Top 5 Films of 2009
January 3, 2010

(500) Days of Summer dir. Marc Webb

Sharp, witty, and (painfully) honest, Marc Webb’s directorial debut is a story of love found and lost. Beyond the one-liners, slick editing, and charming leads (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), the film manages to stay true to the trials of breakups without being depressing or cliché. And I know a lot of people thought the ending was so cheesy it ruined the film, but I disagree. Having been through a breakup or two, the next crush is always a sentimental boon.

The Brothers Bloom dir. Rian Johnson

I was lucky enough to discover Rian Johnson with his stunning debut: the fast-talking film-noir Brick. His second feature changes tone completely: in place of a dark murder mystery we’re offered a star-studded comedic con film. The four leads are a delight to watch on screen (Mark Ruffalo, Adrian Brody, Rachel Weiss and Rinko Kikuchi), and Johnson keeps you guessing until the final curtain drops. A smart film that I can recommend to anyone.

Che dir. Steven Soderbergh

This was truly a unique cinematic experience: no credits, no trailers, and a fifteen-minute intermission between the two halves. Steven Soderbergh’s massive biopic was years in the making, and portrays Ernesto Che Guevara in a way I have never seen before. Benicio del Toro is captivating as the Cuban revolutionary, and though the film drags in the latter half of it’s 4.5 hour length, it was fascinating enough to make me want to pick up a biography on the Argentine (which I did).

Fantastic Mr. Fox dir. Wes Anderson

When Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach began writing the screenplay adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic short story, they went and stayed with Mrs. Dahl at her English countryside home. Inspired by the setting (which inspired Dahl in the first place), they documented everything from Dahl’s living room chair to his night lamp and placed it in the film. The result is a surprisingly harmonious blend of Dahl’s English imagination and Anderson’s dry wit and style. Executed by a pitch perfect cast (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and more), the film really is fantastic.

Up in the Air dir. Jason Reitman

I must admit I’m a sucker for Jason Reitman’s films (Juno, Thank You for Smoking), but who isn’t? Both entertaining and honest (seems to be the theme this year), he has an unmatched knack for filling his comedic dramas with heart. Up in the Air is driven by a handful of excellent performances, most notably George Clooney in the lead and the young Anna Kendrick as his foil (previously seen in Rocket Science and some movie called New Moon). And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also timely: Reitman has captured the somber mood of the economic crisis.

Runner Up: District 9 dir. Neill Blomkamp’s

An intelligent action/sci-fi film? What? It’s rare to find a gem like this in the genre that is so frequently slighted by poor execution, but Neill Blomkamp’s original take on the ‘alien-invasion’ motif is at once refreshing and exciting. Set in South Africa and coloured with clear but not blatant political undertones, the only thing holding back this little big film is it’s selfish and annoying protagonist—but perhaps that is the point.