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The Top 10 Movies of 2009 — Part One!

Despite the horrendous batch of summer “blockbusters” that we had to suffer through, 2009 was actually a pretty darned good year for movies!  I’d been feeling otherwise, but when I looked back through my notes about all the great films that I saw this past year, I had a hard time narrowing down my Top Ten list!

As I did before beginning last year’s list, I should mention that, despite the rather large number of new movies that I saw in 2009, there were plenty of heard-they-were-great films (or films that otherwise seemed interesting to me) that I wanted to see but just didn’t get to.  These include The Hurt Locker, Moon, Pirate Radio, Broken Embraces, A Single Man, An Education, Me and Orson Welles, Invictus, The Road, and The Lovely Bones.  Might one or more of those films have wound up on this list, had I seen them?  Who can say!

So, without further ado, let’s dive into my List of my Ten Favorite Movies from 2009!

Honorable Mention: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus — I was just tickled by every moment of this wonderfully weird trip into the mind of Terry Gilliam.  Heath Ledger’s final performance is delightful and enigmatic, and the trio of actors who stepped in to complete his role after his tragic death (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell) are all absolutely wonderful, as is the great Christopher Plummer in the title role.  Read my full review here.

10.  Coraline — I’ve got three animated films on this list, but they could not possibly be more different from one another.   Each is a magnificently unique creation.  In Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy story is brought to breathtaking life by gorgeous stop-motion animation.  Coraline is an intelligent but lonely little girl whose world is uprooted when her parents move into a strange new house.  When she discovers a small, secret door that leads into an alternate world where she meets far happier and more doting alternate versions of her parents, Coraline is delighted and entranced.  But all is not as it seems, and the young girl will need all of her wits to escape from the web into which she has fallen.  Dangerous and dark, this haunting tale is sweet and scary in equal parts.  I can’t wait to see it again.  Read my full review here.

9.  Watchmen — I’ve seen this film so many times already (in a variety of different cuts) that it’s hard to believe it came out this year!  Zach Snyder’s gloriously ambitious attempt at adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ magnum opus Watchmen has its flaws, but even after many repeated viewings I remain dazzled by all that it gets right.  Through astounding visual effects and spot-on casting, the characters and world of Watchmen have been brought to gritty, rain-drenched life.  This is a super-hero film that makes no bones about being an R rated film for adults, and I applaud Snyder and his team for being rigorously faithful in their adaptation (a tack that I wish more makers of super-hero films would follow).  Though it lacks the complexity and ambiguity of the original graphic novel, there are so many moments that this film gets exactly right (my favorite would be the sequence in which Dr. Manhattan relives his life out of order).  It’s an incredible achievement, and I still can’t quite believe that it actually exists.  Read my full review of the theatrical cut here, and the director’s cut here.

8.  Sherlock Holmes — Guy Ritchie’s rough and tumble reinvigoration of Sherlock Holmes is terrific fun from start to finish.  Robert Downey Jr. seems born to play the brilliant and more-than-a-little-crazy central character, and Jude Law portrays, finally, a version of Watson who we can take seriously.  Add in Mark Strong’s creepily intense turn as the villainous Lord Blackwell, some great action, and a fast-paced script filled to the brim with verbose and clever torrents of dialogue, and you have a real winner.  Can’t wait for the (hopefully) inevitable sequel.  Read my full review here.

7.  Adventureland — I was really taken by this little movie about a young man’s transformative summer spent working at a crappy local amusement park.  As someone who has spent much of his life working at a summer camp, I love the way this film brought to life that particular sub-culture.  Yes, it’s about an amusement park, not a camp, but this film truly presented the way in which the ups and downs of friendships and relationships made and broken over the course of a summer can seem like life and death matters to young people on the verge of adulthood.  Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are fantastic in the lead roles, and they’re surrounded by a great group of supporting actors that include Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds, and Martin Starr.  Adventureland is funny at times, poignant at others, and it really spoke to me.  It’s a film I can’t wait to revisit.  Read my full review here.

6.  The Invention of Lying — Ricky Gervais plays a man living in a world just like our own, except that no human being has ever told a lie.  When he discovers that he, and he alone, somehow possesses the capability to lie, his life — and soon after, the entire world — are turned upside down.  What starts as a comedic romp soon turns into something much more complex and interesting.  The Invention of Lying is a very funny film, but it’s also a film with something to say.  Ricky Gervais is marvelous, as always, and the terrific ensemble with which he surrounds himself  — Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, and Rob Lowe — is absolutely dynamite.  One of the more unique cinematic creations that I have seen in quite some time.  Read my full review here.

OK, that’s it for today!  Click here for part 2 of my list, with numbers 5 through 1!

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