In Contention


Things of beauty: Guy’s best of 2009

Posted by · 6:01 am · December 23rd, 2009

Julianne Moore and Colin Firth in A Single ManThe year of the woman. The year of animation. The year of science-fiction. Depending on who you read (and believe), the final year of the decade has been an awful lot of things.

If you’re with Kris, it’s also the best cinematic year of the last ten. If you’re with an awful lot of others, it’s quite the opposite. I’ll stop short of rewriting the first page of “A Tale of Two Cities,” but suffice to say it’s been different things to different people.

What kind of year has it been for me? I think I’ll need another year to figure that out in detail. But as I compiled the list you’re about to read, I happily concluded that it’s been, at the very least, a good one: the 25 titles gathered here were jotted down with minimal brain-racking, with still more fighting from the sidelines.

None of them are grudging inclusions, either: I sincerely liked most of these titles too much to allow room for popular or critical phenomena that are worthy of respect, but nonetheless didn’t connect with me personally. There was a sufficient range of quality work in 2009 (following a lean 2008) that any film lover could afford to construct his own playlist of future treasures without resorting to consensus.

Before we begin, a note on the construction of the list. In addition to my Top 10, there are 15 honorable mentions here, five of them singled out for extra consideration. Some of you will quibble that I opt to include international or festival releases that have yet to surface in the U.S.

I decided that the list should be a reflection of the year I had at the movies; keeping up with the discrepancies between European and American release patterns (which caused a film like “Summer Hours” to pop up on my list last year) is altogether too confusing. Allowing for the odd film that fell between the cracks in the festival transition last year, what follows are the 25 best new films I saw in 2009 … simple as that.

To please everyone, however, a modified list of my favorite U.S. releases of the year is at the end. Now, let’s go.

Teri Hatcher (voice) in CoralineHonorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

“THE BEACHES OF AGNES”
18 years after “Jacquot de Nantes,” her tender tribute to the life and work of her late husband Jacques Demy, New Wave vet Agnès Varda bookends that film with a living elegy for her own career, and it’s no less sweet.

“CORALINE”
Channeling Carroll, and outdoing recent peers like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” as an investigation of the dangers lurking in a child’s own imagination, Henry Selick’s cheerfully weird take on Neil Gaiman was the pinnacle of a prolific year for American animation.

“DISTRICT 9”
The resurgence of smart, crossover sci-fi was one of 2009’s most notable narratives – and no filmmaker did it with more storytelling aplomb than first-time helmer Neill Blomkamp. All jagged edges and dusty hues, my hometown of Johannesburg has rarely been so well served on screen .

“DOGTOOTH”
The von Triers, Mendozas and Noés may have filled the media shock-horror quota at Cannes this year, but no 2009 title was more calmly, confidently strange than this striking Greek fable, a stealthily disturbing, grimly deadpan manual on how not to parent.

“AN EDUCATION”
Carey Mulligan’s star-making performance may have been the story of this spry memory piece coming out of Sundance, but it merely leads the charge for one of the year’s most elegantly integrated ensembles. The lickety-split writing and direction, meanwhile, make it look easy.

“HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU”
I’d call this my list’s guilty pleasure, except I feel no remorse for enjoying this smartly spiked marshmallow as much as I do. Sparky comic turns from Je(Gi)nnifers Goodwin and Aniston are not the only reason to give this one a second look.

“JULIA”
The first film I saw in 2009 rather annoyingly served up a performance that could hardly be topped as the year wore on. Tilda Swinton’s monumental characterization gives Erick Zonca’s moving, messy Cassavetes riff emotional coherence, but the filmmaking bravado waves its own flag.

Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck in He's Just Not That Into You“LONDON RIVER”
Rachid Bouchareb’s precise, unassuming follow-up to the Oscar-nominated “Days of Glory” lingers longer than a first viewing might promise. Calm and compassionate in its response to the London bombings of 2005, the film generously foregrounds superb teamwork from Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyaté.

“MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN”
The atrocities of Robert Mugabe’s “land reform” regime in Zimbabwe finally get the cinematic exposure they warrant in Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s simple but sobering documentary, personal and political narratives woven into a devastating whole.

“PARANORMAL ACTIVITY”
Routinely compared to “The Blair Witch Project,” Oren Peli’s smashing horror debut was nonetheless less of an exercise and more of a movie. Wittier, pacier and better-acted than it had any right to be – but most importantly, throat-constrictingly scary too.

Some more equal than others:

“MARY AND MAX”
Mary and MaxMany of those declaring 2009 the year of animation nonetheless missed its crowning achievement. Adam Elliot’s beautiful, big-hearted and black-humored tale took a child’s-eye view of mental illness, abuse and sexuality, emerging as the year’s most daring family film.

