An ‘Awards’ worthy Top Ten Movies of 2009

12.22.09 8 years ago 5 Comments

This wasn’t a particular amazing year for movies, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad one either.  In fact, it’s hard to remember a year so middle of the road in film quality as 2009.  It’s one reason why pundits such as this one are having such a tough time nailing down the last three to four slots in the Oscar race. 

Now, some will blame the Writer’s strike almost two years ago for this absence of “spectacular” work but that’s a sorry excuse and hardly explains the weak slate of independent film.  Plus, how can you knock 12 months that features a renaissance in hand drawn and stop motion animation?  Or that could provide such monster hits like “Star Trek,” “The Hangover” and “The Proposal” which were actually good movies.  And the Sundance, Toronto and Cannes Film Festivals all had pretty positive notices.  Sometimes, it’s just cyclical.  You can’t have the bum rush of critical breakthroughs such as in 2007 every year.

Now, HitFix’s Film Editor Drew McWeeny has already weighed in on his best of 2009, but Awards Campaign sees thins a big differently.  Take a gander yourself and see how you weigh in on the last year of the 00’s.

10. “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”
A complete surprise, Werner Herzog’s thriller about a New Orleans detective (Nic Cage) who is strung out on pain killers and drugs, but somehow manages to keep it all together turned out to be one of the most entertaining films of the year.  More importantly, Cage gives his first Oscar-worthy performance since “Adaptation” seven years ago.  A great movie that deserved a bigger audience.

9. “Up in the Air”

“Juno’s” Jason Reitman takes a big leap with his latest dramedy and is aided by a trio of fantastic turns by George Clooney, Vera Farminga and breakout star Anna Kendrick.  This is one “adult” movie that will be the favorite of a lot of moviegoers for some time.

8. “A Single Man”
Tom Ford’s directorial debut isn’t perfect, but the pitch perfect art direction surrounds two phenomenal performances by stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore (and Matthew Goode isn’t that bad either).  It’s a bit dramatic to say Firth is a revelation here, but the Brit solves all Ford’s problems with a truly heartbreaking and layered performance that is clearly the best work of his career.

7. “District 9”
It descends into a conventional action thriller in the third act, but the first two thirds of Neill Blomkamp’s drama is an intriguing and fascinating mix of geo politics and science fiction.  This is one film other filmmakers will be ripping off in terms of style and scope for years to come.

6. “A Prophet (Un prophete)”

Hands down the best foreign language film of the year.  A startling drama about a young man of arab descent whose jail sentence for a petty crime turns him into an unexpectedly sympathetic crime boss.  Oh, and it’s unclear when he’ll make it in English-language films, but at least in France a star is born in newcomer Tahar Rahim.

5. “Avatar”
Quite honestly, didn’t think James Cameron’s latest would even make the list let alone this high.  However, the visionary has created something truly remarkable in his 3-D undertaking. Images and moments that will have even Lucas and Spielberg’s jaws dropping to the floor.

4. “In the Loop”
Incredibly witty comedy rips the British and American political machine’s to shreds, but the pointed and spot on jokes fly so fast you have to watch it twice to catch most of them.

3. “Inglourious Basterds”
Revisionist history, unconventional story structure and an unconventional mix of drama and comedy.  That’s a Quentin Tarantino film in a nutshell and “Basterds” may be one of his best.

2. “The Hurt Locker”
One of the most riveting and imaginatively staged thrillers in years that’s only more phenomenal because it’s all too real.

1. “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Devastating.  Remarkable. Poignant. An amazing accomplishment that by all accounts should work, but haunts you for weeks after.  It was the best film I saw at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in January and 11 months later it was still the best film of the year.  And Mo’Nique?  My lord.  What a performance.

Almost there:
“The Informant!,” “Drag Me To Hell,” “The Damned United,” “Coraline,” “Observe and Report,” “Coraline, “Up,” “Moon,” “World’s Greatest Dad,” “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” “Bronson,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Star Trek”

“Cheri,” “Jennifer’s Body,” “Whip It,” “Invictus”

Avoid at all costs:
“GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “New in Town,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Obsessed,” “9,” “Law Abiding Citizen,” “Amelia,” “Dance Flick,” “Gentleman Broncos”

To check out what critics around the country are voting for visit Movie City News’ year-end critic’s round up.

For an entertaining look at Awards Campaign’s former colleagues at MSN Movies Top Ten, click here.

Tomorrow?  Awards Campaign’s best of the decade. 

What are your top movies of 2009?  Share your picks and why below.

 As the season heats up, look for breaking awards season news and commentary daily on Awards Campaign.  For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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