The films that rocked 2009: Patty Jones

It was a year of outer-space spectacles and inner-city dramas, animated delights and sombre period pieces. Critical acclaim may yet swirl around flicks like Crazy Heart and The Messenger, but they won’t hit local screens until 2010. Thus, the following is how the best of this year’s celluloid lot stacked up for our movie reviewers. The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, and Up in the Air scored the most accolades with our critics, with An Education and District 9 coming in a close second.

Hey, I thought The Hangover was hysterical too, but those ladies sitting in front of me with the four little kids watching that 18A-rated exercise in inappropriateness seriously messed with my head.

Watch the trailer for Inglourious Basterds.

Inglourious Basterds
Uh, Kill Adolf? Quentin Tarantino turns his fanboy-auteur brain to blackly giddy Nazi ass-kicking—or “Gnatzi”, as Brad Pitt’s forehead-carving Yank commando says it. The cat-and-mousing between the SS colonel and the French farmer plays like Sergio Leone, QT style. Crazy, implausible, “glourious”.

The Hurt Locker
Step into the boots of American soldiers whose lucky job it is to find and destroy roadside bombs in Iraq, never knowing if they’ll end each day dead. Jumpy camera work keeps you in dry-mouthed fear and it all feels head-freakingly real and relevant.

Some goofy dialogue aside, that $230 million for the fancy CGI tool kit was seriously worth it. It’s an exhilarating, soulful mashup of love, war, greed, and green in a transcendently beautiful natural realm that’s like a dream you want to live forever. You know—like Earth before we wrecked it.

Up In The Air
It’s hard to feel sorry for George Clooney, especially when he’s playing a guy who scoffs at love and fires people for a living. Jason Reitman captures the ultimate loneliness of life lived in the shallow end and the exquisite pain of the freshly unemployed. Scene-stealing Anna Kendrick nails the art of really funny crying.

Never mind the glorious, weep-worthy CGI effects. A cranky, get-off-my-lawn old dude and a chunky, hapless boy scout on the kind of crazy, spirited adventure that only dreamers dare simply whacks the heart and the funny bone. Plus, there’s that chipmunk-voiced Doberman.

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
It’s more waking nightmare than two tonnes of fun watching a 400-pound Harlem teenager suffer heinous parental abuse. But good luck prying your eyeballs off the screen during this righteously tough 16-year-old’s near-primal fight for personhood. In some way, you’ve been there too.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The nattily dressed tiny animals walking on their hind legs are, frankly, irresistible. Director Wes Anderson brings his kooky-hipster imagination to Roald Dahl’s tale with utterly enchanting stop-motion effects and cheeky, rollicking fun.

Broken Embraces
Who is blind screenwriter Harry Caine and why is he also film director Mateo Blanco? In the continuing passion of Pedro for all things movies, Almodóvar wraps a delectable melodrama of mystery, jealousy, love, and revenge around Penélope Cruz’s bewitching dream woman.

The Cove
Yeah, I was avoiding the documentary about dolphins getting slaughtered in Japan too. If the filmmakers can carry out some insanely ballsy—and, incidentally, riveting—covert ops to expose a nasty, wrenching business, you can get over your wussy self already. And stop taking the rugrats to SeaWorld.

An Education
Hmm, an Oxford education or a seductive older man? For a 16-year-old London schoolgirl in 1961, it’s a tricky question, and in this sparkling, canny coming-of-age tale, it’s a heady, poignant trip—especially to Paris, where beguiling actor Carey Mulligan channels Audrey Hepburn.

View all critic's picks on a single page.

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