“A SERIOUS MAN”
(from left) Michael Stuhlbarg and Fred Melamed in A Serious Man Lately refusing to repeat themselves from one film to the next, the Coens dove headfirst into choppy waters of faith, madness and mortality, and surfaced with something more bruised and vulnerable than I thought possible from them. Their best film? No. Their most idiosyncratic? Quite possibly.

“A SINGLE MAN”
Colin Firth in A Single Man These two titles have been confused all season; the twinning continues here. Of course, Tom Ford’s lushly aestheticized debut would rather be mistaken for Wong or Haynes. Ford wears his influences rather endearingly on his sleeve; happily, the fashion maven has the eye to make it fly.

“SUGAR”
Sugar A bit of a cheat, since I saw this jewel in 2008 and left it off that year’s list through sheer absent-mindedness; tardy distributors gave me a second chance. The year is immaterial: this exquisitely observed, shimmeringly lensed film is the finest sports drama in recent memory.

“THE WHITE RIBBON”
The White Ribbon Michael Haneke’s latest answers more questions than we have come to expect from the ornery auteur; that lack of interpretive leeway keeps this from the teasing heights of his best work, but Haneke has never been more in command of his formal and technical gifts.

The Top 10:

#10

Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist

“ANTICHRIST”
Directed by Lars von Trier

Having heard the feverish sturm und drang that followed the film’s Cannes premiere, I was expecting to take a bit of a sensory beating at Lars von Trier’s latest – but I wasn’t expecting to have such a good time in the process. Forget all the dreary media debates about misogyny and religion; this is a playful, frenetic ride of a horror film, steeped in genre tropes and nods to the director’s own oeuvre, all executed with jaw-dropping filmmaking panache – and populated with a fearsomely committed pair of performances. “The greatest director in the world?” Uh, Lars said it, not me.

#9

John Malkovich and Jessica Haines in Disgrace

“DISGRACE”
Directed by Steve Jacobs

Once again, the film that should have been spearheading one of the year’s most notable cinematic trends drew the short straw in terms of exposure: none of this year’s screen studies of post-apartheid South Africa caught the country’s still-faltering balance between racial reconciliation and retribution than this lean, literate adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s provocative 1999 masterpiece. In a performance that should win any Best Actor award walking away, Malkovich channels the cruel humor and soured intelligence of Coetzee himself; as his opposite number, Jessica Haines makes one of the year’s most startling debuts.

#8

Christian Bale in Public Enemies

“PUBLIC ENEMIES”
Directed by Michael Mann

Michael Mann’s steely, swaggering, unflappably macho auteur works tend to attract their own fanclub of devoted acolytes; as someone not in possession of that particular club card, no one is more surprised to find his latest in my Top 10 than I am. But more than any other broad-brush studio entertainment this year, the big, brooding, beautiful “Public Enemies” invigorated me, sweeping me into a richly realized time and place (Oscar noms for Mr. Crowley and Ms. Atwood, please) while placing equal emphasis on character and quirk (add Ms. Cotillard to that list). I was too enraptured even to notice the HD that got the geeks so riled up.

#7

Edie Martin in Bright Star

“BRIGHT STAR”
Directed by Jane Campion

Poetry and cinema haven’t always enjoyed the greatest of friendships; the immediacy of film can’t always replicate the hazy, ruminative distance between the reader and the word, often leading to overdetermined symbolic shortcutting. Jane Campion’s rapturously sensual meditation surmounts this challenge ingeniously by creating an alternative visual language for the verse of John Keats, conveying the man’s moods, thoughts and influence through the subtlest accents of nature, material and weather. The reader here is his lover, Fanny Brawne; as impeccably played by Abbie Cornish, she is both our ward and our guide through this uncommonly lovely film.

#6

Alex Descas and Nicole Dogue in 35 Shots of Rum

“35 SHOTS OF RUM”
Directed by Claire Denis

As 2009 caps a remarkable decade for her, the wily Claire Denis once more proves herself one of those rare filmmakers whose chamber pieces feel barely less muscular and substantive than their “major” works. There isn’t much incident in this wise, honey-hued portrait of a makeshift Parisian family cracking at the seams – not through conflict or contrivance, but the simple wear-and-tear of growing up – but the devil is in the details for Denis, most stunningly in the network of gazes crossing a dance sequence set to, of all things, Lionel Richie and the Commodores. And what other filmmaker can raise a lump in the throat from a simple shot of two adjacent rice cookers?

