Ten best movies of 2009 and a few others

Ten best movies of 2009 and a few others-attachment0

I think it’s fair to say that 2009 was an unusual film year—if only because my number-one film has been more or less constant since June, while everything else has been in flux. On the other hand, I can’t think of a year where my 10 best list altered so much between voting for the SEFCA awards and actually sitting down to come up with the final, no foolin’, etched-in-stone list that will doubtless haunt me in years to come.

Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo in Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom.

This has also been a year where I’d be happy just to copy Justin Souther’s list and not feel bad about it. I won’t, though, because we have some notable differences—and I’m not sure we always liked the same movies for the same reasons. We also differ in that he’s more comfortable with his list than I am, which is to say that, as usual, I find myself wanting to slip about 15 movies into 10 slots. Math has never been my strong suit, but even I know that won’t work. Shall we go?

The best:

1. The Brothers Bloom This shot to the number-one position the minute I saw it and nothing has dislodged it—not even three subsequent viewings. I’m particularly happy about this, not in the least because it’s the work of a relatively new filmmaker, Rian Johnson. Johnson’s only previous film was the indie Brick (2005), which played locally for just one week (and then only in connection with The Brothers Bloom opening). This is the kind of occurrence that makes me hopeful about the future of film.

2. Pirate Radio Richard Curtis’ Pirate Radio is in a unique position. It was on my list, but much further down—until I saw Curtis’ original cut, The Boat That Rocked. That pushed the film up to the top. This ensemble comedy about rock music and pirate rock-radio stations anchored off the coast of Great Britain in the mid-1960s is about as close to perfection as I could reasonably hope for.

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox With this film, Wes Anderson proved he could make an animated movie that was still every inch a Wes Anderson picture. That’s enough, but it’s also glorious to look at, with brilliant animation, and has voice performances from a stellar cast who are better than a lot of on-screen performances I’ve seen.

4. The Imaginarium of Dr. Paranassus For the second time in his career (the first was with Brazil in 1985) Terry Gilliam blew me away with this heavily textured allegorical fantasy—complete with Gilliam-esque comedy. It’s not perfect, but nothing this ambitious ever is.

5. Easy Virtue As the triumphant return of Stephan Elliott, Easy Virtue is a little miracle of filmmaking—and adaptation. Not only have he and co-writer Sheridan Jobbins taken a reasonably serious-minded Noel Coward play and made it into a comedy, but they made it much more relevant and effective as drama than Coward’s serious theatrical work.

6. Tetro Far and away the most visually stunning film of the year, Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro is a film seen by far too few people. (It still seems to be moving around the festival circuit and there’s no sign of a DVD release.) Bold and operatic (qualities for which it has been damned in some quarters), it’s completely unlike anything else that came out this year. Even on a single viewing, it is unforgettable.

7. Whatever Works Easily the funniest movie I saw all year—and despite its deceptive PG-13 rating, it’s also one of the most daring in terms of content. It’s also the best film Woody Allen has made in ages—and I don’t think that’s just because he wrote it as a vehicle for Zero Mostel back in 1977.

8. Inglorious Basterds Quentin Tarantino at the top of his game pulls out all the stops (completely redeeming himself after 2007’s Death Proof), and rewrites history with explosive bad taste and film references only a hardcore movie fan could imagine. For an interesting change, QT proves that he actually knows more about movies than just drive-in and exploitation fodder—and he unleashes it all with a fearless ferocity no one else would dare.

9. Up I’m usually fairly resistant to Pixar. Up changed all that with a vengeance. Simply beautiful—and one of the most moving films of the year.

10. A Serious Man The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man is a film that snuck up on me. I liked it. I admired it. And I thought that was that. But then it kept coming back to haunt me, and as its levels of complexity became ever clearer to me, I had to admit it belonged on this list.

So where are Me and Orson Welles, An Education, Sunshine Cleaning, Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Well, they’re numbers 11 through 15.

The worst:

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen It may not be the absolute worst thing I saw, but at 150 minutes of noisy, classless, obnoxious, unfettered stupidity—seasoned with endless shots of Megan Fox with her butt in the air—it was undoubtedly the most mind-numbing.

2. Transylmania Now, we’re talking bad. We’re talking worse than bad. We’re talking bad on the level of “I’ve been to hog castrations that were more entertaining and tasteful—even to the hogs.”

3. The Twilight Saga: New Moon Three vapid stars as three vapid teens (well, one of them is 108 years old or so) suffering teen angst that would make the biggest emo kid on the planet embarrassed. The two gloomy guys are supernatural. The girl is merely supernaturally stupid. No wonder werewolf boy would rather hang out with his shirtless buddies in the woods.

4. Paper Heart I went to this tripe with an open mind. I left thinking of various forms of torture that Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi needed to be subjected to. I have quite a list.

5. Old Dogs The only way to make a tired, dull, unfunny movie just that much worse is to stick Robin Williams in it. They did.

6. Funny People Yes, there were other movies I gave lower marks to than Judd Apatow’s Funny People, but I grew to dislike its phony stab at being serious and its obnoxious tone—not to mention its bloated 140-minute running time—more and more with the passage of time. I may not have felt like torturing the perpetrators, but several of them needed a good slapping.

7. C Me Dance Amateur-night-with-the-gospels filmmaking at its worst—and that’s saying something. Even the faithful, who can usually be persuaded to sit through anything touting religion, avoided this one.

8. The Last House on the Left A dreary horror film from 1972 that has inexplicably gained a following received a pointless remake. Unlike the original, which was just tasteless, the remake manages to be tasteless and tedious. That’s not progress.

