The reason why I say Best films is, I just couldn't do it top ten style...it made things so much more difficult and by the time I even post this thing, the lower half of this list is going to change a ton of times I'm sure. Soooo, I went ahead and made a list of my top thirteen favorites films of the year, which basically is a top ten, with the honorable mentions tacked on to keep them from feeling left out. They are very sensitive around the holidays, ya know. Thirteen just seems cooler too, it's all evil and scurry and shit. Also, notice I said my top thirteen favorites, not the actual best films of 2009. They are the best films of 2009, to me and in all honesty, number one is very hard to argue with.
Orphan was one that almost got away from me in theaters, but I made it and I'm glad I did, because I love killer kid movies and I thought this one was a blast. There was a certain sense of meanness to this film, a meanness that you do not often find in current theatrical horror, let alone ones with kids playing a big part. Isabelle Fuhrman brought to life a very worthy child monster to add to the killer kid klub with the character of Esther and even outside of her solid performance, fellow youngster Aryana Engineer was amazing as the little deaf girl, Max. Two great performances from two kids is no easy feat and only a portion of what puts Orphan at the 13 spot.
Zombieland was funnier than most comedies made these days and I cannot remember the last time I laughed so damned hard in the theater. The Zombie action was light, but when it was there, it was nothing short of fun, but this film really excelled in the character department with some nicely thought out arcs for some very stubborn characters. Best thing about this film though, Woody Harrelson, with the second best being the super dope cameo by...you know who. I wrote a review, read more there if you'd like.
11. Paranormal Activity
While not everyone was frightened by Paranormal Activity, its simplistic handheld style of filmmaking worked for me and I would personally say that it's one of the scariest films of the year. The decade? No, but maybe the year. Very well written and honest characters was the strength of Paranormal Activity for me and Peli was able to tap into a very realistic typical characterization of men and women, which is something that is not seen too often in horror films. And of course the little handheld that could aspect captured my heart in many ways as I had wanted to see the film for two years, only to almost have it slip away into remake oblivion - so to have it sweep the nation as it did, really fluffs my pecker.
Review for Paranormal Activity
10. The Children
What's this? Another killer kid's film on a best of the year list? WHAAAT?! It's true. The Children is one I had just very recently watched as a couple of fellow bloggers had some great things to say about this British killer kid's film. There is a lot less story with The Children then there was with Orphan, but there is also no real need for an in depth story with this one either. The character development is very natural and not at all forced and the movie is perfectly paced and executed by solid acting from everyone involved. The Children is well made and some of the more tension based scenes are just that, tense and done with some amazing editing that really creates a true feeling of chaos for the viewer. If you're going to see only one killer kid's film this year, don't, see two and make The Children one of them.
9. Drag Me to Hell
Seeing horror god Sam Raimi come back to his roots, back to what made him who he is today, back to his brand of wacky horror, is one of the most unexpected and most welcome things this year for me as a horror fan. Showing he can still do what we all love him for, Raimi's Drag Me to Hell was an exercise in outrageous humor filled horror, complete with more laughs and what the fuck moments than I would ever expect from a studio released horror movie. Not the most original of stories, Drag Me to Hell excelled in excellent filmmaking and gorgeous visuals, along with perfectly placed comedy and physical abuse to the very likable main character.
Review of Drag Me to Hell
Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson is the wild card in this bunch. A film that I wasn't sure how I felt about as I watched it, but by the end, I knew I had seen something pretty special. Still, it sits in the back of my mind and the more I think about it, the more I love it, in all its pretentious glory. Tom Hardy puts on an Oscar worthy performance as Britain's most dangerous criminal, Charles Bronson and as Hardy almost dances though each and every amazingly created scene, you cannot help but laugh, cringe or be totally intimidated by whatever mood seems to fit him at any given moment.
Review of Bronson
7. District 9
As with The Children, District 9 is one I got too late as I have been trying to cram in as many movies as I possibly can in the little time left in the year. What District 9 is and what it looked like via advertisements, are two very different things and the best way to describe it is Cronnenberg's The Fly, meets Starship Troopers. Two films I love and while I loved D9, I haven't fully wrapped my head around this one yet and I anticipate multiple viewings of the film where I will find even greater enjoyment from it. District 9 has possibly the most anti of anti-heroes put to screen, to go along with one of the most unassuming leads to be in a very successful Sci Fi action film.