#5

Max Records and James Gandolfini (voice) in Where the Wild Things Are

“WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE”
Directed by Spike Jonze

Confession time: 10 minutes before the end of Spike Jonze’s thrilling redreaming of Maurice Sendak’s childhood staple, surrounded by skinny-jeaned hipsters at a late-night East End screening, I let slip a loud, sloppy, quavering man-sob. And then another. And then the full waterworks. It wasn’t just because I was so moved by the film’s gentle, complicated romance between child and monster – though that certainly played a role. Rather, it was because an indelible part of my childhood had not just survived the journey to adulthood, but in being filtered through another artist’s eyes, had acquired something new in the process. I can’t wait to return it to my own children one day.

#4

The Hurt Locker

“THE HURT LOCKER”
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

I’m not sure what my recommendation for this ballsy, riveting exercise in tension can add to that of nearly every critics’ circle in America: I can only hope by now that you know how good it is first-hand. The film’s independent distributor and modest box-office have led many in the industry to label this niche, arthouse fare, which hardly seems appropriate to the film I saw: a kickass action picture whose brilliantly constructed set-pieces are no less adrenalin-pumping for the loose narrative binding them. If work this thrilling is coming from the indie sector, who needs Hollywood?

#3

Tahar Rahim in A Prophet

“A PROPHET”
Directed by Jacques Audiard

I approached Audiard’s latest both with the enthusiasm that one greets new work from a loved auteur, and no small degree of nerves over the uncharacteristic scale and scope of the project – could the director’s sly noir-ish sensibility survive the leap to socially conscious prison study? Happily, bigger for once proved to be better: “A Prophet” is Audiard’s crowning achievement, magnifying and multiplying the underworld detail of his previous best, with the intricate gang politics of the French correctional system only providing a broader canvas to paint on – and electric newcomer Tahar Rahim dominating the frame.

#2

Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank

“FISH TANK”
Directed by Andrea Arnold

Bringing sex, soul and danger to the dour, Ken Loach-run corridors of British kitchen-sink drama, Andrea Arnold’s stunning sophomore feature prompted Transatlantic comparisons to “Precious,” but bears more striking narrative parallels to “An Education.” Either way, it’s the most authentic and unyielding of 2009’s many cinematic explorations of female teen identity, thanks in no small part to a fizzing, fearless debut performance from 17 year-old Katie Jarvis, who holds Robbie Ryan’s restless camera in a kind of mesmerized lockstep. Arnold, meanwhile, locates tension and desire in every beat, most majestically in her dreamily ironic use of Bobby Womack’s “California Dreamin’.”

#1

Isabelle Huppert in White Material

“WHITE MATERIAL”
Directed by Claire Denis

The second Claire Denis film on my list may seem an overly convenient choice for #1, given how it neatly covers the prominent 2009 trends of standout female filmmakers, stories about Africa and, well, great Claire Denis films. But “White Material,” the Frenchwoman’s indirect tribute to the Southern African novelist Doris Lessing, would doubtless top my list in many a year: the cineaste in me thrilled to its tactile, tingly command of atmosphere, its laudably complicated politics and its on-edge performance from a peak-form Isabelle Huppert, but it was the personal connection I felt to its finely-drawn conflict between lines of blood and birth that drew an extra shiver from me.

And there you have it. I do apologize for bunching three titles at the top of my list that have yet to be released Stateside (or, in one case, anywhere else), but best is best. For those of you who haven’t caught them abroad or at festivals, I hope you see them as something to look forward to. Happy holidays, everyone.

The top 10 films of 2009:

1. “White Material”
2. “Fish Tank”
3. “A Prophet”
4. “The Hurt Locker”
5. “Where the Wild Things Are”
6. “35 Shots of Rum”
7. “Bright Star”
8. “Public Enemies”
9. “Disgrace”
10. “Antichrist”

And, for the sticklers, the top 10 U.S. releases of 2009:

1. “The Hurt Locker”
2. “Where the Wild Things Are”
3. “35 Shots of Rum”
4. “Bright Star”
5. “Public Enemies”
6. “Summer Hours”
7. “Disgrace”
8. “Antichrist”
9. “Mary and Max”
10. “Sugar”

Agree? Disagree? What knocked you out in 2009? Have at it in the comments section.




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58 responses so far

  • 1 12-23-2009 at 6:29 am

    N8 said...

    I’m glad (though unsurprised) to see “Fish Tank” so high on your list. One of my faves this year.

  • 2 12-23-2009 at 6:40 am

    Adam Smith said...

    Damn. I’ve only seen three films on your top ten. I best get crackin’.

  • 3 12-23-2009 at 6:43 am

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    What a great list, Guy! For the second year running now, I feel like you’re my own personal guide for enjoying quality world cinema. And I thank you for it.

