Hour's Top 20 movies of 2009, from small wonders to surprising blockbusters, beat the recession blues
As I write this, it’s the official beginning of awards season: The Golden Globe nominations were announced about 20 minutes ago, at 5 a.m. PST in Los Angeles. Not that this means anything, because certainly the Hollywood Foreign Press Association list that has been presented is merely a shadow version of what 2009 was actually like in film (and let’s not even mention that their awards span both "achievements in film and television," except that I just did).
But it was a very good year, really, despite gloomy prognoses about how the economy would adversely affect filmmaking in Hollywood, in our Canadian cinematic landscape and in film around the world. All the scowling doesn’t seem to have paid off: An actual perusal of the list of what we got this year shows us that necessity, or adversity maybe, can well be the mother of invention.
Even when I can narrow down a list of what I liked, or even loved, in a given year, I certainly cannot (will not) put them in a numbered list, let alone a top 10 list. The film distribution calendar is a certain kind of chaos, and I’m certainly not the one to make order out of it.
However, what I can say is this: If you’re making your way out to the cineplex on Christmas Day or if it’s snowing like crazy and you’d rather curl up with a stack of DVDs, you won’t go wrong with the following films:
Top 10 Independent Movies
District 9 (Neill Blomkamp) "Prawns" are people too in this ingenious and inventive low-budget alien joint directed by a first-timer and former Montrealer.
Good Hair (Chris Rock) One of he best docs I’ve ever seen on a subject downright mysterious to many white folks. Seriously, what can’t Rock do?
Les Beaux gosses (Riad Sattouf) If you missed it at the FCM and in a limited run here in Montreal, catch it on DVD – one of the funniest coming-of-age films ever, from French comedy’s enfant terrible.
Dédé, à travers les brumes (Jean-Philippe Duval) A part of Quebec rock history, sensitively recreated.
Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt) A quiet film about a girl and her dog, it speaks volumes.
Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve) Required viewing for all, not only Montrealers.
Un prophète (Jacques Audiard) This tale of a North African streetpunk-turned-jailbird, turned-crime-kingpin, turned-grownup was a long, worthwhile haul at the festivals – opens here in February.
H2Oil (Shannon Walsh) Hometown takedown of the Alberta oil sands, or at least, the beginning of an uprising.
Sugar (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) This interesting fictional biopic of a Dominican baseball player in the U.S. farm teams barely registered at the box office but isn’t to be missed.
Two Lovers (James Gray) This strange, affecting little love story starring unlikely Joaquin and Gwyneth was an unexpected triumph, IMHO.
Top 10 Studio Movies
We all likely know everything we need to know about all of these highly watchable big-money ventures:
Up in the Air
Where the Wild Things Are
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Now make your own lists, and feel free to post ‘em.