Top Ten Films of 2009 – my personal choices

Sometimes it can be hard to compile a truly cohesive “Best Of” list – do you want to masquerade one’s own highbrow credentials, or is it simply a question of which film had you guzzling the most buckets of popcorn? Ultimately it boils down to a smidgen of personal taste, and how well one thinks the film has achieved what it set out to do.

2008 was a comparatively easy year for my own personal Top 10 Films, as I could quite happily say The Dark Knight and then repeat myself another 9 times. This year, there has been a dearth of truly epoch-shifting films such as Nolan’s masterpiece, but at the same time there has been a subtle progression in movies and their consumption.

Anyway, enough foreplay, let’s get on with it …

10 Crank 2 / Observe & Report

So I start the list by cheating? Good start. Crank 2 and Observe & Report share something intrinsic in their DNA – they are both profoundly absurd, distressing, and wrong on pretty much every level. They are comedies, but so alienating that it takes a particularly twisted mind to see the humour. Consequently I think they were both grossly misunderstood by the majority of the movie-going public, which is a shame. Not a popular choice I suppose, but i think they were both done a disservice and bad press coloured their reception.

9 Moon

Shot on a shoestring but amazingly crisp and elegant to behold, Moon was a sci-fi that led you down several paths of expectation and confounded each one. Sam Rockwell delivers yet another powerhouse performance that could lead to some awards if the internet is to be believed. An excellent debut feature from a young British director.

8 Looking For Eric

Working class Northern kitchen sink took a surreal turn in Ken Loach’s film. Highly strung post office worker smokes a joint and promptly hallucinates his football hero Eric Cantona dispensing pseduo-philosophical soundbites and self-help advice. Despite its heritage, a heartwarming and uplifting film that puts a spring in your step.

7 In The Loop

AKA The Thick of It: The Movie. Armando Iannucci has had his hand in the most notable and greatest British comedy of the past two decades – this political comedy was no exception. Fast talking, bile-spitting, double crossing, tail chasing. Like The West Wing had tourrettes, and hated itself.

6 The Brothers Bloom

A quirky comedy that seemed to get little coverage in the UK – from the director of Brick, Adrien Brody & Mark Ruffalo play the eponymous brothers who look to scam Rachel Weisz’s kooky heiress out of an awful lot of money. Intelligent and graceful – imagine if you will Oceans Eleven devoid of smugness and filmed by Wes Anderson.

5 Drag Me To Hell

Spider Man 3 was by all accounts unutterably awful – it took a small budget and a breath of fresh air for Sam Raimi to lick his spider-wounds and get his mojo back in this zippy gross-out horror that felt closer to Evil Dead than anything in the 20-odd years since. I recently read a theory that this is all an allegory about terminal anorexia. Make of that what you will, but it was great to see a master of the art restored to his full powers.

4 Star Trek / Watchmen

Remember the beginning of 2009? Remember the hype? The internet fan-boy baiting? The flame wars and sniping? Wasnt it fun? No. Personally, I didnt enjoy 300 so didn’t hold out much hope for Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic work; much to my pleasant surprise, it didnt dumb down (which may have been its downfall – a 3-hour, 18-rated film about superhero neuroses is hardly likely to outsell a an 80-minute film about teenagers getting impaled on various car parts). Watchmen had its naysayers but i think it will hold up in retrospect.

As for Star Trek, it was quite simply this year’s Iron Man – snarky, cool, and most importantly consistently entertaining. It really showed up the rest of this year’s Action Blockbusters for the derivative damp squibs and micro-managed misfires that they truly were.

3 Inglorious Basterds

Tarantino grows up, world movie-going public is genuinely surprised and impressed.

2 UP

Pixar can do no wrong. Even the hard sell of a grumpy old man isolated with a fat boy scout manages to reap a tear-inducing storyline, beautiful iconic images, rip-roaring action sequences, and the best 3D work seen to date (until Avatar!)

1 District 9

Unquestionably my favourite film of the year, the first half’s slow burn of political allegory and thinly veiled South African apartheid is provocative and engaging enough to get some off the old grey matter fired up. That gives way into the second half’s ridiculously full-on action sequences, several moments of “Holy Shit That Was Fuckin’ Cool,” and evil humans being splattered all over the screen by super-powered alien mech-warrior suits.

Those that didnt enjoy it chose to pick holes in plot inconsistencies or the more obtuse moments, but i can honestly say i loved every minute of the film and cannot wait for whatever the director chooses to do next.

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