Editor’s Note: The Best and Worst of 2009
This year was a bit hectic for me. The approaching wedding gets closer every day, but that has not affected my movie watching. As a matter of fact, I have probably taken more trips to New York City for limited releases than I have in previous years. I can’t get enough films in my system. It’s an addiction. As usual, I have heard many people say “This was a bad year for movies.” Every year this statement is made, although some years are better than others, this was still a fantastic year for film in general. It is my experience that those who claim the year has been poor are those that do not go to enough movies. While it is true that not everyone can see as many as others, I hate when people make the comment but cannot back it up.
I also did not compile a Mid-Year Top 10. I’m not sure why, but when June-July came, I did not have the urge to make one. This was a weird year in that a couple of films I was anticipating even back in January of 2009 were eventually delayed, and are still not out. They are Shutter Island and Green Zone. Last year around this time, I gathered a list of 7 films I was looking forward to. Here is the list. Only 2 made my top 10:
6. This Side of Truth (re-titled as “The Invention of Lying”)
5. Green Zone
4. Public Enemies
2. The Limits of Control
1. Angels & Demons
This was not a good year for fans of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, but was a great year for Trekkies and Pixarmaniacs. It was an extremely positive year for Matt Damon, but for Clive Owen it was a disappointing one as most of his releases went overlooked or quickly forgotten. For female directors, this was a great year, especially for Katherine Bigelow and her Oscar frontrunner The Hurt Locker. For animated pictures, this was the best year anyone could hope for, but for live-actions films based on animated shows, it was a downer time (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra).
I construct my top lists in a specific way. My goal, whenever possible, is to include films from many genres. Sometimes certain genres contribute all the best movies, and other times one specific genre has no worthy offerings. The point is I pick my favorite films of the year, while also trying to cover each genre. I also factor in how the film is different with a second viewing. I noticed that some critics’ lists include crossovers from 2008 to 2009. If they were released in 2008, they belong on a 2008 top 10 list. If they were submitted for the Oscars in 2008, I cannot justifiably put them on my 2009 list. It is one of those unfortunate circumstances where some foreign films fall through the cracks (i.e. Gomorrah). I did not see as many documentaries this year as I normally do. As a rule, they are not looped in with my film list because they are not films, they are documentaries, and should be judged differently. Here are my top 10 best and worst films of 2009.
THE TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 2009
10. A Serious Man – As far as dark comedy is concerned, no one does it better than Joel and Ethan Coen. They should teach a class on how to properly craft a dark comedy. This is about as bleak as it gets, but also contains a bizarre intro, an abrupt conclusion, and non-Hollywood actors. No matter though because this was hilarious, and like all Coen comedies, will find its legs with age. I also loved the theme song, Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”, which was used so wonderfully in the trailer, but is also fantastic in the film itself. Watch this movie, and know that no matter how bad life might be, at least you’re not Larry Gopnik.
9. Funny People – Adam Sandler gives his best performance in years for Judd Apatow’s third feature. It is another magnificent achievement from a man who knows exactly how to create a comedy that will last through the years. The performances are terrific from Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, and the rest of the cast. The jokes are fantastic, and the drama is heartfelt and genuine. This might be long, but each scene is important for these characters. I still love the shots of George Simmons’ phony films, and really want to know how the Wayans felt about “Re-Do.”
8. Thirst – With all the hullabaloo over vampires lately, it is saddening that many have overlooked this superlative romance from Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. The performances are faultless, the images are unforgettable, the music is lingering, and the story is captivating and unique. I sincerely hope that this finds a stronger following over time because not only is it worth repeated viewings, but it displays just how talented Chan-wook really is. His pacing here is reserved and controlled, but he keeps us hypnotized.
7. Red Cliff – The Full Version – John Woo’s near 5 hour Chinese historical epic is so mesmerizing and compelling that the running time will never occur to you. During that time you will get some of the best battle sequences ever filmed, engaging characters, and an informative story. Tony Leung leads a stellar cast that is excellent in every way. I’m not sure if the shortened version did it justice, but cutting anything out of the longer cut seems like a crime. It was made to be admired on a big screen, but do yourself a favor and pick this one up on Blu-Ray.
6. The White Ribbon – Michael Haneke is a filmmaker that will always divide audiences, and this film is no different, but I think it ranks among his finest work. This is a powerful and breathtaking drama that showcases the underlying rot in a society and what it means. Haneke’s direction is masterful, the story is haunting and thought-provoking, and the acting is uniformly fantastic. This is the best foreign language offering of the year.
