A blog about movies and filmmaking.

2009, we barely knew you…

In action, Animation, comedy, comic books, drama, romance, sci-fi on December 30, 2009 at 1:33 am

District 9; Starring Sharlto Copley and aliens

So, concludes the year that this blog was born in. 2009, as the lists of others far more prolific than I have noted, was an up and down year. That’s not to say there haven’t been some great movies – there have – but from my perspective, the best of’s are just as equaled by the “still unseen’s”. For every STAR TREK and THE HANGOVER, that I saw and loved (or really liked), there was a THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, that I missed. So, here is a rundown on the movies that I saw, and didn’t see. Reasons that I enjoy the movies, and comments on why I still want to see others. I guess the movies listed could be considered my “favorites” or picks for the best that 2009 had to offer; but in the end they’re the movies that I want to see, and in a number of cases see again and again.

The way I’ve broken up the list, is through I guess the kind of ideas or principles that I enjoy in movies. There’s the romance, the battles, the fighting for what’s right, and the sacrifice for the ones we hold closest, and of course as the song goes; the end of the world as we know it. Enjoy.


The Brothers Bloom; Starring Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, and Mark Ruffalo

THE BROTHERS BLOOM, the second feature from Rian Johnson, writer-director of 2005’s BRICK, starred Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, as the epoymous brothers; who have been labeled as one of the greatest con-artist teams, ever. The movie gives us great visual tricks (the sugar pourer), a true mystery (was it real?) and of course a fantastic love story between Bloom and Penelope (Rachel Weisz, always watchable).

UP IN THE AIR is one, that I haven’t seen – and won’t before the end of the year, which sadly puts it after this will be posted – but am looking forward to seeing. Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, this story of a man who is happy with his simple, and very mobile, life; is thrown for a loop, when a young upstart (Kendrick) is trying to make his job obsolete. Ironic, in that that essentially is what his job is; to get rid of the chaff when a company no longer needs those employees. Brought to us by Jason Reitman (JUNO and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING), this looks like a touching and what I’m assuming will be a personally important movie.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, is not a love story. The audience is told that at the beginning of the movie, and at the end; we find out that it actually is. Just not the kind of love story we’re used to seeing. It’s the story of infatuation, expectation, loss, and ultimately the realization that “true love” is just something you find in other movies.

UP might just possibly be one of the most touching, and heart-felt love stories I’ve ever seen. And then there’s the final 88 minutes. If this were a list of “best of’s” this movie would be on it (and as of now, the only movie in this post I own on DVD). The story of Carl Frederickson, from a young boy to him being a grumpy old man who sets off on an adventure in the name of his wife, Ellie; and ultimately the message that it isn’t what we plan to do that makes our life special and fulfilled; it’s the things we have done – is why PIXAR Doesn’t just make the best animated movies, but just makes the best movies.

FUNNY PEOPLE is the epitome of the “bro-mance” that has been the label attached to just about everything that Judd Apatow puts his name on – or even looks like it might be related. The story of George Simmons and Ira Weiner (whiner), two comedians that come together over illness and miraculous recovery oozes with the personal association between Apatow and the comedians he grew up working around. This peek behind the curtain at stand-up comedy, is strong enough to support the left turn to the plot that so many people complained about. But, the best thing about this, and a number of these movies – and why I love them – is that by the end no one has really changed. The people that were jerks at the beginning, are still jerks at the end; just now they’ve gotten to know each other a bit. Much like in real life.


The Hurt Locker; Starring Jeremy Renner

THE HURT LOCKER, is probably the best, most-thrill inducing action movie of the year – other than possibly AVATAR – with it’s heart-pounding moments of bomb-disarmament. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and a flurry of great star-studded cameo roles, make this movie a must-see and a testament – along with a couple others I’ll discuss – that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make a great movie.

