MOVIE REVIEWS- 2009 in review: Recession? What recession?
While Americans reportedly had less money to spend in 2009 than any year since 1821, we spent more of it at the movies than ever before. December wasn't half over when the total box office for the year passed $9.7 billion, setting a new record.
This obviously left us less money for food, yet there was no reported drop in our national obesity level.
I'm glad I write about movies, so I don't have to analyze this data. Analyzing the movies is a tough enough gig. I recently spent a frustrating evening rewatching a few minutes each of several of my 2009 favorites, refreshing my memory on their virtues so I could put a "best" list in some sort of order.
It's not easy to compare animated apples with live-action oranges, not to mention computer-generated grapes. How does a lavish spectacle match up against a gritty drama? A comedy is funny, but is it Art? Should that matter? Is photographing true events more praiseworthy than recreating them? And if they want their film appreciated in America, should we make them speak English?
All this to ponder at the end of a stressful week in which distributors (who already make us wait until the last minute to see their films) made us wait an extra hour in one case for the print to arrive, an extra quarter-hour in another while everyone entering the theater was searched for recording devices.
Security is far more important to the studios than quality these days. Paranormal Activity proved that audiences will still pay to see anything. Of course, there will be a sequel, because seven of the year's 10 highest grossers (at presstime–- one or two may be surpassed by the end of the year) are sequels or, in the case of Star Trek, a franchise reboot. These figures do not encourage Hollywood to take chances.
Although I was able to show some love for performances I saw later, the latest I previewed any of the films that made my Top Ten was Nov. 17. Avatar might have fared better if it hadn't been screened in the same 72-hour period as Sherlock Holmes, Broken Embraces, Nine, A Single Man and The Maid; but who knows?
If the box office total ends up over $9.9 billion, as appears likely, it will be a fitting end to The Year of the Nines, which saw Nine, 9, $9.99, District 9, Cloud 9, One Nine Nine Four and, in some festivals at least, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, Nine Dead, The Back Nine and 9/9/09.
Anyway, here are my choices for the best of a pretty good year. I didn't intentionally exclude franchises, but only the new Star Trek made it into the Top 20. I'm sure the others would rather have their share of $9.7 billion (and counting) than my approval.
A few titles in the various lists haven't arrived here yet or never will. Watch for them on DVD or the various forms of new media that the unions are still fighting for a piece of. Everyone needs their stimulus.
2. Inglourious Basterds
3. The Hurt Locker
4. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
5. Goodbye Solo
6. Summer Hours (L'heure d'été)
7. Fantastic Mr. Fox
8. A Serious Man
9. District 9
10. Every Little Step
Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically):
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
(500) Days of Summer
State of Play
Up in the Air
Best Foreign-Language Film: Summer Hours (L'heure d'été)
Runners-up: Red Cliff, Everlasting Moments
Best Documentary Feature: Every Little Step
Runners-up: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, The Cove
Best Animated Film: Up
Runners-up: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Runners-up: Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire; John Woo, Red Cliff
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
Runners-up: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Best Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air
Runners-up: Morgan Freeman, Invictus; Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Runners-up: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air; Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher McKay, Me and Orson Welles
Runners-up: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds; Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Runners-up: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer; Bob Peterson & Pete Docter, Up
Best Adapted Screenplay: Nick Hornby, An Education
Runners-up: Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire; Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Breakout Actor: Christopher McKay, Me and Orson Welles
Runners-up: Souléymane Sy Savané, Goodbye Solo; Ben Foster, The Messenger
Breakout Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Runners-up: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Best Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Runners-up: Lu Yue & Zhang Li, Red Cliff; Robert Richarson, Inglourious Basterds
Comedies You Saw: The Hangover, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Comedies You Should Have Seen: Extract, Black Dynamite, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Not to Be Confused With...:
The Informant!/The Informers, A Single Man/A Serious Man, Push/Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (originally titled Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire)
Best. Fall. Ever: George Clooney (Up in the Air, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox)
Highs and Lows: Sandra Bullock: The Blind Side, The Proposal/All about Steve
Runner-up: Woody Harrelson: The Messenger, Zombieland/2012, Management
Best and Worst Performance in One: Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Transformer: Matt Damon, adding 30 pounds for The Informant, then turning it into muscle for Invictus
Runner-up: Taylor Lautner, bulking up for The Twilight Saga: New Moon
New Sci-Fi Queen: Zoe Saldana, Avatar and Star Trek
Showbiz Nostalgia: The Great Buck Howard, Me and Orson Welles, Every Little Step, Is Anybody There?
Improved Sequel: Angels & Demons
Unimproved Sequels: The Pink Panther 2, Halloween II, Terminator: Salvation, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Lightning Strikes Once: Sacha Baron Cohen, Brüno
Remake This!: The Stepfather, Fame, The Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine
2. Paranormal Activity
3. All about Steve
4. Chandni Chowk to China
5. Observe and Report
7. Halloween II
8. Free Style
9. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
10. Post Grad
Dishonorable Mention (listed alphabetically):
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
The Fourth Kind