Best Films of 2009
1. The Hurt Locker
(356 points, 54 mentions)
Bigelow’s you-are-there Iraq War drama immerses the viewer in the front-line existence of a U.S. bomb squad in Baghdad. It’s an experiential war movie—and a full-throttle body-shock, too.
2. Summer Hours
(239 points, 40 mentions)
Old money meets a new world as bourgeois siblings struggle to divide their mother’s estate and Assayas ponders the value of family and France in the age of relentless globalization.
3. A Serious Man
Joel and Ethan Coen
(229 points, 34 mentions)
Larry Gopnik, schlub extraordinaire, absorbs humiliations of all kind—financial, professional, personal, rabbinical—to learn that life is really about . . . just kidding! Life isn’t about anything, God sucks, and the Coens are brutal in this blackest of black comedies.
4. Inglourious Basterds
(214 points, 36 mentions)
All hail Quentin Tarantino’s smashingly entertaining World War II romp about a dirty half-dozen American grunts trying to bring an end to the Third Reich. Jews and Nazis may battle it out to a fiery finish, but it is cinema that emerges triumphant.
5. 35 Shots of Rum
(189 points, 32 mentions)
Denis’s quiet, poignant father-daughter drama shows the beauty and strength of familial bonds, and the equally strong force of personal, individual desire.
6. The Headless Woman
(183 points, 28 mentions)
Though structured around Vero, a middle-aged peroxide blond who hits something (a dog?) with her car, Martel’s willfully disorienting head-scratcher’s true subject is the self-satisfied stagnation of the privileged elite, whom the film eviscerates without mercy.
7. Police, Adjective
(171 points, 28 mentions)
A slow-burn absurdist triumph, Police begins as a police procedural but winds up an exhilarating verbal ping-pong match about conscience, personal morality, and the true meanings of words.
8. Fantastic Mr. Fox
(163 points, 29 mentions)
Asking existential questions through the whisker’d mouth of a reckless, self-absorbed, corduroy-clad fox (George Clooney), Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animation wonder is, in the end, deeply human.
9. Two Lovers
(137 points, 20 mentions)
An explosion of emotions, Gray’s Brighton Beach–set melodrama gives Joaquin Phoenix every Jewish boy’s impossible situation: marry the parents-approved, nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw) or shtup the crazy shiksa next door (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
(120 points, 21 mentions)
The latest Pixar insta-classic, Up takes off as widower Carl turns his home into a high-flying house-balloon and floats up, up, and away to see the world. Turns out, he is not alone—and his journey for personal wish fulfillment becomes something even more essential.
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
(60 points, 27 mentions)
Beneath his blustery macho surface, Renner’s Staff Sergeant William James may be the movie’s most intricately wired explosive device. Bomb-detonator wins the war for best actor, at least.
Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (33 points, 19 mentions)
Colin Firth, A Single Man (32 points, 13 mentions)
Joaquin Phoenix, Two Lovers (29 points, 12 mentions)
Tom Hardy, Bronson (28 points, 12 mentions)
Tilda Swinton, Julia
(66 points, 25 mentions)
As the titular desperate woman—a leggy, vodka-guzzling tart in false eyelashes and cheap sequined gowns—Swinton devours her role, then spits it back up, dances giddily upon it, and twirls it in the air.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist (57 points, 25 mentions)
Carey Mulligan, An Education (42 points, 23 mentions)
Catalina Saavedra, The Maid (41 points, 19 mentions)
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia (32 points, 18 mentions)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
(92 points, 35 mentions)
As the loquacious Nazi Hans Landa, Waltz is not only the movie’s villain, but also its master of revels. A cheerfully sadistic SS Colonel you can root for!
Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles (34 points, 17 mentions)
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger (30 points, 15 mentions)
Paul Schneider, Bright Star (23 points, 12 mentions)
Vlad Ivanov, Police, Adjective (22 points, 9 mentions)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
(69 points, 29 mentions)
A force of nature, Mo’Nique transforms an ostensibly one-note monster—Precious’s welfare mom—into a complex portrait of a psychologically damaged woman.
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air (45 points, 20 mentions)
Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds (32 points, 14 mentions)
Samantha Morton, The Messenger (31 points, 17 mentions)
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air (26 points, 14 mentions)
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Sacha Gervasi’s phenomenal rockumentary follows the now-fiftysomething “demigods of Canadian metal” through a disastrous European tour and the recording of their 13th album—and waning shot at fame.
