Well. I saw close to 60 new releases this year, most thanks to working at the movie theater. However, since the theater I work at is one of four in Humboldt County–a place seemingly devoid of truly independent features–I have mostly only seen mainstream and fringe mainstream films. Not to say this is a bad thing, it’s just that you won’t find Precious or the Road or Nine or whatever on these lists because they haven’t been released up here–if they ever will be.
Some movies struck me in a different way than most critics. I am willing to assume this is either due to age or experience. Perhaps when I am older, I will revisit Up in the Air–a movie on several year-end lists–and find it more enjoyable or at least relatable. So this best-of-the-year list is me, now.
Top 19 of the year:
19) 9: I mentioned in my Where the Wild Things are review that this movie was essentially Jungian Archetypes: the Movie, which was pointed out to me by my girlfriend. This is very true. And, after acknowledging that, I was much more satisfied with the film as a visual parable than as a film with a three-act story. I guess it could’ve also been called Voldemort’s Horcruxes as performed by socks and gloves but that’s a too esoteric, I guess.
18) Gamer: Boy, this is one flawed but awesome movie. With a supporting cast of underdeveloped characters and two very well written main characters, this movie created one of the coolest bad guys of the year as well as offering some more revoltingstrange imagery that the NevaldineTaylor team has become known for with their Crank movies. Definitely one I look forward to owning.
17) District 9: A story that has been told before but without such an awesome flow. The beginning of this film is shot much like a documentary and, as the story slowly evolves along with Van der Mewe, the cinematography becomes steadier and steadier until it is shot on tripods like an average film. It is interesting details like this that help to elevate it above and beyond other films about aliens and their implications. I really liked the way that the story was handled.
16) Adventureland: A very personal film from the guy that did Superbad and from a school that I hope will become my MFA alma mater (Columbia). The characters in this movie are very relatable and instantly likeable… except Ryan Reynolds who plays the guy that all the kids love but the adults (and people his age) don’t care too much for. Anyone who’s ever had a summer job or lived through high school can relate to at least one thing in this very strong film.
15) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Honestly, this movie might have been funnier than anything I’ve seen this year. It was that hilarious. The story drags ass in its third act as the evil food-making machine gets its ass whooped, but the first and second portions of the movie made me laugh. I was impressed with how well done (and how socially conscious) this movie was–the second computer animated film (Monster House was the first) not made by Pixar to steal my heart.
14) The Hangover: Surprisingly hilarious, well written, well acted, and well directed. What else is there to say? The moment this film hit theaters, it entered into the comedy canon of films that are able to make a lot of people laugh. I remember enjoying my theater checks for this film because everyone was always laughing. The first comedy in a long time to hit a lot of funny bones. Hopefully the sequel will be just as kickass.
13) Where the Wild Things are: When I wrote about it, I talked about its symbolism and its strengths. Given that, and how beautiful it is, I still found it to be kind of boring. Needless, it is a beautiful film that has a lot to say and has been done in such a way to cull emotions from childhood for even the coldest of hearts.
12) Fantastic Mr. Fox: This movie was one that showed that Wes Anderson could adapt himself to any format he wants, adapt any books he wants, and still remain Wes Anderson. The animation is arcane yet awesome because it accentuates the story in such a way that it stops short of becoming just another Wes Anderson quirk-fest.
11) A Serious Man: The only movie on this list to even be remotely considered indie (damn you Humboldt County!), the Coen brothers offer a strange fable of cyclical, parallel, stories of a father and son trying to deal with Jewish faith and growing up and dealing with a divorce and other strange tragedies.
10) Inglourious Basterds: This movie would have slotted higher had Tarantino not relinquished the beauty of this film in favor of paying homage to shitty violence by repeating their shitty violence with pisspoor effects. I understand where he’s coming from, but these moments in the film were entirely disengaging. Yet, still, this is an awesome film built out of long dialogue sequences told in chapters that almost collide near the end of the film. A film that can open with a 20 minute dialogue in French and English without being disengaging in this day and age should be admired–especially for a wide release summer film. The language, mind you, was one of my favorite things in this film: instead of everyone speaking English (I’m looking at you, Valkyrie), Tarantino chose to do this film in four languages and acknowledge the barriers between them.
9) Observe and Report: This is the darkest comedy I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also the funniest movie I saw all year. Seth Rogen does an amazing job as a mentally unstable mall cop whose megalomaniacal delusions and dissertations help to heighten the humor as the movie kicks into high gear for a back half that had me laughing and cheering this movie to the end. But, be forewarned, this movie is not for everyone. It is fucked up and it is sad, but it is played with such awkward and insanely risky timing that it becomes funny. In any other context, this film is as serious as a heart attack. But, in this universe, this film is a riot.
8 ) Paranormal Activity: I about crapped my pants four times during this film. Not since the Blair Witch Project have I been so scared out of my mind and so terrified for an hour and a half straight. Seriously, don’t see this shit alone. But see it nonetheless. The horror is in your mind and, as a result, it stays with you much longer than Saw VI ever would.
7) Moon: I love a movie that will twist and convulse into itself until it makes perfect sense while making no sense at all. That’s exactly what happened in Moon. Normal things happen then weird things happen then crazy things happen. And, through it all, Sam Rockwell is the only one in this film aside from the voice of Kevin Spacey–this is an amazing thing because he carries the weight of an entire film with the dirty-hipster ease that he’s always had. His turn as Charlie Ford made me a fan, this made me an advocate. The director of this film, Duncan Jones, also happens to be the son of Ziggy Stardust. This was an awesome sci-fi film.
I’m still working on 6-1. They seem so fluid. Tomorrow. I promise.
 Interesting note: These two films were playing in side by side theaters when they were released up here. Walking out of the tomb of silence in Paranormal into the Saw VI gore and guts fest was a very odd experience that seemed to be rather indicative of the two extremes that horror is falling into these days… Just a thought.