Movies of the Year 2009

Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In
As bloody as you might expect from a vampire movie set in the Stockholm hinterland in dead of winter but under the surface a very sweet story of two vulerable people who just want to look after each other.

Anvil
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
A formerly massive but now just-scraping-by metal band are filmed planning a comeback album and tour. You’d be forgiven for thinking this sounds like Spinal Tap recharché especially since the drummer is called Rob Reiner and the montage sequence of back catalogue covers is virtually lifted from that film, but even the most anti-rock fans will find themselves shelling out for the new album after seeing this.

Revanche
Revanche
Marvelously paced will he?/won’t he? revenge tale. This builds from something pretty slow to a really classy dénouement.

Tokyo!
Tokyo!
Triptych of three half hour dramas all set in the emponynous city. Leo Carax’s segment is fantastic in parts but starts to come apart at the seams ever so slightly later on. Gondry’s piece is as inventive and as nutty as you might imagine while Joon ho Bong’s testifies as to why he is one of the best film makers working today.

Revolutionary Road
Revolutionary Road
OK, so all the hype centered around this first reunion of Leo and Kate since Titanic but the star of the piece is Michael Shannon (pictured) who totally steals both of the scenes he pops up in with his jaw-dropping appearances.

Up
Up
I ummed and Ahhed over this entry for quite some time, initially dismissing it because I thought it was for the kids. On the contrary – it’s far too sophisticated for the fun stealers.
This is up there with The Incredibles, Pixar’s previous best effort, for character and pacing and, frankly, the first ten minutes are about as close to perfect storytelling as makes no difference.

Notorious
Notorious
As biopics go this was more or less paint-by-numbers: working class boy struggles against the odds/makes good/dies before his time, but it is told with such heart that it is electric to watch. Wonderful central performance by Woolard and, hell, how can you fault a film with such a great reenactment of ‘Who Shot Ya?’ live in Sacramento?

Watchmen
Watchmen
I still have a few problems with omissions from the original text and of course the modified ending but this is about as good an adaptation as it’s possible to get from, yes, the best graphic novel ever publishedTM. Captures a society in extended decay perfectly and in the dual central characters of The Comedian and Rorschach paints a disturbingly attractive portrait of fascist heroism. As ever with Zach Snyder’s films this was too violent but despite that, a near masterpiece.


Moon
Moon
Slow-moving but totally engaging one man (or should that be two man?) play with Rockwell alone on the Lunar surface at the tail end of a three year stretch when he discovers all is not as it should be.

Inglorious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds
This has everything in it a Tarantino movie should have. Homages to umpteen different men-on-a-mission films, preposterous scenery-chewing performances from well know stars (Pitt), mesmerizing performances by unknown or forgotten older leading men (Waltz), beautifully written and meaty roles for female protagonists (Laurent and, to a lesser degree, Kruger) and spare scenes held together by top drawer dialogue. His best film for 15 years.

Sin Nombre
Sin Nombre
There was a lot of hype this year around Criterion’s release of El Norte, often referenced as being the definitive immigrant story. On reflection that film wishes it could be even half as engaging, incisive or poignant as this one.

Just missed out

Frost/Nixon
Synechdoche, NY
In The Loop
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Paranormal Activity
Star Trek
(some silly moments and a goofy bad guy but playing out the first 12 minutes in real time was inspired)


Recently Discovered in the Archives

Dry Summer
A Letter Never Sent
The Cranes are Flying
Breaking the Waves
The Innocents