    I don’t benefit from screeners or advance screenings like some of you lucky people do, so I can’t offer up my top ten list yet, and probably not for another month or so. The Lovely Bones, Nine, Crazy Heart, A Single Man, The Last Station, and The Messenger — among others — have all yet to be released in my local cinemas. And, because of school finals, I’m still struggling to catch up with what’s already playing.

    That said, I’m confident the following will have a solid spot in my top ten: Precious, Inglourious Basterds (let’s agree to disagree about these first two), Where the Wild Things Are, Up in the Air, Avatar, District 9, Drag Me to Hell. Indeed, I’m rather surprised by how deeply Drag Me to Hell has stayed with me over the year… it’s a superb achievement. Also, An Education and A Serious Man might make it in there.

    Thanks so much again for another year of your indispensable contributions to In Contention. I’ve been a faithful IC reader for four years now, and Kris is lucky to have you. As silly as this sounds, I feel like I have a community on this site. Most people in my life have never heard of most of these films that we talk about here and love, so you all are very much appreciated.

    I guess this is my way of saying Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone here at In Contention. Thank you all for what you do.

  • 4 12-23-2009 at 6:46 am

    Liz said...

    So Guy, is it safe to say that you weren’t a fan of any of the “Big Four” (Avatar, The Lovely Bones, Nine, and Invictus)?

    Also, possibly dumb question for anyone who knows, how do you pronounce Claire Denis’ last name? Deh-NEE? And while we’re at it, how about Michael Haneke?

  • 5 12-23-2009 at 6:59 am

    Chase K. said...

    Great list, Guy – “Public Enemies” is one of the best films of the year, and the rest are alot of Venice/Toronto/Cannes vehicles that haven’t been released domestically.

    I would love to hear what you thought of “Avatar” – I’m one of the few who didn’t care for it.

  • 6 12-23-2009 at 7:00 am

    Jim T said...

    CORALINE
    AN EDUCATION
    JULIA
    MARY AND MAX
    THE WHITE RIBBON
    A PROPHET

    These are the movies I’ve seen and liked from your list.

    I also liked FISH TANK but I wouldn’t place it that high.

    I’m glad you liked HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU because even though I didn’t see the whole movie (not because I was bored), what I saw, I liked, and felt kind of guilty since almost every critic hated it. I have company now :)

    I didn’t dislike Antichrist, I kind of liked it but I didn’t get a lot of the symbolisms so I can’t really evaluate the movie.

  • 7 12-23-2009 at 7:02 am

    Jim T said...

    The most rewatchable film for me this year is Coraline and the first 30 minutes (more or less) of Julia.

  • 8 12-23-2009 at 7:12 am

    M said...

    INteresting list. Nice to see foreign movies on the list. I am interested in seeing foreign films but not able to.

  • 9 12-23-2009 at 7:55 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @ Adam: I’m curious … which three?

    @ Nicolas: What a lovely thing to say. I’m glad you get so much out of my writing and the site in general — reactions like yours are the reason we do this. Good luck with your finals, and enjoy catching up at the movies.

    @ Liz: Yes, it’s safe to say that. I’m sure I’ll write more about them sooner or later, but none of them really came together for me. (For what it’s worth, I rank “Nine” and “Avatar” slightly higher than “Invictus” and “The Lovely Bones” — the latter of which struck me as a staggering misfire.)

    @ Chase: I’m with you. I’ll get into the whys another time, but for now I’ll say that it gave me nothing to hold onto emotionally — and was more interested in looking AT its world than INTO it.

    @ Jim: Glad to have some support on “He’s Just Not That Into You” … I feared I’d be crucified for that one!

    @ M: Sorry to hear you have trouble accessing foreign cinema — I had the same problem once. DVD is a godsend in that situation.

  • 10 12-23-2009 at 8:24 am

    the expert said...

    Great to see Public Enemies in your list.

  • 11 12-23-2009 at 8:36 am

    Paul Outlaw said...

    How close were you to making WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE your #1 US release?

    You really nailed that movie and its power.

  • 12 12-23-2009 at 8:53 am

    Frank Lee said...

    The friend I dragged with me to see “Where the Wild Things Are” still hasn’t forgiven me, and I can’t say I blame her.

  • 13 12-23-2009 at 8:56 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @ Paul: Close. It’s the last film on this list that I saw — perhaps if it had a few months to settle, it might climb. But for now, “The Hurt Locker” is too pristine (and lingering) an achievement for me to deny it its spot.

  • 14 12-23-2009 at 9:28 am

    Leone said...

    Um, I’ve seen one film on the list. Clearly I need to get busy!

  • 15 12-23-2009 at 9:39 am

    Jim T said...

    So happy you joined Nick Davis and me (as well as others) on the “I didn’t love Avatar” train. Your reaction was similar to mine except that I was a bit annoyed in addition to not being moved.