Not perfect and not nearly as good as the source material, but damn it, Watchmen was just so tremendous at so many times that it is impossible for me not to be completely smitten by it. While I have yet to see the longer directors cut, the film is a little messy, but messy can bring about brilliance and Watchmen was a film that dared to get in unsuspecting, normal peoples faces with heavy sex scenes, male nudity (and not in a comedic way either), violence, and flat out bleakness...much like what was done with the original comic series. Watchmen also sports one of the best opening credit sequences I have ever seen. It gives me fucking goose bumps.
5. The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Hurm...This one has not seen an official release in the U.S. as of this time (but it should have) and I do not count festival dates as release dates for films, but this is my list and I will put this phenomenal homage to the Spaghetti Western on my list if I want! The Good, The Bad, The Weird is directed by Ji-woon Kim, one of the best filmmakers working out of Korea (or period if you ask me) and has an all star cast of some of the finest Korean actors around. GBW is the highest budgeted Korean film of all time, but at a measly $17 million dollars, it isn't much when compared to the average Hollywood film. Isn't much in terms of budget, but in terms of amazingly executed action set pieces you would think this thing costs $200 million. Humor, fabulous action, and one of the best Westerns made in years, GBW did what few can, made an homage that can totally stand on its own two feet with the best of the genre of influence. Hollywood should take note.
Speaking of small budgets, no other film, not even Paranormal Activity, did more with so little than Ink. A film with more original ideas than most films forty times its budget, Ink was nothing short of incredible, but what made it fantastic for myself, was its ability to draw something out of me emotionally. This will be a film that when I revisit, I will definitely get a small lump in my throat every time and I am not one who can easily be touched in that way. It is not a film that pulled at my heartstrings in a sad or loving way, but it did something...it had purpose, meaning, and heart. Again, Hollywood should take note.
Review of Ink
What can I say, Pontypool was one of the best horror films of the year, and one that showed what can be done with simplicity and well constructed characters, played superbly by great actors. One of the best uses of one secluded location since The Thing and the first 45 minutes just sucks you right in and makes you want to know what is happening outside of the radio station setting, just like what the characters are going through. Less is more is the theory and that is one I subscribe to if it is fitting for a film and is well executed, in the case of Pontypool, less is more than I can ask for.
Review of Pontypool
Pascal Laugier created one of the most challenging and controversial films of the year and possibly even the decade. Martyrs is a film that split horror fans right down the middle, with some saying they loved the opening, but were turned off by the depravity of the films final 30 minutes. Others, including myself, found a film that was able to take scenes of brutal violence and outright torture of the senses and make it all mean something more than pain just for the sake of showing it. Amazingly crafted, Martyrs is a film that makes you think, a film that makes you wince, a film that shows you just how desperate some people are to find a meaning in their lives. Morjana Alaoui puts forth a performance as good, if not better than any other actor this year in a film and it's a shame that she will go completely unnoticed.
And finally, my favorite film of 2009 is...
1. Ingluorious Basterds!
Speaking of amazing performances, Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt the best movie of the year. One of the most tension-filled films I have seen in quite some time and Nazi's have never been so frightening and their aesthetic never so beautifully captured on screen. And the performances, oh the performances! Christoph Waltz brought one of the most oddly charming and polite, yet very intimidating villains to life with his character of Hans Landa. To be fair, almost the entire cast, outside of that dick face Mike Myers, is excellent and too many to name. Each set piece is gorgeously filmed with some of the nicest use of color to portray the character segments and the ending is one of the most satisfying endings to a film ever. I don't even know what else to say about this one, except it is by far my favorite of the year and one of Tarantino's finest achievements.
Review of Inglourious Basterds
Whoomp! There it is...my list of the 13 best films of the year according to me. I already plan on doing a follow up list in a few months since there are a handful of films I have yet to see and ones that have the promise to make such a list. So there may be some shuffling and spot drops, but that just depends on the quality of movies I watch I guess. It's really difficult to put a list like this together and decide what is better than what and my opinion can change at the drop of a hat. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on my list, what makes the cut for you and what doesn't? If you have a blog and list of your own, please feel free to share it, so I can mock you for excluding Obsessed. Here's looking forward to 2010 and the cinema it brings! Yip-pah!