As I looked back over the 75 or so films I saw this year, a common theme emerged: disappointment. Could it be that I didn’t see the right ones? Did I build up the ones I did see so highly in my mind that they couldn’t possibly deliver? Perhaps.
But time after time this year I found myself walking into a theater with high hopes (I’m looking at you Public Enemies, Nine, Bruno, Invictus and Capitalism: A Love Story, among others) only to walk out deflated by thoughts of what might have been.
So a common theme among the movies that made my list this year is that with most of them I went in not really knowing what to expect and was ultimately pleasantly surprised (thrilled, even, in the case of No. 1). This year won’t go down as a milestone of filmmaking – I would rank my top four from last year ahead of anything from this year. Still, there is a select group of movies that I truly did enjoy, some of which I even look forward to watching again soon.
In honor of this being the Year of Twitter, here is my list – tweet style – with each analysis no longer than 140 characters:
1. Where the Wild Things Are – Simple story lets mother and child walk in each other’s shoes. Final scene is wordless, yet it’s clear that everyone at the table has grown.
2. Precious – Toughest character of 09 is a teen girl. Never wanted to reach through screen and hug someone more. This film stuck with me more than any.
3. Up – Montage of Carl/Ellie’s life = best 5 min. of film this year. Pixar proves again toons can enthrall kids & adults. And Kevin is a girl – ha!
4. It Might Get Loud – Jimmy + Jack + Edge + empty room w/ guitars = electric. Fun to see Page get giddy hearing Link Wray & Jack build ax w/ wood and coke bottle.
5. Every Little Step — Behind-the-scenes doc on casting Broadway revival of A Chorus Line had killer access. As dancers win roles/get cut, you feel their pain/joy.
6. Up in the Air – A movie of our times. Clooney/Farmiga/Kendrick have chemistry to spare. Each player makes literal and figurative journey by end, as do we.
7. (500) Days of Summer – We know they fall in love; we know they break up. But why? The way 500 Days works toward that question makes it 1 of 09’s most innovative.
8. A Single Man – Tom Ford trades fashion for film and proves he has a future. If not for Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, Colin Firth would take home the Oscar.
9. Inglorious Basterds – Quentin quits genres (finally) to make film about what he knows best: film. Christoph Waltz joins ranks of all-time bad guys. Pitt’s funny.
10. The Eyes of Me — SXSW/AFI-Dallas doc tracks 4 teens in year @ TX School for the Blind. Heartbreaking and inspiring. Handicapped are just like everyone else.
Honorable mentions: Crazy Heart, The Cove, The Hangover, It’s Complicated, Adventureland, Away We Go, The Informant!