Top 15 Films of 2009

In 2012, I meant to post any and all older lists and awards. A few of them fell through the cracks. This is one of them. This was the first Best of List I created, be kind. And also be mindful that the commentary remains mostly unchanged; time and distance can remold how we see films. This was a snapshot of my thoughts and feelings on the given titles, and year as a whole in late-December/early January as 2009 became 2010

15. Partly Cloudy


Short films matter too and if you showed up late to watch Up. Then you missed this absolutely delightful short which is the best that Pixar has produced to date. It’s a new take on the stork delivering babies tale and can be seen here.

14. The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009, Lionsgate)

It was a horrendous year for the horror genre, no pun intended. It was full of remakes and hokey stories trying to pass for quality. While this story was based on a real life tale, in part, it certainly departed after a while and created its own world and it was rather effective indeed.

13. The Hangover


Without question the funniest movie this year had to offer and was a serious threat to crack the top ten. This like most comedies will grow over time and after repeated viewing. It was certainly no accident that this film dominated the box office in the summer months as it came along at precisely the right time with the right kind of crazy, hilarious story starring a great trio of comedic actors.

12. Star Trek


Film, when it is a quality piece of work, will live with you after you have completed experiencing it. Whereas even a bad book can occupy your mind at idle times, film persists through quality. This mind-play can explain the ascendancy of Star Trek which was initially scored a 9 but it has been begging to be viewed again.

11. Avatar


It was extraordinarily difficult to keep Avatar out of the best films of the year, according to the BAM Awards, due to the overall experience of the film. However, when boiling it down the visceral impact had to be weighed heavily and while an engaging and emotional experience it is not as moving experience an experience as some of the top ten. There is a lot to love, even adore, about it and a few things to sigh over as you will see in the review.

10. Before Tomorrow

Before Tomorrow (2008)

A journey to a different world right on our very planet where we join the story of an Inuit family and tribe in its third and final installment. Fantastic cinematography and editing take us into the neo-realistic and minimalist tale of simple beauty.

9. Whatever Works


This was probably Woody Allen’s funniest and most over-looked film since 1996’s Everyone Says I Love You. His dialogue has never been crisper and more intelligent and yet at the same time it manages to be hilarious and moving. The film even incorporates some of the irreverence his work in the ’70s did.

8. Up


A great Pixar film and a risk-taking one as well. It is difficult to suddenly turn a film into an action story, even if it can be anticipated, after a moving and humorous half-hour or so but that’s what this film does and not only is it more effective than most action films but it also keeps its previous thread going and ties it up neatly at the end.

7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

This is without question the best Harry Potter film to date. It’s arguably the least faithful adaptation, however, faithfulness of adaptation and excellence of film more often than not aren’t mutually exclusive terms. This is a great film and at the risk of repetition, if you want the book read the book and don’t go to the multiplex.

6. Is Anybody There?

Is Anybody There? (2008, BBC Films)

The period of a film is rarely incorporated in such a seamless fashion as in this film. It tells the tale of a lonely boy, Edward, who grows up in an old folks’ home run by his parents in 1980s. He is quite imaginative and that is highlighted by the fact that the most technologically advanced thing in the house is a television with rabbit ears. This fact gives him quiet alone-time to create on his own entertainment and makes an old magician all the more fascinating to him. Due to that very simplicity it is allowed to relate to a modern audience and audiences of all ages.

5. A Single Man


To not give too much away this tale is a tragedy but it’s not a self-conscious one in that it’s bloody, it’s one to us, the audience, who are allowed to witness this man’s life, the workings of his mind and the pains of his heart. The tale only encompasses one day yet we learn so much. He, like many a man, dwells on his past. It is a tightly-knit intimate story of love, loss and trying to move on. It’s a coil that is not fully unwound when the projector stops but continues to spring after viewing.

4. Lymelife


The suburban sketch of the year and free of the self-consciousness, pedantic commentary and pretentiousness that most have. The characters just are what they are and we learn about them and their situation, why they are where they are and where they might be going. It’s a film that respects its audience greatly and allows them to decide exactly what they think happened at the end.

3. Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (2009, The Weinstein Company)

Quentin Tarantino at his best, a brazen show of bravado; a funny, touching, sanguine and political show. A slow burn from the man coming off Death Proof and the Kill Bill movies that offers action as well as political commentary along with his best dialogue to date and tremendous performances by the cast.

2. My One and Only

My One and Only (2009, Gray Pictures, LLC)

A family drama hits the road and becomes all the better for it, while it is ultimately funny it is a classic dysfunctional family tale where, of course, love still persists and the way it’s shown is strange. The characters are well-drawn and it goes against expectations.

1. Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

The most complete cinematic experience of the year beginning to end. A funny, whimsical, insightful, layered, toe-tapping, tear-jerker; a combination of terms so rarley seen together it has to be the best.