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Project 365 – Day 29: The Best Films of 2009

Today’s post is not so much a photo accompanied by text as it is text accompanied by a photo. I threw up a picture commemorating one of my favorite films of last year in order to have officially posted a shot for today, but I wanted to concentrate my energy today on composing this list. Also, a great deal of my day was eaten up viewing Chase Jarvis’ live broadcast of a photo shoot that he aired on his blog. Seriously, it took up SEVERAL hours of my day. He provided invaluable information for free, and it was an incredibly kind thing to do on his part. So much respect to him.

Well, let me start by giving a brief rundown on my thoughts of the movies of 2009. In general, I feel this was a very weak year. A lot of films were disappointments, and the ones that were supposed to be great were merely decent. There were a few surprises, but for the most part, Hollywood closed out the decade on a poor note.

The year was not all bad, though. There were several surprises, including a comedy that came out of nowhere to shatter box office records and James Cameron somehow finding a way to surpass James Cameron. Before I begin, let me point out, as I do every year, that this is MY list. These are the films that I feel were the best of this year. So if you feel that your film was better, make your list. Besides, film is my thing. I don’t tell you how to be a jerk off, so don’t tell me how to judge movies. J

10. “Orphan”

“Orphan” made my list mostly out of sheer shock factor. I didn’t expect it to be nearly as entertaining as it was. Looking at my list, I’m still surprised to see it on there. I typically don’t care for horror movies because, well, they’re never scary. While “Orphan,” wasn’t exactly scary, it was incredibly entertaining and had many cringe-worthy moments.  The story basically revolves around a family who decides to adopt an orphan. She comes into their house and causes all sorts of trouble. Sounds pretty generic, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The writers worked in a back story involving the family that made the orphan girl’s acts of terror that much more horrific. Is this an Oscar-worthy film? Of course not, but it is one heck of a thrill ride.

9. “Sherlock Holmes”

I had average expectations for this film. I figured it would be good, but I didn’t figure it would be nearly as good as it was. I’m EAGERLY anticipating a sequel.  Robert Downey Jr, in a Golden Globe-winning performance, plays Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and his doctor/partner Watson, played by Jude Law, set out to solve a mystery that revolves around the supernatural and black magic. For a person as logic-based as Holmes, the story provides an interesting contrast to his character in that he can’t find a logical reason to explain what is going, so he struggles to solve the case. Holmes is incredibly observant and calculating, and frequently sees things we don’t see (and are not meant to see) and formulates plans of which we do not become aware until after all the events have taken place.  The screenwriter(s) did an excellent job.  My only complaint is the Downey Jr spoke so fast at times that he was difficult to understand.

8. “Capitalism: A Love Story”

Michael Moore’s 5th documentary is, arguably, his finest. Moore tackles the problem that is our economy, and brings a lot of facts to light that undoubtedly got him into a great deal of trouble. He combines heart-wrenching real life stories of families who have lost their homes, with horrifying facts about how our government works and how big business operates – both separately and in accordance with one another.  This film will make you sad (maybe even cry), and at the same time will fill you with rage. I tend to stay pretty knee-deep in politics, and I still learned a lot of things from this film that troubled me a great deal. It’s a definite must see, and the fact that *I believe* it’s not getting an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary shows just how many feathers Moore ruffled.

7. “Star Trek”
“Star Trek” was another one of the big surprises of the year for me. I expected it to be good, but I was in no way prepared for how jaw-droppingly awesome it would be. I’m not a “Trekkie.” I was familiar with the basics of the show – I’ve seen it a couple times – but I was never a fan.  I’ve only seen one of the other movies, and I was dragged to it by my friends and was unimpressed.  Despite this, my expectations were fairly high for the film, and I was still looking forward to seeing it. My socks were knocked off.  The story was top notch, as was the cast. The visuals were amazing, and it really set the tone for future films in the franchise. I’m not even going to attempt to explain the plot – there’s a little too much time traveling involved – but if you can keep up, it’s well worth the price of admission; or, in this case, the price of the DVD rental.

6. “Precious”

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of the freight train that is “Precious” (pun intended). This horrific story of a girl who is mistreated by her mother, and impregnated by her father, has already garnered a ton of well-deserved attention. One of the only problems that people have with the film is that they feel it’s just brutal and sad for the sake of brutal and sad. I would argue that there is undoubtedly a message, and the performances are among the best of the year. Mo’Nique has a breakout performance that will undoubtedly garner her an Oscar nomination and, most likely, a win. The lead role, played by Gabourney Sidibe (I did NOT need to look up the name or spelling), is such a stark contrast from how she is in person. She does such an amazing job. She was robbed at the Golden Globes, but this girl deserves an Oscar. She truly does.