5. Up – Pixar has a streak so amazing that once a mediocre effort is made it will be panned as the worst movie ever made. Paying for a ticket that I know is for a Pixar production has been among my favorite moviegoing experiences of this decade. This tale of an old man and a boy scout is touching, hilarious, and absorbing. This has been such a wonderful year for animation in general, but the Peter Docter/Bob Peterson effort reigns supreme.
4. Up in the Air – Jason Reitman delivers another classic following Thank You for Smoking and Juno. He is one of the best filmmakers around today, and this is a superb motion picture from start to finish with outstanding turns from Clooney, Farmiga, Kendrick, and yes, even Sam Elliot. It is a triumphant mixture of humor, sentiment, and Hollywood entertainment. The plot is fresh and is absent of clichés. I loved this film, and can’t wait to watch it again.
3. Moon – This was a banner year for science-fiction, and Duncan Jones helped with that. He directs Sam Rockwell in his best performance to date for this riveting adventure on the moon. I could not take my eyes off the screen. Jones weaves a simple, yet thought-provoking film. The imagery is memorable, the music is great, and the ending is fabulous. The DVD is out next week along with Jones’ first short film.
2. Avatar – I still run into people who flat out want more than anything to hate this. They go out of their way to accuse others of not having good enough reasons to like this, and even use the James Cameron autograph incident as a way of bashing it further. Nothing will change the fact that this will still be a masterpiece years down the road. Avatar is one of the reasons people still go to the movie theater. It has everything. It is the definition of entertainment.
1. Inglourious Basterds – #1 and #2 were very close, but no movie gave me the mind-blowing experience that Quentin Tarantino’s re-arranging of World War II history did. The acting is brilliant from top to bottom, the violence is fulfilling and exciting, and the direction is quintessential QT. It has loads of movie references, Hugo Stiglitz, and plenty of scalps. Hell yeah!
Honorable Mentions – Black Dynamite, The Hurt Locker, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Cold Souls and Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut
THE TOP 10 WORST FILMS OF 2009
10. Fast & Furious – If I had one movie wish, it would be that this franchise be erased from memory. This latest adventure brings back Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Yay. The script from Chris Morgan uses cringe-inducing dialogue, and the acting makes it worse. Nothing in this story makes any sense, and you will drive yourself crazy trying to fill in the gaps in plot. Want a reason not to see this? Big Daddy Vin unleashed lines like: “I’m one of those guys who appreciates a fine body regardless of the make.” But hey, aren’t we all glad Nos gets more business as a result of these idiotic flicks?
9. Old Dogs – I barely caught this in theaters, but I wanted to see for myself if this was as bad as everyone said. Trust me, it is. Robin Williams and John Travolta humiliate each other with these phoned in performances, but what makes it worse is you have Kelly Preston, Rita Wilson, and Lori Laughlin, three attractive older women, who are now forever associated with this. I already hated it enough after it was over, but Roger Ebert was right, this is a film that instructs us on how to laugh, and for that, it cannot be forgiven.
8. The Unborn – I am sure a solid drama/thriller could be made about losing a twin you didn’t know and being plagued by that loss, but this is definitely not it. Writer/Director David S. Goyer might be responsible for some great stories, but his filmmaking here is horribly misguided. This is also filled with as many horror clichés as you can name, and most of them are the ones I hate the most, like visions in mirrors and other crap. I still feel sorry for Gary Oldman signing on for this. The Unborn is so bad even Odette Yustman’s camel toe doesn’t save it.
7. Bride Wars – Every year a movie comes along that really makes women look bad, and for 2009 that movie is Bride Wars, which portrays females as psychotic, pretentious, manipulative snobs in regards to wedding planning. The level of exaggeration this story rises to is not only annoying, but insulting. I won’t even mention the plot holes, of which there are many, because this ridiculous flick has countless other areas to claw at. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are totally unlikable and Candace Bergman’s narration is maddening. This was old back in the 50’s.
6. Dragonball Evolution – This adaptation of the popular animated series reminded me more of Captain Planet than Dragonball Z. That is a problem. Fans did not deserve this trash, but they must live with it now. We know we’re in trouble when the movie begins with dumb remarks like “The senses are overrated.” This also must hold the record for most obnoxious uses of CGI as the amount they throw at you made my head want to explode. We do know Director James Wong is excellent at slow-motion sweat droplets. Gatorade has probably contacted his people.
