A first cut, anyway. This list is of the top 25 films released commercially in Boston in 2009. This list was harder to make than I expected - it's not that this was a bad year (or an especially good one) - but looking at the films I saw, a lot of the good ones seem, now, smaller than I remember them. And some of the films that seem to be growing larger with memory, I'm not really sure how good they are. They just feel important - they demand your attention - even if there are other films better... difficult. We'll see...
1. Che - Steven Soderbergh - the first of three he got released this year. And that's counting this 2 parter as one - count em as 2, and that's 4! Criminy!
2. Tokyo Sonata - Kiyoshi Kurosawa
3. Thirst - Park Chan-wook
4. 24 City - Jia Jiang-ke
5. Bad Lieutenant, Post of Call New Orleans - Werner Herzog - and actual 09 film
6. A Serious Man - Coen Brothers
7. Hunger - Steve McQueen
8. Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino - this is exhibit A in those films that loom larger in memory than fact. I'm still not sure if it is a great film - but it feels like it should be - it has heft and power, even if it is a bit emptier than it should be. I reserve the right to upgrade this severely - or downgrade it. I don't know. It will take a couple more viewings at least - except - other than Waltz's parts, I don't know if I care enough to sit through it.
9. The Limits of Control - Jarmusch - another one I can't quite place. I loved it, but don't know, without seeing it again, whether it's much more than a cool looking trifle (with great music - I do love Earth and Sunn O)))))
10. Antichrist - Lars von Trier - exhibit B in films looming larger etc...
11. The Hurt Locker - Kathryn Bigelow - the anti Inglourious Basterds? I think I've downgraded it from when I saw it - but that seems wrong. It's a bit too slick sometimes, but it's still masterfully made, haunting, attentive to detail, a classic war film, and truly worthy of the best of the genre.
12. 35 Rhums - Claire Denis
13. Moon - Duncan Jones - Exhibit C - this time, with none of the hype...
14. Revanche - Gotz Spielmann - I resisted this a bit, watching it, but was almost completely convincing by the end - reminds me of the arc of Head On - starting out rather sensationalistic, and getting smarter and more moving as it went. I don't know now if I am overrating or underrating it.
15. Gomorrah - Matteo Garrone - this has shrunk in my memory, but I think it might deserve to stay high on the list...
16. Beaches of Agnes - Agnes Varda - so light seeming it almost flits away from you - though it's not quite so light as it seems... and masterfully made.
17. Beeswax - Andrew Bujalski - probably better than this...
18. Fantastic Mr. Fox - Wes Anderson - this is a good bet to ascend when I see it again
19. Il Divo - Paulo Sorrento
20. Summer Hours - Olivier Assayas
21. Julia - Erick Zonca - god I love Tilda Swinton
22. Bright Star - Jane Campion
23. Treeless Mountain - So Young Kim
24. SIta Sings the Blues - Nina Paley
25. The Informant! Soderburgh #2... though now that I'm at the end of the list, things look a bit different. I didn't think this was a great film year, but there are a lot of films to go that are every bit as good as a lot of the ones above. It's been that kind of year - lots of decent films, not a lot of really overpowering ones. Though I suppose the first 10 or so might make it. What might be more surprising is that a lot of these decent films were from 2009 itself - for January, this list feels like it has more than the usual number of real 2009 films...
And another thing - last year, the only film I managed to get on any of my lists directed by a woman was Lucretia Martel's The Headless Woman (though I had it down as the best film of the year.) This year - there are 6 on the list; since I don't go out of my way to include them, that's a good sign - that's a bunch of really good films made by women; a couple of them in fact with very strong careers shaping up - Denis, Campion, even Bigelow...
And a quick shot at the best films made in 2009:
2. Bad Lieutenant...
3. A Serious Man
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. The Limits of Control
7. The Hurt Locker
10. Bright Star
And - some other notables -
1. Christophe Waltz - spectacularly good.
2. Nic Cage
3. Denis Lavant in Tokyo
4. Benicio del Toro
5. Michael Stuhlbarg
1. Tilda Swinton - Julia
2. Gainsbourg - Antichrist
3. Abby Cornish
4. Tilly & Maggie Hatcher - Beeswax
5. Kim Ok-vin - Thirst
1. Soderburgh - Che
2. Kurosawa - Tokyo Sonata
3. Herzog - Bad Lt...
4. Von Trier - Antichrist
5. Coens - A Serious Man
1. Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino
2. A Serious Man - Coens
3. Extract - Mike Judge
4. Beeswax - Bujalski
5. In the Loop - Iannucci, Armstrong, Blackwell, Roche
1. Antichrist - Antony Dod Mantle
2. A Serious Man - Roger Deakins
3. Che - Soderbergh
4. 35 Rhums - Agnes Godard
5. Inglourious Basterds - Robert Richardson
Moments? since I never actually got around to doing this last year, I will do it for everything I saw this year, new:
* The karaoke job interview in TOKYO SONATA
* The girl discovers the thrills of vampirism in THIRST
* The long central conversation in HUNGER
* Iguanas and Nicholas Cage
* The realization that his girlfriend is dead, in the Austrian contemplative noir, REVANCHE.
* The cameraman moving on the bridge in ANTICHRIST - Von Trier's (and Mantle's) integral use of the handheld camera
* "I don't want, Santana, Abraxis!"
* Everything Christophe Waltz does in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, though especially that opening scene.
* The stink monsters in BIG MAN JAPAN - and the final confrontation, so to speak - when things get strange...
* The narration, especially, in SITA SINGS THE BLUES
* The beginning, especially, of Leos Carax' section of TOKYO, with Denis Lavant running amok on the streets of Tokyo.
* Ben Affleck's marriage advice in EXTRACT - probably not a good source of marital counseling there