For time and sanity’s sake, I tried to restrain myself for these reviews and mostly kept it to a sentence or two. I’m sure you’re disappointed.
Crystal’s Top 25 Movies of 2009
1. Inglourious Basterds (Dir: Quentin Tarantino)
Unfairly robbed of the 2010 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It’s no mistake that the final line of the film is “I think this just might be my masterpiece.”
2. Adventureland (Dir: Greg Mottola)
An unexpectedly honest, insightful and nostalgic love letter to a youthful summer gone by. Much better than the trailers indicated, I hope people will continue to discover this gem on DVD.
3. An Education (Dir: Lone Scherfig)
This film seemed to come out of nowhere for me and it was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever encountered. Witty, beautiful, moving, poetic – and I’m just talking about Carey Mulligan here! (Sandra Bullock who? It shoulda been you, Carey!)
4. (500) Days Of Summer (Dir: Marc Webb)
Unfortunately this film seems to be suffering from a Juno-esque backlash at the moment, which is a shame because I found it to be one of the most relatable, delightful and touching “romantic comedies” I’ve ever seen. Trivia: I essentially had a nervous breakdown after the first time I saw this film. It’s that good.
5. Funny People (Dir: Judd Apatow)
Whoa. Gorgeously shot, exquisitely acted and mindtrippingly written. More people need to know about this movie.
I grew up watching the Star Trek TV series and a lot of the films, so I was giving J.J. Abrams some major side-eye when this project was announced. Miraculously, it turned out mostly amazing (seriously, Nero was just kind of hilarious villain-wise) and provided a great time at the movies. And also, Chris Fine Pine.
8. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Dir: Wes Anderson)
Another underrated gem, I actually think this delightfully bizarre stop-action comedy deserved to win the Best Animated Oscar over Up.
9. The Hangover (Dir: Todd Phillips)
Another film that seemed to come out of nowhere, what could have been just funny shenanigans are elevated to hysterically funny near-perfection thanks to a trio of excellent lead performances, two delightfully bizarre original songs and one baby that totally looked like a Carlos.
10. District 9 (Dir: Neil Blomkamp)
The fact that a brutally violent science fiction allegory about equality (with shades of apartheid), starring and brought to you by unknowns could go on to gross $210 million worldwide and be nominated for 4 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay) gives me hope in the modern movie industry.
11. A Serious Man (Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen)
Don’t ask me anything about what happened in this film, what it was about or what it meant. All I can tell you is that it blew me away.
12. Where the Wild Things Are (Dir: Spike Jonze)
Arguably the most daring film of 2009. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the film more than once, I was so emotional the first time. A dark, beautiful and haunting examination of the complexities and wonder that go hand in hand with childhood.
13. Up (Dir: Pete Docter)
I can’t even think about the first 5 minutes or the last 5 minutes of this movie without sobbing like a newborn. A lovely, devastatingly bittersweet story about the beauty of life’s little adventures.
14. Observe and Report (Dir: Jody Hill)
And now for something completely different: A twisted, disgusting, midnight black comedy that dares you to accept an increasingly deranged hero who literally lies, steals, rapes and kills. But that hero is Seth Rogen, your friendly neighborhood stoner! Surely, we’re supposed to be rooting for him! Right? Right?! BOOM, COMPLEX.
15. Zombieland (Dir: Ruben Fleischer)
Probably the most fun I had at a theater in 2009. At 87 minutes, this movie plays like a good old-fashioned rock song: fast, raucous and dirty, with plenty of blood, sweat and tears. (“Tears?,” you ask. Yes, TEARS. FROM HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER. The statute of spoiler limitations is totally up, can we talk about Bill Murray?!)
16. The Informant! (Dir: Steven Soderbergh)
I realize I keep describing movies on this list as bizarre, but trust me, this movie truly earns that title. It’s hilarious, it’s fascinatingly off-kilter and it’s based on a true story. No disrespect to Jason Bourne, but I believe this may be my favorite Matt Damon performance to date. (Robbed of an Oscar nom!)
17. Up in the Air (Dir: Jason Reitman)
An excellent film that is honestly only so far down on this list because I was left so emotionally exhausted by it. I think it’s a bittersweetly accurate snapshot of what relationships and priorities mean in the 21st century.
18. Away We Go (Dir: Sam Mendes)
Another movie I haven’t had the courage to watch a second time – I swear I can still feel the lump I had in my throat for almost the entire duration of this film. Smart script, likable cast and touching sentiments. Another underrated triumph.
19. I Love You, Man (Dir: John Hamburg)
The first welcome surprise of 2009, I Love You, Man took the standard RomCom recipe (except instead of Boy searches for Girl, we have Boy searches for Best Man) and followed it just enough to be considered both formulaic and subversive. And of course the fact that the film stars two men I would watch (and have watched) in anything doesn’t hurt.