5. Push – 2009’s equivalent to Jumper is another unintentionally hilarious film that I absolutely loathe. Thinking again about the movers, watchers, sniffers, stitchers, pusher, and bleeders gives me an intense headache. Chris Evans reminds us that he is not a good actor, and Dakota Fanning looks like an anorexic teenager on crack. At 111 minutes, THIS is a long movie, one that was truly painful. The screenwriter is David Bourla, the guy who has directed all the thumb movies like The Godthumb, Frankenthumb, etc. Need I say more?
4. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li – The impossible has happened. Someone made a Street Fighter film that makes Jean Claude Van-Damme’s version look masterful by comparison. That “someone” is Andrjez Bartkowiak, director of Doom. This also has what could easily be the worst performance of the decade by Chris Klein. I am still speechless over his work after all these months. The narration is pointless, the fight scenes are forgettable, and the screenplay is abominable.
3. G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra – It is truly amazing that this is not regarded as one of the worst films of the year in every circle. If you like this, but admit it is horrible, that’s fine. But, if for one second, anyone tries to defend this horse manure, you are simply riding a wave of nostalgia from the days of the cartoon. Face facts, this sucks balls. This is laughably horrendous in every way Batman & Robin is, and Stephen Sommers doesn’t have a clue as director. Please, no sequels. I can’t handle it.
2. Miss March – I saw this one a bit late, but “Wow” is all that springs to mind. I have never seen a film so bold and careless with excrement humor before. Sometimes the blame rests on many shoulders, or perhaps we do not know who is belongs to. With this garbage, we know exactly who deserves it: Zack Cregger and Trevor Moore. In Moore’s case, one has the urge to hit him, but unfortunately that can’t happen. This is a mean-spirited comedy where everyone involved embarrasses themselves.
1. All About Steve – Sandra Bullock can be such a lovable, funny, and engaging actress when she wants to be, but here, she took the opposite approach in one of the most God-awful films of the decade, and easily her most irritating turn. Lucky for Bradley Cooper, this little dud was overshadowed by The Hangover for him. The story is incredibly ridiculous and lame, the jokes are terrible, and the rest of the acting is uniformly terrible. Avoid this like the plague.
Dishonorable Mentions – Land of the Lost, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, The Uninvited, Obsessed, and Friday the 13th
Most Overrated Films of the Year
Where the Wild Things Are
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Most Underrated Films of the Year
The Lovely Bones
Most Overlooked Films of the Year
Most Disappointing Films of the Year
The Invention of Lying
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Rudo y Cursi
The Nominees for Worst Endings in Good Movies Are
You Should Watch This At Parties
This One is For All The Weirdos Out There
For the Gentlemen
For the Ladies
He’s Just Not That Into You
For the Couples
Away We Go
New York, I Love You
(500) Days of Summer
The Best Documentary of the Year
Don’t Forget About This Either!
This Is A Fabulous Movie To Rent
Take 3 More Animated Films
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Make Nicolas Cage Happier During Bankruptcy by Checking Out This
For Those Who Want to be Depressed
This Person Needs a New Agent – Mary Steenburgen
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
In the Electric Mist
This Person Needs to Keep Their Agent – Jesse Eisenberg
2009 STRAIGHT TO VIDEO NIGHTMARES
I saw quite a few DTV releases this year, but not as many as I was used to. Still, not one really jumped out at me as excellent. I did miss out on a couple of the animated efforts. I will spotlight one in particular though as being the worst. It stars Kurt Angle in his film debut, and it is more agonizing than anything you have every seen.
End Game – The bottom of the bottom of the bottom….
THE TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2009
As always, I’ve listened to a lot of music this year. I compile my best album lists in a similar way that I do my best films lists. I try to integrate different genres if possible. Since I listen to just about everything this usually isn’t a problem. I do not include compilations or live albums because it is a slippery slope if you ask me. Because if that is on a top 10 then what about greatest hits? They are compilations too, so where are the limits? It is perfectly acceptable to incorporate them, but I choose not to. The compilation CD below contains various songs from 2009 that I liked, but the albums were not quite good enough for the top 10. I got the idea from Stephen King a few years back, so I kept doing it.
10. Rakim – The Seventh Seal – This did not get very positive reviews, but for me, I prefer a rap artist who does not saturate his album with profanity/disgusting lyrics, excessive guests, or reminders that he likes kung-fu movies. There is nothing special about this album except that it has a legend doing what he does best, and that’s why I enjoyed it.
9. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures – Thankfully this Christmas gift arrived in time for me to listen to this and understand all the hype. Of the supergroups to emerge lately, the material from this trio is certainly the best and most rewarding. The sound is unique and powerful, and every track is above average.
8. Alicia Keys – The Element of Freedom – Rammstein, Slayer, Rancid, and then the logical next choice…Alicia Keys. The fact is she has more talent than most others like her. No one has a voice like Alicia Keys, but her songs here are fun, touching, and smooth flowing. Her overplayed track with Jay-Z overshadowed the fact that this latest album was fabulous. Her sound is familiar, but fresh and soulful.
7. Rancid – Let the Dominoes Fall – After 6 years, Rancid returns by displaying zero indications of aging, and I’m glad they gave the world this album. I got through these 19 tracks in no time at all because every one of them is terrific. This was their first CD with drummer Branden Steineckert, but they are still awesome.
6. Slayer – World Painted Blood – Because this came so highly recommended over at the music zone, I made this a blind buy, and was not disappointed. This is an aggressive, brutal, and immensely fulfilling album from a band I never paid much attention to apart from Reign in Blood. This however is thrash at its best: epic and intense.
5. Rammstein – Liebe ist Fur Allen Da – One of the benefits of taking German was being able to understand some of the songs from this group. I am a huge Rammstein fan, but their albums have been so good as of late, I was worried about this one. This is another superb offering from a group that has more energy than half the other rock/metal acts around. This is worth picking up for the album cover and the song “Pu**y.”
4. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream – I was always a fan of Bruce Springsteen, but the quality of material he has made this decade is really extraordinary. This is another classic album that has no bad tracks. Bruce is at the top of his game and shows that the veterans can still be relied upon for greatness.
3. Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel – Willie & the Wheel – I am not a fan of newer country artists. I stick to the older guys. Willie Nelson pumps out new music like it’s nothing. This is one of three albums he released this year (granted, one was old material), but this collaboration is easily the best, and one of his best in recent memory. Willie is still the man, and if you take a chance on any country record this year, make it this one.
2. Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings – In my opinion, this is a group that gets better with age. This might not be my absolute favorite album from them, but it is damn close. From the crazy guitar work to the vivid lyrics, this is an ambitious band that I love more and more as time goes along.
1. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown – So it’s another concept album. Who cares? It is masterful from beginning to end. Greed Day shows no signs of slowing down. The fact that they delivered another classic after American Idiot says a lot. This is the one I could not stop listening to.
Honorable Mention – Phish – Joy, The Dead Weather – Horehound, Eminem – Relapse
The Editor’s Compilation CD
1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Carmina Burana”
2. Alice in Chains – “Your Decision”
3. Raekwon – “Kiss the Ring”
4. Thirty Seconds to Mars – “Kings and Queens”
5. Chris Cornell – “Part of Me”
6. Weezer – “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”
7. Elvis Costello – “My All Time Doll”
8. Spinal Tap – “Short and Sweet”
9. Bob Dylan – “Beyond Here Lies Nothin”
10. Bon Jovi – “Work for the Working Man”
11. Kiss – “Say Yeah”
12. Dave Matthews Band – “You and Me”
13. Orianthi – “Highly Strung”
14. Creed – “Overcome”
15. The Black Crowes – “Good Morning Captain”
16. Chickenfoot – “Learning to Fall”
17. Jay-Z (featuring Mr. Hudson) – “Young Forever”
18. Marilyn Manson – “Arma-godd**n-motherf**kin-geddon”
19. The Swell Season – “The Rain”
20. Joe Perry – “Wooden Ships”
Another year is gone, and a new one is head. I always have fun compiling lists. I hope 2010 brings plenty more efforts in movies and music for me to write about. I still plan on writing a Top 10 Pet Peeves of 2009, the best/worst posters of the year, and re-visiting my Oscar predictions for the upcoming show. Look for that probably next week.
I welcome all feedback, and this “Editor’s Note” column will not be a regular thing. Since Steve has the Bulletin, I had to find a new title for random articles like these. Don’t forget to check out “Nether Regions”, which is a regular weekly column from yours truly. New issues will be posted every Tuesday. Check out my latest edition by clicking here.
“The plural of Chad is Chad?”
–From the movie Recount