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The Top Ten Movies of 2009 (and the decade)

I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday.  Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)

1) This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson.  Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.

2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well.  And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.

3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof.  Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did.  It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.

4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10.  Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose.  A good, but not great movie.  However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.

Take My Wife, please.
Take My Wife, please.

The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer

Watchmen.  Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie.  The trailer, however, was perfection.

The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie

Nothing.  But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations. 

2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play

2009 Top Ten Movies

10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger

Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star.  Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten.  Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this.  Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.

The Messenger is the best war movie this year.  It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones.  The things people do for work in this economy.  Really strong and simple movie.

9)Capitalism: A Love Story. 

This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think).  Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before.  Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.

Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre
Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre

8) 500 Days of Summer

The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre,  but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is.  Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable.  And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.

7) Bruno

The selection most likely to anger people.  First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat.  Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight.  As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing.  For many the film was too crude.  Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs.  Probably true.  Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids.  My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.

"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"
"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"

6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker.  And I thought being a comedian was tough.  This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two).  And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.

You look like my career.
You look like my career.

5) Up

The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year.  It is just another great movie from Pixar.  Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort.  Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.

This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work.  MMMMMMMMMM
This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work. MMMMMMMMMM

4) Inglorious Basterds

Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was.  A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them.  It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter.  After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one .  After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad?  I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone.  But I digress.  Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).

3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs.  I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was.  The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie.  It was hysterical from start to finish.  It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy.  I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.

2) Up In The Air

 I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie.  George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good.  Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.

1) District 9

The most original movie I have seen in a long time.  The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film).  Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.

After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.
After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.

TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE DECADE

10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.

9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.

8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever.  Sorry Bourne Ultimatum.  You were second.

7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list).  Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.

6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border.  This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded.  Great movie.

5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.

4) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.

3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one.  And it’s not even close.  Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years.  To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.

2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time.  Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).

1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime.  One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time.  The other was United 93.  I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11.  But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me.  In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.

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My Favorite Movies of 2008

I saw fewer films than last year.  I still saw a lot of them.

If comedy were not my favorite thing in the world, goingto movies would probably be it. Before giving you my Top 10 of the year I have some other awards I would like to give out:

Worst Movies of 2008

1) The Happening

2) Twilight

3) Indiana Jones 4

I curtailed the amount of pure crap I saw this year (which may explain the reduction in total number of films seen).  The Happening was just dreadful.  Marky Mark should have his name stricken from the books as havign ever been nominated for an Oscar.  The only thing worse than his performance was the movie itself.  The only hope for M. Night Shamalamadingdong is to direct and star in a biopic about Bobby Jindal.  My reason for seeing Twilight was that I wanted to see what the buzz was about.  Lesson learned – when girls/women between the age of 15 and 30 create “buzz” you can almost guarantee that it is something really fu-king stupid.  I have always liked Indiana Jones, but South Park really nailed it when they portrayed the film as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raping Indiana Jones – it was truly awful.

 

Best Holocaust Movie of the Year

I saw Defiance, The Reader, Valkyrie so I have not seen all of them, but The Reader was the best, but more by default.  The other two were just ok.  Hopefully Hollywood can learn from its mistakes and pump out more Holocaust movies next year.  And speakingof tragedies I think Hollywood is planning its second slavery movie ever now that we have a black president.

 

Best Surprise Decent Movie

JCVD – this humorous, but somewhat touchingmovie starring Jean Claude Van Damme was actually a pretty clever movie and shows that Van Damme, rather than juicing up like Stallone or running for office like Ahnuld, has embraced who he is and made easily the most quality movie of his career (though it was not tough beating out his performance as Chance Boudreaux in Hard Target).

 

Most Overrated Independent Film that People Had to Say They liked

Rachel Getting Married – this movie was a B/B+ that critics swooned for.  It has all the classic trappings of a great independent film – a story that is not very interesting, a sad back story and a good set of performances.  Anne Hathaway is fine (and uglified which is always good for Oscars), but I thought whoever played her sister (Rachel – I did not care enough to look up her real name) was better.

 

Best Animated Movie of the Year

I love Pixar and I really like Wall-E, but I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda more.  It might just be the star power of Jack Black, but the fat panda made me laugh more than the cuter version of Short Circuit.

 

Most Arrogant Move by a Filmmaker

The movie Che is 4 hours and twenty minutes long.  If I was not crippled by a movie addiction I would have never seen it.

 

Best Performances of 2008

Heath Ledger  (The Dark Knight) + everyone in the Dark Knight except for Bale’s voice as Batman

Robert Downey Jr  (Tropic Thunder) – so obviously funny, but incredibly subtle at the same time.  Maybe the best performance of the year, but Ledger’s work +  tragedy will be honored

Meryl Streep (Doubt) – I don’t care if she has been nominated 47 times and has won multiple times – this was definitely the best performance by an actress this year

Micky Rourke (The Wrestler) – excellent work

Paul Rudd (Role Models) – sarcastic, bitter, unhappy – what’s not to love/identify with in Paul Rudd’s performance

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) – best duo on screen this year.  Anyone who has never had the balls to go full out in an argument with a girlfriend or spouse – this movie will give you a liberated feeling and it is their performances that make it so intense.

Benicio Del Toro (Che) – 4 hours and 20 minutes in a performance that’s so good you forget it’s an actor (maybe just because it is so f-ing long)

Justin Long (Zach and Miri Make a Porno) – one scene as a gay porn star at a high school reunion – fantastic.

TOP TEN OF 2008

  1. The Dark Knight – I truly believe this has changed the way action movies can and will be made
  2. The Wrestler – Not since Million Dollar Baby have I seen a movie that captures the absolute sadness of ordinary, everyday life.
  3. Revolutionary Road – I could have written this movie myself, but it might not have had the happy ending that this one has.
  4. Role Models – Funniest movie I have seen since 22003’s Old School.
  5. Doubt – a really good movie that is even better because of Meryl Streep
  6. Flash of Genius – underrated Greg Kinnear in the most under appreciated movie of the year
  7. Milk – standard biopic, but really well done
  8. Slumdog Millionaire – slightly overhyped indie-film, but it is a great story
  9. Cadillac Records – great acting, including Beyonce and from box office receipts proof that people do not want to see a story about black people being fleeced by white people
  10. Kung Fu Panda – Jack Black’s best work since School of Rock

Honorable mention : Che, Wall-E,  W, Miracle at St. Anna

And yes, I have probably seen any movie you think should be on this list.