  • 16 12-23-2009 at 9:49 am

    Ivich said...

    I’m so glad that you mentioned Dogtooth, a film that I had the fortune of watching at a film fest here in India. I’m stunned that the movie hasn’t made it to any critics list whatsoever (Did it have a release in US? Didn’t find any distributors?). I have seen many films this year but the one that I am sure to remember for years to come is Dogtooth. That says a lot on what a terrific film it was.

  • 17 12-23-2009 at 10:01 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The “if I saw it, then it was considered” strategy is one I’ve thought about using in the past, but I stick to U.S. release dates, always. Otherwise, A Prophet would have had some serious consideration (and I would have sought out Wild Grass more diligently).

    In any case, great list as always.

  • 18 12-23-2009 at 10:02 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh, and by the way, He’s Just Not That Into You was a three star film for me, so I didn’t exactly consider it for a best of the year list. That said, I’ve always shared your opinion that it’s a weird, undervalued little gem that had no right to be as much. Yeah — we said it.

  • 19 12-23-2009 at 10:02 am

    Jordan Cronk said...

    Very nice list Guy. Needless to say, I’m waiting in anticipation for “White Material” to make it’s way to American shores next year.

    Question though, have you seen (just to name a few of my favorites from this year) “Tokyo Sonata”, “The Sun”, “Still Walking”, “Tony Manero”, “Silent Light” or “24 City”??

    Seems like some of those could be up your alley.

  • 20 12-23-2009 at 10:04 am

    Lance said...

    Idea for an article for you guys – Why were there so many great animated/children’s films this year? Maybe it’s because when writing a children’s film you go back to the basics of storytelling which always work.

  • 21 12-23-2009 at 10:33 am

    Silencio said...

    To its credit, Where the Wild Things Are was never part of my childhood, yet it still stayed with me enough to make my top ten. The film works.

    Something to consider: an article strictly about your favorite performances this year would be nice. I never tire of that kind of discussion.

  • 22 12-23-2009 at 10:35 am

    Billyboy said...

    I’ve only seen two of your top ten and they are in my top ten as well: Public Enemies and Antichrist.

    Oh, and I thought Julia would be higher :(

  • 23 12-23-2009 at 10:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Jordan: I’m a fan of “Tony Manero,” which I saw last year at the LFF — there’s a capsule review of it somewhere in our archives. The Sokurov leaves me a bit cold for some reason, and I still don’t get on with Reygadas. (Was “Silent Light” a 2009 release in the US? It feels so old to me.)

    I liked “Tokyo Sonata” well enough, but it didn’t stick with me. “24 City” was on my longlist but didn’t quite make it further. I’m afraid I still haven’t seen “Still Walking,” which I’ve heard nothing but glowing reports of — I look forward to fixing that. One can’t catch everything!

    @Lance: I’ve been wondering something similar as well. I have my theories — perhaps that’s something to address in the New Year.

    @Silencio: Always a good idea. Kris at least offered an indication of his favourites with his personal ballot last week — perhaps I’ll compile my own for a discussion at some point after Christmas.

    @Billyboy: Honestly, given the standard this year, any film that got into this list is pretty special to me, so don’t pity the honorable mentions!

  • 24 12-23-2009 at 10:59 am

    Mike said...

    Great to see Public Enemies make the list, I felt it was the most staggeringly misunderstood and underappreciated mainstream film of the year And Fish Tank is a pure masterpiece that stomps the overwrought Precious into a fine paste. I don’t know if I’ll end up classifying it as a 2009 and 2010 film, mostly because I’m worried I’ll end up underrating it on any best of the decade list if I count it as this year, with it not having the proper time to cement its place near the top.

    In fact, the question of whether to consider films that haven’t played in the US at all in a certain year is always annoying. I mean, I saw The Hurt Locker and Me and Orson Welles in 2008, but I can’t really consider them to be 2008 films. So I suppose I’ll probably end up doing the same with Fish Tank, since it IS having its release in January and will be considered a 2010 film by the North American industry when all is said and done.

  • 25 12-23-2009 at 11:06 am

    Chris said...

    What can I say? You prove once more that you’re a film lover who doesn’t feel obliged to praise films everybody loves and who can thik for himself. Although mine’s going to be quite different, I stillthink your top 10 is just another great list.

    Right now, three of the seven I’ve seen from this list are on my top ten of the year, but I haven’t seen enough films yet to make this a definite claim.
    I respect “35 Shots of Rum” and “Antichrist”, but I don’t have any strong feelings towards them, while I think that “Public Enemies” is the most interesting failure of the year. “Where the Wild Things Are” wasn’t my cup of tea at all.

