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Top Ten Films Of 2009

by Antisuttree
1) The Road - USA, dir. John Hillcoat. Of over 85 film critics’ year-end best-of lists, The Road appears on but one (and in last place), which begs the question: why has this film been so shunned? Probably because its prophecy is unquestionably bleak and, frankly, too honest. But this intermittently depressing film about the post-apocalypse, starring Viggo Mortensen and based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is beautiful, faithfully adapted, and ultimately uplifting. Consider it vintage McCarthy. Trailer 2) Bright Star - UK/Australia/France, dir. Jane Campion. “Poetic craft is a carcass, a sham,” [Ben Whishaw as] poet… Read more

1) The Road - USA, dir. John Hillcoat. Of over 85 film critics’ year-end best-of lists, The Road appears on but one (and in last place), which begs the question: why has this film been so shunned? Probably because its prophecy is unquestionably bleak and, frankly, too honest. But this intermittently depressing film about the post-apocalypse, starring Viggo Mortensen and based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is beautiful, faithfully adapted, and ultimately uplifting. Consider it vintage McCarthy. Trailer



2) Bright Star - UK/Australia/France, dir. Jane Campion. “Poetic craft is a carcass, a sham,” [Ben Whishaw as] poet John Keats says in Bright Star. “If poetry does not come as naturally as leaves to a tree, then it had better not come at all.” (And then Jean-Luc Godard famously said: cinema is truth, 24 frames per second.) Whishaw’s mesmerizing portrayal of Keats is pure and spot-on. I saw Bright Star thrice in the theater and cried each time. What a film. Trailer



3) Inglourious Basterds - USA/Germany, dir. Quentin Tarantino. It’s about time that Tarantino sat down and pounded out a reasonably serious film, and this quadrilingual, fictionalized film about Nazi-occupied France in World War II is possibly his most mature yet and easily his best since Jackie Brown. That the film glorifies violence is only par for a Tarantino course; that the film glorifies violence in the name of redemptive justice is delectable. Trailer



4) The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte) - Austria/Germany/France/Italy, dir. Michael Haneke. Taking place in pre-World War I rural Germany, The White Ribbon is about the origin of “all forms of terrorism,” director Michael Haneke mentions in a European television interview. However, such a scope, true may it be, seems to limit the film’s subtlety and expansive power, assisted by cinematic beauty and variable depth. Trailer



5) Whatever Works - USA/France, dir. Woody Allen. If Match Point is Woody Allen’s tightest film in recent years, Whatever Works may well be his funniest; indeed, Allen wrote the screenplay in the 1970s, and it bears the humor of that period in his oeuvre. Whatever Works is another substantial film overlooked by the critics (perhaps even more so than The Road). Larry David as Boris Yelnikoff, a limping misanthrope, is hilarious. Trailer



6) A Single Man - USA, dir. Tom Ford. Fashion designer Tom Ford has surprised myriad cinemagoers with his directorial debut in this profound adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, proving that an eye for surface beauty is not necessarily synonymous with superficiality. Trailer



7) Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) - Spain, dir. Pedro Almodóvar. Almodóvar has long been considered the greatest Spanish film director since Luis Buñuel (which may be true), even if the successor’s films often lack subtlety and age quickly. However, Broken Embraces is a well-written story and beautifully filmed, and Penélope Cruz is ravishing. Trailer



8) Up In The Air - USA, dir. Jason Reitman. Up In The Air is a sleek, straightforward, and popular Hollywood picture about today’s American workplace that is enjoying considerable critical success as well, and rightfully so. George Clooney’s worldly lead character, Ryan Bingham, spends 322 days a year on the road (and “43 miserable days” at home), which makes for a reversely curious premise. And the story deepens as it develops. Trailer



9) Paranormal Activity - USA, dir. Oren Peli. The little film that could. In unprecedented fashion, this film with a crew of four people and a cast of five people, filmed in Peli’s own house for a total budget of roughly $11,000, reached the top spot at the box office and has grossed over $100 million in the U.S. alone. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a scary flick will adore Paranormal Activity, which bears resemblance to The Blair Witch Project, but stands alone, and tall. Trailer



10) Antichrist - Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Italy/Poland, dir. Lars von Trier. I recommend this highly controversial film on its merit alone, which is not to say that I would recommend that many of my friends or family members see it. Antichrist is an immensely disturbing and horrifying film, at once booed out of Cannes and adored by the peaceful Danes. During graphic scenes, audience members at Cannes fainted, and an audience member in my screening at the New York Film Festival had a seizure (the film was stopped and lights turned on while security escorted the victim out). But complimenting difficult scenes and shots at one end are elegant ones at the other; some shots are among the slowest and most beautiful I’ve seen. Trailer



Other Years’ Top Ten Lists: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

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