Jeff Smith noon, March 8
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Top 10 Movies of 2009
Usually I don’t do a Top 10 movie list. I don’t see the point. But a few people asked what my top ten would be and I thought for a blog I might as well compile one. I also thought --with the Oscars jumping to 10 movies for “Best Picture” -- it works on that level, too.
I don’t see every film that comes out. I missed “Goodbye Solo” which I’m guessing would’ve made my list. I missed “Bright Star”, a movie about an interesting poet (Keats). I heard it was slow, and couldn’t talk anyone into going with me.
There was “Sugar” about minor league baseball (and Dominican players); a different take for a sports film. But the ending was weak and there just wasn’t enough there.
My top ten are as follows.
AVATAR. In 3D, this was simply the best movie of the year. Any critic that doesn’t have it on their Top 10 list is…well, they’re the Giovanni Ribis character in real life. The movie just made a billion dollars world wide…it’s about time I learn how to properly say the title. I always think of the word “aviator” and it throws me off.
UP. I’m guessing the other “up” movie (Up in the Air) will be on more critics lists. I’m not even a fan of animated pictures (which is why I missed that Fox flick), but this blew me away. A few scenes had me crying my eyes out. I’m convinced Pixar can do no wrong.
FUNNY PEOPLE. No scenes in this movie made me cry, and there was a character dying of cancer. But I found it to be a comedy that was actually funny. And the way it showed comedians working on their material and running it by each other – amazing stuff. One time it’s Seth Rogen talking about his weight loss to an uninterested Jonah Hill. Another time, it’s Rogen listening to a horrible comedian who does well on stage because of his manic energy. And to see great comedic minds riff on a subject, even when it involves a friend getting emotional over his grandfathers death, well…this movie is a must see.
A SERIOUS MAN. Pixar can do no wrong, but the Coen brothers can. Last year, their “No Country For Old Men” was good, but not great. And they’ve done a few clunkers (The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty). This merely has an awful intro. The rest is solid. And geez, how great is Richard Kind? I loved him in the last three films he’s been in.
THE MESSENGER. This is by far, the best war picture of the year. The Hurt Locker was good, but the silliness of the second half killed it. The performances in “Brothers” didn’t work, and it had problems. But this was highly emotional and very interesting. Who would’ve thought there’d be so many rules to follow when you show up at a door to inform a family their child died in combat? If Woody Harrelson gets nominated for an Oscar, I’ll be bummed. The performance of Ben Foster (so great in “3:10 to Yuma”) and his love interest, blew Woody out of the water.
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL. This documentary on a heavy metal band will pull at your heart strings as if they were on a Gibson Les Paul. You may even be humming “Metal to Metal” or “Thumb Hang” for the next few days. Who would’ve thought a real life Spinal Tap would be so fun to watch. And that you’d actually care about (and root for) the band members.
GOOD HAIR. I can’t believe I’m putting a second documentary on the list. One critic I really respect, put the documentary “Pulling John” which dealt with arm wrestlers, on his Top 10 list. It was okay. “Tyson” was an interesting documentary, but it lost something with just him narrating. In previous years, great documentaries like “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” and “King of Kong” got overlooked. And it would be a shame for Chris Rock’s film, despite lawsuits involving it, not getting on any lists. It deals with what African-Americans go thru with their hair; hysterical and interesting, even more so if you aren’t African-American and weren’t aware of all these hair products and expenses.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I’m not a fan of Zooey Deschanel, but she’s perfect in this. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of “3rd Rock From the Sun” fame, has become an interesting actor. He did the high school noir film “Brick” which I loved, and “The Lookout,” a few years back (I had an interesting conversation about that with actor Mathew Goode, who played a great villain with an American accent). The soundtrack is hip and great. Something that the movie “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” tried unsuccessfully to capture last year. And who wouldn’t love the musical sequence involving an entire city dancing along to Hall & Oates when Levitt finally spends the night with the woman he’s pined after at work for months? Although, it was weird that they picked the same song that bonded Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in “Step Brothers.”
