Christopher Orr of the New Republic is grumpy over the crop of movies that got nominated for the Oscars this year. I don't exactly blame him. Some serious schlock rose to the top (Avatar? Precious? The Blind Side? Really? I mean, I haven't seen the last two, but I don't really think I need to.) Plus, I -- like many others -- think the whole idea of nominating ten movies is pretty ridiculous. But there were 10 movies that I think were worthy of accolades. And there was even some overlap between Max's list and Academy's.
But here's the top ten movies of 2009 if MPG was picking the Academy Awards.
1) The Hurt Locker
I've been raving about this one since it came out. Far and away the best movie made about the Iraq War, and one of the best movies I've seen about war in general. "It's not a war movie," my friend, the NY Post film critic Kyle Smith remarked to me. "It's a magazine article." Perhaps -- but when it's that detailed and absorbing, I really don't care. Far and away the best movie of the year.
2) Inglorious Basterds
Quentin is back, baby. And he's thirsty for blood!
3) Up in the Air
Possibly the best role George Clooney has ever had. Few actors can convey at the same time suave sophistication and unbearable loneliness. Moreover, it was the perfect movie for the moment. While I wasn't crazy about the interviews with the "real people" who got laid off in this bad economy, there was terrific ambiguity in how we, as a country, make a point of ignoring their pain.
4) Observe and Report
Taxi Driver in a shopping mall -- an inspired idea.
Sure, Borat was funnier. But it was still a great romp with bits that left my jaw on the floor.
6) Funny People
More than any other year, 2009 might be the year of the half-good movie. The first half of Funny People was truly hilarious. I watched it again recently, and the first hour is a real delight. (If you look at the DVD, Aziz Ansari's cameo is enlarged to a half-hour mockumentary that is, itself, one of the year's triumphs.) Funny People might have edged into the top three or four if Sandler had stayed sick.
7) The Hangover
This was the movie I'd most like to get the DVD for. Like Todd Phillips' other movies (Old School and Road Trip) this is one that I think will most cheer me up when I'm feeling blue.
8) Fantastic Mr. Fox
There were three movies in 2009 that I admired but failed to mention on the blog -- Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of them. It was the best movie Anderson has done since Rushmore. Although, if I can offer a criticism it would be this: When I saw it on the weekend it opened (a late showing, with a theater-full of hipsters) the biggest laugh came not from the movie, but one of the coming attractions. The trailer was for Alvin and the Chipmunks -- the Squeakuel. As soon as the trailer ended someone in the silent theater shouted out, "Boo!" The theater broke into raucous laughter.
9) Julie and Julia
Another one in which one good half of a movie is (unfortunately) pitted against a bad half. The Julia Child section is a delight. The Julie Powell stuff leaves much to be desired. But this is still one of the best movies Nora Ephron has produced since Lucky Numbers (which I might be alone in admiring. But the hell with y'all; Lucky Numbers was funny. And proved that Michael Moore might be better suited for acting than documentary filmmaking.)
10) A Serious Man
Like Fantastic Mr. Fox I wish I had commented on this earlier, but I would be remiss in not including this Coen brothers comedy. Not their best work, but an extremely funny piece of Jewyness.
Honorable mention: The Informant!, The Messenger and The Road.o