IN THE LOOP is sadly another one of the movies I haven’t seen. From Armando Iannucci, comes a satire poking fun at, or shredding apart, the western-world’s political and military enterprises. Starring James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky (the MY GIRL movies), and Steve Coogan; this is one I sadly missed in the theater and am looking forward to watching as soon as possible.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Quentin Tarantino’s, as one of the characters says at the end of the movie, “masterpiece”, is as stunning in it’s proof that Tarantino isn’t just a hip-movie “homagist”, as it is in it’s complete historical re-writing. Christoph Waltz’s Colonel Hans Landa, might just be the most evil character this side of Darth Vader, and we love him all the more for it.

AVATAR, James Cameron’s magnum opus that looks like it might just wind up being as big as his last feature (TITANIC, in case you forgot), has gained notoriety for it’s racial and cultural missteps; it’s revolutionizing of technology both in front of and behind the silly 3D glasses; and then there’s the matter of it being an amazing feat of taking the audience to an alien world, where the people are 12 feet tall, blue and have a deep – and literal – connection to their planet. The movie presents moments that are photo-realistic even when I knew they weren’t, and moments almost as traumatic as seeing the actual footage of 9/11. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it touched me.

DISTRICT 9 is the movie that I called this past Summer as the movie AVATAR had to beat. And in some ways, I’d say it failed. The movie by Neill Blompkamp and starring Sharlto Copley, while featuring a number of parallel ideas and visuals, rings more personal because we see that unlike Jake Sully who can go back and forth from his transformation; Wikus – as painfully shown in one particular scene – is unhappily and involuntarily being turned into an alien. There’s also the fact that the main alien, we spend most of the movie with comes across as more human in it’s insect-like facade; than the far-more human looking, and English speaking Na’vi.


Knowing; Starring Nicolas Cage

While AVATAR (seriously, I’ll probably stop mentioning it soon), has a back-story about Earth being devastated; it’s movies more like KNOWING, that really present us with a world that will…well, not be around much longer. Admittedly, it’s the ideas behind this movie that make it notable, than the actual execution. The acting isn’t exactly stunning, but it’s the fact that the characters accept that there’s nothing to be done, and the bravery in the ending, that lifts the movie up.

MOON is another, where we don’t actually get to see Earth, but we know that there’s been changes in that now we not only are mining the moon for it’s minerals; but the questionable immoral and unethical ways that it’s done – and I’m not talking about off-shore drilling. Sam Rockwell turns in a stunning performance as Sam Bell, and his only companion – beside himself – is Gerty, the robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. Duncan Jones, who wrote and directed the movie, will be one of the directors; much like Rian Johnson and Blomkamp, that I believe I’ll be a fan of for a long time.

WATCHMEN as flawed as it was – and of the number of different versions that have been released on DVD – has redeemed itself (as much as it can) with the Ultimate Cut, now available. If the movie were rereleased in theaters with this version I would go see it in a heart beat. Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic book series, managed to be, as Terry Gilliam recently said on the Creative Screenwriting Podcast, “both too long and too short”.

ZOMBIELAND, is the kind of zombie movie that Judd Apatow might make – if he made zombie movies. Instead, it falls to the creative team of Ruben Fleischer, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to bring us this hilarious and touching story of the post-apocalypse. With it’s rules for survival; the scenery-chewing of Woody Harrelson, and his polar opposite in the guise of Jesse Eisenberg, this is a romantic comedy with zombies and amusement parks, that I didn’t even know I’d been waiting for all my life. And Emma Stone.


State of Play; Starring Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Russell Crowe

STATE OF PLAY starring Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams, as two sides of the current news media, is as potent in it’s thriller roots as it is a love letter to the printed word. Both actors are great, and their supporting cast from Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman; help to elevate this Kevin McDonald (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) directed movie to the top of my imaginary list.

THE INTERNATIONAL was an amazing twist on the kind of thriller that maybe STATE OF PLAY is conventionally portrayed as. Perhaps that’s why with the two of these movies together, they might just about equal the importance of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN – a movie I’ve dubbed the “most important movie ever made”. At the end of THE INTERNATIONAL, the bad guys aren’t vanquished, hell, we might not even really know who the bad guy really was. As it wasn’t just one man in a secret lair twirling a mustache; but instead a corporation that is looking to take over the world not through force, but through debt. Take a look around, and see if it’s not prescient.