9. He’s Just Not That Into You Drivel like this is the reason people sneer at romantic comedies. The truth is, though, that this is neither romantic nor funny.

10. Observe and Report I sat through this monstrosity because Justin Souther has kept me company through more than a few dogs. The things we do in the name of friendship.

The Pootie Tang Award: The winner of the coveted “Pootie”—for rising above the run-of-the-mill bad comedies to distinguish itself as jaw-droppingly awful—is Miss March. The five or six other people who saw this will know what I mean. The rest of you should just count your blessings.

Finally, I think there are two special awards that need mentioning:

Best Use of an Inane Catchy Pop Song: Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” in (500) Days of Summer.

Best Worst Delivery of an Impossible Line: Ewan McGregor screaming, “Illiminatus!” in Angels and Demons. What a moment!

Justin Souther’s picks

The best:

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox With all the G.I. Joes of the world, Wes Anderson reminded me why, exactly, I love movies. A singularly original animated flick that gets more out of a bunch of stop-motion animated animals than most movies get out of living, breathing actors. Best of all, it’s fun.

2. The Brothers Bloom A reminder that comedy can be classy and that quirkiness doesn’t have to devolve into self-parody. A first-class entertainment that never forgets it’s a movie, but never minds going beyond that into something more significant.

3. Inglourious Basterds Nazis, Bear Jews, David Bowie, a reminder of how good Brad Pitt can be, and one of the most memorably despicable antagonists in this decade of film. Quentin Tarantino getting it right can be a wonderfully brazen thing.

4. Up The most sneakily touching and pleasant film of the year, Pixar has—for me, at least—finally lived up to its reputation.

5. Whatever Works Woody Allen on the warpath: a curmudgeonly attack on anything and everything. One of the man’s funniest—and best—in years.

6. A Serious Man A movie made by the Coen Brothers for what appears to be no one other than the Coens. Possibly their most personal and complex movie to date, and a movie only they could make.

7. Pirate Radio Make a movie about how wonderful rock music is and I’m bound to like it. Do it with the kind of verve Richard Curtis has and I’m bound to love it.

8. Sherlock Holmes Think Batman, but with personality. Guy Ritchie—with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the perfect on-screen duo—has made the most purely entertaining film of the year.

9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince The movie that made me give a damn about Harry Potter films again, David Yates’ second time behind the camera is the most mature portrayal of everyone’s favorite bespectacled wizard, not to mention one of the most strikingly handsome films of the year.

10. Crank: High Voltage Sure, it’s junky filmmaking at it’s skankiest, a cavalcade of egregious bad taste and excessive violence. But while the world (myself included) may be praising the likes of Quentin Tarantino and throwbacks to B-movie schlock of eras past, directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are making their own brand of non-referential drive-in trash for a new generation of the ADHD afflicted. Let’s call it post-post-modern.

The worst:

1. Observe and Report If this movie were a person, it’d probably get drunk and hit on my mom. And then pass out on my couch and wet itself.

2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Robot genitalia humor, casual racism and Shia LaBeouf. One of these things is bad enough; here you get it all packed into two-and-a-half hours of movie.

3. G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra There was a time when Jean-Claude Van Damme would’ve starred in this movie. It’s that kind of bad.

4. Play the Game An entire movie built around Andy Griffith’s orgasm face. There’s really nothing else for me to say.

5. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li So awkward and clumsy it has its own kind of weird, inept charm, like those mutant frogs with extra legs and eyeballs. Special consideration for Chris Klein in the worst performance of the year. Nash out!

6. Paper Heart Michael Cera and some girl who giggles way too much try to act cute for 90 minutes. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

7. The Fourth Kind The illegitimate, inbred offspring of The Blair Witch Project and The X-Files, here’s a movie about alien abduction that can’t keep its mythology straight. However, the most far-fetched thing in it is Milla Jovovich literally claiming she’s an actress.

8. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell What hath the Internet wrought? Blogger Tucker Max’s vanity project is half-assed Kevin Smith by way of keg stands and Porta-Johns.

9. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Sartre had it wrong. Hell is rodents singing “Stayin’ Alive.”

10. It’s Complicated Sure, there are worse movies, but none of them annoyed me quite as much as Nancy Meyers latest opus. Affluent white people drink wine, have fun and make croissants. I don’t make enough to find this cute.

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56 thoughts on “Ten best movies of 2009 and a few others

  1. Pleased to see THE BROTHERS BLOOM rating so high on both lists, and I’m now more eager than ever to catch up with INGLORIOURIOUS BASTERDS and FANTASTIC MR FOX.

    Now I await the Top 100 of the last 10 Years list.

  2. Me

    Pootie Tang has became a cult classic, im looking forward to Louis CKs new show. Have you seen the award wining short film he did years ago its actually pretty good.

  3. John r

    I haven’t seen all the movies you listed above, but I really enjoyed “Sin Nombre” and “The Hurt Locker”. I will use your lists for DVD viewing.

  4. AC

    Ken, Up in the Air didn’t make your list. I saw Easy Virtue and thought Up in the Air was a better film.

    Thanks for what you do! I enjoy your writing and energy you bring here!!

  5. Dread P. Roberts

    For some inexplicable reason I was thinking that The Brothers Bloom was a 2008 movie. Sometimes I question my very sanity. But, yes, that would definitely be at the top of my list for ’09!

