The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline Monahan's Top Ten Films of 2009

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Jacqueline Monahan’s Top Ten Films of 2009

This year, I’ve broken the films into categories because they possess different strengths. All of them moved me in some way or gave me a ride to a destination I couldn’t predict.  And that’s always a good thing.


Best of the Best

A Single Man
Colin Firth is introspective, startling and full of suppressed grief during a day in his life as he incessantly mourns the death of his long-time love, another man.  It’s the early sixties, he’s a college professor, and the day holds the promise of beginnings and endings out to him like a bouquet.  Tom Ford gets you to notice, feel, and grieve a palpable loss as if it were your own.

Talk about the mean streets.  Precious has had them invade her home her entire life.  With two children by incestuous rape by the time she’s sixteen, she can still dream and summon dignity and grace through education and gradual empowerment.  You’ll marvel at the way you care about this marginalized woman.  Lee Daniels makes her hard to ignore, even harder to forget.

The Hurt Locker
A bomb disarmament specialist in Iraq craves the danger like a drug.  Harrowing and enlightening, the film is as taut as the time it takes to detonate an explosive with an erratic timer. Kathryn Bigelow puts the viewer into the head of the technician where adrenalin is the fuel, and luck is just as prized as logic.

Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s reimagining of Nazi demise takes on the subject of bloody revenge with the merriment of a barn dance.  Brad Pitt and his band of scalpers consider it entertainment because “we don’t get to see movies that often.”  The novelty here is in the sheer revelry of murdering the murderers.

OK, it was easy to jump on this bandwagon, full of blue, 10-foot beings with fiber optics in their ponytails.  All I know is that two hours and forty minutes passed by in the blink of an eye while I was being transported around Pandora on a flying dino-bird.  James Cameron.  Believe the hype.

Best Animated

It’s stop-motion.  It’s dark. It’s riveting and full of eerie atmosphere.  Henry Selick’s cobalt-headed heroine creates her own world (as well as an alternate one) and sucks us right into it.  I’m glad my eyes weren’t sewn shut for this one.

It’s not stop-motion. It’s not dark.  It’s full of sweet realizations and talking dogs; a floating house and a dirigible; a dopey, maternal bird; a man and a boy who find unexpected refuge in each other.  This one didn’t need the 3-D process to enhance the proceedings.  Pete Docter did it with a curmudgeon, an explorer scout and a dog whose first greeting is, “I have just met you and I love you.”  Indeed.

Best Innovation

District Nine
Peter Jackson’s vision of another kind of apartheid, with ghettos inhabited by prawns is seamless in its presentation of aliens and their culture.  Incorporates laziness and corruption into the excellent SFX for added realism, while uncovering man’s capacity for discrimination at the inter-stellar level.

The Fourth Kind
The scariest film I’ve encountered in a long time, thanks to director Olatunde Osunsanmi’s clever use of “actual” footage and case files in split-screen format.  This tale of alien abduction in Nome, Alaska actually had me reluctant to return home later that night.  That’s where they get you.  More effective than other notable mock-umentaries.

Best Sci-Fi

Star Trek
A magnificent effort by J.J. Abrams, who not only preserves the much-loved series, but reimagines a future full of possibilities for the Enterprise crew.  Brilliant casting, humor and hubris took this mission all the way to the top, and at warp speed.  No need to beam me up, Scotty.  I found intelligent life here.

An honorable mention goes to Watchmen for visuals, editing and meticulous adherence to the lengthy graphic novel.  It creates an era that never was, and then skillfully makes us remember it.

I’m sure there are a good deal more of 2009 offerings that deserve a shout out but A) I don’t get to screen everything and B) these particular films left a lasting impression on me, whether through technical, visceral or intangible means.

Now, on to 2010.

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