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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 … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Invention of Lying

The story of The Invention of Lying, as you’ve probably figured out from the trailers, unfolds in a universe almost identical to our own.  Except that, in this world, no human being has ever told a lie.  Ricky Gervais plays a rather Ricky Gervais-like character named Mark Bellison, an affable fellow who has not found himself particularly lucky with his advancement at work or with his love life.  And yet, as the film unfolds, something extraordinary finally happens to him — in a moment of desperation, something shifts in his brain and he tells a lie.

Things spiral a little bit out of control from there.

I’ve read and heard some negative reactions to this film, but don’t you believe them!  The Invention of Lying is a wonderful film, one of my favorites of the year.

The film is being sold as a comedy, and indeed, it is a very funny film.  Ricky Gervais (who, in addition to starring in the film co-wrote and co-directed it with Matthew Robinson) is a riot, and he brings a lot of whimsy to every aspect of the movie.  (There’s a particularly wonderful opening narration by Mr. Gervais that kicks off the film on exactly the right note.)  Supporting Mr. Gervais are a number of talented comedians who are along for the ride, such as Tina Fey (30 Rock), Louis C.K. (currently knocking ’em dead in a recurring guest role on Parks and Recreation), Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development) as well as a number of familiar funny faces in small cameos, such as Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks), Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and The Daily Show vets Nathan Corddry and John Hodgman.

But while The Invention of Lying is a very funny film, I don’t really consider it to be a comedy.  Rather, I think of it as a fascinating piece of speculative fiction.  What the film does is to take a central idea (in this case, a world where no one has ever told a lie), and explore in great depth what that world would actually be like.  No one can lie — what would that mean for all of the daily, casual interactions we have with one another?  What would that mean for dating?  How about advertising?  Or writing?  (Gervais’ character is a screenwriter, and the film’s depiction of a screenwriter’s job in a world where fiction does not exist is just one of the many clever little touches that brings this parallel universe to life.)

This is also a film that, gasp, actually has something to say, and I … [continued]