Sep 28 2009

James’ Top 10 Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2009

The purpose of this article is simply to point out the ten best movies of the year so far.  I started with January and went through the end of August and looked at every movie I’d seen so far, and let me tell you, I have seen a lot of movies this year.  In fact the only movie I truly regret missing so far is The Hurt Locker, so don’t expect to see it on this list.  I’m going to categorize this top ten as being defined by being my “favorites”.   A lot of things can contribute to this, and I’ll do my best to briefly explain each choice, but I think you’ll find that it’s a combination of pure enjoyment, relatability, and undoubtable quality.  But, in my humble opinion these are the 10 best movies of 2009 so far, if not in the order I have them placed. You may remember Benn’s tirade against the current state of the summer blockbuster, and you might be able to think of this as a counter to that, because while not all of the movies that are about to be mentioned were “blockbusters,” most of them were part of this summers’ film slate, and were completely enjoyable.  Some even pushed the envelope of filmmaking just a little.  Anyway without further ado, I present to you in approximate and completely subjective order descending from tenth to first favorite film, my top ten favorite films of the first “half” of 2009.

10. Watchmen

I realize that to truly appreciate this movie, you have to have seen the book, but what a companion piece it is.  The original is such an excellently told story, and it’s such a marvel to see it up there on the silver screen.  Zack Snider took a lot of risks in maintaining the purity of the book, and it seems as if they may not have paid off for him, but for the Watchmen fan, this is just about as good as we could possibly hope for.  Basically this is appreciation for seeing a favorite story be brought to screen in a respectable way.

9. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

As with all the Harry Potter films, it has to cut out a lot, including a climactic battle, to fit it all in.  Still, there’s a lot to like here.  The cinematography is gorgeous, and has a unique look that the other films don’t have. Also, I can’t believe how lucky they got with what were once child actors.  They have really grown up into their roles and give some great performances, as do their adult counterparts.  The big surprise here though is the excellent comedy and relationship moments, it’s almost like watching a really good high school movie.

8. Moon

This is one of those movies that’s best not to talk about too much.  Just go see it and be surprised.  But I can tell you this, it has an amazing one man show performance by Sam Rockwell, and it does incredible things with its $5 million dollar budget.  The script is incredibly compelling as well, considering it’s enclosed nature.

7. Drag Me to Hell

If you’ve ever seen any of the Evil Dead (or Army of Darkness) films, you’ll understand this movie perfectly.  It comes from the same writer/director, Sam Raimi, and instills the same sort of manic horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s almost more comedy than horror, and plays with the tropes of the genre while still finding fresh ways to really creep you out.  This is just a ton of fun.

6. Up

What can I say, I’m a sucker for Pixar.  I’m almost always teary by the end of a Pixar film, (and jealousy of their accomplishment usually has something to do with it) but rarely am I teary in the first five minutes.  Up grabs you and pulls you in, and doesn’t let go.  It has many emotionally touching moments, and some great comedy as well.  Pixar is just unstoppable for me.

5. District 9

It’s so refreshing to see a completely original concept, particularly within the sci-fi genre.  This film accomplishes so many different things.  It’s a great video-game style action movie, really unlike any that has been accomplished before.  And it’s simultaneously a great allegory for racial relations in South Africa (or anywhere).  It’s great to see that a summer blockbuster can mean something.  Also, considering the budgets of some of the other blockbusters out there, the fact that this movie was made for $30 million is simply unbelievable.

4. The Brothers Bloom

I love me a good con movie, I love me a good comedy, and I love me some good genre bending.  This accomplishes all three, and it does it with flourish and style.  Not only does Rian Johnson take a little from some of his (and my) favorite films, but he adds some brilliant flairs of his own and brings it together in a surprisingly unified palette.  This is a ton of fun to watch, it’s clever, it’s a little meta-fictional (which I’m also a sucker for), and it even brings it home with some touching emotional beats.  This also my favorite musical score of the year.  Highly recommended on all accounts.  Benn and I reviewed it in depth in our Film Duel column.

3. (500) Days of Summer

This movie is so relatable it’s not even funny.  I may not have lived exactly this, but it’s so universal that it strikes home anyway.  And yet it feels specific and genuine at the same time.  It’s a really witty and fresh script as well.  Both actors are great, and have good chemistry.  And there’s Zooey Deschanel, who I’ve had an unabashed crush on ever since I saw Mumford and Eulogy, two of her earliest films.  Sadly she just got married to one of my favorite musicians, Ben Gibbard, so I’ll have to begin to mentally let her go.  There’s a great mix of indie music too, and some wonderful directorial stylistic flairs.  Benn and I reviewed it in depth in our Film Duel column.