    Ken, on your list I am very sad to admit that I’ve yet to see numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10. I feel so out of touch right now. Tetro is the one that I’m probably most bummed about not getting around to see. I procrastinated, and when I went to go watch the movie, it had just recently left. I don’t quite know why I didn’t see Pirate Radio, since I was planning on seeing it. Alas, now I’m left waiting for DVD/Blu-Ray.

    I’ve noticed a few other lists of this nature, floating around the internet, that are giving a lot of praise to The Hurt Locker. Was that not even a runner up for you guys?

  6. I’ve actually seen two of the movies on your lists. They both were marketed to kids, but it makes me happy that two such films were so well-received. Thank you, Pixar and Wes Anderson.

  7. Vince Lugo

    District 9 doesn’t even rate an honorable mention? It’s probably the best sci-fi movie of the decade (and one of the best, period) so why the snub?

  8. davidf

    As some other commenters, I’m curious where THE HURT LOCKER and UP IN THE AIR would fit on your respective lists, but also: (500) DAYS OF SUMMER? DISTRICT 9?

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    District 9 doesn’t even rate an honorable mention? It’s probably the best sci-fi movie of the decade

    It’s a good movie, but I’m afraid I just can’t go that far. There are a couple sci-fi movies that I can think of off the top of my head that I personally like more. Have you seen Sunshine? Children of Men? Without actually looking back at the past decades offerings, Sunshine might take the top spot for me in the sci-fi category. If you’re interested in sci-fi, and haven’t yet seen this, I highly recommend it. Of course, that also depends on your taste in Danny Boyle’s style.

  10. Justin Souther

    I can give my reasons why some of these movies didn’t end up on my list, and while I can’t personally speak for Ken, I can say that I doubt my reasons are too far removed from his own.

    I like The Hurt Locker, but it’s simply not a type of filmmaking I can get real enthused about. It’s well made, well acted and has an interesting take on war that sets it apart from the glut of Iraq War movies that have come and died in theaters. And while I think it’s a good film (though the more I sit here and think about it, I might like it a bit more than I realized a few minutes ago) and would recommend it to others, it’s just not a movie — stylistically or content-wise — that I can get worked up about. I see its merits, but my tastes don’t quite line up with it.
    I liked Up in the Air (I liked parts of it a good bit — the scene with J.K. Simmons for instance) and George Clooney gives a great performance (though, let’s be honest, it’s rare he doesn’t), but by the end I felt my emotional connection to the film lacking. I think a lot of this has to do with me never getting a sense that the film knew what it wanted me to feel. Hopeful? Depressed? The intent felt muddled. That being said, it’s definitely a very clever, very well made movie and I understand the hype to an extent.

    (500) Days of Summer — for me — ranks up there as one of my biggest disappointments of the year. And again, it’s a matter of emotional impact, which is why it let me down. As stylish filmmaking I enjoyed it, and I usually like the leads, but there was so much in the film (I begrudgingly admit) I relate to, that when I got to the end of the film and felt nothing, it was frustrating. A lot of it has to do with small touches I feel are missing. The last scene of the film is too pat and a bit cheesy. I still think we need to see Zooey Deschanel’s new boyfriend at some point. At the same time, I never got a sense that Deschanel’s character (and I’m worried to think this might be said about the real-life actress, too) has no personality. We’re just told how wonderful she it, which deadens the impact for me.

    District 9 I enjoyed a lot, and I do agree it’s a very fine science fiction film and one of the few summer movies I really enjoyed. But at the same time, it hasn’t stuck with me like I’d hoped. Though I get the feeling that if I watched it again today I’d regret not giving it more consideration. And while we’re on the topic, I’d rate Children of Men and Sunshine ahead of it as far as science fiction films of this decade go. But you’ll see that as soon as we get that Top 100 list up and running.

  11. Jeff Fobes

    This just in from David Fellerath, movie critic at Durham’s IndyWeek:
    My 10 best films of the ‘naughts, published today. No. 1: Mulholland Dr. Film: The Year in Film: http://bit.ly/6eWuee via @indyweek

  12. Justin Souther

    Im guessing Goodbye Solo was 2008 since its not on your lists.

    Nope, it hit limited release (and Asheville) in 2009, so we’d count it as a 2009 film.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I have to admit that I’ve been out of the loop here today. First of all, I was working on the Top 100 thing from midnight till about 11 this morning — and coming down with a cold all the while — so as soon as I could I went to bed. Then I had to go to my other job and I’m actually only here briefly now.

    Justin pretty much covered what I would have said, but I’d add that when all is said and done these things are strictly opinions and as such they’re going to differ. I wasn’t that crazy about The Hurt Locker. It’s a good movie, but I didn’t find it outstanding. I liked (500) Days of Summer better than Justin did, but I like it better in bits and pieces than as a whole. I admired Goobye Solo, but it didn’t stay with me.

    And, Mr. Roberts, it may not be the ideal venue, but Pirate Radio is playing in the 10 p.m. slot at Asheville Pizza and Brewing through next Thursday.

  14. And, Mr. Roberts, it may not be the ideal venue, but Pirate Radio is playing in the 10 p.m. slot at Asheville Pizza and Brewing through next Thursday.

    I’m hearing more disagreement from customers on your review of PIRATE RADIO than I have from any other film. Which means I have to see it.

  15. I’m hearing more disagreement from customers on your review of PIRATE RADIO than I have from any other film. Which means I have to see it.
    You will not be disappointed! Actually, you might, as I’ve heard of (although not met) many people disliking it.

    But it’s brilliant!

    Just thinking about it makes me want put Let’s Spend the Night Together on the stereo!

