Seth’s Favorites of 2009: Movies

Other favorites of 2009:

Documentaries
Music
Concerts
Magazines
Poetry
Television

Well, it is finally time to announce my favorite movies of 2009.  I have to do it today, because the Oscar nominations get announced tomorrow and I don’t want to be affected by that.

There are alot of movies I wish I’d gotten to see before making this list.  They include:  “Crazy Heart”, “A Single Man”, “The Last Station”, “The Messenger” and “The Lovely Bones”, among others.  Even without having seen those, I still was unable to narrow my list down to 10 (I don’t know how those real critics do it!)—and remember, this is without any documentaries!

Stay tuned after the list for a brief list of I don’t understand why everyone loved these movies movies, as well as a run-down of every movie I saw in theaters this year.  Without further ado, my list:

15.  Lymelife

A nice melding of Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” and David Green’s “Snow Angels”, it would be easy to dismiss “Lymelife” as just another tart exploration of the American Dream gone bad.  And that’s what it is, but I really am a sucker for this sub-genre.

14.  Sunshine Cleaning

Three cheers for great roles for women, please!  Funny, heartbreaking, multi-faceted, important roles for women!

13.  Precious

I’ll tell ya, you gotta work really hard to make me identify with an obese, inner-city illiterate black girl.  But “Precious” manages it.  Quite a few times throughout the movie, I thought to myself–I’ve been there.  Quite an accomplishment considering, in the literal sense, I’d been nowhere near there at all.  Major kudos for using the micro to show the macro.

12.  An Education

A lot of attention is being heaped on Carey Mulligan’s performance—and it IS great—but being mostly ignored is Peter Sarsgaard, who has the ungratifying role of the conflicted rogue.  Unexpectedly, I ended up feeling as bad for him as I did for Mulligan.  Here’s a good Sarsgaard clip.  Watch how he acts with his face:

11.  Up in the Air

George Clooney.  Jason Reitman.  Jason Bateman.  Sam Eliot.  Zack Galifinakis.  Vera Farmiga.  Danny McBride.  Anna Kendrick.  OK?

10.  In the Loop

Read my full length review.

9.  Away We Go

It would be possible to watch “Away We Go” and think that nothing much happens.  And, to an extent, you’d be right.  It’s a quiet little movie about the simple complexities of a romance—and part of the fun of watching it quietly unfold is the knowledge that the people behind the film are not who you’d have expected to make “Away We Go” (Sam Mendes and Dave Eggers), and that makes it all the more surprising in it’s simplicity.

8.  Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino.  Nazis.  Fake history.  Long dialogue patches followed by bursts of action and violence.  Tasty.

7.  Drag me to Hell

I know, I know—not exactly typical year-end best-of list  material.  But I can’t remember the last time I saw a horror movie that so perfectly balanced it’s tone, and knew precisely what it wanted to be.  And the final scene—and the look on Justin Long’s face—won’t be leaving me any time soon.  Harrowing, yet slightly…funny.  (on purpose)

6.  The Road

I read the book.  I loved it.  Then Mary read the book and hated it (for stylistic purposes, not plot).  She convinced me.  Now the book annoys me, too.  But I still had great affection for the plot (plus Nick Cave  did the soundtrack!), so I still eagerly attended the film.  And it is amazing.  Visually, aurally, emotionally, performancely.  (<—haha)  A tender, sweeping mini-epic.  Watch some clips.

5.  A Serious Man

The Coen brothers’ latest effort had me on unsure footing for most of the film.  Was this good?  What was this about?  Was this a rejected episode of Freaks and Geeks? Then, the final two sequences (about 4 minutes of film) happened, the credits rolled, and I was left, jaw agape, until the theater lights came up.  Those two sequences retroactively inform the entire film preceeding it in a way that is the indie drama equivalent to the twist ending of The Sixth Sense. Spellbinding.

4.  The Hurt Locker

Read my full-length review.

3.  Goodbye Solo

As far as I’m concerned, this is the overlooked movie of the year.  No one famous is attached to it, and not much happens—though what does happen, I really shouldn’t say.  The main conceit of the film is, of itself, a considerable spoiler (and yes, this film has a release date in 2008, but it didn’t commercially release until 2009).  If I were a member of the Academy (why aren’t I?), Red West and Souleymane Sy Savane would both be up for Best Actor awards.  I implore you to watch it if the opportunity ever presents itself.