    I haven’t seen “Fish Tank” yet (I think I mentioned some months ago that it was actually sold out when I went to see it), I didn’t like the novel “Disgrace” and “White Material” hasn’t been released in either country I live in.

  • 26 12-23-2009 at 11:06 am

    Jordan Cronk said...

    Yeah, “Silent Light” is technically an ’09 American release, though it has shown up on lists for many years prior (similar to “The Sun” in that regard). Definitely check out “Still Walking” though, it’s just one of those delicate little gems that rarely comes along anymore.

    Oh and I forgot, did you see “Revanche”? That is still my #1 this year.

  • 27 12-23-2009 at 11:28 am

    Zan said...

    Thank you, Guy, for this column. It was a wonderful read start to finish, probably because you’re a magnificent writer. I always like yours and Kris’ somewhat-against-the-grain lists.

    It’s good to see that my #1 film of the year, Sugar, is getting a healthy dose of recognition around these parts. I only wish that my #2, Goodbye Solo, was receiving the same.

    I too have only seen five of these top 15 films (Sugar, The Hurt Locker, Where the Wild Things Are, A Serious Man, Public Enemies), but the rest of the list was promptly added to my saved Netflix queue!

  • 28 12-23-2009 at 11:32 am

    Lance said...

    It’s interesting how very few documentaries made anyone’s top ten lists this year.

  • 29 12-23-2009 at 11:46 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Jordan: I’m starting to think I need to give “Revanche” another shot. I saw it at LFF last year and didn’t get on with it at all, finding it obvious and artificial in its construction. (Again, there’s a brief review somewhere in the archives.)

    But I appear to be a minority of one — so many people whose opinions I respect rate the film so highly, I’m wondering if it caught me on a bad day.

    @Zan: You have a fellow friend of “Goodbye Solo” in Kris, who put the film on his list. I’m not that keen myself.

  • 30 12-23-2009 at 12:57 pm

    Michael said...

    I really need to catch up with Disgrace and Bright Star, and I am dying for The White Material to be released here (I love me some Claire Denis!) I am very excited by your whole list including the honorable mentions. I haven’t seen everything but from what I have seen I can tell we have very similar tastes. Lists like these are so important to do for cinemaphiles b/c it’s a sorta spring cleaning thing: looking back at what one has seen over the year to guage the impact it had and what sticks out really says a lot about the individual I think. And both yours and Kris’s lists have been very telling, and also given me lots of films that I am looking forward to discovering. I personally have had a great year at the movies and I cannot wait to see what happens next year.

    To echo the sentiments of Nicolas Mancuso , I am a huge fan of this site and of all of the contributors work here. It would be too limiting to say I visit this site daily, b/c I honestly check the site almost every other hour when I am at work just to see if there has been any more updates or any new comments. This is probably one of my favorite Oscar Prognosticating sites – as well as one of my favorite movie sites in general. I think you guys do a great job and are one of the best movie blogs out there. Keep up the great work and enjoy the holidays!

  • 31 12-23-2009 at 1:34 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    @Guy: Antichrist, Wild Things, and Hurt Locker. 35 Shots of Rum was playing at the Detroit Institute of Art a few weekends back, but I missed it because of work. Of your total 25 films mentioned, I’ve seen:

    Coraline
    District 9
    An Education
    Paranormal Activity
    A Serious Man
    Mary and Max
    Antichrist
    Where The Wild Things Are
    The Hurt Locker

    Yeah, I’m seriously missing out on a LOT of good shit. Gotta wait til the end of next month to finally see Bright Star (when it comes out on DVD).

  • 32 12-23-2009 at 1:43 pm

    tim r said...

    Terrific picks — and love those wide-envelope screenshots! I think five of your top ten are on mine, maybe even six. That’s quite some overlap. Brave of you to include Antichrist: I’ve been wondering if I over-defended that one, but you’ve given me pause…

  • 33 12-23-2009 at 3:06 pm

    Patryk said...

    Brilliant list. The placement of “Sugar” especially made me smile. No film has ever captured the world of baseball so truthfully. And thanks Guy again for keeping Tilda on the minds of many. Hopefully she will not be forgotten come Oscar time. And for Willem Dafoe. One of the best male lead performances this year.

  • 34 12-23-2009 at 3:21 pm

    Me. said...

    AAAHH!!!! I LOVE YOU for putting Where the Wild Things Are in your top 5!! I, like you, cried at the end for the same reasons. I love that film. I don’t know if I should consider Micmacs for this year or next year but I consider it for next year, Wild Things would be my number 1.

  • 35 12-23-2009 at 3:37 pm

    Andrew said...

    So pleased to see Bright Star in your top 10. In the last few days it has made #1 on Turan’s LA Times best list (tied with Hurt Locker), and #4 and #5 on 2 of the Hollywood Reporters’ top 10 lists.

    I still have some hope for a BP nomination for this film, although it must be considered an outside chance. Its interesting that it has gotten as high as top 5 and no. 1 on some lists and then not even making top 10 in others…

  • 36 12-23-2009 at 4:06 pm

    Matt said...

    Man…Fish Tank was so terrible. This year’s totally inexpicable sloppy indie film (akin to last year’s Wendy and Lucy) that seemingly drags the worst of “only indies are good” type ratings out of people.

  • 37 12-23-2009 at 4:23 pm

    Rafael said...

    I love your list. Some of them haven´t been release here in Brazil yet, but I trust you and I have placed them in my must see list.

  • 38 12-23-2009 at 4:44 pm

    Kevin said...

    Wow..I REALLY need to catch up with some of these films. Of your top 25, I’ve only seen The Hurt Locker which I thought was a very tightly-controlled and muscular piece of filmmaking. I’m glad it resonated so well with you (as it seems to be with the critics).

    Guy, your contributions are so articulate, thoughtful and at times, humorous that you really are my favourite writer here at IC (sorry Kris!). Once again, you didn’t disappoint with a great mix of mainstream, independent and auteur films.

    Love the work you, Kris, John, Chad (and anyone else I’ve forgotten!) does here at IC. For me, you guys consistently offer the most well-informed film coverage out there. For that, I salute you! Happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

  • 39 12-23-2009 at 5:19 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Michael: Spring cleaning is exactly it. However, Nick Davis has shamed me into keeping a more detailed moviegoer’s diary in future, which should lessen the mess! Thanks for the kind comments.

    @Tim: Glad we’re so in tune on so many titles — that more than compensates for our disagreement over the merits of Tom Ford, Auteur. Is “Antichrist” now only in the “maybe” pile for you? Trust your first instincts on that one, I say.

    @Patryk: But what of “Bull Durham”? Apples and oranges, but I gladly devour them both.

    @Matt: Well, “Wendy and Lucy” was my #3 on last year’s list, so I guess we don’t see eye-to-eye on several things. Nothing wrong with that. Your indie-snob accusation, however, strikes me as a little unfair, with the likes of “Public Enemies” and “He’s Just Not That Into You” on my list!

    @Rafael: I’m honored to have your trust. I only hope I deserve it.

    @Kevin: Yet another lovely comment. You guys are spoiling me with seasonal goodwill. Hope you enjoy seeking out the remaining 24 films — I envy you the chance to see some of them for the first time.

  • 40 12-23-2009 at 9:21 pm

    david said...

    I think your list sucks Guy…just kidding. I share your love for Where the Wild Things Are and The Hurt Locker. Haven’t seen the majority of the films near the top of your list (most haven’t even screened where I live yet). We only have like one theater in the whole state that screens “art house” type films. I’m really looking forward to seeing Mary and Max in the future. You seem to have a relative dislike for more commercial films overall, but then, as a critic, I guess that’s sort of to be expected. It’s just not “proper” for a critic worth his salt to like LOTR better then Mystic River or Avatar better then A Prophet. It’s probably considered poor form or something. Don’t get me wrong. I love my share of “smaller” independent type fare also, but I just find it interesting that audiences and critics seem to be so far apart in there respective tastes these days. But I guess that’s part of the beauty of cinema. That it can be used to create such an eclectic range of art.
    Thanks for your contributions on the site Guy (you also Kris). Happy holidays to all.

  • 41 12-23-2009 at 9:24 pm

    Justin said...

    Shame shame. Precious is the very best film of the year in my opinion, no matter how many people roll their eyes at me.

  • 42 12-23-2009 at 9:48 pm

    Glenn said...

    I always love seeing lists like these that are different. Titles like “Disgrace”, “Fish Tank” and the Denis titles do that. “Fish Tank” is probably my #1 of the year so far, but hasn’t been released yet so I think I have to scrap it since I really try and keep titles for top ten lists in line with the general consensus of release dates.

    Well done, Guy!

  • 43 12-23-2009 at 9:49 pm

    normadesmondsmonkey said...

    Great list. Is there a US release date for London River yet? I’ve been dying to see it, Bouchareb is a personal favorite.

    Also, Doris Lessing is from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia).

  • 44 12-23-2009 at 10:05 pm

    Speaking English said...

    ***It’s just not “proper” for a critic worth his salt to like LOTR better then Mystic River…***

    I bet Guy doesn’t even care for “Mystic River” either. Still too mainstream. ;)

  • 45 12-23-2009 at 11:33 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Are you implying that Mystic River is not as mainstream as Hollywood movies get? It’s the epitome of mainstream.

