January 21st, and I finally get this piece up. Shocking, unforgivable and I'm an utter disgrace, I know. If it wasn't the fact that OWF was created from my own sperm, I would have been fired a long time ago for my continuing incompetence, no doubt. But better late than never and all that. This year my "No thanks" award goes to the guys in charge of the U.K. distributions of Me and Orson Welles, Crazy Heart and A Single Man for not giving me a snowball's chance in hell of seeing those flicks, and every year you do nothing more than tempt me to move Stateside. Sadly, those above three movies never stood a chance of making my list. What you see before you is my very belated Top Ten Films of 2009 and I just wanna say, 2009 was a very good year for movies. At least it was from where I'm sitting. There's some bitter and twisted critics out there who wouldn't know a good time at the movies if two tickets to a Michael Mann thrill ride or a Quentin Tarantino spectacle hit them squarely on the forehead and for those out there who can't enjoy the following ten of my list, well I feel sorry for them. 2009 wasn't on par with the extraordinary year that was 2007 granted, but it sure as hell beats out last year's list and I know it's been a great year when I struggle to narrow it down to just ten movies and so many movies that I loved, have to be scaled back as 10 is always strictly 10, no more. If you scroll down past my top ten and venture into the "Good" column, you'll see that not only did I make a conscious effort to see more movies this year but wow, a lot of them really shook my world and made an impact on me. I'm happy with the year in film, and yes you won't see Avatar on this list but hey... I see what I wanna see, and I'm an old school guy at heart and it just didn't wet my tastebuds enough. 1. PUBLIC ENEMIES Michael Mann's thrilling and meticulously researched take on 1930's Chicago has perched proudly at the top of my Top Ten List since June 30th and nothing I've witnessed (and the majority of this list is made up of movies I've seen post-June), has been able to change my mind since.Public Enemies is a triumphant, an American classic. The undisputed best film of 2009. Gangster pictures have always been the big trump card of Hollywood and alongside the noir and western genre, the American film canon proudly boasts the widest ranging and highest quality pictures covering the late 19th century/early 20th century period of this Earth. Korea have taken over horror movies, the Brits make better working class pictures than anyone else, the French better drama's and the Chinese better epics but even now, nobody makes a Gangster picture like the U.S. Mann's a great student of cinema and he understands that the genre roots of the gangster picture resides with the western, and he shoots his best picture to date, as such. Dillinger is his Jesse James, and as the impending American revolution as signified by the railroad was to bring the end to the a certain way of life for the gun wielding outlaws, so to here is the notion of the bank robber being out done by modern technology. One of the finest scenes of the picture is when Dillinger is told he is obsolete, more trouble than he is worth and that through money laundering crooks can make as much money as Dillinger does robbing his biggest bank in a dangerous heist, each and every day of the week. Johnny Depp in his most refreshingly serious role in a while, plays Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger as a man who doesnt quite know why he robs banks, except that he enjoys doing it. The thrill of the chase perhaps, or as I think the movie suggests he thinks of himself as invincible, and that he is so far above the law because of his superior intelligence and speed. He truly believes he would never get caught and if he did, he would just find a way out. He so often did. Dillinger wants everything now, a little like Cagney wanting to reach the the top of the world ma in White Heat but its so much more fascinating to see Depps delivery in a sincere and human way, rather than a rat-a-tat screen stealing presence. You get a feeling that each day he is making up for the ten years he spent in prison for a petty crime. Dillingers every bit the bad man Cagney always played, but you try and watch this movie and not fall for the romanticism of the gangster. Is it possible to hate Depp in a movie and want him to lose? An outstanding picture and Mann's decision to shoot a gangster movie in HD, which for the first time depicts what 1930's American must have really looked and felt like, was a brave and rewarding touch. READ MY THEATRICAL REVIEW HERE 2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS In Quentin Tarantinos world, it would be movies that defeated the Third Reich. Cinemas uber post-modernist director in his sixth feature film (counting Kill Bill as one movie for this purpose only) has gone beyond simply re-tooling scenes, thoughts, and ideas from past filmic works and has now moved to a larger playing ground altogether hes truly remaking history. With Inglourious Basterds, he has remade World War II, and I loved him for it. The wonderful characters, the note perfect showman performances, the tone of the picture, the cinematic playfullness of Tarantino, the incredible music, the humour, the deception, the World War II iconography and playing ground that made all those 60s and 70s war pictures so incredibly rewarding. Every scene has now been ingrained on me. I couldn't imagine the movie having one moment less. Every character I have thought about in-depth - wondered where they came from, what happened to them inbetween the film's events and what adventures they went on after the movie. Inglourious Basterds is an addictive movie and it's firm grip on my cinematic sense I've struggled to shrug off since the summer. 3. THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE Stephen Soderbergh continues to amaze. His Che movies were outstanding, and there's another feature that didn't quite make the top ten (it would have made top 20) that I absolutely loved from him this year and that was the hilarious Matt Damon starrer The Informant! Soderbergh is the hardest director working today and lately he has been hitting his movies right out of all the ball park, there's a swagger about him right now. He doesn't need much time to prepare his flicks, he can dive straight in and make an 8/10 movie without even thinking. This one was a 10/10 - and it was shot all with handheld camera's on a shoe-string budget, with a 21 year old lead who is probably the most famous porn star of her generation. This isn't the belle-de-jour style depiction of high-class prostitution. Soderbergh's movie is much more fascinated with the industries that make clients feel loved, and along with a case-study of a pretty young escort pleasing men with sexual gratification, and everything else that comes with giving a GFE (dinner dates, tussling of clients hair as he talks about his work, life issues) to help her move to the top of her profession ladder, is a parallel story about her gym instructor boyfriend - who similarly makes clients feel loved by helping their train their bodies to the peak of physical perfection and is desperately after a promotion. Like the great Jean-Luc Godard after his boom period of the early 1960's, Soderbergh is making authentic movies that capture the here and now. In many ways, The Girlfriend Experience would make a fantastic double feature with the next movie on my list, as they both look at how the modern, successful 30-50 year old American male is effected by the economic crisis and what it means to be alone. 4. UP IN THE AIR Jason Reitman makes smart, thinking man's mainstream filmmaking look easy, but of course it's not. The genre that Up in the Air resides in - the entertaining but insightful and poignant comedy/drama is among the hardest to make and make well. So few attempt it. The last movie I can remember taking this route and coming out well from the other side is Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire some fifteen years ago. George Clooney proves once again that he is the closest to a classical Hollywood film star that we have in the modern era. Who else would be able to turn up time and time again in an expensive, well tailed suit, and then craft out such a widely different character? His attire in this movie isn't all that much different to Michael Clayton or even Intolerable Cruelty, and whether through smart choice of roles, or his amazing versatility as an actor - he comes pre-packaged as George Clooney but finishes the movie as someone else entirely. He joins the lexicon of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart - a filmography of suits, but such varied roles. Is Reitman's this generation's Preston Sturgess or Billy Wilder? He's onto a magnificent start with Thank You For Smoking, Juno and now Up in the Air - he is one director I'm excited as hell to see what he plans to make next. 5. A SERIOUS MAN Does God exist? You would sincerely hope not after spending two hours watching the life of poor Larry Gopnik unfold, a man who as he says has tried to be nothing less than a serious man and do the right thing at work, with his friends and with his family, but he just keeps getting shit upon by life, and unfortunate "acts of God". I would be delighted to see Michael Stuhlbarg take home the Best Leading Man Oscar for his performance as the non-cliched, relentlessly humble and God love em', a true spirited trier. Even though he's cursed worse than the chick from Drag Me To Hell, and he is helpless to change his station in life. One of the Coens best, and I would love to see it end up there or there abouts come Oscar time. 6. STAR TREK So J.J. Abrams changed the concept of Star Trek from serious minded science fiction parables into the wider spectacle of the space opera - but then again, what else was there to do with this series? The loyal Trek fanbase didn't prove to be all that loyal towards the end of the Next Generation cast movies and Enterprise and Voyager wasn't as loved as what went before it, on reflection it seems pretty obvious that Trek needed this reboot. I said everything I wanted to say on this surprisingly worthwhile reboot in My Theatrical Review. 