THE COVE, a documentary I’m sorry to have not seen yet, has the benefit of being one thing none of these other movies does. And that it’s all documented fact. The story of a small cove in Japan, where dolphins are led to slaughter. It sounds harrowing, and yet like the uplifting story of last year’s MAN ON WIRE, a must-see.

THE INFORMANT, another mix of fact and fiction – and in this case, an even bigger mystery just in that to this day no one is completely sure of the facts. Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, a man who works at a large corn-byproduct company. Soon, he contacts the FBI in relation to a possible saboteur in the company, then reports that there’s even more dastardly goings-on happening. All of which lead us through a story of a man who might not be completely trust-worthy, either in life or as the narrator of the movie. Steven Soderbergh gives us a stylish movie that floats between being the fun stylish farce of the OCEANS movies, and the more realistic ERIN BROCKOVITCH.


World's Greatest Dad; Director Bobcat Goldthwait, Star Robin Williams

WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, the second really good movie by Bobcat Goldthwait (not that I’m stating he’s made not good movies), is about a father and the depths that he goes to, to help make people like his son; and through that, make them like him. Some great performances by Robin Williams and Daryl Sabara, set this movie up as another highlight on the reel of William’s great performances. And of course, there’s the fact that the movie is just completely messed up.

THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, the stop-motion animated movie by Wes Anderson; featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and a number of others, is based off the story by Roald Dahl. About a fox who gives up his wild ways to raise a family, until he reaches a sort of “mid-life crisis”, and decided to pull just one more job – in three parts. The resulting battle that rages between the animals and the farmers that Fox has been stealing from, is touching and the moment that Mrs. Fox tells him that she loves him but shouldn’t have married him, is a perfect statement on most relationships.

THE ROAD, another adaptation brought to the screen, this time by John Hillcoat (THE PROPOSITION) and featuring Viggo Mortensen as a man making his way through a ravaged world after some catastrophic event leaves the world covered in never-ending ash, earthquakes and fires. But, the story beyond all that is of a man and the love he has for his son. Protecting him, teaching him not only how to survive, but how to kill (others and himself). This is a true representation of what it means to care for another and give everything you have, and are – even in the face of losing your humanity – for someone else.

TETRO, the second movie from the new career that Francis Ford Coppola has created for himself is another of the few that I have not been able to see yet. The story of a man that goes to South America in search for his brother, and the rivalries that endure in a family. This movie starring Vincent Gallo, as the titular character; is shot in a beautiful black and white, and after the bewilderingly, beautiful YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH in 2007, I cannot wait to see this.

Finally, there’s A SERIOUS MAN – one of two movies with “man” in the title that I’ve yet to see (the other being A SINGLE MAN, by fashion-designer and first-time writer/director Tom Ford), given to the world by The Coen Bros., the story of a Jewish man who is dealing with a flurry of life issues, not least of which is his brother who has over-stayed his welcome on the couch. Searching out a series of rabbi’s looking for some kind of counsel, Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlbarg) is put through test after test – and well, since I haven’t seen the darn thing, I’m not sure what else there is. But, considering the word-of-mouth, and the Coen’s past work; this is a movie that will not only test Larry, but the audience as well.

So, those are the movies that I saw, liked enough to talk about, and felt best conveyed the sum of all the movies (nearly 50) that I could have bored you with. Earlier this year, I was accused – or was it complimentary – of liking everything. While that’s not completely true, I do have to admit that it’s the joy of going to the movies; the environment, the popcorn, the speakers and even the trailers, that I love almost as much as the movies themselves. Even the movies that I didn’t particularly like this year (TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, THE PROPOSAL – fine, I liked it, but it’s not “good” – or, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE), I had fun because I saw them at the movie theater.

Avatar; starring Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington...sorta

Let me know what you think, or what you liked – or if you even made to the end of this thing, in the comments.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Muth, John Muth. John Muth said: OK, so I made a list of movies-both seen and not yet watched-that I think epitomizes 2009: http://wp.me/ps9nC-6j Enjoy. […]

  2. Great Article! Thanks!

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