  16. Sean Williams

    I’m still composing my own list. I know that my top five includes Easy Virtue, The Brothers Bloom, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Up in the Air, but I’m not sure in what order. I’m actually leaning toward Easy Virtue for the number one slot by reason of its visual inventiveness and Colin Firth’s performance, but Jessica Biel might counterbalance those points.

    I’ve yet to see Tetro, Imaginarium, Orson Welles, or A Serious Man — or The Boat That Rocks, for that matter, which I probably should see if you think it represents that substantial an improvement over Pirate Radio.

    As to District 9…I don’t know. I liked it far better than I expected to. In my opinion, the first fifteen minutes are great and the rest of the film stays within spitting distance of greatness. But if it does make my list, it’ll be in the bottom half.

  17. Sean Williams

    I remember thinking upon first seeing (500) Days of Summer that it was well-observed, but on reflection, it seems to me to represent the kind of cleverness that is indicative more of naïveté than of wisdom. (Does that make any sense? Tom says no.) Also, several of the characters are overstated in a way that would be better suited to a broader comedy.

    Since I labor under the delusion that anyone cares about my opinions, I’ll add my list of the ten best graphic novels of 2009, which is also incomplete.

    1. Hellboy The Wild Hunt, Mike Mignola
    2. RASL: The Drift, Jeff Smith
    3. Courtney Crumrin’s Monstrous Holiday, Ted Naifeh
    4. Britten and Brulightly, Hannah Berry
    5. Bayou, Volime 1, Jeremy Love
    6. B.P.R.D.: 1947, Joshua Dysart and Mike Mignola
    7. House of Mystery, Volume 1: Room and Boredom, Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham
    8. Low Moon, Jason

  18. Glancing over these lists again, I think Ken’s is probably the most agreeable I’ve seen since I’ve been reading his work (6-odd years now).

  19. Dread P. Roberts

    Since I labor under the delusion that anyone cares about my opinions

    I care, for the simple fact of the matter that I tend to agree with your opinions more often than not (regarding movies, since I don’t really read graphic novels all that often). The benefit of such opinions is that one may be pointed in the direction of something that he/she either didn’t previously know about, or simply wasn’t thinking about.

    That’s in large part why I turn to Ken Hanke’s reviews. Of course, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, since is seems reasonable to assume that this is why most everyone follows a particular reviewer for advise. What befuddles me, is why people who so adamantly disagree, would keep coming back to express their strong disagreement. Why don’t these folks just accept that they have a different opinion, and go find a reviewer they can agree with? I suppose I’ll never fully understand such depths of shear stupidity. My only conclusion is that certain individuals just have more fun being a disagreeable troll of sorts, than I.

  20. Tonberry

    Tonberry’s Top Ten Movies of 2009: Or I’m sure no one really cares but I like to make lists. I get a kick out of it.

    I try to see as many movies as I possibly can. But being a broke, (not in college) student of film, there are a few movies you’ve both listed up top I just haven’t seen. (“Tetro”! “Easy Virtue”! “Whatever Works”! “Crank 2”!) But that is why I love these lists, as it gives me something to keep in mind when I buy or rent a movie.

    As for my own list, all the movies here are ones I would buy and binge on for weeks. Example, I recognize that “District 9” is a far better movie than say “Extract.” But as impressed as I was with “District 9,” I was pretty much done with it after one view; While I could see myself hanging out with the characters of “Extract” a few more times.

    Anyway, here we go.

    Worst Movie of 2009: Funny People
    I have wrestled my fanboy “Terminator” demon, and won out. This is a film that could have had potential, yet its director seems to have gotten drunk off of his own fame; Judd Apatow has become the George Lucas of American comedies.

    ***I’d like to note that “Miss March” is worse than “Funny People” but it numbed this viewer’s mind so much I just can’t get upset by it.
    Then there is “New Moon,” a terrible, terrible movie. But the fun of riffing jokes on that movie with friends, has to be one of the most memorable movie ‘going’ experiences of ‘09.

    And now my top 10…

    10.) Extract — I know, I know, there were far better movies this year. Yet I can’t think of a movie that quite snuck on me the way “Extract” did. Here we have a modest comedy about the workplace, filled to the brim with characters that we can relate to, and know in our personal lives. I could watch this movie after having a tired day at work, and just laugh at the absurdity of the situations that ‘normal’ people get into. “Extract” is the best 2009 movie about actual funny people.

    9.) Where the Wild Things Are — It left me with same feelings that “Synecdoche, New York” did after the first time I watched it; Heartbroken, pondering, uneasy. It wasn’t the movie I was led to think it would be, but something else that tapped into deeper emotions that I wasn’t prepared to deal with. On a second viewing, knowing what to expect, I found out two important things: 1) This is a beautiful movie and 2) The best movie of 2009 that nobody actually likes.

    8.) Star Trek — Now that I’m done crying after thinking about “Where the Wild Things Are,” it is time to have fun. Stupid fun. “Star Trek” is like going on one of those random based scavenger hunts. Out of context, it makes no sense why you need a picture of yourself singing on a bar table, a photocopied Waffle House Menu, and a 4 minute film montage of the chicken industry. But you go ahead and do it anyway. You laugh, you cry, you make new friends, and you’re even amazed that you actually liked this scavenger hunt in the first place. Star Trek has its problems, but it doesn’t let those problems bog itself down. It shrugs it off and smiles. It knows its the best stupid movie of 2009.

    7.) Pirate Radio — There has been so much love given to “Pirate Radio” on the Mountain Xpress site, that I feel that if I add my love toward this movie, this site is going to crash. So what I wanna know is, what about the original cut that made it skyrocket on Ken’s top ten? Oh yeah, best soundtrack of 2009 . Easily.

