The Cinesthete’s Best of 2009

I haven’t written much because I have been busy watching films trying to get my Top 10 of the Year and Top 25 of the Decade lists ready. At some point, I just had to stop and lock it in. I can’t see every film, and I can’t obsess about the order forever.

So, with that in mind. Here are my Top Films from 2009. This goes to 11!

11 – An Education – Lone Scherfig, UKaneducation

A young highshool girl is swept away by a glamorous older man. This films show how a great script, acting and direction can elevate a simple story into something special.

10 – Not Quite Hollywood – Mark Hartley, Australianotquitehollywood

Ever wanted to know about Australian Exploitation film? This documentary will give you the run-down. It’s an incredibly entertaining history of an incredibly interesting style of film-making. A cinephiliac’s dream.

9 – Goodbye Solo – Ramin Bahrani, USAgoodbyesolo

The story of an unlikely friendship between a immigrant cab-driver and an old suicidal man. Beutifuly told and wonderfully acted. It has an authenticity to it that you rarely see in film.

8 – Away We Go – Sam Mendes, USAawaywego

Sam Mendes changes his tone for this smart story of a young couple trying to find the best place to raise their unborn child. It’s very funny and touching. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph show they can act and be likable at the same time.

7 – Avatar – James Cameron, USAavatar

I struggled to rank this film accurately on my list. It definately is one of the best of the year. With a decent story and a so-so script Cameron was still able to create a incredible celebration of cinema. Give in to it and it will take you away.

6 – Inglorious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino, USAingloriousbasterds

Tarantino does World War II in this suprisingly assured non-Tarantino film. It’s a segmented story, and the suspense of each segment is ratcheted up to the breaking point before letting loose. All with the use of great scriptwriting. Christoph Waltz is as good as everyone says he is. He handles the strong dialog perfectly.

5 – Desert Within –  Rodrigo Pla, Mexicodesertwithin

An intense story of a man obsessed with building a church in the desert to atone for his sins in turn of the century Mexico. Unfortunately, his family gets the worst of it as his obession with god becomes stronger and stronger. The film is gritty and surreal and very heavy. Mario Zaragoza gives it his all playing the father diving headlong into religious madness.

4 – Up – Pete Doctor, USAup

Pixar does it yet again! They flout convention by making this story about an unlikely hero. The montage at the beginning may be the best of the year, telling a complete emotional story dialog free. Their production design is through the roof, but they always make the characters the center of the story and that is why their films are so good.

3 – Revanche – Gotz Speilmann, Austriarevanche

A robbery goes wrong and a man sets out to get revenge. Emotions run high and deep in this slow but very intense thriller. The tension is real because the direction is subtle and superb. Just look at the scenes with the wood-cutting machine and you will see a master director at work.

2 – Watchmen – Zack Snyder, USAWATCHMEN

I always looked at this story as a character-study about how different types of people react when the world is falling apart. Except the world is an alternate reality and the characters are two generations of superheroes. How this film got made in the studio system is a mystery. It remains loyal to the comic, keeps the style and the message, and remains as dark, complicated, and layered as the original work, and has big-budget production quality. Zack Snyder took a huge step forward in this film, showing he can pull of story as well as style.

1 – White Ribbon – Michael Haneke, Germanywhiteribbon

The film is stark black and white. It looks like it came straight out of a photograph from turn of the century Germany. It tells the tale a village experiencing a series of shocking accidents with mysterious causes. Who is to blame? The question is never really answered but fingers are pointed at the children. The children, raised in strict and cruel catholic households. Repressed and tormented and subsquently given no choice but to take it or lash out. As the war arrives, we are left to think about how this generation of children will contribute to the horrors of World War II. Subtle, enigmatic, and brilliantly directed, the film is classic Haneke.

Stay tuned for the best of the decade!

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