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The Blogulator's Top 10 Movies of 2009

10. Antichrist [Written and Directed by Lars von Trier]

Make no mistake -- I never want to see this movie again. Disturbing, troubling, and nightmarish are all words to describe this pretentious art-house dreck from Lars von Trier. And yet throughout all the dank interiors, foggy forests, and genital mutilations (yep, genital mutilations), there's a haunting sense of beauty shot through the visuals and through the intense performances of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe. Whether von Trier made a defining piece of modern Gothic art or is just f***ing with the audience is up to the viewer; needless to say, it's not a film I will soon be forgetting. [Qualler]

9. Sugar [Written and Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck]

You don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the fictional story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos (although, it really, really helps). The rags-to-riches-to-rags story of his rise through the minor league system of the MLB is fascinating in its detail -- everything from visits from his pitching coaches to work on his mechanics to the intricacies of cross-country travel by bus are documented. The hours of research Boden and Fleck put in when writing and directing this film shines through in the detail. But this is not simply an ultra-realistic piece of fiction; it's also a heartfelt rumination on the immigrant experience in general, set to a soothing ambient soundtrack and gentle cinematography. An all-around beautiful film that doesn't take a total baseball/pretentious film lover like I to appreciate. Although, if you love baseball and pretentious movies in equal volume, you'll appreciate it even greater. [Qualler]

8. Up [Written and Directed by Pete Docter & Bob Peterson]

Officially my favoritest Pixar movie ever. It combines the best elements of all the best Pixar pictures while completely retaining its own unique voice, and in doing so, it becomes the most youthful and wise animated feature I've ever witnessed. There's the father-son dynamic of Finding Nemo, the crumbling fantasy of The Incredibles, the hardened effects of aging of Ratatouille, and the heartache and loneliness of WALL-E. Plus, more so than just comparing it to films of its ilk, it transcends its own pigeonhole by communicating a deep sense of sadness and a profound sense of friendship that I rarely see in movies with live human beings. The painstaking detail, which animated films of the highest quality always get praised for, is just one aspect to Up. There's so much depth and pure joy in this movie that it could shake a house from its roots and make you believe a hundred balloons could indeed transport you somewhere, and where that place is in completely unpredictable. [Chris]

7. Jennifer's Body [Directed by Karyn Kusama; Written by Diablo Cody]

Jennifer's Body confused me at first, because it wasn't your typical horror flick, and parts of it seemed calculated to appeal to the horny teen boys they marketed the film to (even though 60% of horror film tickets are purchased by women, who don't generally respond to Megan Fox licking her lips on a movie poster dressed in a Catholic school girl uniform), but I got where Juno scribe Diablo Cody was going for, even if I thought her methods were slightly gratuitous, and both Fox and Amanda Seyfried shone in their respective roles. The movie never took itself too seriously (toeing the line of self-parody, maybe, but that's the risk you run when you become famous for your unique voice), and was one of the most self-aware, unique films I've seen in a long time. [OHD]

6. Star Trek [Directed by J.J. Abrams; Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman]

Okay I can't honestly say anything grandiose or moving about Star Trek. I didn't even vote for it in my personal top ten. But here we are, making a list, and no one's around to write me a blurb for it. Even DoktorPeace, who voted for it, admits that he doesn't remember it but only remembers the feeling of liking it after having seen it. Same here. I actually remember being mesmerized by its snarky quick-edit lens-flare mania, but don't remember anything of the actual movie or why it is considered "good." And honestly, I think Brigitte and Lady Amy only voted for it because it featured hot guys acting like nerds and wearing tight uniforms. JK JK. Not that there's anything wrong with that though. I'm just saying, I'm at a loss here. But the three of them are indeed right that there's something about it that was...just...whoa. You know? [Chris]

5. District 9 [Directed by Neill Blomkamp; Written by Terri Tatchell & Neill Blomkamp]

District 9 is about what it means to really be a man. This is a weighty theme. This movie lifts those weights and strengthens it to the core. Enter South African dude, totally nerdy and with a hot wife. He works for Big Bad Evil, the corporation of a nightmare. What can our nerd do but work hard to appease his jerk dad-in-law? But when the alien refugees infect him with black ooze that slowly turns him into an alien-man hybrid, all heck breaks loose! This movie is a non-stop thrill-ride. Heads exploding? Yes, please! How about weak dude rising up to destroy the top jerks and defend the weak? You bet. This is a movie you love. It will change your life. Watch it. Watch it again. P.S. Political message included. Sort of. [Sean]

4. (500) Days of Summer [Directed by Marc Webb; Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber]

If 2009 has taught us anything, it's that it is painfully difficult to make a truly great romantic comedy. (Either that, or America's taste for the rom-com genre has gotten a lot worse in recent years, a la the worst reviewed movie of 2009, All About Steve, or anything starring Katherine Heigl.) So this movie was a revelation in its winning formula of joy, comedy, heartache, visual tricks, impromptu musical numbers, and really, really attractive lead actors. Seriously, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschenal are hot! Until I saw Avatar, I hadn't had a more fun time at the movie theater all year. One could do worse than ripping off Annie Hall to make a romantic comedy. [Qualler]

3. Away We Go [Directed by Sam Mendes; Written by Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida]

At some point, we all start thinking about leaving. Especially when we're in our twenties. College is over and has been for longer than some of us would like to admit. Weddings are becoming an annual tradition. Babies are popping out all willy nilly. Some of us want to move closer to our parents, some of us want to get further away, and some of us just want a change. What's holding us down besides the recession and a frumpy no-good lack of motivation? Well Away We Go couldn't have come at a better time for people like us (read: me). Add this personal connection to Sam Mendes' best film in approximately ever and you've got a quiet firecracker on your hands. It seems like it should be cloyingly precious, but it's really just precious. It seems like it should come off as painfully wandering, but it just wanders, and wanders the exact way I'd imagine all of us wish we could do without second-guessing ourselves. It's the ultimate realist fantasy film: all it takes is buying a plane ticket, and yet, it's a titillating enough thought that to see it on screen turns the simple notion into a wide-eyed imagination destination. [Chris]

2. Inglourious Basterds [Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino]

I'm always hesitant to step onto the Tarantino bandwagon. The man himself comes off as a huge d-bag, and it's sometimes hard to breathe through the suffocating, self-aware self-satisfaction of his dialogue. Nevertheless, I'm not afraid to admit that I greatly enjoyed Inglorious Basterds. Somehow, the tired story of WWII (from an entertainment perspective) ended up being a perfect setting for the Quentin brand of extended exposition. Twenty minutes of genuine conversation between axis and allies in a small French tavern expertly intensify the inevitable bloodiness to follow. This is fan fiction at both its campiest and finest, featuring (for my money) the best acting performance of the year courtesy of polyglot Christoph Waltz. And so what if I used the word "polyglot"? It's all good so long as it's supported by the context. [DoktorPeace]

1. A Serious Man [Written and Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen]

I, like so many film nerds, love the Coen bros. But I particularly love these guys when they both love and torture their characters with equal amounts humorous curiosity and dread-soaked existentialism. My other favorite film of theirs, alongside this one, is Barton Fink, in which a screenwriter tries to write a script about a boxer in a yellow wallpaper hotel room and gets deeply wound up in absurdist chaos with a suspicious traveling salesman. Now the great thing about A Serious Man is that the Coens use this same basic premise, but invert it so it no longer is a piece of manic genre theater, but is basically real life, unpeeled and unadorned with any evidence of filmmaking flourish. It is naked for the viewer to see in all its ugly yet honest glory. And yet, the Coens manage to make it even more uproariously funny than the version with John Turturro's big hair and John Goodman's big voice, specifically with nary a recognizable actor in sight. We are all alone and there's nothing we can about it other than try. And love. Even when that burns us and brings us tornados and divorces. And how freaking hilarious/eye-opening is that?! [Chris]

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  1. Anonymous Dan | 11:02 PM |  

    The fact that IMDB recommends Salo if you enjoyed Antichrist makes me think that this probably is a really disturbing movie. But I haven't seen a really disturbing movie in a long time....