    6.) Tokyo — I felt bittersweet watching this movie. You’ve got Gondry with his charming filmmaking style, you’ve got the best character introduction of ‘09, and this lovely third film. So why was it bittersweet for me? There was no one else I could share this movie experience with. I really wished I watched this with my film buddies, it was the best film of 09, that is three films, that no one saw.

    5.) Fantastic Mr. Fox — Another film that’s been lavished with love here, and for very good reasons. Class and charm. The voice acting in this movie may just be the best I’ve ever heard in an animated film. I could just hug Wes Anderson, I love his work so much. But that may give him the creeps, so I’m gonna just have to settle for hugging the DVD when its released.
    It’s a movie that could compete with any of his best work, it has the benefit of being accessible toward others who are not familiar with his films, and it has Petey writing a bad song. Wes Anderson, you made the coolest movie of 2009.

    4.) Up — Pixar has done something right. It finally happened. Ken and Justin both like a Pixar movie. Maybe even *gasp* love it.
    What I find so special about “Up,” is that it is a very unconventional movie coming from a studio that is critically well received as well as being a big household name. (I’m sure eighty years from now, adults are gonna feel that sweet childhood nostalgia more as soon as they see that bouncing lamp, rather than a star over a castle.) A great movie that was a great movie going experience when I watched this with my family. Up is the best movie of the year with talking dogs.

    3.) A Serious Man — If you do not know me, I’m sure within twenty minutes of getting to know me you will find I am a massive Coen brothers fan. I feel oddly connected with their films, and I can’t really explain why. Perhaps their movies are just good for the brain. I liked their effort last year with “Burn After Reading” but it’s one of their films that I just don’t feel compelled to watch over and over. I know I won’t have that problem with “A Serious Man.”
    It’s about as good as you can get when it comes to the Coens. We’re talking “Barton Fink” territory here. A majority of folks are going to love it or loath it. (I remember a lady calling the ending ‘stupid and the film pointless’.) Since it’s ranked so high here, I obviously love it (around the moment one of the kids repeatedly uses the F word on the school bus. If you must know the exact moment.) Also, “A Serious Man” has the best movie trailer of 2009.

    2.) The Brothers Bloom — When the snow hit last month, it hit hard. I was trapped at work for a solid three days, dealing with cranky customers, co workers, and my own sleepless nights. I even had to watch “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I felt like I was going INSANE. And then there was this light at the end of the tunnel, and that light was a DVD rental, Rian Johnson’s “The Brothers Bloom.”
    From the press of play on the DVD menu, I was transported into this classy, glamourous, rich world of con men. A movie that is so damn honest, so rewarding, giving you what you want (and look for) in the best of movies. If I hadn’t fell in love with my number one pick first, this movie has every right to be at the tip top.
    On a side note, one of the few movies where the costumes blew me away. “The Brothers Bloom” is the best dressed movie of 2009. It’s damn snazzy.

    1.) Inglourious Basterds — Ever since I heard about this project, I was genuinely interested to see Tarantino step into war movie zone. Then something called “Death Proof” happened, and I got a little worried. I like “Death Proof” a little bit more than most, but it is easily Tarantino’s worst and felt more like Tarantino was catching the dreaded ‘George Lucas disease.’
    On the other end of the spectrum we have “Inglourious Basterds.” I had a co worker tell me that it sucked. He was the type of person that when he says a movie sucks, you know its gonna be spectacular.
    This is Tarantino’s best for me, even topping “Jackie Brown” which was on a pretty high pedestal in the land of movies I love. There isn’t a single aspect of the movie that I’m tired of or would deliberately excuse myself to go to the bathroom during. I want to be apart of the whole thing every time.
    In conclusion, I believe we get the point. I love this movie. It is one of those rare instances that it surpasses the hype far and beyond. Its got fantastic characters, a classic revenge story line, cool music, Christopher Waltz, and a gorgeous build up to a stunning climax. “Inglourious Basterds” is my favorite movie of 2009. Grazie.

  21. “The Brothers Bloom” is the best dressed movie of 2009. It’s damn snazzy.
    There I have to take issue with you, sir. THE BOAT THAT ROCKED is the only film I’ve ever left with the immediate desire to go out and purchase the entire costume selection of almost every character in it. It’s like wardrobe porn.

  22. Tonberry

    There I have to take issue with you, sir. THE BOAT THAT ROCKED is the only film I’ve ever left with the immediate desire to go out and purchase the entire costume selection of almost every character in it. It’s like wardrobe porn.

    Cool, I guess that leaves the entire wardrobe of “The Brothers Bloom” to me. Hopefully though, you’re a negotiable fellow and could lend me Bill Nighy’s scarf from time to time. I’d lend you a hat. Or an alcohol drinking camel.

  23. Stephanie Perkins

    FANTASTIC MR. FOX! I’m so pleased you both ranked it high. Easily the most enjoyable film I saw this year.

    As for my romantic girly stuff — which I get far too little of — BRIGHT STAR and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (sorry, Justin) were my favorites.

    Most missed directors this year: Alfonso Cuarón & Pedro Almodóvar. Looking forward to BROKEN EMBRACES! And I’m bummed we never got RUDO Y CURSI, even though reviews haven’t been that great. I need my Gael fix.

    Justin — “If this movie were a person, it’d probably get drunk and hit on my mom.” That comment made me choke on my tea. In a good way.

