OFCS members ponder the question:
“What’s your favorite movie of 2009, and why?”
John J. Puccio, DVDtown:
I enjoy films that move me, that make me feel or think or question something, films that evoke happiness, joy, sorrow, pain, excitement, whatever. Pixar’s Up did just that. Indeed, it elicited a whole range of feelings from me, leaving me wanting to see it, to experience it, again and again. And maybe the gorgeous animation helped, too.
Edward Howard, Only the Cinema:
There was no more exciting cinematic experience in 2009 than Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the film that confirmed what QT’s admirers have long believed: that there are untold emotional and aesthetic depths to the director’s pop-culture namedropping and compulsive movie-referencing tics.
Steve Biodrowski, Cinefantastique:
Star Trek was my favorite movie of 2009, against expectations. The idea of rebooting the franchise seemed too commercially calculated to yield a movie that would be anything but a Hollywood hamburger, but the film turned out to be the best of both worlds, working for fans and newbies alike. The secret to its success lies in the screenplay. Orci and Kurtzman realized there were certain familiar tropes that had to be delivered, but more important they realized that the familiar character shtick had to be more than just shtick — it had to reflect who the characters were beneath the skin. The result is an absolute delight. I went to the first screening at the local cinema; as the credits rolled I walked out to the box office, bought another ticket, and went back in to watch the next screening.
A.J. Hakari, Blogcritics:
Watchmen, for encompassing everything I look for in a film: thought-provoking themes and rousing entertainment. Zack Snyder engaged my eyes as much as my mind, and for that, I tip my hat off to the man.
Kevin LaForest, Montreal Film Journal:
Avatar, no question about it. For the groundbreaking use of performance capture and 3D, sure, but mostly because James Cameron is probably the best modern action/sci-fi director in Hollywood and on top of that, he knows how to write simple but involving stories featuring characters we truly care about.
Pablo Villaca, Cinema em Cena:
Departures. A profoundly touching story that, with a refreshingly direct way, discards any attempt of melodrama while developing its characters and their relationships in a mature and sensitive manner.
Mark H. Harris, BlackHorrorMovies.com:
For all the hype about Avatar presenting something we’ve never seen before on screen, I found District 9 to be just as visually impressive — but with a much better script and more unique storytelling. The digital effects aren’t as extensive or as immersing as those in Avatar, but that’s what’s so stunning about D9’s CGI. Unlike Avatar, which takes you to a cartoonish, unreal world, D9’s effects integrate seamlessly with real-world locations and people — arguably a more difficult task, given the myriad of awkward green screen and CGI efforts over the past 20 years. The “how’d they do that” quotient is off the charts in D9, a true indicator of that elusive thing known as “movie magic.”
That said, the script is what truly floored me about District 9. The content and tone are impossible to pin down into one genre: it’s part sci fi, part action, part dark comedy, part faux documentary, part sociopolitical drama, part satire, with the gore of a horror movie and even a touch of melancholy romance. It’s a refreshingly unique blend, and given how hard it is to define, I’m impressed that the studio was able to market it as successfully as it did. D9‘s story is no less socially relevant or allegorical than Avatar‘s and is much more nuanced, with characters who operate in the gray area between good and evil and issues that can’t be resolved by one big fire fight.
Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic:
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Herzog + Cage = more hilarious cool than you can possibly handle. If not for that, Richard Kelly’s lovably loopy The Box might’ve taken it.
MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com:
District 9. It’s been a long time since I felt absolutely compelled to return to the multiplex again and again just for the experience of being immersed in a movie, but this one kept drawing me in. And I never tired of it.
Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat:
My favorite and my best movie of 2009 are the same: Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire. Despite the awkward title, this is an all-around terrific film. I tend to be a fan of movies that feel like a slice of somebody’s life. In this case, the life of the main character involves poverty, illiteracy, an incestuous absentee father, and an abusive mother. Tough subject matter, but what makes Precious so wonderful is that it portrays this girl’s situation with devistating realism while also finding time for humor and, in the end, a bit of hope. That’s a rare thing for a movie to be able to do; Precious pulls it off brilliantly. I have a feeling that I will never forget this film.
