The Best 30 Films of 2009

by PopMatters Staff

7 January 2010


15 - 11


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Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Cast: Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer, Carla Gugino
Review [6.Mar.2009]


Zack Snyder

The story that was once considered “unfilmable” finally made its way to theaters in 2009, meeting expectations that few believed it could. Directed by the always fervent Zack Snyder, Alan Moore’s landmark apocalyptic superhero tale Watchmen made a successful jump to film in this 162-minute stylized adaptation. It turns out the best way to adapt Watchmen is faithfully, and the combined writing efforts of David Hayter and Alex Tse composite all the crucial moments of the layered text. The result is a film that captures the distinct Cold War paranoia of the graphic novel, while updating the action and imagery for contemporary eyes. And although Watchmen‘s spirited darkness might not be for everyone’s taste, its massive scope and sublime casting make it one of 2009’s most exciting and impassioned blockbusters. Cyrus Fard



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Director: Henry Selick
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Ian McShane, Keith David, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French
Review [6.Feb.2009]


Henry Selick

If there’s one thing that 2009’s films have taught us, it’s that childhood is not always the romantic stretch of serenity that some kids’ fare will have you believe. While childhood does have its moments of magic, for the most part it’s a messy, frustrating, angular affair. In Coraline, Henry Selick’s stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novella, there is no sentimentalizing. Childhood is full of disappointment, danger, and boredom. That’s not to say that Selick’s universe is also underwhelming and flat—quite the opposite, he performs stop-motion miracles full of bioluminescent gardens, angelic Scotties, and awe-inducing jumping-mouse circuses. But, like Coraline herself, we can’t be wooed entirely by these images, so Selick always makes sure there’s something uncomfortable lurking underneath—a spidery arm, a rat dissolving into sand, or a person with black button eyes—to keep us from thinking that the world of our dreams is the place where we want to live forever. Marisa LaScala



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In the Loop

Director: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Gina McKee
Review [7.Aug.2009]


In the Loop
Armando Iannucci

In the Loop is Armando Iannucci’s much-admired satirical sitcom The Thick of It writ large, with Anglo-American relations and the Iraq war its colossal targets. It finds Tom Hollander’s gaff-prone MP Simon Foster adrift in Washington DC with the American political elite intent on manipulating him like “a little meat puppet”. The film follows the floundering efforts of Foster‘s team as they find themselves across the pond and way out of their depth, as well as those who are struggling to stay ‘in the loop’ back home. In the Loop gives us the most hilarious and spectacularly profane dialogue of the year, culminating in a delicious face-off between James Gandolfini’s General Miller and Peter Capaldi’s almighty scumbag Malcolm Tucker. The film is both recognizably a close companion to the excellent series and filmic enough in scope and staging to justify the elevation to the big screen. Emma Simmonds



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An Education

Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson
Review [26.Apr.2010]
Review [9.Oct.2009]


An Education
Lone Scherfig

We’ve seen about a million “my first time” movies about boys but hardly any which take the girl’s point of view. Credit Lone Scherfig’s An Education, based on British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir, for getting it right. The film’s 16-year-old heroine Jenny (Carey Mulligan) isn’t all that interested in sex, but yearns for access to the adult world of sophistication and glamour offered by an affair with the charming David (Peter Sarsgaard). Flattered to be accepted by his smart friends (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike) and dazzled by art auctions and trips to Paris, Jenny overlooks the obvious and receives an education her stuffy private school could never have provided, including some hard lessons about the limitations of her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) and the school’s headmistress (Emma Thompson) in the process. Sarah Boslaugh



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Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kaya Scodelario, Dominique McElligott, Kevin Spacey
Review [18.Jan.2010]
Review [9.Jul.2009]


Duncan Jones

Moon is an absolute gem of a film, a stunning first work from Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie. On a shoestring budget, Jones brilliantly creates the atmosphere of the moon –- its sheer isolation, its eternal night, its ambiance -– pairing it with a striking portrait of a man slowly going insane. Its themes are lifted from the classic strain of the science-fiction genre, yet it raises complex ideas that feel fresh and involving. There is something very post-millennium, for example, about a man struggling to survive, all on his own, in a distant environment, cut off from all outside contact. A chilly work, but also quite beautiful and intense, and strengthened by a superb performance from Sam Rockwell and a lovely, contemplative score by Clint Mansell. It’s an aching character study of a man pushed beyond the brink of loneliness in a place he doesn’t belong; one of the best ‘indie films’ of the year. Andrew Blackie


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