2.  (500) Days of Summer

I avoided this one for quite some time.  I thought it looked like Garden State but even quirkier (note:  I like Garden State).  When I finally Netflixed it after it’s DVD release, I was blown away.  This is pretty much the ultimate “relationship” movie. It’s not cynical, but it is realistic; Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, this is not.  And yet, it is a romantic comedy, just not for idiots.  I felt, in turns, uplifted, dispirited, entertained, joyous, reassured, and knowing.  It’s still an idealized version of a real romance, which is a lot better than an unreal version of an idealized romance.  Once of the first movies I felt compelled to buy on BluRay at full price.

1.  Where the Wild Things Are

Pretty much a game-changer for me.  Now definitely my favorite movie, period.  I really didn’t know movies could be like this, could affect me like this, could be so many different things all at the same time.  It’s a polarizing movie—lots of people feel just like me, while an equal amount are just kinda like…”Meh.”  Of course, it’s got to be that way.  Nothing can hit everyone the same way (and thank goodness, or the world would have stopped the week WtWA was released, for I was a damned mess.) Also, please note that novelist Dave Eggers also wrote this screenplay (in addition to “Away We Go”), so he’d damn well better get recognized for something at this year’s Oscars. Watch the clip:

I Don’t Understand Why Everyone Loved These Movies

1.  District 9—seriously, what are you guys watching?  This movie is baaaad. It even has a serious—SERIOUS and GLARING—problem with it’s narrative style (switches from first to third person).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Bad.

2.  Avatar—it’s not horrible, but then again, it’s really nothing special.  The story is a mish-mash rehash of countless other movies (I could predict the plot without trying, and it hit it’s action beats so predictably, 10 people got up to pee at the same time in the theater I was in), the special effects really aren’t that great, and all the alien-language subtitles are in puke yellow Papyrus font.

3.  Julie and Julia—everyone is just loving the shit out of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Childs, but I found it so impressionist and comical I took the DVD out after 45 minutes.

Movies I Saw in the Theater

My buddy Kyle has been doing this thing for the past few years where he keeps track of every movie he sees in the theater, what the date was, where he saw it, and whether he give sit a thumb up or a thumb down.  See Kyle’s 2009 theater movies here.  This is another exercise like my 100 Favorite Bands where, you’re right—you have no compelling reason to care about this list, but I, naturally, find it quite compelling, and if you are a heavy theater-goer as I am, I think you’d find doing this quite interesting (and I’d love to read yours next year!)  It’s interesting to see the trends (time periods where I favored certain theaters), and you ‘ll even see I go through times when I like to go see movies I know will be bad.  Sometimes, I just like being in a movie theater!!  These are just for calendar year 2009, so some of my above 15 Favorite movies, which I saw in early 2010, won’t see light of day until next year’s list.  In a few instances, I forgot to record the date, so I left it blank rather than hazard a guess.  Here it is:

