2009: A Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good Year.

2009 was fantastic!

I have to start this off - I'm not a critic and I don't see absolutely everything that comes out. I get to choose what I see and so I do have somewhat of a limited scope. But despite that, I do give movies a chance if it looks promising or I have heard good reviews or feedback from customers. So we can rule out the worst movies of the year that I didn't see. Because, let's face it, if you think these were good movies, you really shouldn't be reading my blog - we have vastly different tastes in movies!

Some of those movies are Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li, Dragonball: Evolution, Dance Flick, Aliens in the Attic, Fighting and that's a small list, I could go on.

There are, however some movies that seem to have polarized critics and viewers - these I won't bother putting on my list because I feel like they don't deserve a spot on any list, good or bad:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Ugly Truth, Terminator: Salvation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (some of these I will admit I liked, but would I watch them again? Probably not).

What bothers me most about end of year lists is that most of them proclaim that somehow Hollywood isn't great anymore and originality is lost because the only money makers are franchise and sequels and the independent movies get no love, blah blah blah. But I think every year there's something to celebrate. So instead of counting down, here's a homage to movie making in 2009.

Check out the greatest of 2009 after the break!

Movie I Laughed the Hardest
I Love You, Man. Yes, I thought this was funnier than The Hangover. But I'm biased in that I love Jason Segal and Paul Rudd and awkward scenarios. It's a great movie about relationships that I think has a lot of heart mixed in with raunchy jokes. Movies like this are great - Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith have perfected the art and this is simply 2009's best comedy in my opinion.

Most Intense Moments
The Hurt Locker. Oh yes, this one will surely be nominated for many awards this year and it's well deserved. Every scene in this movie is startling intense. You fear for all of the soldiers lives as they try to disarm bombs that have been strategically planted in Iraq. Jeremy Renner plays a very unstable sergeant who craves the risk taking involved with his job on the bomb squad.

Biggest Surprise
Away We Go. When I first heard about this movie, co-written by Dave Eggers and directed by Sam Mendes, my first thought was uggh, what a pretentious piece of crap this will be. But the trailer came up and I was a little bit more open to the movie. And then a free screening arrived in my email - so why not? I'll go check it out! And it was just a wonderful experience. It's got a good mixture of laughs and sincere, heartfelt moments. Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski are utterly convincing as this hip, somewhat bohemian couple that just want to start a family, but don't know where to begin. And although some of the characters may not exactly be realistic, they were funny enough to suspend some disbelief.

Must-See at the Theaters
Avatar. This is no surprise. I came in hoping that the movie would be decent, but I was pretty blown away by the atmosphere and world Cameron has created. Plus, the 3D was the best I've seen so far in the theater. It's something you have to experience, not just see (yeah that sounds so cliche, but sometimes you cannot avoid it!).

Best Franchise
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It seems like the series is just getting going with that past two movies and they have really made the cross over from family-friendly affairs to movies that will define a generation as their "Star Wars." It doesn't hurt that they have a director with a cohesive vision for the final four installments of the franchise. The movie's tone and dread are even more realized than the last and I can't wait to see what David Yates will do with two whole films for the seventh and final chapter in this epic saga.

Holy Cow, Animation Rules!
There's not one, not two, but three animated features this year that I thought were excellent. Up was great, but you expect greatness from Pixar every year. But the surprises came from the stop-motion movies Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I hope the Academy doesn't forget about Coraline simply because it came out early in the year, because it was just a great story and the animation was simply amazing. Same goes with Wes Anderson's adaptation of Dahl's classic. He put his own spin on a kid's tale and gave it a lot of laughs and heart. So here's to hoping animation continues to shine in 2010!

Sci-Fi's Back, baby!
Avatar obviously rocked, but there were some great sci-fi outings this year. District 9 was simply the most original movie this year - turning the usual aliens invade storyline on its head. And it doesn't hurt that the special effects were amazing. And then there's Moon, which was a more traditional sci-fi movie - but something that held your interest simply because of Sam Rockwell's performance. Man, he was fantastic. Oh, and Star Trek was pretty freakin' sweet, too!

