 15 years ago. It's yet to be made.

Also...the movie started with the Airplane's Somebody to Love, from Surrealistic Pillow, one of the many great classic albums of 1967. Yet, when the record store calls to hound the lead character about joining, he mentions CCRs Cosmo's Factory and Santana's Abraxas. Both classic albums, but that didn't come out until 1970.

When I was talking about this at a party, a music buff also pointed out that the band line-up the last rabbi mentions (what a great scene, by the way) mentions a line-up that wasn't accurate for 1967, either.

A Serious Man was great, though.

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shizzyfinn Jan. 6, 2010 @ 7:34 p.m.

Josh, you are A Serious Music Buff! Nice catches. I must say, though, that I got 1967 from Roger Ebert's review. Thinking back on the movie, I'm not sure that it ever clearly identified what year it was set in.

Thinking back on the movie also brings a smile to my face. The exchanges with the Korean student and his father, for instance. "Accept mystery." Priceless.

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