- Summer Hours – This was definitely my favorite movie of the year. I return to it regularly in my mind, and recommend it as often as I can. A complex, lyrical and passionate question mark about the state of culture, what is it and what does it mean to us. Of course the setting is France where these kinds of reflections have always been nurtured and contemplated. The film is a beautiful mirror of our expanding global culture and the unstable place of tradition and history within that ever-changing horizon.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox – Charming, fun, pure cinematic enjoyment. Wes back in form. And Jason Schwartzman stole every moment.
- Bright Star – A beautiful and lush look at a woman whose inner life and creativity rivals that of one of the most famous poets of all time. I did not want to leave the world created by Jane Campion.
- Adventureland – Funny. Melancholic. Terrific soundtrack. Its only missed note was the casting of Ryan Reynolds.
- An Education – I am happy to see two films on my list about women and directed by women. another woman’s life whose intellectual curiosity finds an equal partner in her own desires and passions, and who was willing to risk tradition for a life lived.
- The Hangover – I can’t remember the last movie I laughed so hysterically at. Every scene had some piece of genius in it, not just the scenes used in the trailers that typically give away the funniest parts of a movie. I loved the way this movie unfolded: the reverse (and uncharacteristic for a comedy) chronological order of waking up in utter chaos and using the rest of the movie to make sense of the chaos. Of course it never hurts to have a cutie-pie leading man (Bradley Cooper). I already own it on DVD.
- Where the Wild Things Are – Regardless of whether you are a Dave Eggers fan (he seems to polarize people), I thought this film was lovely and Eggers did a great job of taking an amorphous story and transforming it into a concrete screenplay. The costumes were superb and amazingly resembled the drawings in the book. The story was sad but not tragic and the characters were flawed but loveable.
- Whip It – This movie didn’t seem like it got much hype at the box office, but it was a lot of fun, it has a great soundtrack and features an all-lady roller derby team! Directed by Drew Barrymore, she established a definitive style throughout, from the hand-held filming to the opening/closing credits. It was also refreshing to see Ellen Page play a role other than her normal sassy, sardonic teenager.
- Up – A love story at heart, this movie is so sweet and playful it’s hard not to like it.
- New Moon – This was my most anticipated movie of 2009. Okay, so probably not one of the top five movies of 2009 in terms of acting quality or special effects, but it was just plain scandalous entertainment. Of course, I’ve read all the books, I’ve pitted myself on “Team Jacob” and I can’t wait for the next one to come out.
- Inglorious Bastards – Tarantino combines comedy and tragedy in epic style. The steady and quiet opener is a master class in building tension, and the final theater scene is beautifully choreographed.
- Up in the Air – I love that Clooney stepped outside of his comfort zone here to play the old, lost guy. The movie is subtle and very well paced, and when did you last see two great starring roles for women in such a movie? I Love how Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga stir things up, evolve and surprise.
- Let the Right One In – This is unlike any vampire movie I’ve ever seen and the book is next up in my reading queue (thanks, Wendy!). This quiet movie brings incredible sadness and loneliness to the life of a child blood sucker.
- 500 Days of Summer – This fulfilled my need for a solid rom com in 2009. My favorite moment is when they discuss their former relationship on the park bench and she says to him: “I woke up one morning and I just knew…What I was never sure of with you.” A very straightforward answer to a topic that is never very straightforward – relationships.
- The Class – I love how this is like peaking into real life. I love how it shows how people’s loyalties can turn on the toss of a dime. I love how it shows that everyone has shades of grey.
And, Jen Mae’s Top Five Movies with a twist: The ones she wishes she’d seen if she didn’t have a beautiful two-year-old at home.
- An Education – I’m a sucker for a good coming of age story, especially one with a female protagonist. Looks a little sappy, but I’m o.k. with that. This one didn’t make it to a theater in my area, so I have to wait for the DVD release.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox – I really wanted to watch this with my daughter, but after several unsuccessful trips to the theater, I decided against it. I think it’s funny that Bill Murray is the voice of a badger in this film. After years of acting alongside burrowing creatures, he finally gets to play one! Of the few children’s movies we did make it through, Up! was my favorite.
- Men Who Stare at Goats – Come on! George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges? Looks like a movie I could watch over and over again. My husband saw it and compared it to Raising Arizona. Now, those are some big shoes to fill.
- Where the Wild Things Are – Almost made it to this one… I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I’m trying not to make any judgments ’til I see it myself.
- Up in the Air – I know, I know. Clooney overload! When movies are hyped up like this, I’m usually disappointed, but the optimist in me says this could be different.