Best Directorial Debut
Whip It. I may be a little biased simply because this movie was filmed in Detroit and I did get to see Drew Barrymore from, like, thirty feet away (she is tiny!). But it's hard to deny the charm and wit from all the characters that are on display. It's a great coming of age story and just a good, fun movie all around. Here's to Barrymore's future as a great director!

Sandra Bullock Has Me Confused!
First, she stars in probably one of the best romantic comedies this year, The Proposal. It was predictable, but still a fun ride. And then she had to follow up such a great effort with a stinker of a movie, All About Steve. And then she rebounds again with The Blind Side (which I have not seen, nor do I intend to - but it's been a huge hit, so I can't deny how much people love it). I have a feeling she's going to come out next with another sports movie that will bomb. Does she have a cameo in Invictus?

Movies About the Past Rock
Public Enemies, Inglourious Basterds, Sherlock Holmes. They all tell vastly different stories - but they're all well done by some of cinema's finest directors working right now. They all have captured their respective time periods beautifully, especially Public Enemies. And although I wouldn't call Inglourious Basterds or Sherlock Holmes period pieces, they certainly know how to tell a great story within the backdrop of specific periods and places. Plus they're all just fun movies.

Best Movie No One Saw
State of Play. This movie did get a lot of love when it came out on DVD (it stayed in Blockbuster's Top 20 for a solid eight weeks!), but it should have done more business at the box office. Such a great cast and a great thriller of a story - it's too bad because when studios look at green lighting movies like this, they may just take a pass on something truly great.

Most Refreshing Take on a Tired Genre
Drag Me To Hell, Zombieland. I loved Drag Me To Hell - it may not have provided as many scares as something like Paranormal Activity, but the sheer fun this movie had toying with its main character, Alison Lohman, was great. It's completely cheesy and totally ridiculous, but that's Sam Raimi. Zombieland was great in that it didn't take itself serious, either. It was a fun movie that played to its strengths - a road trip comedy, but with zombies!

Best Soundtrack
(500) Days of Summer. Besides being a great, wonderful and refreshingly quirky movie, it had the best songs in it, too. Seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt dance to "Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall and Oates was perfectly corny and wonderfully unexpected. The rest of the tracks were great as far as indie rock goes - they all fit the story so well and enhanced the scenes, rather than overtake them to become a series of music videos.

Best Book Adaptation
Where the Wild Things Are. Julie & Julia. Spike Jonze took a very simple tale of a misfit child and his imagination and made it into an hour and a half rumpus that truly captured the spirit of the original book. It was such a different movie that I wouldn't even classify it as a kids movie. It's a great story about being a kid - something that a lot of kids movies are missing. And according to Maggie, the movie adaptation of Julie & Julia was much better than the book (at least Julie's book). The way the two stories were told in the movie worked wonderfully and it was so well acted. Plus, it was super funny, too!

Gets Better on Multiple Viewings
Watchmen. I think you have to read the comic book to really appreciate how great this movie is. This would fall in the Best Adaptation category, but I felt it deserved its own special attention. Because there's so much detail and great care taken to tell the story pretty much panel by panel. It's a great story and one that gets only better after time - I'm itching to watch the extended edition that I got for Christmas!

Destined to be Best Picture
Up in the Air. Perfect cast, perfect script, wonderful characters. It deserves all the accolades it's been getting and I won't be surprised if it wins best picture come March. I loved every minute of this story. George Clooney and Vera Farmiga both deliver fantastic performances in a very relevant for our times comedy/drama.

Movies That Should Not Be Overlooked (Rent It!)
Funny People, It's Complicated, 17 Again, He's Just Not That Into You, Duplicity, Adventureland, Extract, In the Loop. Consider this Honorable Mention. There's always a ton of good movies that get left out of everyone's list. These are my particular movies that I liked, but probably wouldn't watch more than once or twice.

And there's still a bunch of movies that I'm looking forward to watching, too: Big Fan, The Informant!, Brothers, The Invention of Lying to name a few.

I can't wait to see what happens in 2010!

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