we look at the films that wowed us this year …
So, the Oscars has increased its Best Picture nominees to 10. But I’m keeping my list to a more prestigious five.
There’s a catch, though. I have yet to see all the award-season films — which I do each year before the Oscars. I haven’t caught Invictus, Precious, The Hurt Locker, Nine or A Single Man. Hence, this is the best of what I’ve seen so far:
1. Up In The Air
An impeccably acted film — and one that manages to be both entertaining and timely. No movie this year mixed humor, heart and brains better. And it cements a new star director: Jason Reitman.
2. Inglourious Basterds
The most thrills I had all year at the movies. The opening scene alone is magnificent. As is Christopher Waltz in a sizzling role that should win him Best Supporting Actor.
3. The Hangover
May have approached Anchorman for me in the most-laughs per-minute category.
4. An Education
A sly yet somber movie about growing up too quickly. The script, by High Fidelity author Nick Hornby, is taut. And the acting — especially from Alfred Molina — is tauter.
Okay, I despise Titanic with all my being. And the trailer for James Cameron’s heavily digital follow-up looked incredibly fake. But I liked it because there was actually a story, not just effects. And it was quite an engrossing story at that.
Matt Damon will probably get an Oscar nod for Invictus. But really, he deserves it for this near-farce — where he puts on both weight and a clever comic act.
While my colleague is honoring the old-school Academy Award system with his Top 5 films of the year, I will be “kicking it new school” with a Top 10 list. And oh what a year it was — 2009 provided some of the most entertaining films of the entire decade.
Pixar’s finest film ever, and that’s saying something. Flawlessly mixing intense moments of heartbreak and sadness with an infectious sense happy-go-lucky whimsy, Pixar outdoes itself with the adventure tale of a curmudgeonly old man (voice of Ed Asner) who sails his house to South America. Perfect for all ages.
2. The Inglorious Basterds
An instant classic. Tarantino leaves behind the crime genre to create the best World War II film in quite some time (yes, even better than Saving Private Ryan). While the film is chock full of brilliant scenes and a hilarious performance by Brad Pitt, it’s supporting actor Christopher Waltz who steals the show as the calmest, most polite and most evil villain since Hannibal Lecter.
3. The Hangover
Not since Anchorman has there been a film that so crammed with tear-inducing laughs and memorable quotes that will no doubt be quoted at parties for years to come. The perfect use of the unique comedic stylings of Zach Galifianakis is what makes this film one of the best mainstream comedies in the past decade.
4. The Hurt Locker
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. The Hurt Locker is a generational film — it is the movie about the current Gulf War. A star-making performance by longtime character actor Jeremy Renner and a nerve shreddingly intense plot helmed by Point Break director Kathryn Bigelow make this a big-time Oscar contender.
5. District 9
District 9 is at the same time a social commentary and a kick-ass science fiction action flick — making it one of the most unique films in quite some time. No wonder Peter Jackson backed this film.
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s best film since The Royal Tenenbaums is the deft combination of stop-motion animation and the brilliantly nuanced storytelling Anderson is known. George Clooney as the eponymous main character gives one of his best performance to date.
7. Sherlock Holmes
Don’t let the trailer deceive you: This is a who-done-it film wrapped in big budget holiday film’s clothing. Top-notch performances and a return to excellence by director Guy Ritchie make this a must-see.
8. Public Enemies
Michael Mann finally atones for Miami Vice. Big shoot-outs, daring robberies and dizzy dames abound here. Think of Public Enemies as Heat set during Prohibition. No surprise that Johnny Depp is absolutely electric as John Dillinger.
9. State Of Play
Based on the brilliant BBC miniseries (worth a rent in itself), State Of Play is one of the few “thrillers” to actually live up to its name. The much-maligned Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck shine.
10. Star Trek
Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike will love J.J. Abrams restart of the beloved sci-fi franchise. The big-budget effects and action sequences are surprisingly well supported by a very funny and witty script.