  24. Ken Hanke

    And now my top 10…

    Excellent — even if you included two titles that set off my cringe-o-meter. So…when are you going to apply this same estimable technique to the list of 100?

    There has been so much love given to “Pirate Radio” on the Mountain Xpress site, that I feel that if I add my love toward this movie, this site is going to crash

    There’s been a certain amount of negativity, too, and Marc has made dark hints that Orbit customers are displeased with me for liking this movies. Yet, strangely, I haven’t actually met anyone who didn’t like it and it did sufficient business at Asheville Pizza that they kept it a second week. I suspect there’s some anti-boomer sensibility at work on the negative side.

    So what I wanna know is, what about the original cut that made it skyrocket on Ken’s top ten?

    I addressed this on here…somewhere. Bear in mind, I already loved the film and it was already on the list. This just made it better.

    the best film of 09, that is three films, that no one saw.

    They didn’t just not see it, they refused to see it. I couldn’t get anybody to go to it. People who did go to it often walked out, according to reports. At first, I put this down to them only wanting to see the Gondry episode, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. When it hit DVD, Marc couldn’t get anybody to rent it. Its delights kind of paled for me — or were overridden by other movies — over the course of the year, but I really do not understand why no one likes this movie. More, I don’t understand why no one seems inclined to even find out whether or not they like it.

  25. Ken Hanke

    A Single Man has some pretty sharp and snappy dressers too

    You’ve seen it? No such opportunity has come my way yet.

  26. Tonberry

    even if you included two titles that set off my cringe-o-meter.

    I guess those two titles are somewhere in the 10-8 area.

    So…when are you going to apply this same estimable technique to the list of 100?

    Dear lord, I wasn’t even going to attempt it. I’m afraid I’d miss something. I can recall from about 2006 onward (when I really began going to the movies regularly) yet I need to find a list of sorts that has near everything released from 2000 to 2009. I also have a feeling I missed a lot of great stuff 2000-05. I was in high school at the time–diet consisted of older movies, and superhero blockbusters.

    But I kinda want to make that list now. Perhaps a top 50.

    I addressed this on here…somewhere.

    Can’t seem to find it, and I looked before writing that. Perhaps the wrong places.

    You can wear that?

    I was hoping someone would say that. You’d have to be really strong.

    Actually, I thought of the alcohol drinking camel as more as a stylish accompaniment, like the way a pirate might have a parrot, or a witch a familiar. I’m sure this special type of camel could break the ice with the ladies.

  27. Leif Johnson

    1) Two Lovers
    2) District 9
    3) Julia
    4) Watchmen

    Appalled, frankly, that #1-3 do not make your top ten. Of course, 1,2, and 4 were released early in the year, which is an error if producers hope their film to acquire end-of-the-year awards (critics have very short memories).

    How about Antichrist? I’ve not seen it (I live in Asheville, far from the center of the cultural universe), but have our dear local critics? It’s a 2009 release and – given Von Trier’s history – presumably in contention for best film of the year, if not of all time …

  28. Ken Hanke

    Appalled, frankly, that #1-3 do not make your top ten

    Well, Two Lovers was surprisingly good, but I don’t think it was that good. District 9 I’d put in the same realm, though it was a contender. Julia (if we’re talking about the same movie) never played here and nothing I’d heard or read made me feel I needed to seek it out. Plus, Magnolia Pictures, who are pretty free with the screeners, didn’t include it in the package of titles they sent out, so they weren’t pushing it or even trying to remind us of its existence.

    As for Watchmen, frankly, I didn’t think it was very good.

    Antichrist is coming here, but the distributor hasn’t bothered to set up a screening or send out screeners on it, so it hasn’t been seen. That one — like Almodovar’s Broken Embraces — can only be blamed on the distributor for not having been given a chance.

  29. Justin Souther

    As for Watchmen, frankly, I didn’t think it was very good.

    A much kinder assessment that I would’ve given; it wasn’t too far from my ten worst.

  30. Leif

    Julia stars Tilda Swinton; it’s on video.

    Watchmen is a movie about stages of enlightenment; I can explain, if you are interested (probably not). Not in the top ten because the first 30 minutes of the film appears to be a little chopped-up, as if the desirable pacing of the film was sacrificed to running time.

    But as compared with that Woody Allen movie?? At least Watchmen is cinematic!! No offense to Woody Allen, who has made many excellent films, but Whatever Works tastes like cardboard. It’s a sitcom episode.

    I’ve not seen a bunch of the movies on your list, the half-dozen that are not yet on video, but a few seem implausible given the directors’ prior outputs: Terry Gilliam hasn’t made a coherent movie since Brazil (which walks the edge of coherence, but is – I agree with you – a masterpiece); Tarantino has made insufferable adolescent trash (not a complement) post Pulp Fiction; and the Coens have disappointed consistently post Fargo. I would have had similar prejudice against Francis Ford Coppolla, a filmmaker who rapidly deteriorated after creating three works of genius (Conversation, Godfather, Apocalypse Now), except for the fact that Youth Without Youth was surprisingly fresh and vigorous. I look forward to Tetro …

    By the way, on moving to Asheville, I was amazed that THE Ken Hanke was at the Mountain Xpress. I cited him extensively in my film school essay defending Ken Russell’s The Devils. That was 20 years ago … :)

  31. Dread P. Roberts

    Not in the top ten because the first 30 minutes of the film appears to be a little chopped-up, as if the desirable pacing of the film was sacrificed to running time.

