The above dating is incorrect. I did save the first draft of this post on January 14, but I actually wrote and posted it on January 30.
Since I last was contemplating my top and bottom movies of 2009, I've subscribed to Netflix and experienced an obscene spike in my movie-watching rate. I finally got a hold of the DVDs for The Hurt Locker, Moon, and Funny People, which were all great. I also caught Goodbye Solo on Netflix's streaming movie viewer -- definitely a great service. Hopefully I can write mini-reviews on each of these in the next couple of weeks.
Now, I should preface this list by admitting to having a strong Quentin Tarantino and Coen Brothers bias. I love pretty much anything they do. So make of this list what you will -- call me a fanboy -- but I really do think Inglorious Basterds and A Serious Man are the two best films of the year. IG is arguably the best QT picture since Pulp Fiction, and A Serious Man had a truthfulness and sincierity to it that usually eludes the Coens.
In the interest of transparency (popular concept right now), I'll go ahead and mention whether I saw the movie in theater or on DVD, since that changes the experience. And, why not, throw in the director's name and another film that director made.
1. Inglorious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill). In theaters twice, on special edition DVD several times.
2. A Serious Man, dir. Joel & Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski). In theater.
3. Goodbye Solo, dir. Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop). Streaming on Netflix website.
4. Gomorra, dir. Matteo Garrone (The Taxidermist). In theater and on Criterion DVD.
5. Moon, dir. Duncan Jones (Whistle). On DVD.
6. Precious, dir. Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer). In theater.
7. Up in the Air, dir. Jason Reitman (Juno). In theater.
8. The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days). On DVD.
9. The Hangover, dir. Todd Phillips (Old School). In theater and on DVD.
10. Avatar, dir. James Cameron (Titanic). In theater, 2-D.
Where the Wild Things Are, dir. Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich). In theater.
Funny People, dir. Judd Apatow (produced Pineapple Express). On DVD.
Coraline, dir. Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas). On DVD, in 3-D.
As you might be able to tell implicitly from my lack of star ratings on this blog, I'm not a huge fan of the ratings system. It's all too abstract. I could never decide whether the number of stars was going to tell you how good a movie is, or how much I can recommend seeing it to the broad viewing audience. In my opinion, however, the top nine films from '09 are all 4-star productions. Yes, even The Hangover. There are only a handful of comedies that brilliant from this decade. The rest, including the honorable mentions, I would put at 3.5 stars.
Nine 4-star films makes for a great year in cinema. Kudos to Hollywood in 2009!