Tuesday, December 22, 2009

best of 2009: movies

And finally, here's my list of the ten best movies I saw in 2009. A few notes first:

  • Not all of these were originally released in 2009, but that's when I saw them.
  • These aren't in any particular order. My favorite movie of the year was Up, which went on my Best Animated Movies list. If I had to pick a favorite from this one, it would be...um...er...not sure, actually.
  • I was going to wait to post this because I thought I'd get a chance to see two potential contenders before the end of the year, but no dice. Netflix apparently got two copies of Inglourious Basterds, and I'm going to be too busy for the next couple of weeks to hit up a screening of Avatar.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

Oh, before I begin, I have a plug which you white chocolate haters can skip. I bought a three pack of Vosges hot chocolate mix the last time I was in Vegas, and recently I tried the Bianca flavor for the first time. I was a little unnerved at how much it smelled like lavender, but gamely I took a sip and promptly filled my pants with joyshit. So. Fucking. GOOD.

1. The Hangover: A Vegas bachelor party goes awry when three of the guys wake up from the previous night's debauchery and can't remember anything about it...including where they put the groom. GodDAMN was this funny. I was seriously about to piss my pants a couple of times, especially during the tiger song and any scene involving Mr. Chow.

2. Idiocracy: A slacker is persuaded by the army to go into hibernation for a year, but it goes wrong and he actually wakes up hundreds of years later. He discovers that the world is populated by slack-jawed morons, and since he's now the smartest person alive, they want him to fix all of their problems. This movie is mostly famous for being completely neglected by its studio when it was released, which is a shame; it's one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time, and has all the hallmarks of a cult classic.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Harry starts his sixth year at Hogwarts and begins acing his potions class, thanks to the notes scribbled in his textbook by someone calling himself the "Half-Blood Prince". Meanwhile, Dumbledore asks Harry to help him out with a quest, and Harry's friends are all completely lovesick, so it turns out to be a very eventful year. God, this was so good; it's my favorite Harry Potter movie to date. The sets are stunning, the young actors have really grown into their roles, and Alan Rickman, as usual, steals every scene he's in. (And yes, I cried. Hard.)

4. 500 Days of Summer: At the beginning of this bittersweet movie, the narrator tells us that it's not a love story, which is only half true. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (amazing as always) plays Tom, a greeting card writer who falls in love with the quirky Summer (Zooey Deschanel, redeeming herself in my eyes for her shitty performance in The Happening). But she doesn't believe in love, and despite the time she and Tom spend together, doing everything from having sex to strolling through Ikea and pretending they live there, she doesn't think of him as her boyfriend. My biggest qualm is with the disappointing ending, which rang really false to me, but it didn't bother me enough to ruin the whole thing. See it with someone you love and be prepared for an animated discussion afterwards.

5. Splinter: Two lovers on a camping trip are taken hostage by a felon and his drug-addicted girlfriend. When they stop at a gas station, they come under attack by a bizarre spiky parasite. A really fun, intense, and gory flick that's much better than you'd expect.

6. Chocolate: An autistic teenage girl learns martial arts by watching movies. When she finds out that people owe money to her dying mother, she puts her newfound skills to good use. When I read that the lead actress was being called the female Tony Jaa, I scoffed; color me embarrassed, because they weren't exaggerating. The fight scenes are so creative and exciting that G and I were yelling "Whooo!" and "Yeah!" at the screen. The plot is surprisingly complex, too. (Caveat: I mean for a martial arts movie; we're not talking Memento here.) Great fun if you love this kind of thing.

7. Watchmen: Based on the incredibly awesome graphic novel by Alan Moore (who, as always, refused to have his name attached to the movie; he's a genius, but he's also a bit of a crankyboots), this film is set in an alternate 1985, where Nixon is serving his fifth term. When a former superhero is murdered, his colleagues start investigating. We weren't expecting too much from this because the reviews were so bad, but it turned out to be really good! It's visually dazzling, and although I cried foul when I heard they'd changed the ending from the book, I think it actually worked better. Most of the acting ranges from serviceable to wooden, but as the deeply disturbed Rorschach, Jackie Earle Haley is Oscar-worthy. If you decide to watch this, be sure to pick up the director's cut and not the shorter version that ran in theaters. For once, the extra footage makes a difference.

8. Bruno: The brilliant Sacha Baron Cohen disappears into the character of Bruno, an uber-gay Austrian fashionista. Like Borat, he goes around annoying the shit out of everyone, and the results are outrageous. I spent a lot of time gasping during this movie...sometimes for breath because I was laughing so hard, and sometimes because I was so genuinely shocked. It stretches the boundaries of the R rating and then some.

9. I Love You, Man: I love Paul Rudd, but you know who I love even more? Jason Segel. Therefore, when a particularly poisonous mood struck back in April and I desperately needed to cheer up, I went to see this movie. Good choice, because it was so freakin' funny that I left the theater with a big dipshitty grin on my face. Peter (Rudd) is a nice guy who has always gotten along better with women than men, so he doesn't have any friends to serve as his best man. He starts going on "man dates" to find a candidate, but he eventually meets the perfect guy (Segel) at Lou Ferrigno's open house. They get along smashingly; so much so, in fact, that it starts to cause friction in his relationship with his fiancee. As previously mentioned, it's hysterically funny, and it has some sweet moments too.

10. Jackie Brown: The title character, played by the eternally awesome Pam Grier, is a flight attendant who supplements her income by smuggling in cash for gun runner Ordell Robbie. The ATF catches her in the act and offers her a deal. If she helps them nab Ordell, she won't do time...but Jackie has a different plan in mind. Like all of Quentin Tarantino's movies, it's clever fun.