Top Ten Films of 2009 by Nir Shalev


10. The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)

Steven Soderbergh’s follow up to the four and a half hour epic Che (2008) is a comedy based on an unbelievably real story and featuring Matt Damon. This movie is hilarious, shot well, directed well, performed exceptionally well, and is, like I said hilarious. The score by Marvin Hamlisch (Woody Allen’s Bananas (1973)) is kooky and zany and fits the atmosphere and style perfectly. A very fine film filled with many wonderful moments.

09. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)

The huge surprise from South Africa, Neill Blomkamp’s apartheid and alien filled action extravaganza about an unbelievably racist desk jockey who must evacuate 1.8 million “prawns” out of the slum known as District 9 is hugely original, to say the least. We are witness to racism, government conspiracies, terrific special effects and a great character arc befitting the desk jockey. This film’s story is very well told and constructed and is my second favorite sci-fi film of 2009.

08. The Messenger (Oren Moverman)

A wounded American soldier must complete his tour of duty at home by delivering bad news to newly minted war widows. He is trained by a veteran who’d made a career out of it and can’t help but become attached to the “victims.” This is the strongest film I have seen in the last year and one of the best dramas in a long time, dealing with the layers that make us human and how, when we slowly remove them we reveal our true selves.

07. Moon (Duncan Jones)

Sam Rockwell delivers a hugely underestimated performance as an astronaut who’s been living in seclusion and working alone on the moon for the better part of 3 years. The film deals with the psychology of having been isolated for a long period of time and eventually concentrates on what it really means to be human. It’s a very touching, semi-original and expertly handled film and is my favorite sci-fi film in many years.

06. The Cove (Louie Psihoyos)

The best documentary of 2009, showcasing that not only does Japan secretly massacre 23,000 dolphins every year, but also there’s not much that can be done with the dolphin meat and that most of the country, and the rest of the world doesn’t even know that it’s happening. It’s a strong film with some stomach churning segments that also tug on your heart strings and above all, is thrilling to watch. It expertly showcases the many lengths that some people went to in order to reveal this atrocity to the world.

05. Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (Werner Herzog)

Werner Herzog’s a brilliant filmmaker and so is Nicholas Cage’s fearless performance in this darkly disturbing, hilarious, and crazy trip through the heart of a decaying New Orleans and the depravity of Cage’s character. I loved every crazy minute of it.

04. Up (Pete Docter)

Pixar’s done it again! This is not just the best animated film of 2009 but one of the year’s best films, much like last year’s Wall-E and the previous year’s Ratatouille. If you don’t cry within the first 20 minutes than you don’t have a heart! This film is never manipulative and is always truthful. Above all it is imaginative and full of heart and soul.

03. A Serious Man (Coen Brothers)

After taking home four Oscars for No Country for Old Men (2007) and reminding us that they can easily make us laugh out loud with Burn after Reading (2008), the Coen Brothers bring us a brilliant alternate take on the story of Job, set in suburban 1967 Minnesota. This is one multilayered, nihilistic, hilarious, brilliantly performed and shot masterpiece that makes us laugh and shiver at the same time; and it’s deeply philosophical. For those that love repeat viewings, this one gets funnier every time.

02. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

Tarantino’s latest masterpiece is nothing short of awesome. A great 180 degrees turn from WWII history, this movie’s hilarious, audacious, and sometimes violent. It’s well performed and above all, original to the max. The famous Tarantino dialogue even works well in French and German!

01. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

Not just the best movie of 2009, but also one of the decade’s best. This psychological journey through the mindset of a warrior who’s addicted to war is scarily well constructed and hides nothing from the audience. It’s a bare bones, no holds barred, tension machine that grabs you by the intestines and never lets up. Fiercely performed by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and a great supporting cast, this is also one of the best war films I’ve seen. On a deep psychological level, this film is up there with Apocalypse Now! (1979) and The Big Red One (1980).

4 responses to “Top Ten Films of 2009 by Nir Shalev

  1. Good list! I need to check out a bunch of these. Perhaps they’ll show in Argentina for more than a week (Hurt Locker was only here for seven freaking days – just two weeks before the Oscars, too). I’m most curious to take in Bad Lieutenant.

    My only question – can someone please explain to me why A Serious Man is good? I realize that was an overly simplistic question. I’m a huge fan of the Coens’ work, and I simply couldn’t find any foothold in this one. There were some great moments, but I somehow missed the point.

    My favorite of the year: El Secreto de Sus Ojos (perhaps not coincidentally from Argentina, but a fantastic movie regardless of location).

  2. Why is A Serious Man great? Why is it one of the Coen’s best films to date?

  3. I really want to see El Secreto de Sus Ojos. Hopefully the Oscar win will secure a distribution deal.

  4. I know. It’s the second time that a foreign film with, at least a 90% chance of winning (Das Weisse Band, Waltz With Bashir) lost to an unknown. But last year was justified when Departures turned out to be superior to Waltz With Bashir.

    A lot of people were rooting for “Un Prophete” to win and so I’m going to see it in he next few days.


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