1.  Slumdog Millionaire, Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
2.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
3.  Happy-Go-Lucky, Carlisle Independent, thumbs down
4.  Valkyrie, Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
5.  Defiance, Carlisle Regal, thumbs…eh…down, if I have to make a decision
5. Let the Right One In, (1/28), Carlisle Independent, thumbs up
6.  Milk, (2/1),   Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
7.  Frost/Nixon, (2/1), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs down
8.  The Reader, (2/2), Harrisburg Midtown, thumbs up
9.  The Wrestler, (2/8) Harrisburg Regal (Hoyts), thumbs up
10.  Friday the 13th (2009 version), (2/16), Carlisle Regal, thumbs down
11.  The International, (2/26), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
12.  Watchmen, Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
13.  Wolverine, Colonial Park 4, thumbs up
14.  Star Trek, (5/12), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
15.  Terminator Salvation, (5/28), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs down
16.  Forbidden Lie$, (5/28), Carlisle Independent, thumbs up
17.  Night at the Museum 2, (6/1), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs down
18.  Drag me to Hell, (6/4), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
19.  Land of the Lost, (6/14), Colonial Park 4, thumbs down
20.  Bruno, (6/24), Colonial Park 4, thumbs down initially, recently changed to thumbs up
21.  Year One, (7/20), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs down
22.  Public Enemies, (7/27), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
23.  Funny People, (8/13), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs down
24.  GI Joe, (8/16), Carlisle Regal, thumbs waaay down
25.  Inglourious Basterds, (8/24), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
26.  The Hurt Locker, (9/17), Carlisle Independent, thumbs up
27.  Zombieland, (10/3), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
28.  Il Divo, (10/4), Carlisle Independent, thumbs up
29.  In the Loop, (10/10), Carlisle Independent, thumbs up
30.  Surrogates, (10/13), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
31.  Where the Wild Things Are, (10/19), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
32.  Where the Wild Things Are, (10/20), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
33.  Capitalism: A Love Story, (10/25), Harrisburg Midtown, thumbs up
34.  Where the Wild Things Are, (10/26), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
35.  The Stepfather, (10/26), Carlisle Regal, thumbs down
36.  Where the Wild Things Are, (10/28), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
37.  Paranormal Activity, (10/28), Carlisle Regal, thumbs up
38.  The Fourth Kind, (11/9), Flagship Cinemas Mechanicsburg, thumbs down
39.  The Box, (11/9), Flagship Cinemas Mechanicsburg, thumbs down
40.  A Serious Man, (11/10), Harrisburg Midtown, thumbs up
41.  Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, (11/13), Cinema Center of Camp Hill, thumbs up
42.  Old Dogs, (12/8), Carlisle Regal, thumbs down
43.  Invictus, (12/19), Carlisle Regal, thumbs down
44.  The Road, (12/24), Harrisburg Regal (Hoyts), thumbs up
45.  Avatar (12/25), Carlisle Regal, thumbs down

8 Responses to “Seth’s Favorites of 2009: Movies”

  1. Thanks, I am printing this for the next time I go to Redbox. I did like Julie and Julia, loved Hurt Locker, and can’t wait for Avatar, and Wild Things. See, I want to watch the movies you love or hate.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      haha you and the rest of the world, it seems. I’m literally the only person who disliked those 3 movies, so something must be wrong with me! :)

  2. Why didn’t you like Invictus, Seth? I just started the book (I like to read first, then watch), and I’ve only heard good things about the movie.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      it’s a bit hokey, heavy-handed, and self-gratifying. I mean, it definitely carries a message of racial harmony, which I am all about, but why we need to explore Nelson mandela’s relationship to rugby for the cause seems a bit wide of a berth. Plus I thought Morgan freeman sounded like Barbara Walters. Matt Damon was amazing, however.

  3. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    All three of the movies you listed as not understanding why people like, I’m sooooo with you! Also, I haven’t seen either of them. They all don’t interest me in the least. I am LIVID that District 9 got a best picture nomination and (500 Days Of Summer) didn’t get shit!

    As if I didn’t have enough movies to cram in before the Oscars, now I gotta add a few more before I can comfortably make my list! I’ve been curious about a review on ‘Goodbye Solo’ and I’m glad to hear it was a good one. Gotta see ‘Serious Man’, ‘Lymelife’, ‘An Education’, ‘Hurt Locker’, ‘In The Loop’ and ‘Drag Me To Hell’, and those are just the ones on your list! I’ve got my own mental list going too! I’ve got for sure at least three of your fav movies that will also appear on my list, can you guess which ones?

    I know this is a year late, but I’m glad you disliked ‘Frost/Nixon’ too.

    I love the hell out of blogs like this. I could probably keep this comment going for a good three pages worth, but that’s just silly. Great read. I wish we all could watch a year’s worth of movies every week and post stuff like this more often!

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah I am so totally pissed about (500) Days not getting anything. Just plain stupid.

      Wow that’s a lot of movies yet before you make your list! I just gotta say screw it some times and make it with what I’ve seen or I wouldn’t make my year-end list till April! Dude did you see ‘In the Loop’ got a screenplay nod??? I was so pumped, I hadn’t heard any buzz about it at all!

      Well you’ve made it rather easy for me to guess which three will make your list, by listing a bunch you haven’t seen. I’m gonna say Basterds, 500 Days and…oh ok this last one is tough…Up in the Air.

      I think it’s a shame about ‘Frost/Nixon’, because it’s compelling subject matter. The movie just sucked though.

  4. All of them are on my list…only have seen Drag me to hell and up in the air so far. Too bad about District 9, I was looking forward to that one.

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