Of Time and the City (10 points)
The Beaches of Agnès (9 points)
The Cove (8 points)
La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet;
Tyson (7 points)
BEST FIRST FEATURE
The directorial debut of Oren Moverman (who wrote Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There) is a moving and nuanced drama about a pair of casualty notification officers, bearing awful news while coping with their own traumas.
Afterschool (7 points)
In the Loop; A Single Man; Tulpan (6 points)
BEST UNDISTRIBUTED FILM
To Die Like a Man
(24 points, 11 mentions)
A fabulously sad fable about a Fado-singing, pooch-pampering trannie growing old, Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues’s To Die Like a Man, which premiered at this past Cannes and then came stateside to the New York Film Festival, is also a piece of lyrical, playful, unpredictable filmmaking.
Trash Humpers (16 points, 7 mentions)
Enter the Void (12 points, 7 mentions)
WORST FILM OF THE YEAR
Starring our top pick for supporting actress, Precious—about an overweight, neglected, and abused teen mother—is apparently an acquired taste.
Inglourious Basterds; The Lovely Bones; Nine; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (4 points)
Whatever Works (3 points)
BEST FILM OF THE DECADE
Mulholland Drive (10 points)
Comic, sexy, surreal, self-reflexive, thrilling, and ludicrous by turns, David Lynch’s 2001 exploration of the Hollywood dream factory is a voluptuous phantasmagoria with a two-part structure that suggests Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. reversed so that the dream comes first.
The 25th Hour; In the Mood for Love (5 points)
La Commune; Yi Yi; Zodiac (4 points)
L.A. Weekly/Village Voice Media contributors: Robert Abele, Melissa Anderson, David Ehrenstein, F.X. Feeney, Scott Foundas, Lance Goldenberg, Tim Grierson, Aaron Hillis, J. Hoberman, Brian Miller, Adam Nayman, Michelle Orange, Nick Pinkerton, Nicolas Rapold, Vadim Rizov, Ella Taylor, Luke Y. Thompson, Chuck Wilson
Participants from Other Organizations: Sam Adams (Philadelphia City Paper), Jason Anderson (Eye
Weekly), David Ansen (Newsweek), Michael Atkinson (Zero For Conduct),
Sean Axmaker (Parallax View), Sheila Benson (Parallax View), Donna
Bowman (freelance), Peter Brunette (The Hollywood Reporter), Jeannette
Catsoulis (Reverse Shot), Justin Chang (Variety), Tom Charity
(CNN.com), Daryl Chin (Documents on Art & Cinema), Richard Corliss
(Time), Mike D’Angelo (Las Vegas Weekly), David D’Arcy (Screen
International), Peter Debruge (Variety), Bilge Ebiri (New York), Jim
Emerson (RogerEbert.com), Steve Erickson (Gay City News/Baltimore City
Paper), David Fear (Time Out New York), Cynthia Fuchs (PopMatters), Ed
Gonzalez (Slant), Larry Gross (Film Comment/Movie City News), Andrew
Grant (Like Anna Karina’s Sweater), Eugene Hernandez (indieWIRE),
Logan Hill (New York), Christoph Huber (Die Presse, Vienna), J.R.
Jones (Chicago Reader), Kent Jones (Film Comment), Christopher Kelly
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Glenn
Kenny (Some Came Running), Peter Keough (The Boston Phoenix), Robert
Koehler (Variety), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Dan Kois (NYmag.com),
Michael Koresky (Reverse Shot), Nathan Lee (NPR), Diego Lerer (Clarin,
Buenos Aires), Karina Longworth (Spout.com), Philip Lopate (Film
Comment), Todd McCarthy (Variety), Patrick Z. McGavin (Screen
International), Kristi Mitsuda (Reverse Shot), Wesley Morris (The
Boston Globe), Rob Nelson (Variety), Mark Olsen (Film Comment), Gerald
Peary (The Boston Phoenix), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Keith
Phipps (The Onion), Richard Porton (Cineaste), John Powers (Vogue),
James Quandt (Cinematheque Ontario), Nathan Rabin (The Onion),
Berenice Reynaud (REDCAT), Carrie Rickey (Philadelphia Inquirer),
Jonathan Rosenbaum (JonathanRosenbaum.com), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out
New York), Nick Schager (Slant), Andrew Schenker (Slant), Choire Sicha
(The Awl), Chuck Stephens (freelance), David Sterritt
(DavidSterritt.com), Amy Taubin (Film Comment), Charles Taylor
(freelance), N.P. Thompson (Movies Into Film), Scott Tobias (The
Onion), Martin Tsai (The Bitter Critic), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles
Times), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), Bill White (Seattle Post-
Intelligencer), Matthew Wilder (Collider.com), Stephanie Zacharek
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 22, 2009