The Best Films of the Year:


Zombieland

10. Zombieland

— Trying to fill in the last spot, I debated a number of films and decided to go with what I still feel was the most fun I had in a movie theater all year, “Zombieland”. The surprise cameo in the middle only made the grin on my face widen that much more and while zombie purists and horror fans may find the scare factor a bit low here, that only helps scaredy cats like me.

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Trucker

9. Trucker

Michelle Monaghan delivers a fantastic performance here, hopefully setting her up for more feature roles and not just as the lead character’s girlfriend or wife. In “Trucker”, she carries this film ably and confidently, crafting a strong but equally vulnerable character that was one of the most sincere I’ve seen all year.

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Up

8. Up

— Pixar once again delivers a superb quality film, that just happens to be animated. While I still hold “WALL·E” closer to my heart, there’s a five minute montage near the beginning of “Up” that rates against almost any other scene in film this year. Even better now that it’s on DVD, the less than spectacular 3D isn’t a factor on your home TV set so you won’t bother trying to recapture that extra element (which you shouldn’t have paid for in theaters to begin with).

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The Messenger

7. The Messenger

— What sets “The Messenger” apart is that it comes from an entirely new angle for a “war film”. Rather than being solely about the difficulties of transitioning back into civilian life, director/co-writer Oren Moverman adds the element of the Casualty Notification Officer. They have the unfortunate duty of notifying family of soldiers who have died serving their country. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton all give good performances and hopefully this will help expand the scope of stories being told in relation to America’s military actions over the last decade.

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Inglourious Basterds

6. Inglourious Basterds

— While the majority of my fellow San Diego Film Critics Society members saw fit to crown Tarantino’s latest with the Best Film award, it just didn’t connect with me. I appreciate the high quality of work that went into the production, the wonderful ensemble performance and think it’s Quentin’s best since “Reservoir Dogs”. But as good as it all was, it’s basically a shoot ‘em up pic where the audience can rejoice in all the bloody glory because no one likes Nazis.

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Up in the Air

5. Up in the Air

— “Up in the Air” boasts one of the better ensemble performances of the year, a well adapted screenplay and did a nice job of balancing comedy with drama. Clooney is still Clooney but it works here, it’s nice to see a significant role for under-appreciated Vera Farmiga and a bit odd to get a good performance from someone linked to the “Twilight” franchise (Anna Kendrick).

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Goodbye Solo

4. Goodbye Solo

— A moving story of a taxi driver befriending a lonely passenger, the friendship forces each of them to take stock of their lives. Beautifully acted and falling far too under the radar, independent film fans should not miss out.

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The Hurt Locker

3. The Hurt Locker

— Director Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a powerful story of men placed in impossibly stressful situations and the bond between them. Jeremy Renner’s performance is outstanding and seeing his character peeled away like an onion over the course of the film is one of the more satisfying cinematic elements of the year.

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500 Days of Summer

2. (500) Days of Summer

— I knew going into this film that it had a great chance of appealing to me on a personal level, what with the casting of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. However, I was pleased to find that it also boasted a wonderfully clever script that bent the romantic comedy genre on its ear, included a great soundtrack and director Marc Webb and his team blended it all together so well. And as unoriginal as non-linear chronology can be, Webb, the editor Alan Edward Bell and the script showed just how effective the technique can be.

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A Single Man

1. A Single Man

— Overall, I think 2009 was a rather mediocre for films and while I eventually came up with this Top 10, figuring out what came in at the top spot was almost a slam dunk. “A Single Man” was one of only a few films that actually stopped me in my tracks. Colin Firth’s portrayal of a man living out the day like it’s going to be his last (since he plans to end it all that night) is nothing short of phenomenal. Director Tom Ford crafted a film dominated by its melancholy tone and oozing with beautiful camera shots and cinematography. I wouldn’t qualify this as a happy film so don’t see this if you’re having a bad day but at some point, when life is going okay for you, check this one out.



The Worst Films of the Year:


Funny People

5. Funny People

— Perhaps the most ironic title of the year, “Funny People” is actually two movies. The first is a “hilarious” look at a comedian with cancer. The second involves that same comedian and a past love in a romantic entanglement that made me wish for a power outage or projector failure. Don’t be deceived on this one, save yourself the two plus hours to dig a hole, kick a rock or perform some other more useful activity.

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Miss March

4. Miss March

Craig Robinson plays a character named Horsedick.mpeg and is the best part of the film. Need I say more?

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Serious Moonlight

3. Serious Moonlight

— Why oh why did a good actor (Timothy Hutton) agree to be in this? The comedy isn’t funny. The plot is offensive. The dialogue is painful and the only good thing about this film is that I can easily use it as a barometer for future friendships. If you liked this, you’re probably not going to be my friend.

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It's Complicated

2. It’s Complicated

— While this film was well received by another reviewer on this site, as far as I’m concerned the film could have caught on fire in the first ten minutes and saved me precious time in my life. The setups in the film are unfunny, the conversations between Streep and her female friends are inane (at best) and the only relationship I was rooting for was a quick hook up between alcohol and my liver to stem the pain. This wasn’t even worth making fun of as the sheer craptitude of it made coming up with my own funny jokes too tiring.

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Next Day Air

1. Next Day Air

— When it came to saying this was the worst film of year, the reason was very simple. No other film was quite so close to making me walk out of the theater than “Next Day Air”. It’s supremely boring, has no logic and shouldn’t even have been direct to DVD – this just never needed to be made at all.



The Most Underrated/Overlooked
Films of the Year:


The Boys Are Back

The Boys Are Back

— With a self-admitted fetish for Australian film, it probably comes as no surprise that I loved this film. However, I’m not so blind as to ignore all common sense. The simple fact is that Clive Owen delivers an award caliber performance and that few films in 2009 had more heart than this. If you’re looking for a touching story of family, and all that the term can mean, look no further.

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Adam

Adam

— “Adam” simply connected with me. It ranks higher on my personal favorites of the year than many in the Top 10, simply because of the connection I felt with Rose Byrne’s character as she struggled to navigate a relationship with Hugh Dancy. The ups and downs of their time together felt very honest and I found myself very much engrossed in their world.

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Moon

Moon

— One of the best science fiction films in the last decade, “Moon” sees Sam Rockwell as the caretaker of a mining operation on that big piece of cheese in the night sky. An accident leads to a startling discovery with implications on both a personal and societal scale. Spoiling things would be a no no, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this little gem (made on a $5 million dollar budget) is a can’t miss. It’s stark in its execution but heavy on the discussion you and your friends can have afterwards.


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