2. Inglourious Basterds

This is simply magnificent.  Never have I seen such a great experiment in tension.  Hitchcock used to say that surprise is having two people talking at a table about the weather, and then a bomb under the table blows up, tension is showing the audience the bomb under the table, and then having two people talk about the weather.  Quentin Tarantino clearly knows this, and experiments with both concepts.  He knows how to pull back the rubber band until its ready to snap and then let all hell break loose.  This movie shows off Tarantino’s mastery of dialogue and style, and is certainly one of his best.  By the way, there’s a lot of cool posters for this movie, but my favorite is the one that appears to the left, apparently it was a European poster.  How come they got the good one?

1. Star Trek

This was simply the most fun I had all summer.  Films can be big summer popcorn flicks and still be great films at the same time.  This script is near perfect for me, there’s conflict at every turn, while simultaneously building up character.  The acting is dead on, and I would die to have a television show with these actors as these characters.  The cinematography is fresh and appealing, and the directing is exciting and thoughtful at once.  I can’t wait to have this on blu-ray so I can watch it for my third and fourth time.

Honorable Metions:

The Hangover, I Love You, Man, and Coraline

Please feel free to come up with your own top 10 and post it in the comments of this page, I’d love to hear your opinions.

Update: If you’d like to be thorough with a list of your own, Wikipedia has a list of all of the 2009 releases, make sure to limit yourself to January through August.

The purpose of this article is simply to point out the ten best movies of the year so far. I started with January and went through the end of August and looked at every movie I’d seen so far, and let me tell you, I have seen a lot of movies this year. In fact the only movie I truly regret missing so far is The Hurt Locker, so don’t expect to see it on this list. I’m going to categorize this top ten as being defined by being my “favorites”. A lot of things can contribute to this, and I’ll do my best to briefly explain each choice, but I think you’ll find that it’s a combination of pure enjoyment, relatability, and undoubtable quality. You may remember Benn’s tirade against the current state of the summer blockbuster, and you might be able to think of this as a counter to that, because while not all of the movies that are about to be mentioned were “blockbusters,” most of them were part of this summers’ film slate, and were completely enjoyable. Some even pushed the envelope of filmmaking just a little. Anyway without further ado, I present to you in approximate and completely subjective order descending from tenth to first favorite film, my top ten favorite films of the first “half” of 2009.

10. Watchmen

I realize that to truly appreciate this movie, you have to have seen the book, but what a companion piece it is. The original is such an excellently told story, and it’s such a marvel to see it up there on the silver screen. Zack Snider took a lot of risks in maintaining the purity of the book, and it seems as if they may not have paid off for him, but for the Watchmen fan, this is just about as good as we could possibly hope for. Basically this is appreciation for seeing a favorite story be brought to screen in a respectable way.

9. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

As with all the Harry Potter films, it has to cut out a lot, including a climactic battle, to fit it all in. Still, there’s a lot to like here. The cinematography is gorgeous, and has a unique look that the other films don’t have. Also, I can’t believe how lucky they got with what were once child actors. They have really grown up into their roles and give some great performances, as do their adult counterparts. The big surprise here though is the excellent comedy and relationship moments, it’s almost like watching a really good high school movie.

8. Moon

This is one of those movies that’s best not to talk about too much. Just go see it and be surprised. But I can tell you this, it has an amazing one man show performance by Sam Rockwell, and it does incredible things with its $5 million dollar budget. The script is incredibly compelling as well, considering it’s enclosed nature.

7. Drag Me to Hell

If you’ve ever seen any of the Evil Dead (or Army of Darkness) films, you’ll understand this movie perfectly. It comes from the same writer/director, Sam Raimi, and instills the same sort of manic horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s almost more comedy than horror, and plays with the tropes of the genre while still finding fresh ways to really creep you out. This is just a ton of fun.

6. Up

What can I say, I’m a sucker for Pixar. I’m almost always teary by the end of a Pixar film, (and jealousy of their accomplishment usually has something to do with it) but rarely am I teary in the first five minutes. Up grabs you and pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. It has many emotionally touching moments, and some great comedy as well. Pixar is just unstoppable for me.