    I don’t fully remember all of the first 30 minutes, but I thought that the opening credits sequence was by far the best part of the whole movie (except maybe for Billy Crudup’s narration of the Dr. Manhattan origin story).

    a few seem implausible given the directors’ prior outputs…

    Leif, just to make sure that I’m understanding you correctly, are you saying that you find Zack Snyders recent directorial effort to be superior to anything that Gilliam, Tarantino, the Coens, or even possibly Coppolla, have done in the last decade or so? Am I misreading what you’ve said here?

  32. Terry Gilliam hasn’t made a coherent movie since Brazil
    In what sense has his recent output been incoherent? As far as I understand incoherent means ‘unable to express yourself clearly or fluently’ as the definition, which doesn’t seem to apply to any of Gilliam’s recent pictures. Did you have trouble following THE BROTHERS GRIMM, for example?

  33. Ken Hanke

    Julia stars Tilda Swinton; it’s on video

    Then that’s the one and I’ve never seen it. It didn’t play here, which doesn’t rule it out, but cuts into the chances that I’ve seen something (when you have to see 160-200 movies a year that is bound to happen). Chances were further reduced because the distributor chose not to include it in their “For Your Consideration” package.

    Not in the top ten because the first 30 minutes of the film appears to be a little chopped-up, as if the desirable pacing of the film was sacrificed to running time

    The problem here is that the first parts of the film were the only parts I liked.

    But as compared with that Woody Allen movie?? At least Watchmen is cinematic!! No offense to Woody Allen, who has made many excellent films, but Whatever Works tastes like cardboard. It’s a sitcom episode.

    Torn with grief to disagree, but with very few exceptions comedies don’t tend to be full of cinematic fireworks. They simply lend themselves to a more straightforward approach. And really, once you strip Watchmen of its effects work and fantasticated CGI, I don’t remember it being terribly striking in terms of cinematic technique — apart from an overuse of slow motion.

    Terry Gilliam hasn’t made a coherent movie since Brazil (which walks the edge of coherence, but is – I agree with you – a masterpiece)

    While I’m hardly a Gilliam apologist, that seems a pretty broad statement.

    Tarantino has made insufferable adolescent trash (not a complement) post Pulp Fiction

    Oddly enough, it’s only after Pulp Fiction that I find Tarantino interesting in the least.

    the Coens have disappointed consistently post Fargo.

    Uh, no. Well, let’s say they haven’t consistently disappointed me.

    By the way, on moving to Asheville, I was amazed that THE Ken Hanke was at the Mountain Xpress. I cited him extensively in my film school essay defending Ken Russell’s The Devils. That was 20 years ago …

    I don’t know that I rate a “THE,” but that was my book you were citing. It’s been around a while — and believe me there are parts of it I’d love to do over (not, as I recall, The Devils chapter).

  34. Me

    “Tarantino has made insufferable adolescent trash (not a complement) post Pulp Fiction”

    Jackie Brown?

  35. Jonathan Barnard

    “I suspect there’s some anti-boomer sensibility at work on the negative side.”

    Aw, have those non-boomer meanies been picking on you?

  36. Ken Hanke

    Aw, have those non-boomer meanies been picking on you?

    On me? No, not at all, but there is a tendency in some quarters to want to denigrate anything even remotely boomer generation related — at least within the realm of a certain age group.

  37. Ken Hanke

    In what quarters and what age group?

    I get it mostly from people in their 30s. Younger people not so much. I’m not sure what the distinction is, though in many ways I think boomers brought this on themselves by having, in many cases, wafted over to the same kind of “in my day” and “one day you’ll understand” mentality they decried in their parents, teachers, and other authority figures.

  38. Jonathan Barnard

    That clears up the age group for me, but what about the “some quarters.” Or were those “quarters” simply age groups. I’m not trying to be difficult here; I just want to know exactly what you mean before I respond further.

  39. Ken Hanke

    I mean simply that I don’t find it in all persons of that age group and wouldn’t want to make it a blanket statement. That would be the same as my own objection to being lumped in to some lockstep group of boomers. I have friends raging in age from 17 to 82 and I don’t tend to judge them based on age in itself.

  40. Jonathan Barnard

    Thanks for the explanations, Ken.

    For starters, let me mention that I’m 47. Officially, that makes me a tail-end boomer. Unlike the prototypical boomer, I didn’t come of age in the sixties but rather in the seventies. That makes me Obama’s generation, not Clinton’s, and it would give me a somewhat different perspective on a film like “Pirate Radio.”

    The discussion started with descriptions of why Orbit customers didn’t like “Pirate Radio, so I was wondering if you thought there was something about an Orbit customer that was particularly anti-boomer. I found that rather odd, because frankly Asheville is a town that in so many ways embraces the culture and ethos of the sixties: the love of jam bands, the local and organic foods, the progressive politics, the yoga, the interest in eastern philosophy. I would bet that Orbit has a higher percentage of jam-band-loving, 30-something Buddhist vegans among its customers than, well, just about any other video provider, anywhere. So one might argue that if the 30-somethings won’t like it there, they won’t like it anywhere.

    From my childhood, I remember some of the aura of the sixties that the film evoked: the sense of excitement at revolution, the sense of a movement being embodied in music, and also the tribal sense of moral certainty. Heady stuff for sure. And the film tugged at those memories.

    I’m sure my memories of that time would have a more powerful pull if I was older and they were coming-of-age memories. (Instead, my coming-of-age era was more like “Almost Famous”—the 60’s party is over; a lot of people crashed hard; pick up the pieces and get on with your life.)

