Call me behind the curve, but I think now is the appropriate time (the last film release of 2009 was Friday) to take a look back at the last year of this pretty remarkable decade in film (more on the decade later).
To start off my Year in Review, I present the Genre Awards – given to the best film of the year in a specific genre. Tomorrow morning will be my 2009 Top 10 list, so keep checking in.
I don’t think 2009 was a particularly great year for movies unlike last year and arguably the year before it, but the success of genre films in 2009 is unlike much before it. I’ll share a little bit more in Thursday’s post where I’ll reflect on 2009 and its contributions to the annals of movie history.
Please remember that I only rank what I saw. I’m sure there are other gems on the independent end of things that I missed, so forgive me. In the one film on this list I mention that I didn’t see, I’ll let you know straight up.
The Genre Awards
Horror: Drag Me to Hell
Let’s get the one I haven’t seen out of the way, shall we? All I know is it’s not often a horror movie gets above 7.0/10 on imdb, but “Hell” did it. It also received some positive buzz from the critics. Don’t know much about it other than the fly buzzing up that chick’s nose and that Spider-Man director Sam Raimi returned to horror with this film after a long hiatus. It’s in my Netflix queue, so look for a review in the next month or so.
Thriller: State of Play
Talk about a film not getting any love on people’s Best of ’09 lists. Maybe it’s because this film centers on journalists and bloggers and – ehem – yea, so there could be bias there, but I was really drawn in to this exciting piece of directing by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and collaborative script from thriller ace Tony Gilroy as well as Billy Ray (writer of journalism ethics drama Shattered Glass) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (2007 political action thriller The Kingdom). A diverse cast led by Russell Crowe and you can find no better mystery in 2009. (Read My Review here)
Honorable Mention: Public Enemies
Pixar proved with Up that there’s no topic or demographic beyond its reach. Simply a gem of a family film that truly and genuinely appeals to audiences of all ages (with maybe the exception of stingy teenagers), Up was a heart-warming and lovable film for the whole family. The animation and 3D was another solid effort from the undisputed CGI king. (Read My Review)
Honorable Mention: Coraline
Romantic Comedy: (500) Days of Summer
I don’t normally see many of these films over the course of a year, but the buzz from “Summer” was too hard to ignore. My first review on Movie Muse ever, it also holds a special place in my heart. Bias aside yet again, “Summer” was an inspired script that managed to use romantic comedy conventions along with fresh ideas and tell a story with a genuine message about love. It also showcased two rising actors in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Expect to see lots more of both in the future. As indie-style romantic comedies become more and more popular throughout the years, “Summer” will certainly be looked back at as one of the first. (Read My Review)
Action: The Hurt Locker
Action is only one way to describe this excellent Iraq war drama/thriller, but it gets at the heart of what this film was about: our need for the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the fight. “Locker” is a unique war film because of it. It is hardly at all social commentary and unlike other modern war films; its psychological probing of soldiers is not about post-traumatic stress disorder, but about war as an addiction. “Locker” was incredibly suspenseful and affecting in this regard and worthy of the action category on my list. (Read My Review)
Science-Fiction: District 9
What a year for science fiction – it honestly brings figurative tears of joy to my face. Action movies were not all that great this year but sci-fi made up for it by a lot. Although it was hard to pick a favorite, you can’t ignore the originality and resourcefulness of District 9. It was just as good if not better than Avatar and it did it without the big name in James Cameron or the $300-some-odd million budget. Try $30-some million. Neil Blomkamp’s apartheid-echoing story of aliens on Earth being crammed into slums was not only a social commentary like all good sci-fi should be, but a game-changer for aspiring filmmakers in the genre. (Read My Review)
Honorable Mention: Avatar, Star Trek
Comedy: The Hangover
I don’t normally applaud formula, but The Hangover sold us a used car like it was not only new, but also hot shit, and personally I ate it up, as gross as that sounds at first. Combining “bro comedy” with an element of mystery as three buddies try and figure out what they did the night before their friend’s wedding that got him lost (among other ridiculous things) was conceptually excellent. The kicker, however, was fresh talent. Instead of the faces of comedy that defined the decade such as an Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, etc. “Hangover” featured Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, who were awesome. Watch as the success of The Hangover shapes the next few years of comedies, minimum. (Read My Review)
Honorable Mention: Adventureland
Drama: Up in the Air
In a year that was not so fantastic for dramas, Up in the Air is by far the standout and even then it should be considered a comedy. This movie was the kind that resonates with everyone in addition to being a nice piece of acting, writing and directing. You’re with this film for all the many miles of its journey and it never disappoints. Hopefully Jason Reitman will continue to be a force in witty comedies for a couple more decades at least. (Read My Review)
Just reminding you to check back tomorrow for my Top 10 films of 2009!