Best Films of 2009

Best films of 2009 - Kennelco Film Diary

It’s really hard to believe that I’ve been doing this film diary for the better part of 9 years.  It’s probably harder to believe that than it is to believe exactly how many films that I’ve watched.  But anyways, here goes the re-cap of 2009.

I’ve stated that this has been a banner year in animation.   Henry Selick’s wonderful Coraline, I think, is the best animated film made since Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful Spirited Away (2001), and it’s the first time since that film that I’ve been to the cinema twice to see a film in its initial release.  It’s lushly stop-motion animated, with a story of childhood and fear, fantasy and tremendous characterization.  I really can’t say enough about it.

But then, I just saw Wes Anderson’s new film Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is also stop-motion animated, the first of his films to employ animation, and was also utterly wow’ed at what a fun, charming, clever film that was as well.  As well, Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese master, returned with Ponyo, his most small child-friendly film since My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and a tremendous joy to watch.   And at the beginning of the year, I was really impressed with the much more adult Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman’s film that is considered semi-documentary, a deep and horrible glimpse into memory and repression and some horrors of war.

Those were just the new animated films!  And I didn’t even include Up on the list, the latest Pixar product, most likely to get recognized come Oscar time over these far more wonderful films.

It’s unusual that so many strong animated features were made, but interestingly, I didn’t think that there were that many great new feature films.   Jane Campion’s newest film about the poet John Keats, Bright Star, I found very lovely and moving.  And the comedy The Hangover, while made of much different stuff, was quite a hoot, not perfect, but funnier than not.

However, I’m guessing that The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow’s film about adrenaline junkie bomb defusers in Iraq will probably take best picture at the Oscars.  I found it quite visceral, and while there are some potential critiques, unless Bright Star or Coraline found it’s way into competition for best picture, or heck, even Fantastic Mr. Fox, I’d swing that way.

I won’t say too much about the DVD films or the older films that I discovered.  The only other one that was from 2009 theatrical release was the strange and lovely Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson, “the Swedish vampire movie” by any other name would still pang as sweet.

For the rest of the lists, I’ll let them speak for themselves.  Hard to not be too long-winded here.  I continue to discover new tropes and directors to get excited about, like Agnès Varda or Jules Dassin or re-discovering John Ford, David Lynch, and finally getting around to F.W. Murnau’s amazing Sunrise (1927) or Rouben Mamoulian’s terrific Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931).

Each year, it’s not just about the new films, or the old films re-found, but all the new discoveries, all the new tropes and angles to barrel down.  And each year, so far, brings something fresh and wonderful.

(my favorite at the top, the rest in no order whatsoever)

Coraline (2009) dir. Henry Selick
Waltz with Bashir (2008) dir. Ari Folman
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) dir. Wes Anderson
Ponyo (2008) dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Bright Star (2009) dir. Jane Campion
The Hurt Locker (2008) dir. Kathryn Bigelow
The Hangover (2009) dir. Todd Phillips
Wake in Fright (1971) dir. Ted Kotcheff
The Searchers (1956) dir. John Ford
Sunrise (1927) dir. F.W. Murnau

on DVD
Le Doulos (1962) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville
The Gleaners and I (2000) dir. Agnès Varda
Let the Right One In (2008) dir. Tomas Alfredson
Rififi (1955) dir. Jules Dassin
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) dir. Rouben Mamoulian
Lost Highway (1997) dir. David Lynch
Night of the Demon (1957) dir. dir. Jacques Tourneur
Mulholland Dr. (2001) dir. David Lynch

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