Top Ten Films of 2009

During the school break I took on the serious task of trying to watch as many movies as possible. I started by taking a whole bunch of critics top 10 lists and compiled them until I ended up with a list of the 40 best films of 2010. I still have a few left to watch (and there are a few I haven’t found a copy of yet), but, since school is starting on Monday, I probably won’t get through them for quite awhile. So I decided to make a top 10 list based on the 30-35 that I have seen so far. The top 10 are ranked and then there are a few extras that I thought were really good, but didn’t quite make the cut.

1. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins)
I actually saw Medicine for Melancholy in 2008 at the Boston International Film Festival, but it only went into major release in 2009, so I’m counting it. The themes of urban life and race that run through the movie make a fascinating background as the hipster cyclists spend the day together after a one night stand. It’s a great urban movie, made inexpensively and with a great soundtrack. I read one review that said that no one was going to have to make a “San Francisco I Love You” because Berry Jenkins already did.

2. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)The Coen’s most recent movie manages to be one of the best Minnesotan movies ever made and one of the best (slash most) Jewish movies ever made. Several months after watching it, I’m still not sure what it’s about, but that’s definitely OK. And the Ron Meshbesher references were great inside jokes.

3. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)Classic Anderson… even if it is animated (or claymation or whatever).

4. Der Baader Meinhof Komplex / Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel)Baader Meinhof is another 2008 movie that got wide release in 2009. In the vain of Was Tun Wenn’s Brennt and The Edukators, the German film industry is working hard to make sense of the radicalism of the 60’s and 70’s and what it means today. The acting is great and the film makes the protagonists both appealing and disturbing.

5. Disgrace (Steve Jacobs)A South African film based on J.M Coetzee’s novel and staring John Malkovich, Disgrace didn’t get very much press. It’s a great movie and an interesting allegory of the country’s recent past. John Malkovich uses his natural creepiness to great affect.

6. Los Abrazos Rotos – Broken Embraces (Pedro Almondóvar)One of the two movies on this year’s list that’s a sort of film-within-a-film. Are directors investigating the state of the industry, or is it a matter of write what you know? Either way, the acting is great, the story is interesting and Penelope Cruz deserved to be nominated for this, not the ridiculous Nine. Apparently the Academy doesn’t count you as an actress if you aren’t speaking English.

7. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)This probably would have been much higher on the list if Brad Pitt hadn’t been in it. You can’t play characters that ridiculous when your that recognizable. Also, the final scenes, while somewhat gratifying, weren’t my favorite.

8. Das weisse Band – The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)The year’s second German film… I’m not sure if that’s because I enjoy watching them more than films in other languages or if they were especially good, but either way I enjoyed it.

9. Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze) The amazing sets, costumes and general visuals would probably have been enough to get this movie on the list even if childhood nostalgia hadn’t guaranteed it’s place. Dave Egger’s novelized version is better though. There were several scenes in the book that would have really added to the film.

10. Precious (Lee Daniels)This movie was so stuffed full of images that you just don’t see in the media that it had to make the list, even if the daydream scenes were derivative (watch The Wackness). The debates around the movie were just as fascinating. Definitely worth watching.

Runners-up:

Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow), Sugar (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck), District 9 (Neill Blomkamp), An Education (Lone Scherfig)