Anton Bitel, Channel 4 Film:
It’s an impossible call between:
Pontypool: The only 2009 film that I felt compelled to watch again (and again) — and that offered something radically different with each viewing.
A Serious Man: From the writing through the performances to the mise en scene and score, this was pure pleasure from start to finish.
Fantastic Mr Fox: Easily the best adapted screenplay of 2009, and the only “family movie” this year that was thoroughly enjoyed by every member of my immediate family.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: I still have absolutely no idea whether it was good or bad, but my jaw remains rooted to the floor.
Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:
A Prophet, by Jacques Audiard. I know this film isn’t eligible in the OFCS awards, but it’s the one movie I saw in 2009 that I simply can’t get out of my head. There were more elegant, more entertaining, more heart-stirring films last year, but this one is destined to be a classic for the way it redefines the prison drama and gets us so deeply into one young man’s head that we start to feel his guilt and understand his descent (ascent?) into criminal mastery. Tahar Rahim’s introspective yet fierce central performance combines perfectly with Jacques Audiard’s prickly, telling direction. Whenever you get the chance to see it, don’t miss it.
Betty Jo Tucker, ReelTalkReviews.com:
In this crazy world of ours, finding a tr
ue friend has to be one of life’s most treasured gifts. The Soloist, a film blessed with superb performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, presents this theme through contrasting scenes of great beauty and gritty realism. Seamlessly combining topnotch acting, splendid cinematography, elegant music, impressive writing and a humanistic approach, The Soloist is my favorite movie of 2009.
Wesley Lovell, The Oscar Guy:
For me, District 9 represents the year’s best effort. Not only does it restore my faith in Science Fiction as a genre that entertains and educates (unlike the nothing-but-popcorn Star Trek flick) without pandering to the lowest common denominator in attempt to draw folks to the box office. It stands firmly with the best of the genre, comparing favorably to classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Blade Runner. And like those films, it’s not just a science fiction film, it’s an example great filmmaking.
Jonathan Richards, FilmFreak.be:
I don’t think I had a better time in the movies this year than at Pirate Radio. It probably wasn’t the best movie of the year, but then what’s better than pure enjoyment? Richard Curtis makes movies that sometimes cause critics to sniff, but audiences love them.
Pirate Radio is loosely based on the historical truths of an era when British rock ruled the world but couldn’t get the time of day on the BBC, which controlled England’s airwaves with a hand of iron and an ear of tin. Into the breach stepped Radio Rock, a sort of Radio Free Britain broadcasting rock ‘n’ roll 24/7 from a ship moored in international waters off the coast of England. This, at least, is the way Curtis tells it in his fictionalized take on the guerilla stations like Radio Caroline that made a commercial end run around the restrictions of government-run broadcasting in Britain. Curtis’s movie is loosely based on the historical truths of the time, but it isn’t meant as a documentary, or even a docucomedy. It’s just a hell of a lot of fun.
Dave Johnson, DVD Verdict:
Taken. Sure, this movie came out like 12 years ago in the rest of the world, but what a much-needed shot of unapologetic bad-assery this was for 2009. You’ve got a lethal protagonist whose motivations are clear (rescue daughter from the scum of the earth) and a nonstop procession of sex slavers that deserve every bit of brutality that comes their way.
You know, sometimes you just want to sit down and toss in a flick with a dude whose violence you can totally get behind.
Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic:
In the Loop is a horror film that plays like a comedy. More than any other movie I’ve seen this year, its has stayed with me by revealing a world that neither Dante nor Poe could imagine. And sadly, this environment bears an uncomfortable resemblance to our own.
All of this would be unbearable if it weren’t so damn funny. As the Prime Minister’s tyrannical hatchet man Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi turns cursing into a new art form and maintains a state of constant fury without missing a beat. Iannucci and his team of co-screenwriters toss out dozens of memorable lines that a terrific cast (including Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Tom Hollander and David Rasche) deliver with consistent aplomb.