The guidelines:

  • Any movie viewed in the year 2009 that I haven’t seen before qualifies for the list.
  • I balance artistic merit with a swinging good time.
  • In order of importance I rank artistic brilliance, “re-view-ability”, and only then “a swinging good time”.
  • I do twelve top movies (B-listing 12 more). Consider it cinema calendrics.

The selections for 2009:

1. Thin Red Line : Terrence Malick : 1998

Terrence Malick is lyrical with the camera, a cinematic Psalmist. The Thin Red Line is a war movie like no other, reflective, poetic, tragic. Jumps immediately into my top fifteen favorite films of all time.

2. Happy Go Lucky : Mike Leigh : 2008

An infectious film. Sally Hawkins plays a character who is so oddball and all over that she can only be loved or hated for it. I loved her for it.

Happy Go Lucky1.jpg

3. Rachel Getting Married : Jonathan Demme : 2008

I don’t know how Anne Hathaway ended up in this film, but never have I seen such a contrast between self-indulgent misery and corporate celebration.  A perfect compliment to Margot at the Wedding.

4. The Wrestler : Darren Aronofsky : 2008

Darren Aronofsky’s “The Passion of Christ” cynically remixed as the Ram of God who wrestles with the sins of the world.  Despite its subject matter it’s a pull-no-punches film.

5. Apocalypse Now : Francis Ford Coppola : 1979

A war classic that is gripping up until its soft conclusion, ending in whimper rather than bang.

6. The Hurt Locker : Kathryn Bigelow : 2008

A movie that is full of bang,  Jarhead without the cinematic gloss.

7. Lat Den Ritte Komma In (aka Let the Right One In) : Tomas Alfredson : 2008

An atypical vampire film that I’ve described as “John Carpenter passed through Gus Van Sant”. I discuss the true horror of it here.

8. Days of Heaven : Terrence Malick : 1978

Terrence Malick is a master of visuals. If there were a “Top 100 Scenes List” he’d own a quarter of it.

9. Goodbye Solo : Ramin Bahrani : 2008

A dark film, but one of the richest I’ve ever seen. The final ten minutes are breathtaking.

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10. Up : Pete Docter : 2009

While not a perfect film Pixar continues to raise the bar.

11. Sommarnattens Leende (aka Smiles of a Summer Night) : Ingmar Bergman : 1955

My classic film appreciation continues to grow, Ingmar Bergman’s entertaining romantic farce is still immanently watchable.

12. Transsiberian : Brad Anderson : 2008

This quiet but haunting film escalates beautifully.

Click here for the best of the rest:

Avatar : The master of Splodies sets the volume to rompus and the 3D added a bit more depth than the vague mysticism.
Hannah and Her Sisters/ Manhattan Murder Mystery : Classic Woody
Julie & Julia : Amy Adams does more with less, but Meryl Streep does well with her lot.
Blade Runner : I still waiver over whether he is or is not. As of now I say he is.
Gran Torino : Good R-rated fun.
Jungfrukallen : A powerful film, includes one of my all-time favorite visuals: Tore wrestling with the birch tree.
Les Quatre Cents Coups : Another classic film, excellent staging and storytelling.
Le Regle du Jeu : Humor sometimes doesn’t age well, but this one is still funny.
Public Enemies : It’s safe to say that I don’t get Mann anymore, but there are moments in this film that are outstanding.
Coraline : Wildly imaginative and gorgeously done. Underrated.
Chop Shop : Another film from Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye, Solo), whose carved out his own little genre.
Bella : The best of the Pro-choice-Life movies of recent years. Very pretty.

The best movies I watched in 2008.