5. District 9

It’s so refreshing to see a completely original concept, particularly within the sci-fi genre. This film accomplishes so many different things. It’s a great video-game style action movie, really unlike any that has been accomplished before. And it’s simultaneously a great allegory for racial relations in South Africa (or anywhere). It’s great to see that a summer blockbuster can mean something. Also, considering the budgets of some of the other blockbusters out there, the fact that this movie was made for $30 million is simply unbelievable.

4. The Brothers Bloom

I love me a good con movie, I love me a good comedy, and I love me some good genre bending. This accomplishes all three, and it does it with flourish and style. Not only does Rian Johnson take a little from some of his (and my) favorite films, but he adds some brilliant flairs of his own and brings it together in a surprisingly unified palette. This is a ton of fun to watch, it’s clever, it’s a little meta-fictional (which I’m also a sucker for), and it even brings it home with some touching emotional beats. This also my favorite musical score of the year. Highly recommended on all accounts. Benn and I reviewed it in depth in our Film Duel column.

3. (500) Days of Summer

This movie is so relatable it’s not even funny. I may not have lived exactly this, but it’s so universal that it strikes home anyway. And yet it feels specific and genuine at the same time. It’s a really witty and fresh script as well. Both actors are great, and have good chemistry. And there’s Zooey Deschanel, who I’ve had an unabashed crush on ever since I saw Mumford and Eulogy, two of her earliest films. Sadly she just got married to one of my favorite musicians, Ben Gibbard, so I’ll have to begin to mentally let her go. There’s a great mix of indie music too, and some wonderful directorial stylistic flairs.

2. Inglourious Basterds

This is simply magnificent. Never have I seen such a great experiment in tension. Hitchcock used to say that surprise is having two people talking at a table about the weather, and then a bomb under the table blows up, tension is showing the audience the bomb under the table, and then having two people talk about the weather. Quentin Tarantino clearly knows this, and experiments with both concepts. He knows how to pull back the rubber band until its ready to snap and then let all hell break loose. This movie shows off Tarantino’s mastery of dialogue and style, and is certainly one of his best.

1. Star Trek

This was simply the most fun I had all summer. Films can be big summer popcorn flicks and still be great films at the same time. This script is near perfect for me, there’s conflict at every turn, while simultaneously building up character. The acting is dead on, and I would die to have a television show with these actors as these characters. The cinematography is fresh and appealing, and the directing is exciting and thoughtful at once. I can’t wait to have this on blu-ray so I can watch it for my third and fourth time.

Honorable Metions:

The Hangover, I Love You, Man, and Coraline

6 Responses to “James’ Top 10 Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2009”

  • Vince Says:

    …And here is my quick top 10, did I mention I loved Star Trek?
    1.Star Trek
    2.Inglourious Basterds
    3.Drag Me To hell
    4.UP
    5.District 9
    6.Julie and Julia
    7.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    8.The Hangover
    9.Coraline
    10.Watchmen

  • James Goux Says:

    @Vince Those are all good choices, you’ll notice they’re all contained within either my list or my honorable metions. Except Julie and Julia, which I never saw. I wouldn’t expect it to break my top 10 though.

  • Cody Heck Says:

    1. (500) days of summer
    2. Inglorious Basterds
    3. Star Trek
    4. District 9
    5. Watchmen
    6. Up
    7. The Hangover
    8. State of Play
    9. Funny People
    10. Coraline

  • Andy Martinez Says:

    1. Hurt Locker
    2. District 9
    3. Up
    4. Drag Me to Hell
    5. Coraline
    6. Inglourious Basterds
    7. Watchmen
    9. Adventureland
    10. I Love You Man

    Also…The Informant! and Jennifer’s Body would would be contenders if you include September.

  • James Goux Says:

    @Cody Thanks for your thoughts, looks like a good list to me, I’ll note that State of Play was definitely in my thoughts as I made this list, just wasn’t quite room for it.

    @Andy Wish I could’ve put Drag Me to Hell as high as you did, had so much fun with that movie. Also, loved informant and I might’ve included it as well had this included September, perhaps next time I do a list.

  • James’ Top 10 Favorite Movies of the Second Half of 2009 | Lock, Stock, and Two Film Geeks Says:

    […] may remember my Top 10 Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2009 post that covered ten movies selected from the months of January to August of 2009.  Now that the […]

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