JASON'S BEST: The Ten Best Films of 2009 (Return to Jason's Best Main Page)


Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece in my opinion. He has matured so much as a filmmaker, and he delivered a movie that is filled with everything that makes movies special. Great drama with the usual Tarantino gift for dialogue, which is even more effective in this film than some of his other great achievements. Tension, comedy, action ... all in a revisionist war epic fantasy that reminded me of some of the great war epics of old. And it is a film with a deep love of cinema itself ... basically showing that the power of film itself could rewrite history and give us all the ending we would have all liked to have seen to World War II. A first rate cast that doesn't even need Brad Pitt to be successful, but it's sure even better for the sheer joy and fun he has with his performance. It's for me the performances of Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent that remain the most memorable. Every single sequence in this chapter play works brilliantly, with incredible tension and surprise throughout, in a classically structured story reinterpreted only as Tarantino could do. For me, an easy choice as the year's best film.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The opening chapter that shows how brilliant Tarantino can stage tension through dialogue, as we first see Christoph Waltz's slowly plotting but evil Nazi "Jew Hunter"

A lot of critics reaped a lot of praise on this film because they felt it was a perfect testament to our current recession weary times. Which it is ... although for me, that's not what makes this film so memorable and so enjoyable and one of the best films of the year. It's the honest storytelling and the brilliantly written screenplay that crackles with that great Jason Reitman dialogue. It's the performances, particularly by George Clooney in one of his best performances ever, and Anna Kendrick as the eager upstart looking to change the way that Clooney's character does his job (being hired by companies to fire their employees when they're not brave enough to do it themselves). It's a film about the human connections we have, how they can let us down, but yet how we still need them. It's filled with such great comic moments, and such great poetry. More than just a representation of our current times, it should be a representation of the honesty of human loneliness, connection, hopes, dreams, and loves.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Natalie firing a man over a computer connection who is in the room next door, and the understanding of the emotion of that moment

While most praised Avatar as the technical achievement of the year for its visual effects, for me it's Kathryn Bigelow's amazing Iraq War film that was the best directed achievement of the year. In every single aspect of cinema put to use in this film ... cinematography, sound & music (or the sheer lack of it), editing, performance, camera, and more ... Bigelow has crafted one of the best on-the-ground war films of recent times, almost as if this is the Platoon of our day. Rarely have films presented realistic on-screen tension and dread like this movie does, and it's a film that wisely tells the story of the soldiers, without infusing any of the politics. Strong, accomplished filmmaking and a real testament to war's effects on men.

FAVORITE MOMENT: James back in the barracks revealing why he keeps the detonators and wires from the bombs he disarms

4) UP
I seem to say it with every Disney/Pixar effort that they produce, but how do they do it? Every time it looks like they have a concept which might fail, they hit it out of the park once again. One of the most mature and deeply moving of the Pixar films, Up was a sheer delight from start to finish. In its ability to tell a story that can entertain and move adults, and can give kids a completely different experience that they can enjoy ... this is what makes the Pixar formula so successful. It's the first animated film that has ever made me cry, with the best single sequence of the year, all represented in a simple yet deeply affecting montage that shows an entire love of a couple all in 4 1/2 minutes. Fun, engaging, beautifully animated ... Pixar can do no wrong.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The 4 1/2 minute montage towards the beginning of the film showing the life journey of the couple ending with her death

I think the true hallmark of a good film comedy is one that can make you laugh no matter how many times you watch it. Very few comedies have the ability to do that, but this film is certainly one of them. Beginning with a unique and hilarious structure that allows the audience to experience the confusion of its main stars, as they try to piece together what happened on a crazy drunken night in Las Vegas, through the perfect casting of the film's leads, and just to the sheer fun of a raunchy comedy willing to pull no punches. Plus, along with Inglorious Basterds, probably the only other film in 2009 that could provide so many great quotable moments. Remember: Tigers love pepper ... they hate cinnamon.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Seeing the actual photos of what happened that night during the end credits

This was the documentary that Michael Moore was born to make. A stunning and sad indictment of what has happened to the United States and in particular the economy over the past few decades, and how it all led to the recent economic collapse. Containing the usual Moore stunts, which are entertaining even if they are not needed, and a truly rare find in a piece of footage of President Franklin Roosevelt speaking about a potential second Bill of Rights ... it's everything Michael Moore does so well in one of his most accomplished efforts.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Michael Moore's final plea to the people watching the movie to pick up the fight

Very rarely do we get movies these days that actually take kids seriously and present something that truly represents what childhood is all about. But in this film from the great visionary Spike Jonze, we got that and so much more. The wonderful book by Maurice Sendak was one of my favorite childhood books, and it was the type of book that would spark so much adventure in your imagination. It was so moving to finally see that imagination on screen, in a film which truly celebrates what a child's imagination is ... with all the wonder, all the scary moments, and yes ... all the imagination. A remarkable achievement.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Max leaving the island of the monsters and Carol's howl as he sadly watches him leave towards the end

Now I know I feel old when we have movies that take place in the 1980's that are considered period films. But Adventureland was a great combination of comedy and coming of age drama that truly captured what it felt like to grow up in that decade, and maintained an honesty throughout, particularly in the difficulties in romance encountered between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, who both give really solid performances. It not only captured what growing up in that decade felt like, but definitely captured that feeling of youth and the possibilities we always felt in the summer like very few films have.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The ending when James and Em are together at Em's apartment

Very rarely have movies ever gotten the truths about romance and love in their most honest forms, but Marc Webb certainly did with this incredibly well written and uniquely structured comedy/drama. The fractured structure of the narrative allows us to go back and forth in time to see the highs and the lows of a relationship sitting right beside each other, and scene after scene takes us down an honest examination of love when it could have taken so many detours into the typical romantic comedy experience. Hopefully this can inspire more films about romance and love to be more honest and realistic.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Expectations vs. Reality split screen sequence concluding with Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) running out into the street which turns animated

This film was a great success story for so many reasons, not least of which was the belief by Peter Jackson in first time director Neill Blomkamp to see the possibilities of a short film that could get the backing to become truly the best science fiction film of the year. Like the greatest science fiction movies, this was one with a very strong theme as an undercurrent, commenting on a lot of South Africa's history with apartheid, but also speaking to our own prejudices as well, as it examines how humanity closes off a race of aliens and does their best to exploit them. But more than that theme, it's also a great action film as well.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The ending, where I actually liked the mystery that left open the possibility for a sequel

Honorable Mentions:
State of Play
Paranormal Activity
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Michael Jackson's This Is It
The Informant!
Taking Woodstock
World's Greatest Dad
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Food, Inc.
Star Trek
A Single Man