THE Last 2009 Top Ten List ever.

by | Jan 2, 2010 | MUSIC

As 2009 comes to a close, it is time to count down the best movies of the year. The following films are my ten favorites from the past year. Since we will have ten Best Pictures nominees to look forward to this year, perhaps we will see some overlap between my list and the Academy’s.

As 2009 comes to a close, it is time to count down the best movies of the year. The following films are my ten favorites from the past year. Since we will have ten Best Pictures nominees to look forward to this year, perhaps we will see some overlap between my list and the Academy’s.

10. Watchmen

Who could have expected that Zack Snyder would follow up the incredibly overrated 300 with another comic book movie that actually lives up to its source material? Yes, comic purists can complain about the changed ending and the removal of the Tales of the Black Freighter story within the story, but it is difficult to deny that the power and depth of the story and characters were successfully transferred to the big screen. Have you ever wondered how the world would react if an actual superhero existed, or how the world would have changed if masked vigilantes fought for America in Vietnam? Watchmen masterfully weaves a murder mystery through decades of American history with a superhero twist.

9. Ink

Ink is an amazing independent film that is immediately comparable to movies like Dark City and The Matrix. It is always encouraging to see new ways to tell a basic story of good versus evil. In this case, opposing forces battle as we sleep to give us good dreams or nightmares every night. Eventually, it all leads to war over one little girl’s soul, and, thanks to a brilliantly constructed non-linear story, a heavy emotional ending. Find and rent this one wherever you can. It is worth the effort.

8. Knowing

Perhaps the most polarizing choice on this list. Knowing seems just as likely to appear on someone else’s Worst Of list. Apparently, Nicholas Cage discovering the secret to predicting disasters in an elementary school time capsule is not everybody’s cup of tea. I, on the other hand, found it to be an incredibly tight paced thriller with some of the most memorable disaster scenes this side of a Roland Emmerich movie. Just ask anyone who has seen this film if they will ever forget the plane crash scene and their reaction should tell you that this is one of the best suspense thrillers of the year.

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Chances are if Wes Anderson makes a movie in a year it will be one of the ten best. It turns out this remains true when the film is animated. Fantastic Mr. Fox has charm to spare as it weaves the tale of a fox striving to make a better life for his family by stealing goods from the most dangerous farmers around. Computer animation may be bright and smooth, but there is an undeniable grounding quality in clay animation that makes even the most absurd images seem real. Do not be fooled into thinking this film is just for kids. There is much more for adults than the animated nature of the film implies.

6. (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer is the rare romantic comedy that is aimed at men as much, if not more, than it is at women. A lot of this feeling comes from an excellent everyman performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Pay close attention to the expectations versus reality split screen scene. It is a feeling everyone has experienced, but has never been expressed so well in a movie before. If this movie had been made twenty years ago, it would have probably been a John Cusack classic. It is nice to see the passing of the torch.

5. Star Trek

Star Trek should not be dismissed because it was a big budget science fiction film. We should not forget that J.J. Abrams did more than just make an exciting action movie. By making Star Trek accessible to everyone with tight paced action while still remaining loyal to the original shows, Abrams saved a forty year old franchise that was on its last legs. Fans of Star Trek owe J.J. Abrams the future, and people who previously did not like the franchise can finally look forward to innumerable sequels.

4. Up

To put it simply, Pixar makes masterpieces. Up will make you laugh like a child, or gasp in awe at the sense of adventure. Amazingly, it might also get some tears out of you within the first ten minutes. The filmmakers push every button, and they never lose sight of the fact that an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary situations often makes for a truly compelling story. By the end of the film, you will have as strong an attachment to the characters as they develop for each other.

3. Avatar

James Cameron worked off and on for twelve years to deliver a movie he promised would revolutionize special effects. He followed through with that promise to give us Avatar, a movie that is as much a leap forward as The Matrix ten years ago, or Cameron’s own Terminator 2 eight years before that. You have never seen motion capture computer animation look this good before. Nor have you ever experienced such immersive 3D. Rather than pop out, appropriate aspects of the picture sink in turning the movie screen into a seeming window onto lush alien jungles. This film deserves to be a phenomenon.

2. District 9

If we can appreciate Star Trek for revitalizing a classic science fiction franchise, we can also praise District 9 for doing something new within the genre. An entire alien population lands in Johannesburg, South Africa and is pushed into slums and shoehorned into human society. Distrust between the species causes bigotry and oppression, and, at its worst, violence. Apparently, filmmaker Neill Blomkamp gained inspiration from seeing poor treatment of the impoverished while growing up in Johannesburg. It may seem silly to think that a film that features bug-like aliens somehow rings true with social commentary, but that is what Blomkamp manages to achieve.

1. Inglourious Basterds

It seems Quentin Tarantino has decided to stop making small crime dramas and start making epics. He began in 2003 with his martial arts epic, Kill Bill. This year, we saw his war epic, Inglourious Basterds. The film is everything we have come to expect from Tarantino. We get twenty minute bouts of exceptionally written dialogue, and abrupt scenes of brutal violence. We also get one of the most menacing villains ever in Colonel Hans Landa, played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz. Tarantino capitalizes on this feeling in the most unexpected and satisfying way. Not just a great movie, but, in my opinion, the best movie of the year.

I saw a lot of movies this year, but I did not see everything. If your pick for best movie of 2009 does not appear on my list, I may have missed it. Leave a comment and let me know what I should look for to rent over the coming weeks.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




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