Oscar Time! My Top Movies of 2009

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Since Sunday will be the Academy Awards ceremony, I thought I would write about my favorite movies of the year. I didn’t realize I had seen so many movies last year. Nor did I fully realize, until starting research on this post, that so many good movies were released last year that I haven’t seen yet.  I know last year I kind of tricked you by posting my favorite movies I had watched in 2008, despite some of them being almost 25 years old! So, for you faithful readers, here’s the non-tricky list.

I don’t really put much stock in a lot of what the Academy has to say about the movies they deem “Best,” and I have a very different set of “likes,” so this is my own personal list of things that moved me. Things that made me sqee with delight, things that made me cry, things that opened my eyes, things that made me laugh so deep and things that made my heart want to burst.

Favorite Imaginative Movies:

Coraline. I have written about this movie before; but it is too marvelous to not continue to expound upon its beauty. Popcorn cherry trees, button-eyed horrors and beautiful scenes make this movie a definite must-see for anyone who has an active imagination.

Up! Up touched me on all the aforementioned levels. With how popular it has become, it seems to have done that to many people; I even found an Up! – inspired wedding! This is a definite re-watch, over and over, throughout the years.

Paper Heart. The paper doll-type puppets Charlene Yi made for some of the stories are so cute and unabashedly childlike, as much as I wanted it to be a real sort of falling love on set sort of story, those puppets eased the pain.

Brothers Bloom. I have liked Rachel Weisz since the Mummy, so I will give her a pass for Fred Clause and Definitely, Maybe.  Her character in this film is great. A jack of all trades and enraptured by none, until she finds confidence men and Brothers Bloom. The only thing about the movie is that it has the “Apatow Occurence”- it’s about 20-30 minutes too long.

Favorite Genre-Pushing Movies:

Adventureland. I would put this in the teen summer flick genre, but that kind of cheapens how great this movie is. It’s thoughtful, the ancillary characters are more fleshed out than most one-liner sidekicks and, with the exception of one-face lip-biter Kristen Stewart trying to ruin every scene she’s in, the movie is worth it.

The Road. As post-apocalyptic stories go, this definitely pushes the edge. There is barely any action (no Tank Girls or Mad Max’s to be found), and only two characters, who barely speak to each other. I read the book before I saw the movie, and if you only saw the movie you are missing out on so much. It’s hard to make a movie like this without having either an omniscient narrator, or the main character flashing back and replaying the story as a diary, so his thoughts are known to the audience. You don’t get that here, and the movie is better for it.

Big Fan. If you get on Netflix and look up ‘Big Fan,’ you get this picture:

a feel-good looking movie about a guy enjoying his favorite game: football. WARNING: THIS IS NOT THE MOVIE. They should put the real, real-awesome poster for it, which is a more accurate picture of this man, I think:

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I think if this was the poster, a lot more people would understand what they were getting into with this film. It’s a great sports-obsession story, but never makes it goofy or silly, but incredibly pathetic, saddening and yet, you can still feel a connection. If you have ever had something that consumed your life, you will connect with this movie on some level.

Funny People. It’s an Apatow Production. It has Adam Sandler (not that he’s any sort of gauge for ‘funniness’ anymore), Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and plenty of other talented comedians. The title even has Funny in it! But this is a great movie because the laughs and the tears and the drama and the crushes are all timed and spaced and converge just like real life. Friends don’t get together at Thanksgiving and just laugh and laugh and poke fun at each other. Someone has too much wine and waxes poetic about their life, someone flirts with a girl you’re too scared to flirt with, it’s very close to home. Maybe seeing it coming from bigger-than-life comedians put people off.

The Hurt Locker. I haven’t seen that many war movies, but I do know that this one definitely pushes the genre into new, better territory. I know not many people liked Jarhead, but I liked The Hurt Locker for the same reasons I liked Jarhead: because of the interaction between characters shoved together. I know that is usually the heart of any war movie, but these two, maybe because they are about wars within my lifetime, wars in which hand to hand combat is minimal to non-existent. You barely even see your enemy – that’s what your bombs are trained to do now. Everything is more tactical and preemptive strategies, so you’re working more internally, and in movies like this, it’s all about what-and who-around you pushes the buttons within.

Best Horror:

Drag Me to Hell. I will never lose buttons again because of this flick.

Paranormal Activity. Amazingly low-budget, and a great execution of story, but it is destined to be a Blair With Project mess if they move forward on sequels, prequels, or anything of the sort.

Zombieland. Tons of gore and tons of choice dialogue. “The List.” Woody Harrelson. That man is extraordinary. Going from No Country to Semi-Pro, Surfer Dude to the Messenger. He is as awesome an actor you can get. Unless of course, you bring a certain Zombieland cameo into the mix.

The Others:

Julie/Julia. I love the concept as a blog, but I really wished it was just a Julia Child biopic. I wonder if Meryl Streep ever gets tired of being marvelous and winning awards. If she has started using some for random things, like taking a SAG Award to “key” somebody’s car. Or lining her bathroom window with People’s Choice Award Stained Glass.

I Love You, Man. Jason Siegel is so great. He definitely has a better edge on the leading man category than Seth Rogen, and he has a great range. While the movie wasn’t the best, some parts were spectacular. I think all the scenes that mention Rush are my favorite.

Taken. My guilty pleasure bad movie. It’s action packed and a pretty coherent story for the most part, but you can’t really screw up a daddy-daughter rescue flick, can you?

Whip It! I loved the book for the same reasons as Coraline: Strong, clever female protagonist, fighting with parents. The movie was a bit more eh than I would have liked, but they managed to put a lot into a 2 hour movie that I would have made into a miniseries. Plus, Eagles of Death metal and amazing roller derby names have special places in my heart. If I ever grab some skates I’m thinking of either Hurt Vonnegut, Bettie Rage, TinkerHelle or MakeHer Mark.

This is the list of movies from 2009 that I haven’t seen yet:

A Serious Man

Where the Wild Things Are

Black Dynamite

Bad Lieutenant

Ong Bak 2

Up in the Air

Inglorious Basterds


Jennifer’s Body

Fantastic Mr. Fox

p.s. If you do like to get into the awards spirit, Kim Vallee has an excellent post about a simple and fun Oscar Party!

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