20. The Brothers Bloom (Dir: Rian Johnson)
Like many film-goers, I had trouble finding this picture in theaters but when I came across it on DVD I was pleased to find that it was more than worth the wait. Stylish, exciting, clever and utterly unique, this is the kind of film that makes you appreciate movies.
21. The Hurt Locker (Dir: Kathryn Bigelow)
While I may poo-poo the Academy’s proclamation that this was the Best Picture of 2009, I wholeheartedly agree with them that The Hurt Locker was an extraordinary achievement in filmmaking.
22. In the Loop (Dir: Armando Iannucci)
A wacky yet oddly profound British satire of the world of politics, In the Loop surprisingly (not to mention deservedly) ended up garnering a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. A worthy Netflix pick if you haven’t seen it yet.
23. Jennifer’s Body (Dir: Karyn Kusama)
If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be: MISUNDERSTOOD. Sold as straight horror to teenage boys when it’s actually a darkly funny horror comedy about being a teenage girl, J. Bod was panned by both critics and theatrical audiences alike upon its release but is already slowly but surely gaining a cult audience on DVD and cable. Amanda Seyfried is adorable as always, Adam Brody turns in a scene-stealing supporting performance and Megan Fox ACTUALLY. EXPRESSES. EMOTION. That alone is worth a rental in my book.
24. World’s Greatest Dad (Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait)
Normally I’m not much for modern-day Robin Williams but it doesn’t take long to figure out that World’s Greatest Dad is not a normal film. Here, Williams gives the kind of remarkably restrained, thoughtful and sympathetic performance that I love to see comedians surprise me with. The film itself is smartly written and well worth a watch.
25. Watchmen (Dir: Zack Snyder)
SIGH. Despite all the things this movie isn’t, I still have to appreciate it for what it is: a meticulously faithful film adaptation of the unadaptable graphic novel. While not everything in the film is a slam dunk (-cough-MalinAckerman-cough-) or even makes sense (Nite Owl/Silk Spectre love scene, anyone?), it was still a memorable filmgoing experience to sit there and basically watch a book I’ve read so many times come to life on the screen in front of me. It could have been so much worse.
– The Invention of Lying (Dir: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson)
It started off strong with some unexpected (yet appreciated) dark humor and an interesting dialogue on religion yet it sadly devolved into a standard romantic comedy by the film’s end. (What happened?!) Had the film’s second half been more like the first, this easily could’ve slid into the top 10. Nevertheless, some good laughs, good cast, good try.
– The Damned United (Dir: Tom Hooper)
I know absolutely nothing about British football. I watched this movie and I still know absolutely nothing about British football. So therefore it’s extremely remarkable that I found this film as interesting as I did.
– Bruno (Dir: Larry Charles)
I think I may actually prefer this film to Borat. While it’s not always laugh-out-loud funny, Bruno is noteworthy for the fact that it seems almost entirely designed to push people’s buttons, whether it be the people Bruno is encountering in the film or the filmgoing audience itself. The sheer audacity that Sacha Baron Cohen and company display in this film is extraordinary.
Crystal’s Top 5 Most Disappointing Movies of 2009
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Dir: Michael Bay)
This poster basically tells you everything you need to know about this movie. It’s incredibly busy and action-packed, every inch of space is jam-packed with something straining for your attention and no matter how long you stare at it, you’re still not going to walk away with any semblance of an idea of what’s going on. WHERE’S SPIELBERG’S ADVICE WHEN YOU NEED IT?!
2. Whip It (Dir: Drew Barrymore)
An interesting phenomena is occurring with this film: I disliked it immensely; I found it condescending, artificial and trite. Upon further investigation, my opinion is in the general wheelhouse of the consensus among female viewers. But for some reason, I have yet to meet a man who is not head over heels in love with this film. What gives?
3. Public Enemies (Dir: Michael Mann)
The announcement of this film made me super excited to see it. The trailer for this made me super excited to see it. I saw the film and it was the exact opposite of super exciting. It was kind of really boring.
4. Extract (Dir: Mike Judge)
Office Space is a classic in my opinion and Idiocracy was a worthy follow-up. I don’t know what exactly happened here with Extract, as I enjoy just about everyone in the cast and the premise sounded interesting but something just didn’t click.
5. Taking Woodstock (Dir: Ang Lee)
Due to the outstanding performances from Demetri Martin and Jonathan Groff, I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit but I was a bit disappointed with it initially. It’s pretty long, pretty uneventful and it’s a film about Woodstock without actually showing you anything happening at Woodstock. I understand why that choice was made creatively, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be frustrated by it.
– Sunshine Cleaning (Dir: Christine Jeffs)
I wasn’t particularly invested in this movie enough to be disappointed by it and perhaps that’s the problem. Normally I like Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in just about anything and they both try their darndest here but this film was just not able to win me over. The comedy wasn’t funny, the drama wasn’t believable. To put it punnily, it was just a mess.
– Avatar (Dir: James Cameron)
Let me see, how do I put this? MOST OVERRATED MOVIE OF ALL TIME, SWEET JESUS.