    Also I totally wanted to see most of those movies but didn't get a chance because I work with people who'd rather see Ninja Assassin and Max Payne. Vomit!

    The only one I did see was District 9, and I absolutely loved it.

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 8:48 AM |  

    Numbers 7-5 made it hard for me to take this list seriously, but it pulled through in the end. I'm intrigued, though, as to what the academy will do, considering it's apparently going to be difficult to come up with 10 high-quality films to nominate for Best Picture. Especially since it was often hard for them to come up with 5.

    But what's this voting process that you talked about? Do Chris's and Qualler's votes get weighted? Do we get to see your individual top tens?

  3. Blogger chris | 1:07 PM |  

    Haha I hear ya, Unspar. I do get the appeal of D9, even if I didn't particularly love it, but Star Trek I think just magnetized everyone because it managed to be a high-budget sci-fi movie that didn't suck. Doesn't mean it should nominated for an Oscar. If I had to guess what the Best Pic nominees are going to be, I would say that only 3-4 of them will be genuinely great movies, while the others will be decent-good movies that just caught a buzzwave, like Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker. One of those will probably win the big award too, which is too bad, but I suppose better than most of the Best Pic winners in the 2000s, though we recently saw an upswing with Departed, No Country, and to a lesser extent, Slumdog. All we can really hope for without losing our dignity is that Avatar only wins Special Effects.

    Most of the Blogulator peeps submitted a Top 3, 4, 5, or so on films, but I had a personal Top 10, copied for you below. Basically the final list ended up being the films at least two or three people had in common and I chose the order amongst those two tiers, because no one seemed to have strong opinions about that.

    1. The Brothers Bloom
    2. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    3. A Serious Man
    4. Up
    5. Away We Go
    6. Sugar
    7. Inglourious Basterds
    8. Where the Wild Things Are
    9. The Informant!
    10. The Box

  4. Blogger DoktorPeace | 3:07 PM |  

    Here was my list, submitted with the admission that I didn't see many non-mainstream movies and liked even fewer. I could only think of 9 I liked at all, so anything slightly enjoyable made my list (except Fast & Furious, which I couldn't bring myself to add). Jennifer's Body def deserves a spot, though.

    1. Adventureland
    2. Inglorious Basterds
    3. Up
    4. Star Trek
    5. Jennifer's Body
    6. Sherlock Holmes
    7. District 9
    8. Drag Me to Hell
    9. Ponyo

  5. Blogger DoktorPeace | 3:09 PM |  

    I also voted against Avatar, The Girlfriend Experience, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Hangover. I saw these movies but regretted it, not enjoying myself at all.

  6. Anonymous Dan | 10:26 AM |  

    I have a question Blogulator...are you making any best of the decade lists???

  7. Blogger LKc | 7:47 PM |  

    500 Days of Summer was amazingly fantastic and for so many reasons my favorite movie of 2009. Away We Go is in 2nd...and was not highly acclaimed enough.

  8. Blogger chris | 10:48 PM |  

    The best of the year stuff is such a project to put together that I dunno if we'd be too good at aggregating best of the decade opinions haha. And part of me wants to start looking forward now that the Best of 2009 stuff is (almost) over. And by forward, I mean questing for more nostalgic movies from my youth of course.

    But the request has been made and shall be taken into consideration. I did make a Best Albums of the Decade list for a music site that's starting up soon, so I will link to that when it's up. Thx Dan!

    And LKc, glad you dug Away We Go. I actually liked it way more than 500 Days. Thought the characters were more interesting and didn't rely on gimmicks like 500 did (though I did like those gimmicks).

  9. Blogger qualler | 5:50 AM |  

    Dan, I had an entire month's worth of Best of Decade posts in December!

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