  • 46 12-24-2009 at 2:10 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Normadesmondsmonkey: Well caught! I think I meant to type “Southern African,” but had a brain fade. Bad form for a local.

    English: I like “Mystic River,” actually. Eastwood’s best of the decade, in my opinion.

    David: I love good mainstream fare no less than good arthouse work, as should any critic worth his salt. I just find the former rarer than the latter.

    (The inclusion of “Public Enemies” speaks to that. And personally, I think “The Hurt Locker” is a mainstream wolf in indie sheep’s clothing.)

  • 47 12-24-2009 at 11:26 am

    red_wine said...

    Seems I’ve been a bit late to the party but great list as usual Guy. I guessed your No. 1 alright. But Fish Tank seriously seems to have grown on you since you ranked it above A Prophet.

    Antichrist is a good film and though it is rife with subtext and symbolism, I found it to be a bit flimsy on the screenplay and sketchily conceived. I like it, but I don’t think its a great movie. Very well made though and better than many other English language films. This is a good year for movies, but not for American movies. I seriously haven’t liked many movies to fill a Top 10 at this point.

    I’ve been meaning to watch Disgrace but I want to read the book first because it won the Booker and is supposed to be excellent. I’ll try to read it after my exams and then get back to the movie.

    And I definitely take this as a recommendation for Public Enemies. It never interested me much but its out on Dvd so I’ll seek it out now. Surprised to see it make your list above other fancied European titles like the White Ribbon.

    I share your love for The Hurt Locker and I think now we can cheer on for the very valid possibility of it perhaps taking Best Picture. It has the complete endorsement of critics at this point. It’ll be a long time since I’ll be completely happy with the Best Picture Oscar. I do like No Country a lot, my I love Zodiac.

    No mention of Two Lovers? Would you include it if you go by US release dates? Also do the ballot thing if you can. It would be interesting to see what you think of the writing, acting and other categories.

  • 48 12-24-2009 at 12:14 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Oh, you like “Mystic River.” But david’s point still doesn’t make sense as it IS a very mainstream movie.

  • 49 12-24-2009 at 4:23 pm

    Citron said...

    Great list, Guy. Oh well, can i declare right now that the best oscar-related website this year goes to …. (rolls the drum)
    INCONTENTION.COM.

    To be honest, my fave site last year was AD. But this year your site has gained a great improvement. Kris and Anne with Oscar Talk, Guy with the inspiring The Long Shot, The Best Performances with John Foote, and of course i loved Chad for being honest and cynic. Those make this site really enjoyable every single time i visit. I need more woman perspectives, though. Anne inclusion has made me glad for that reason. Hail to you all!

    As for my best of 2009:
    1. The Hurt Locker
    2. Mary & Max
    3. Inglourious Basterds
    4. The City of Life and Death (Nanking! Nangking!)
    5. The Damned United
    6. Antichrist
    7. Flame and Citron
    8. Thirst
    9. Bronson
    10. Adventureland (my very personal film this year)

  • 50 12-24-2009 at 7:36 pm

    Brent said...

    Loving all the Mary and Max chatter. What a great film.

  • 51 12-25-2009 at 9:59 am

    Big Braveheart said...

    Where was I. Basterds on the list?
    Tom Hardy great shout for bset actor nom at least.
    District 9, Hurt Locker, Public Enemies were all
    highlights but also why wasn’t Let The Right One In on the list?

  • 52 12-25-2009 at 6:06 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    I think Bright Star suffers from not being seen enough. Many of the those who see it including critics have fallen in love…

  • 53 12-27-2009 at 8:57 pm

    Jake said...

    Do you think there’s any chance of Fish Tank being picked up for a wider U.S. release? It seems like it might have the appeal, but I don’t know how those things work.

    I just hate having to wait for the DVD.

  • 54 12-28-2009 at 3:30 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    It’s an IFC release, so I think we can count on it being a big-cities-only deal, I’m afraid.

  • 55 12-30-2009 at 1:58 am

    Kevin said...

    Loved seeing some love for Public Enemies and Where The Wild Things Are. Both made my top 10.

    Mine would be

    1. Avatar
    2. The Road
    3. The Hurt Locker
    4. Up in the Air
    5. A Serious Man
    6. The Lovely Bones
    7. Public Enemies
    8. Inglourious Basterds
    9. Where the Wild Things Are
    10. Up

  • 56 3-04-2010 at 10:05 am

    tintin said...

    Mine:

    1. Avatar
    2. Up
    3. Inglorious Basterds
    4. Up in the air
    5. Precious
    6. Invictus
    7. District 9
    8. The princess and the frog
    9. The hurt locker
    10. El secreto de sus ojos

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