The Best Films of 2009

Johnny Depp in a scene from "Public Enemies."
Universal Pictures
Johnny Depp in a scene from “Public Enemies.”

For your consideration, as they say in the biz: Here is a list of 10 great movies released to theaters in 2009. All but a few are available for holiday season viewing without leaving your neighborhood.

Feel free to rearrange the alphabetical 10 in order of your own preference; for the first time in two decades of list-making, I couldn’t bring myself to put one new classic before another.

No such ties for the title of Reissue of the Year: The clear winner is the Film Foundation‘s scrupulously restored print of “The Red Shoes” (1948), which just so happens to be playing through Sunday at the Trylon  microcinema in Minneapolis.

(Note to completists: My longer list — including favorite performances, undistributed films, and films of the decade — can be found here.)

Happy screening!

“Beeswax”
Twentysomething twin sisters, identical to a point, in the year’s most genuine indie. DVD out 4/6/10.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Writer-director Wes Anderson: crazy like that. Playing at area theaters.

“The Hurt Locker”
Now this is a mindblower: the quagmire as thrill ride. DVD and Blu-Ray out 1/12/10.

“Munyurangabo”
Aka “Liberation Day,” a haunting parable of Rwandan healing. Available on DVD.

“Ponyo”
Fish-out-of-water tale, beautifully drawn (and drawn out) by Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki. Subtitled version available on DVD; dubbed version out 3/2/10.

“Public Enemies”
Depression Era violence, digital videography: Then is now. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

“Thirst”
South Korean surrealism; vampires, too! Available on DVD.

“24 City”
Progress comes to a Chinese factory town in the form of — what else? — a swanky new apartment complex. DVD out 1/12/10.

“We Live in Public”
Web guru Josh Harris went nuts in the ’90s while trying to prove that the Internet would tangle us in its web. Was he wrong? British import DVD out 2/15/10.

“Where the Wild Things Are”
An intimate epic of the oddly ordinary, for kids of all ages (grown-ups included). Currently unavailable in the Twin Cities (but bound to hit second-run theaters before long).

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Aaron Vehling on 12/26/2009 - 11:37 am.

    Rob and Readers:

    Just an FYI: “Where the Wild Things Are” is now playing at Hopkins Theatre – it looks like about 5 times a day.

  2. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 12/28/2009 - 09:26 am.

    Wow. You’re the first person I’ve encountered who liked the very dark, murky and jumbled Public Enemies. There’s noir, and then there’s underlamped. Did you actually manage to follow the action during the shootout at the Wisconsin hideaway? I sure didn’t/couldn’t.

    On an otherwise great list, this sure stands out as a clunker.

    And no, I didn’t see it a theater, but everyone I know who did said it was still too dark and too hard to see what was going on.

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 12/28/2009 - 01:22 pm.

    Anything suggestions for non film critics, aka normal people?

  4. Submitted by Dan Kitzmann on 12/28/2009 - 01:59 pm.

    Mark,
    I liked Enemies, though it did not knock my socks off. Still, I think Dante Spinotti’s cinematography was purposeful and apt, not underlamped. This tends to be his style.

    Consider specifically the astonishing motel shootout at the end of L.A. Confidential. The action details are not “easy” to see, but the details are trivial when you think about it. The film was not meant to be a Hollywood action pic. Consider also his “dark” cinematography in the Insider, Heat (like Enemies, a Mann film), or even Red Dragon (the Hannibal Lecter prequel). To my eyes it is superb in all cases.

  5. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 12/30/2009 - 09:32 am.

    I’m with Mark on Public Enemies. The murk wasn’t just in the lighting, and it couldn’t cover up a pretty turgid telling of the Dillinger chase. A misuse of three very good actors IMHO.

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