A quick summary of the 2009 film year

What where the most relevant films of 2009? Which films grabbed our attention and changed our view of the world? Which films opened our eyes and educated us and which films stole our hearts and made us fall in love?

There were excellent films in 2009 that did all these things.
If you check out the Annual critics top 10 lists below you’ll see what critics rated the best of the year.

It was an excellent year for Sci-Fi, Animation, War films and again for Documentaries; my favorite genres.

Sci-fi films were very strong this year with the best being Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9 but also very good were 2012, Terminator Salvation, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine

George Lucas’ influence continues to show the way to the future of film making. Combining elements of fantasy, futuristic military hardware, war, and aliens, James Cameron’s Avatar is by far the standout film of the year taking everyone by surprise and really raising the bar for Special Effects in a science fiction film that also has all the right elements of a great universal story. It is now the highest grossing film of all time beating out James Cameron’s own Titanic. (not adjusted for inflation)
Avatar is the Lord of the Rings of 2009 and it is also on its way to becoming a classic trilogy. James Cameron always knew exactly what made the Star Wars films so successful and he is now successfully following in George Lucas’ foot steps with his own original blockbuster Sci-fi/fantasy epic franchise. The films of Cameron’s that most resemble Avatar are Aliens (also starring Sigourney Weaver) and The Abyss.

The Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams is also inspired by the Star Wars films. Abrams has said that he wanted to bring a Star Wars sensibility to the Star Trek franchise. He wanted to give it the speed and action of those films of which he is a big fan. The makers of Star Trek thought of the Star Trek franchise as “classical music” and the Star Wars franchise as “Rock and Roll music”, and they wanted to inject Star Trek with some of that “Rock and Roll” feeling. The good news is it worked and the film is easily the best Star Trek film ever. In addition to this the original TV series has also been given a special effects update and facelift exactly like what was done with the Star Wars Special Editions and now the original series looks better than ever. With the update I am now a new fan of the series.

Visually and story-wise District 9 puts a new and unusual spin on the aliens landing on Earth sci-fi film and it works. The movie is a mix of documentary style footage and very realistic special effects aliens set in a South African slum/ghetto. But it is also very funny and poignant in a sense that there are many apartheid era references; only using aliens.

Animation films were numerous (16 films) but the best ones were Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, Mary and Max, Ponyo, The Princess and the Frog, A Christmas Carol, Monsters vs. Aliens, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Astro Boy.
You can see a complete list of animated films that were released in 2009 in order of best reviewed to worst according to Rottentomatoes.com by clicking on the link in the right margin called Animation Rated 1999 – 2009.

Up by Pixar, who haven’t made a bad film yet, is a very funny but also touching, emotional story about a couple with a dream to go on an adventure trip to South America but are prevented from fulfilling their dream by life and circumstances. It’s also a beautiful film that was actually filmed in remote parts of South America and harkens back to some of Miyazaki’s films in style and story. Pixar are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki and you can see his influence in this film.

In the War film category there were three that were outstanding; The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Edward Zwick’s Defiance. Edward Swick was also behind such films as Blood Diamond, and The Last Samurai.

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The Hurt Locker is an excellent war story set in Iraq and follows a bomb squad who defuse road side and car bombs. It’s a beautifully photographed, very suspenseful and realistically depicted film about one soldier who becomes addicted to the adrenalin rush of war. Finding himself irresistibly drawn to dangerous situations where no one else would dare go, he puts not only himself in harm's way, but risks the lives of his fellow soldiers who support him and even innocent civilians. Unable to adjust to normal civilian life back home he keeps going back into the chaos of war.

Defiance is the true story of three Russian Jewish brothers who form a resistance group to protect a large number of Jewish refugees from Russians and Nazis during WW II. Bases on the book called “The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews”. It’s a truly inspiring story depicting a part of the War very seldom seen or heard about. Very realistically portrayed and well acted, it is one of the better WW II stories I’ve seen. Daniel Craig is excellent as a Russian Jew.

Of the documentaries that I have watched so far (and I have not seen many) the best were The Cove, The English Surgeon, India Reborn, Trouble the Water, which was nominated for an Oscar last year when Man on Wire won, and This is It the Michael Jackson behind the scenes concert video.

The Cove is an incredible documentary about a group of people trying to expose the horrible cruelty perpetrated by Japanese fishermen on Dolphins. It is a must see film as it opens our eyes to some horrific practices that must be exposed. This film will make you angry and make you want to do something to help dolphins everywhere. You may also never want to eat sushi again.

Action/Adventure/Thriller films were less strong this year with only a few good ones mainly Sherlock Holmes, State of Play and The Informant!

Of the Comedy/Feel-Good/Romance films, there were few films that I liked. So far the best ones I have seen are In the Loop, 3 Idiots, It’s Complicated and Rudo y Cursi.

The dramas that I’ve seen so far were mostly all French films. I liked Summer Hours, The Class, and Coco before Chanel. The Blind Side was also much better than I had expected.

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You can read the film scripts for many of these films under the heading “Scripts/Screenplays” at the top of this blog.
Next article will be a Summary of my favorite films of the past Decade from 2000 to 2009.

JP


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