    Have you ever considered that some 30-somethings might not like “Pirate Radio” simply because they can’t relate to it? I’ve recently reread your reviews of “Crouching Tiger,” and as far as I can tell your only criticism was that the scampering up walls and on the tops of trees was too Peter Pan like. I came to the film familiar with the work of martial arts novelists like Louis Cha. Qinggong—“lightness” kungfu—is a staple of those novels. So when I saw the film, I thought: “Finally, qinggong done right.” To me, those who comment about Peter Pan simply don’t get it. But “not getting it” is quite different from being “anti-Chinese.”

  41. Ken Hanke

    The discussion started with descriptions of why Orbit customers didn’t like “Pirate Radio, so I was wondering if you thought there was something about an Orbit customer that was particularly anti-boomer.

    No, not in the least. Having seen a good bit of the Orbit customers while in the store, I know it’s in general way too broad to be categorized by age group. But Marc did reference it as being a polarizing experience among his customers. That said, I know that Marc shares few of my musical tastes, which makes me suspect that a lot of the conversations he has are more likely to be with customers of a similar mindset. At least, the in-depth conversations. I was really hoping he would elaborate on his statement. I’m genuinely curious as to how big the supposed boomer backlash is.

    So one might argue that if the 30-somethings won’t like it there, they won’t like it anywhere

    One might, but Orbit was the place that this polarization was occurring. At the same time, I know people from 19 to 60 — including a number of 30-somethings — who loved the movie.

    I’m sure my memories of that time would have a more powerful pull if I was older and they were coming-of-age memories

    That’s really a hard call. Bear in mind, the film takes place in 1966. I was born in September of 1954, which hardly makes me coming of age at that time. In many ways, I think that makes the era have a stronger pull because it was an idea that existed for me and not part of my actual reality. That has a certain plus in that the idea itself isn’t tainted by too many messy downsides.

    Have you ever considered that some 30-somethings might not like “Pirate Radio” simply because they can’t relate to it?

    Certainly, but I wonder why they can’t related to it. I find it perfectly possible to relate to an awful lot of things that have no relation to my childhood, even though they evoke or are grounded in eras which I never experienced. But then I was playing Bing Crosby and Al Jolson as frequently as I was playing the Beatles, which may only mean that I’m weird.

    To me, those who comment about Peter Pan simply don’t get it. But “not getting it” is quite different from being “anti-Chinese.”

    True enough. (Though please bear in mind that only one of those Crouching Tiger reviews is mine.) However, as I noted above, this anti-boomer thing intrigues me and I would like to understand it better, which is really the reason I brought it up in this context. It is, of course, just possible that they simply didn’t like the movie. But the fact that it romanticizes (and, yes, I freely admit that) that particular era leads me to ask the question.

  42. Dread P. Roberts

    Certainly, but I wonder why they can’t related to it. I find it perfectly possible to relate to an awful lot of things that have no relation to my childhood, even though they evoke or are grounded in eras which I never experienced.

    I concur 100%. I was born in 1982, and I believe that in a lot of ways, there is more that I can relate to in the 60′s and 70′s, then in the 80′s.

    But then I was playing Bing Crosby and Al Jolson as frequently as I was playing the Beatles, which may only mean that I’m weird.

    …but in a good way. I consider diversity in musical taste to be a very good thing.

  43. Ken Hanke

    I concur 100%. I was born in 1982, and I believe that in a lot of ways, there is more that I can relate to in the 60’s and 70’s, then in the 80’s.

    You raise an interesting point or possible point as to whether a little distance helps. I far more relate to films and music of the 1930s than I do to films and music of the 1950s and pre-Beatle 60s. Then again, the 80s seemed like a bad imitation of the 50s to me anyway.

    I still maintain, however, that more than a few of us greybeards have brought a certain anti-boomer sentiment on in the same way that older generations have always done with younger ones. A lot of it makes me bristle. There was (I guess is) someone over on the Forums who chose to call himself (maybe herself) “Reason,” which is exactly the kind of name that causes my back hair to start to rise in the first place. And Reason proceeded to do the whole “age is wisdom” schtick, which I find very off-putting, counter-productive and just plain wrong. I can imagine it sits even less well with someone who is younger. I know it did when I was in the younger category.

    I consider diversity in musical taste to be a very good thing.

    Well, I do have limits in the matter.

  44. Dread P. Roberts

    the whole “age is wisdom” schtick, which I find very off-putting, counter-productive and just plain wrong. I can imagine it sits even less well with someone who is younger.

    Yes, indeed. But not necessarily because there may (or may not) be some degree of truth at times. The issue (as I’m sure you’re aware) is with the accompanying mentality, that shuts off ones acceptance that they can possibly learn a good deal from someone of a younger age. The big problem with age, is that so many people want to automatically combine physical age and ‘mental’ age into a nice, neat little measurable package; as if one factor always equalled the other. But that’s just a comfortable illusion. Humans are too complex and unique for that to ever be the case. There are so many different factors that come into play. Counter-productive really is the best way to sum it up.

    Well, I do have limits in the matter.

    Thank God.

  45. Me

    Just watched Big Fan and i think i liked it even more than The Wrestler definitely one of the overlooked films of 2009.

  46. Weighing in on “Pirate Radio”…I’m thrilled to see it so close to the top on Ken’s list. For me it was a combination of a trip down musical memory lane, and a homage to the wild rebellious side of life. What more could one ask for in their youth, or in a movie.

  47. Ken Hanke

    definitely one of the overlooked films of 2009

    It’s pretty easy to overlook films that get almost no distribution or promotion.

  48. Ken Hanke

    What more could one ask for in their youth, or in a movie.

    Well, I’m not the person who’s going to argue with that.

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