best film: I wish I felt as confident here on my top 5 of 2009 as I do on my top 5 of 2007. Just a few years back I had Fantastic Mr. Fox at #1 and now I have it at 6 so I’m not as confident as I should be and will be with another pass thru the contenders. But, for now, I have Inglourious Basterds on top. There are individual sequences and set pieces that are clearly top-tier masterpiece (including that wonderful elongated opening sequence which is half Waltz, half Morricone, half homage to Leone and all Tarantino goodness).

 most underrated: Somebody let me know how Star Trek is the 30th best film on 2009. I don’t get it. Like Up, see below, it has a masterpiece-worthy opening, but, unlike the Pixar film, this film doesn’t fall rather flat in the final act. The film has the energy and set-piece work to compare Abrams with Spielberg.

 most overrated: As I said here above I think Up has an opening that is such a great short film. It’s gorgeous to look at, innovative in its storytelling, and packs a wallop in well-earned (in a damn short time) emotional impact.. The parade of dogs finale didn’t work as well for me. TSPDT has Up as the 4th best film of 2009 and I’m at closer to #15 or so.

gem I want to spotlight: I’ve only seen it once so (which is why I’m probably not ready to put it on my top 10) but I was very impressed with Sin Nombre from Cary Fukunaga. It’s Fukunaga’s archiveable debut and it’s just such a confident voice will with gorgeous images throughout. It reminds me of Cuaron’s early work.

trends and notables:  Avatar is the box office monster and a damn fine film. It makes for a very proud 1-2 punch for box office champions of 2008 and 2009 (dark knight). Although I don’t think it’s his best film and it’s not the best of the year—Cameron works so infrequently at this point it’s worth noting that it’s his first film since titanic in 1997 and nothing yet so far since (it’s 2018 when I’m writing this). It’s a deep year- 50 films and counting in the archives even if I’m a little kind to fringy films like Coraline, Red Cliff II, Mary and Max, the maid, Adventureland). It’s a very strong year for first timers (which is a good sign for us cinephiles going forward). We have, in 2009, Xavier Dolan (I killed my mother)—perhaps my #1 or #2 vote for the future of cinema, Fukunaga, Lanthimos (dogtooth—damn), Guadagnino (I am love). It’s a very strong group.

best performance male:  I think the right answer here is Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds but I want another look at Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man before I ultimately decide. Both actors and performances would make for excellent choices and their in superb films of course. Forced to pick now I’ll go with Waltz and sleep fine with that. My only other real option here worthy in 2009 is Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising. It’s a great physical brooding performance that has grown on me in the past decade.

best performance female: There’s a little more depth here in 2009 than there is on the male side. Perhaps it’s just a weird year- lots of ensembles and films driven by non-actor (Avatar, fantastic mr fox)-driven great films. I have 4 solid choices but no clear frontrunner. I’m a big admirer of Almodovar’s Broken Embraces and Penelope Cruz is excellent so I think I’m going there for the #1 slot. Behind that quite closely is the worth of Kye-ja Kim in Mother, Angeliki Papoulia in Dogtooth and Marion Cotiillard in Public Enemies.

top 10

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. The White Ribbon
  3. A Serious Man
  4. Avatar
  5. Dogtooth
  6. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  7. Star Trek
  8. Broken Embraces
  9. Valhalla Rising
  10. Public Enemies


Archives, Directors, and Grades

500 Days of Summer R
A Prophet- Audiard HR
A Serious Man- Coen MP
A Single Man- T. Ford R/HR
Adventureland R
Ajami R
An Education R
Antichrist- Von Trier R
Avatar- Cameron MS
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans- Herzog R
Bright Star- Campion R
Broken Embraces- Almodovar HR
City of Life and Death R
Coraline R
Crazy Heart- S. Cooper R
District 9 R
Dogtooth-  Lanthimos MS
Enter the Void R
Fantastic Mr. Fox- W. Anderson MS
Fish Tank- Arnold R
I Am Love- Guadagnino R
I Killed My Mother – Dolan R
Inglourious Basterds- Tarantino MP
Lebanon R
Mary and Max R
Mother- Bong HR
Police, Adjective R
Precious R
Public Enemies- M. Mann R/HR
Red Cliff II- Woo R
Sin Nombre- Fukunaga R/HR
Star Trek- Abrams MS
The Damn United- Hooper R
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo R
The Informant- Soderbergh R
The Last Station R
The Maid R
The Messenger R
The Red Riding Trilogy R
The Road R
The Secret In Their Eyes HR
The White Ribbon- Haneke MP
Up – Docter R
Up in the Air- Reitmen R
Valhalla Rising- Refn R/HR
Vincere R
Where The Wild Things Are- Jonze R
White Material- Denis R
Zombieland R


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives