Best of 2009
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Review by: Larry Thomas
It’s the time of year when film writers everywhere offer up their “Ten Best” lists. Granted, you’ll not see movies of this quality in one sitting, or even over a couple of months. And, it’s entirely possible you may have missed some of these jewels simply because of time constraints, or maybe you never heard of them before.
Here is a subjective list of the ten best films of 2009 according to me. My favorite film of the year is listed first. The others are in no particular order.
Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino has made his masterpiece with this revisionist version of World War II, and how it should have ended had a film buff been in charge. Great dialogue, fascinating characters, and terrific performances, especially Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, and Eli Roth.
Up – The latest Pixar animated treat is a joy under any circumstances, but especially when seen in 3-D. It’s full of fun, heart, characters, villainy, and many other ingredients that go into a great motion picture, whether live action or animated.
Dark and Stormy Night – You haven’t seen this, because it hasn’t been released, and is likely headed direct to DVD sometime this year. Director Larry Blamire, of Lost Skeleton of Cadavra fame, has created a low-budget masterpiece of fun. Basically a spoof of thirties-style melodramas in which the mysterious will is being read in a spooky house at midnight, the zany characters and hysterical dialogue ricochet all over the place as if being shot from a pinball machine. One viewing is not enough to assimilate everything. Watch for this…it’s a “must-see.”
Let the Right One In – Not only the best vampire film of the decade, but likely one of the two or three best ever made. Filmed in a bleak Swedish winter, this pre-teen vampire tale is full of stunning images that convey dread and foreboding, one sensational set piece in a swimming pool, which relies a lot on your imagination, and a really creepy score.
Coraline – Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, the team responsible for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is a very dark fairy tale about a young girl and her adoptive parents living in a strange house in Michigan. It’s the second 3-D animated film on my list, and is a visual stunner.
The Wrecking Crew – No, not the Dean Martin – Matt Helm film from the sixties. This is a documentary about studio musicians in Los Angeles who did the lions share of work in creating hit songs for The Beach Boys, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and more. It’s focused on guitarist Tommy Tedesco and his compadres, and the music, footage and stories are all priceless.
The Hurt Locker – The first of two Mideast war themed films to make the cut, this is directed by Katherine Bigelow, features mostly a cast of newcomers, and is simply riveting.
Julie and Julia – Meryl Streep can do anything, and here she is given the role of a lifetime in recreating the life and times of chef Julia Child. Not only will you completely believe she is Child, it will also leave you starving, and wanting to immediately start cooking lessons.
Summer Hours – Juliette Binoche stars in this French drama about a family of siblings dealing with the death of their larger-than-life mother. The entire cast is wonderful, and the script has a lot to say about family relationships.
The Messenger – The other Mideast war film on my list is set in the United States, and does not involve combat. It’s the story of the Army’s Casualty Notification Department, and how it’s their job to notify the next of kin about a loved one’s death. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster are mesmerizing as the deliverers of doom, while Samantha Morton shines as a widow they visit. It’s extremely emotional and poignant, and well worth your time.
Since you’re likely to see these on DVD, they are all good enough to buy, keep on your shelf, and show to friends as examples of sensationally good filmmaking.
And, as you think “movies” in the coming weeks, don’t forget that it’s the smaller, under-the-radar titles that are likely to produce your most cherished movie memories. Don’t just run out to see the over-hyped flick of the week. Do some homework; find something unusual to watch that you may have never considered. It will make for a rewarding cinematic experience.