January 17th, 2010

Gryffindor

Best movies of 2009

As with the books list, these are of course the best films I saw in 2009, not ones made in 2009, necessarily. There are 13, because I couldn't narrow it down to 10. If I cut one, why leave another that's basically just as good? And so on. Thus, the list...

In the "catching up with Pixar" category: Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up. All brought the exuberant humor and quirkiness I've come to love from Pixar, with enough gentleness and heart to keep the 3-year-old entertained as well. Thanks to Up he's been saying "Squirrel!" all the time lately.

In the "cool animation but not Pixar" category: Coraline. Even people who have never heard of Neil Gaiman (how can this be?) have seen and recommended this to us, so we finally got around to it. Very dark and imaginative--surely I'd have recognized Gaiman's stamp on it even if I didn't know.

In the "fun comedy" category: Ghost Town and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. The former, which has the plotline, "I see dead people, and they're annoying and hilarious," is full of acerbic, rude humor (well, it's Ricky Gervais, what do you expect?), but brings a surprising amount of tenderness by the end. Co-stars Greg Kinnear, who somehow can never fail to be awesome. Miss Pettigrew, on the other hand, is a frothy little caper, very much with the feel of a stage comedy, with highly fun-to-watch performances by an all-star cast. (Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Shirley Henderson, and Ciaran Hinds, to name a few.)

In the "lovely romance" category: Penelope, I Know Where I'm Going!, and Moliére. The first is the story of a girl (Christini Ricci) born with a pig's nose because of a family curse, and finding love anyway. It's not only a charming fairy tale, but full of actors I happen to adore--James McAvoy, Richard E. Grant, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage, and some chick named Reese Witherspoon who was pretty good, too. ;) I Know Where I'm Going!, meanwhile, is from waaay back--1945, specifically. It's filmed in the tip-top of the Scottish Highlands, and is simple and honest and, well, I'm soft on Scotland, so naturally I enjoyed it. As for Moliére, it's a fictionalized account of the famous playwright getting into romantic comedy-of-errors tangles in his patron's household--fashioned after the style of Moliére's own plays. Fun stuff, and Romain Duris (as Moliére) was very attractive in a dirty French long-haired kind of way.

In the "random great find from ten or so years ago" category: Zero Effect. In a modern and slightly parodic twist on Holmes and Watson, Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller play a brilliant oddball private detective and his long-suffering sidekick, on the trail of a blackmail case. I've never seen Pullman play anything other than a basically normal guy, so this was a delightful change. Turns out he can be a charming weirdo quite well.

In the "historical classic" category: Doctor Zhivago. Somehow we'd never seen this till now. (In our defense, it's like four hours long.) Found it beautiful and compelling, if ultimately depressing. Yeah, Soviet Russia--not the happiest place; who knew? But ah, those daffodils...that house swathed in ice, inside and out...that "Lara's Theme" swelling through the score!

In the "blockbusters that were actually good" category: Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Both better than I hoped! HP #5 left me tepid, but #6 roared back in force--though with some rather, uh, surprising edits to the original text. And though never a full Trekkie, I still got a kick out of the well-written and almost tongue-in-cheek reboot (as everyone's calling it) of the Star Trek franchise. Also, apparently I'm a geek, because: to heck with Kirk, I'll date Spock! Well done, Zachary Quinto.