MOON. I hate to use that cliché that movie critics always do when compiling lists of the best films of the year. They say “It was a weak year for movies,” but this year it really was. And that’s the reason Moon was able to creep its way onto my list. It got a lot of attention because it was done by David Bowie’s kid (no, they didn’t play the song Space Oddity). It’s so derivative of so many movies (most notably 2001, with Kevin Spacey even doing the “HAL” voice). But watching Sam Rockwell slowly go nuts is a blast. I can easily picture other actors going over the top with this character, and it’s one of the reasons Rockwell is one of the best actors working today (I liked him in the underrated “Everybody’s Fine” from this year).
ADVENTURELAND. So many teen comedies don’t work for me. I love when I’m pleasantly surprised with movies like Election, Clueless, or Mean Girls. It keeps me from talking about John Hughes being the only filmmaker that nailed this genre. The movie wasn’t as funny as the commercials would’ve led you to believe. And as much as I love SNL cast members Wiig and Handle playing the couple that runs the amusement park, they at times almost kill the vibe by playing bosses that are inept. The other characters are well written; the nerds weren’t complete nerds. The gorgeous girls didn’t just act snobby to everyone. And the cool guy that turns out to be a poser, is very believable. That’s because this was such a well-written picture. And as one screenwriter said (Diablo Cody) “How can you go wrong with a story that has roller coasters as a backdrop?”
An honorable mention goes to “A Single Man,” perhaps the most beautifully shot film this year, and the best use of flashbacks I’ve seen in years (often times flashbacks are done grainy; these were done in color, with the current scenes being shot in a different light). Brokeback Mountain wasn’t romantic in the least (and not just because I’m straight), but “A Single Man” actually was, which made us feel Colin Firth’s pain (he’ll surely get an Oscar nomination). Moore was good, but hardly deserves the Oscar nomination she’ll get as his best friend/drinking buddy.
“An Education” was good, with great performances. Young actress Carey Mulligan will be getting a nomination (she was also the best thing about “Brothers”). Her dad in the movie, Alfred Molina – always aces.
“District 9” I enjoyed more than I thought I would. If this were a Top 25 list…
…and, the commercials for “In the Loop” had my laughing, but I never saw it. I do steal a quote from the film which my friend told me. “I’m not going to read you the Riot Act, but I’m gonna give you excerpts from it.”
A few movies that don’t deserve Honorable Mention, but will be on other critics lists and I figure are worth at least mentioning:
Up in the Air. It was good, but a bit flawed and clichéd in parts to truly warrant the praise it’s getting (Clooney will get an Oscar nomination).
Precious (I’m not going to write the whole dorky title) was good, but not great. I’d love to see that actress get a nomination. And I’d love to see Mo’nique win Best Supporting Actress. I’m guessing she will.
The Hurt Locker was highly overrated, and the second half of the movie sinks it for me. Same thing with “Inglorious Basterds,” which started off so promising, with perhaps the most intense opening scene I’ve seen in years.
“Crazy Heart” I have not yet seen, but find it odd that Jeff Bridges, who sings and plays guitar in real life, will get a nomination for doing it in film (and playing a boozer to boot). If Kris Kristofferson played this part (which he’d do wonderfully), he wouldn’t get an Oscar nod, so why will Bridges?
The Informant! Okay, but with horrible music (sorry Hamlisch) and a few other problems, it would be relegated to my Top 25 list, as would “World’s Greatest Dad.” I think comedian Bobcat Goldthwait is a talent, but casting his friend Robin Williams hurt this movie. Williams played serious so well in “Good Will Hunting,” yet in the scenes here, he does this thing where he bites his lip as he yells at his son, and you aren’t sure what’s going on. I was expecting him to start talking like Mork or Popeye.
And another comedy -- The Hangover -- was okay, but not great. I’m apparently the only person that feels this way, as my friends all loved it. It does have the funniest closing credits you’ll see in a movie.