The films that rocked 2009: Ken Eisner
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.
This has been a big season for George Clooney as seen or heard in theatres. Equal kudos to Meryl Streep for three memorable performances this year, although she’s represented here in foxy form. The films below are in order of how much I dug them, but there isn’t really a whole percentage point between.
Watch the trailer for Up in the Air.
Up In The Air
In Jason Reitman’s fluke-busting follow-up to Juno, Rosemary Clooney’s nephew gets his best role yet, as a grey-suited corporate killer with an Air Miles card where his heart should be—and, it turns out, is.
Me and Orson Welles
In which Americana specialist Richard Linklater re-creates prewar New York (in the U.K.) and gives us, in the form of Christian McKay, an Orson Welles to compete with the original.
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest is an autumnal, richly detailed tribute to everything the former bad boy loves about movies, storytelling, and Penélope Cruz.
The early ’60s are in, baby, in. And Danish director Lone Scherfig’s depiction of pre-Beatle London is a glorious glance backward. It also makes a star of Carey Mulligan, as the teenage snob, and future journalist, who steps out with Peter Sarsgaard’s older, richer, and not much wiser man.
Juliette Binoche plays against sensitive type as the brashly Americanized sibling in an otherwise French family that comes together to ponder the legacy of its late uncle, a famous painter, at his country retreat. Olivier Assayas’s best effort, and the one in which he most perfectly balances our sympathies.
The Necessities of Life
Benoí®t Pilon’s gorgeously meditative tale of assimilation and integrity—set where French Canada met the Inuit North in the wintry 1950s—remained unseen in most quarters—except, happily, where awards were given.
Out of numerous current documentaries about crimes against nature, this feast of scary info stands the most chance of changing the way you live—or at least making you feel really bad about it.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Clooney again, here with Streep; they play married Roald Dahl characters filtered through the baroque sensibility of Wes Anderson. The on-screen actors are stop-motion puppets, but it still comes out very much Mr. Fox and The Life Vulpine. (Even if they do—squirrel!—make me miss the dogs from Up.)
A Serious Man
The Coen brothers are uncharacteristically subdued in this slightly autobiographical (that is, if they come from Barton Fink’s family), seriously strange look at growing up Jewish in the delayed late 1960s of suburban Minnesota. For unbelievers, I have two words: Jefferson Airplane!
There is always a lot to recoil at in Quentin Tarantino’s megalomaniacal vision, but only Almodóvar rivals him for shamelessly revelling in what makes movies fun. As for rewriting the end of the Second World War? Oh, what the hell. It was due for an update.
View all critic's picks on a single page.