7. AN EDUCATION The whole movie rests on the shoulders of young British actress Carey Mulligan - who simply has to walk away with the Best Actress Oscar this March or the industry is in a tragic state. It's easy to compare her performance to Audrey Hepburn and many have, but it's a fitting conclusion nevertheless. She has the alive and melancholy eyes for it, the natural grace. She's won a few major roles since she filmed this movie and she's gonna appear a lot over the next couple of years, that is guaranteed. An Education is a coming of age story, and it's not so much the romance at surface level between Mulligan's 16 year old character Jenny and the not altogether creepy but certainly opportunistic 35 years old seducer, played with great effect by Peter Sarsgaard. It's more of a romance between living the life of dreams, a romance with the high-life, Paris, posh restaurants, expensive dresses, not having to work a single day of your life and the reality of another Education and becoming the person your potential allows you to be. This is a wonderfully sophisticated movie that is note-perfect directed with deliberate assurance by Lone Scherfig from a wonderful script from Nick Hornby, a writer capable of capturing the right dialogue tone with his characters. Each one feels lived in, authentic and alive. 8. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER An inventful rom-com, that as I have said a thousand times since it's summer release, really captured a way that twentysomethings feel in their coming of age years when love and dating starts to get a little more complicated. Zooey Deschanel, always a slightly odd persona with a certain aloofness to her acting style which directors often didn't quite know what to do with, has found her career defining role I suspect, as the individualistic, beautiful, smart and quirky Summer. The girl that Tom will never be able to posses as his own, and she tells him as much - but he's so intoxicated by this notion of love that he refuses, or even forgets to believe it. I love so much about this movie. The out of order sequence, the Ikea scene which is as fun anything I've seen in this genre, the really smart Hall & Oates musical, the Han Solo gag, the very real expectations vs. reality scene, the Joseph-Gordon Levitt breakdown speech about love, everything. My kind of theatrical review here.
9. UP Perfect Pixar movie. Not quite to the level of Wall*E, but I very nearly didn't get through those opening fifteen minutes. So heartbreaking, so well told. It's become cliche to say it but Pixar are the best storytellers working today. 10. FUNNY PEOPLE LOVED this movie! Out of all the box office disappointments of 2009, this is the one I mourn the most. Probably the saddest and most true movie of the year. The rest of 2009 shapes up like this... GOOD (in no order, the rest of what I saw this year and enjoyed)... Moon (my review here) Watchmen (my review here) Broken Embraces Drag Me To Hell The Hurt Locker District 9 It's Complicated Sherlock Holmes (my review here) Adventureland The Invention of Lying In The Loop The Lovely Bones (the segments on Earth) The Hangover Couples Retreat Zombieland Brothers The Men Who Stare at Goats The Informant! The Proposal The Ugly Truth (my review here) Bright Star Extract Whatever Works Where The Wild Things Are Big Fan I Love You, Man The Taking of Pelham 123 Thirst The Limits of Control Away We Go State of Play The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Invictus The Princess and the Frog Observe & Report Orphan Could Souls Five Minutes of Heaven My Bloody Valentine 3-D Dead Snow The Damned United (my review here) BAD Terminator Salvation (my review here) X-Men Origins: Wolverine The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio) The Box The Lovely Bones (the heaven segments) Friday the 13th (my review here) The Road He's Just Not That Into You The Time Traveler's Wife Coco Before Chanel The Blind Side The Uninvited Surrogates The Stepfather Whiteout Jennifer's Body (my review here) Creation Sorority Row Halloween 2 Case 39 I WOULD NEVER EVER PAY TO SEE THE FOLLOWING G.I. Joe Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2012 Harry Potter Knowing Night at the Musuem 2 Bruno Angels & Demons Saw VI Race to Witch Mountain The Final Destination Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Land of the Lost Didn't See (out of disinterest, lack of screenings, life matters, etc) A Single Man Crazy Heart Me and Orson Welles Amelia Anti-Christ The Imagnarium of Doctor Parnassus Precious Nine