5. “The Hurt Locker”

Speaking of women who deserve Oscars, Kathryn Bigelow, director of “The Hurt Locker,” had better at least get a nomination. Suspense and tension are a difficult thing to convey, and Bigelow does it flawlessly. “The Hurt Locker” is the story of a bomb squad in Iraq who seem to be playing a game of cat and mouse with the local terrorists. Most war films attempt to show the effect that war can have on ones psyche. “The Hurt Locker” does this as well, but gives us a slightly different perspective.  I find the performances in this to have been a little under-rated. All of the lead characters did great jobs, and I think their performances were lost under the tension of the story.

4.  “Avatar”

“Avatar” is likely to clean house at the Oscars this March. James Cameron always finds a way to out-do himself, and this time is no different. While I do feel that a fairly standard story is overlooked because of the ground-breaking effects, “Avatar” is by no means all dazzle and no substance.  The story is solid, and we should not let the fact that it’s not deep take away from impact of the effects. This film is stunning – arguably the most visually stunning film EVER. If you saw it, and you didn’t see it in 3D, stop reading this now and buy a ticket for 3D. If you haven’t seen the film at all, congratulations for being the only person who has not. For those of you who are unaware, “Avatar” accomplished a feat that, after “Spider-Man 2” and all of the “Lord of the Rings” movies failed to accomplish, I never thought I would see done. Cameron’s “Avatar” just passed Cameron’s “Titanic” as the highest grossing film of all time. While one could say this is largely due to inflated ticket prices, “Avatar” grossed this amount of money in FAR less time than “Titanic” did and has a great deal of time left to create a distance between itself and “Titanic” that will more than make up for inflation.

3. “The Hangover”
I don’t think anyone saw this one coming. Upon seeing the trailers, “The Hangover” looked like your average crappy comedy – destined to make $4 mil its opening weekend and never be heard from again.  Nearly 8 months later, “The Hangover” sits at about $277 mil domestically, putting it just ahead of the original “Shrek” – and with good cause. “The Hangover” is one of the funniest, and most surprising, films since 2005’s “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” “The Hangover” centers around a group of friends who go to Las Vegas a couple nights before one of them is to be married. They get so wasted, they wake up the next morning with no recollection of the previous night’s events, and one of them is missing. They have to find a way to retrace their steps and find their friend before the wedding. “Hilarity ensues.”

2. “Up In The Air”
Based on the trailer, I could not figure out why this film was getting so many great reviews. I just didn’t see it.  “It looks like it’s about a guy who travels. Maybe stuff happens.” Well, “Up In The Air” is the story Ryan Bingham. Ryan works for a company who sends him out to fire people. The “victims” employers are too chicken sh… um… scared … to fire the employee themselves. So, they hire Bingham’s company to do it. As you all may or may not be aware, a lot of people are losing their jobs right now. So for Bingham, business is booming. Not to mention he has no desire to settle down and develop real relationships and a normal life, so he has no problem being on the road (or in this case, in the air) 300+ days out of the year.  The thing that sets “Up In The Air” apart from the other films this year is that it tells a story that we all can relate to, in a different way.  It’s funny and interesting, and at the same time, angering and depressing.  It’s an original story, and director Jason Reitman is already establishing himself as one of the elite directors working today. Speaking of elite directors…

1. “Inglourious Basterds”

There were several months after the poorly-spelled “Inglourious Basterds” was released during which time many films had an opportunity to knock it from my #1 spot. None did. Is this Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece? No, but it’s damn close. This film has it all. The opening sequence, while featuring very little dialogue and virtually no action, is the best scene in any film this year. It is very subtle, and at the same time, incredibly tense and intense. “Inglourious Basterds” also features one of the finest supporting performances of the year by Christoph Waltz, who plays a terrifying and evil Hans Landa. “Inglourious Basterds” is the funny, violent, suspenseful, and interesting story of a group of bandits called “The Basterds.” They’re Jews who kill Nazi’s. Yup, that’s it. If they don’t kill them, they carve a swastika into their foreheads because, when they get home, they can take off their Nazi uniform. They can never take off the scar. The film features all the symptoms of a Quentin Tarantino film: suspense, violence, comedy, and most importantly, great dialogue. I really can find no flaws with this film. While “Pulp Fiction” still reigns supreme as Tarantino’s finest, nothing this year was better than “Inglourious Basterds.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

“Up” (“Up” didn’t make the list because I thought it was average for a Pixar film, and I thought “Coraline” was the better animated film – and I didn’t have a place for “Coraline,” so I definitely didn’t have a place for “Up.”

“Coraline”

“District 9”

“I Love You, Man” (my 2nd favorite comedy of the year, and it’s a VERY VERY VEEEEEEEEEEERY close 2nd.)

“Black Dynamite” (my 3rd favorite comedy of the year, and it’s a VERY VERY VEEEEEEEEEEERY close 3rd. lol)

“This Is It”

“Adventureland”

“Zombieland”

“Tyson”

“500 Days of Summer”

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