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My Top 10 Films of 2009 probably had a few more indie picks than this year's list, but I've once again appended this list with some honorable mentions as well as a few I didn't see that may very well have ended up in this year's list, but the competition is stiff.
10. The American
There is virtually no story streamed to us, the entire movie is written on George Clooney's grill, and he knocks it out of the park. This is as well shot as anything this year, subtlety and nuance. Freaking loved it.
9. Black Swan
Like "The Wrestler", Darren Aronofsky crafts a story around yet another athletic section of our society, ballet, and turns it into gut wrenching drama. Portman is perhaps at her finest, an incredibly dedicated and sheltered dancer who is cracking under the pressure of an over-involved mother and the desire to become the perfect ballerina.
8. Let Me In
The original version "Let the Right One In" was a work of art, so upon hearing the news of an American remake there was a lot of groaning and hesitation. However, Matt Reeves (director) absolutely owned it, perhaps improving in nearly every way, the only drops from quality was the children themselves, while Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee did a good job, they just weren't as haunting and innocent as the original version; and the action scenes took a CGish tone that didn't work as well.
7. The Fighter
Christian Bale freaking KILLED it, not sure I've seen an A-lister become a better crackhead than he did. Oh, and the boxing is fantastic, Amy Adams is great, even Mark Wahlberg was solid (though not as off-the-charts as some would have you believe, but solid nonetheless). Based on the true story of two Irish brothers, one a has-been and one on his way to becoming a never-was, in the world of boxing the line is thin when it comes to success and failure.
6. 127 Hours
My favorite director Danny Boyle does it again! Telling the story of Aron Ralston's death defying moment in the canyons of Utah where he had to cut off half his arm for survival. Drama becomes suspenseful which soon turns to visceral. James Franco is gripping, and Danny Boyle manages to turn the simplest moments into a cinematic experience.
5. True Grit
Maybe my favorite Coen Brothers movie yet! The remake of the infamous John Wayne western (for disclosure's sake, I haven't seen the original), Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn hired by a little girl to find her father's killer. Filmed to perfection, the acting is off the charts and so much humor looped in seamlessly, really really great.
4. The Social Network
No one seemed to think that a story about the founding of Facebook would be worth paying to see, and now, in hindsight, no one seems to think it could've went any other way. Great music, acting and a story of losing friends over business.
Un-freaking-believable. Christopher Nolan is a genius. You have to realize that anytime something becomes super-popular that there's going to be fallout, it always happens. So after Inception crash-landed into the theater it was only a matter of time before people added their $.02 about how "wrong" he got it, or how he really didn't do dreams very well. Malarkey! This was brilliant filmmaking and original storytelling at its finest. Oh, and probably the single best use of slow-motion EVER, it was relevant to the story and looked freaking awesome. As soon as it was released entire websites sprung up just to discuss what it all meant, it's like a microcosm of "Lost", except the writer actually thought about how it all ties together instead of throwing shite on the wall and calling it art. (What? I'm not bitter.)
2. Never Let Me Go
The most emotionally affecting movie of the year. It's a very grounded Sci-Fi/Fantasy story about clones being used as organ donors (cloned humans makes it sci-fi, it takes place in the 70s/80s/90s makes it fantasy). No special effects to speak of, this is entirely about a boy and two girls who grow up together with the knowledge that they'll never see 30, they'll never have kids. Ultimately a bitter message about using the time we have, this was what solidified Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan as acting heavyweights. Oh, and the writer Alex Garland ("Sunshine", "28 Days Later") might be my new idol.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs the World
If I have to explain this one then you either didn't see it or you're a disgusting contrarian who hates Mother Theresa. Those are your options. It's a film that opens with a soundbite from the Legend of Zelda for cryin' out loud!! It whips a bunch of wicked ass then samples Street Fighter II!! It's eye-candy, ear-candy, hmm-candy, it's even a little heart-candy!! MOTHER THERESA DOESN'T DESERVE THIS YOU HEATHENS!!!! Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD, then repent for not supporting it in theaters.
Kick-Ass - Beating out Iron Man 2 as my favorite super hero movie for this year, Kick-Ass is the story of a normal kid who decides to become a vigilante for justice. Actually had this at the 10-spot before realizing I left off The American.
Toy Story 3 - The first 3/4 were really good, then the last 25 minutes ramped it up to flat-out excellent.
Iron Man 2 - Favreau is the man, Robert Downey is the man. Explosions, laughs, roll credits.
The Book of Eli - Overall a fairly simple movie about the post-apocalypse search for hope, told with bullets, swords and Denzel. Loved it.
Tron: Legacy - Not a great story, really not even any story to speak of, but it's visually and musically phenomenal, and that's all I really wanted from it.
The Town - Ben Affleck is turning into quite a director. Using Boston as a backdrop bank robbers go about their business.
Hot Tub Time Machine - An amalgamation of 80s comedies woven together in something closer to Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" than the Wayans' "Scary Movie" franchise, that's a good thing.
The Crazies - I really liked this one, a remake from George Romero's original take on a different class of "zombie", people who've lost their minds.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Played with Fire & Kicked the Hornet's Nest) - Really loved these Swedish movies surrounding a techy girl with a propensity to help a journalist solve crimes while diving into her own tortured world. SO good.
The Prophet ("Un Prophete")
It's Kind of a Funny Story
I Am Love
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Well, until this time next year: smoke 'em if you got 'em? Wait, no no, that's not right. Until next year: Have some pie!