Hey, I’m only a year and a half behind in looking back at 2009 in film. Actually, I think being way behind schedule as I am tends to be good. It gives me a little more perspective, a little less hype. It often turns out that the film most raved about at the time ends up fading to another picture. I think of 1994 when Forrest Gump grabbed all the headlines but The Shawshank Redemption turned out to be the best film.
Anyway, as far as 2009 goes, I saw nine of the ten best picture nominees. They follow with my thoughts and IMDB rating (out of 10). Remember that’s it’s very rare for me to rate a film a 9 or a 10.
Avatar: I wondered if I’d miss the 3D when I bought this on blu-ray. The short answer is no. The film wasn’t very original but was lovely to watch and thrilling. IMDB rating: 8.
The Blind Side: The crowd pleaser of 2009. I’m not unbiased since I read and enjoyed the book. I’d say it’s a little too neat a story, but it’s a real one. And who knew what talent we were wasting with Sandra Bullock? Rating: 7.
District 9: Another one of 2009’s great sci-fi movies. I knew nothing about this film when I rented it and was surprised by how smart and confident it was. I wish we’d get more science fiction like this — a story with ideas. Rating: 8.
An Education: This is in my queue but I have not seen it yet. If it winds up blowing my mind, I’ll let you know.
Inglorious Basterds: You know, I really wanted to love this film. The image composition is fantastic, the acting is good, the dialogue is fun. The opening scene is simply amazing. But the gore and violence are getting to me. Rating: 7, but it might go up in the future.
Precious: I just saw this film last night and am still recovering. It’s harrowing with a bit of inspiration. The suffering by the main character is almost absurd and the movie would completely fall apart were it not held together by two extraordinary acting performances. It’s one of those great films that I never want to see again. Rating: 8.
A Serious Man: I love the Coen brothers and this film was everything that’s good about them. Funny, intriguing and thought-provoking. Rating: 8.
Up: Another movie I wanted to love. The first 15 minutes are incredible. The rest of the movie is good, but not great. Rating: 7.
Up in the Air: Another movie I wanted to like more than I did. Clooney is really a great film-maker, both as an actor and a director. Rating: 7.
The Hurt Locker: I said elsewhere that it’s oscar win was a combination of giving the middle finger to Cameron while saying something about the Iraq War. It’s a good movie, even great at times. But I still don’t see why it won the Oscar. Precious would have been a bolder choice. Rating: 8.
So that’s the Academy. It was a good year for movies, but there was nothing I would call a modern classic.
According to the IMDB users, the best films with 20,000 or more votes were: Inglorious, Up, the Secrets in Their Eyes, Mary and Max, District 9, Avatar, Star Trek, A Prophet, Moon, 500 Days of Summer, the Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Hangover, Coraline, Zombieland, Up in the Air, the Girl with Dragon Tattoo and Watchmen. I’ve seen most of those. Star Trek I’ve talked about — good if a bit flawed. 500 Days of Summer was cute but ultimately forgettable. The Hangover was very funny and Watchmen was spectacular, if somewhat cold. Coraline was quite enjoyable.
I’m not sure what I’d peg as my favorite film of 2009. Star Trek will probably be on my screen more than any other film but it was far from the best film of the year. I would speculate that Inglorious will have the longest legacy. What really stood out about 2009 was the way sci-fi came roaring back, with four great sci-fi films, two of which were nominated for Best Picture.
Because I was fooling around withe IMDB, I decided to see what people rated as the best movies of the last five years. Here’s that list, with the caveat that the 2010 titles will sink with time.
The Dark Knight
Toy Story 3
The Lives of Others
Three Chris Nolan movies and two PIXAR films. I’m not sure how these will end up rating historically. I would tab Pan’s Labyrinth as the best among those. But looking over that list, they are mostly big pictures that made lots of money. I think Roger Ebert was right — the really artsy pictures that used to make up the classic have migrated to television.