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PopMatters Picks: The Best TV, Film, and DVD of 2009

No, no fancy or fun subtitles. No all encompassing phraseology meant to delineate the entire 12 months in a particular medium. It was that kind of year—2009, the end of the new millennium’s first decade. It was not a year where one filmmaker or film stood out. It was not a time when TV reinvented itself. DVD remains a strong, if starting to struggle format.

Edited and Produced by Bill Gibron and Sarah Zupko

No, no fancy or fun subtitles. No all encompassing phraseology meant to delineate the entire 12 months in a particular medium. It was that kind of year—2009, the end of the new millennium’s first decade. It was not a year where one filmmaker or film stood out. It was not a time when TV reinvented itself. DVD remains a strong, if starting to struggle format, and for every acceptable bit of entertainment, there’s the standard guilty pleasures and undeniable duds to balance things out. So why gussy things up with unnecessary hype? After all, the Hollywood studio system and its broadcast/cable partners in crime do enough of that as it is. Let’s not add fuel to a fire that, frankly, could always remain unlit for a little while longer.


Indeed, if you look over the lists of the top films, TV, and DVDs of 2009, you’ll see many of the usual suspects. Heck, with just a few minor modifications, the boob tubes selections from the last two years could easily substitute for the small screen choices now. Of course, there are some obvious exclusions—24, South Park, The Simpsons, Top Chef, House—programs that used to command consistent consideration among our writers are nowhere to be seen this year. It’s the same with film. Many of the more celebrated entries (Precious, Up in the Air) aiming for statue satisfaction in the next few months are far down the list, while a new generation of viewers push the more mainstream entertainments (Star Trek, Zombieland) higher up the charts.


Oddly enough, it was the international and independent category that showed the most spark. There, complicated and challenging cinematic experiments (The White Ribbon, Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant “reimagining”) effectively illustrated the kind of daring and audacity that Tinseltown lacks. And what does it say about DVD that almost half the entries are classic films from Hollywood’s Golden Era, repackaged in amazing anniversary editions, or complete seasons of classic (and not so famous) TV shows? In fact, with Blu-ray maintaining its meddle as a viable HD solution, it looks like the technology that killed the VCR will be slowly sinking in the future. On the plus side, 2009 was an amazing year in performances. From abusive mothers to sly and slick SS officers, it was just one sensational acting turn after another.


Still, in an attempt to manufacture a year-ending Best Of, PopMatters staff was resolute. Almost all of the top choices in each category were by more than majority consensus. In some cases, the entire top ten of a particular medium was mandated by a vote of two-thirds or greater of the writers participating. That didn’t mean that there weren’t flukes, picks practically flying right under the radar and onto our charts. But in a survey where almost any title—film, series, or digital package—could argue for equal accolade, it was clearly not an easy process. Even more intriguing is where this final tally will land, once a decade wide poll is taken. Who knows—maybe the Best of 2009 won’t even rank. It wouldn’t surprise us if they did or didn’t. It was just that kind of year.


—Bill Gibron

Thursday, January 7 2010

The Best 30 Films of 2009

In one of the rarest rating periods ever, several on the staff could successfully argue for any of the Top 30 choices as a potential number one. While not all classics, they remain the consistent cream of 2009's crop.


The Best TV of 2009

Aside from one or two new shows, this look at the Best of TV 2009 seems awfully familiar. A look at early '60s admen? A practically incomprehensible drama about an island of airplane crash castaways? The Americanization of a UK workplace comedy? That definitely rings a bell.


The Best Independent / International Films of 2009

Looking for something far off the well-beaten mainstream path? Well, step on over to some savory world and outsider independent cinema. It's here where the risks, the experimentation, and the true art lives.


The Best DVDs of 2009

Let's face it, when the content inside is less than meaningful, how better to market your particular movie than with plenty of digital packaging bells and whistles. Many of our 2009 choices reflect this strategy. Others are great all by themselves.


Wednesday, January 6 2010

Loss and Longing in the Films of 2009

While 2009 brought heavily promoted vampires, robots, and avatars, some filmmakers were doing something else. Some of them were women, and some of their films found distribution.


The Worst Films of 2009

What does it say about the last 12 months that two of the year's biggest blockbusters also find residence near the top of our annual compilation of cinematic abominations? Oh, and the rest are pretty rotten as well.


Tuesday, January 5 2010

The Best Male Film Performances of 2009

Certainly, the multi-millionaire boy's club represented here is heavy on the dramatics and light on the more 'amusing' fare. But if you really give this list a meaningful perusal you'll see a few genre and jokester surprises along the way.


The Best Female Film Performances of 2009

Some in the media would have you think it was a sparse year for women on the silver screen. One peak at this amazing list of 20 girl power performances will have you giving said sentiments a specious second look.


The Best TV Performances of 2009

It would have been easy to miss most of this year's best, with all the distractions -- Rihanna and Chris, Taylor and Kanye, Adam and his same-sex drummer, Tiger and, well, who knows, and, ugh, Jon and Kate.


Monday, January 4 2010

The Guilty Pleasure Films of 2009

Someone, the same old suspects show up on this list - cheesy horror films, goofy gross out comedies, and the occasional certified WTF title. Lucky for us, 2009 was no different when it came to culpable schlock.


Sunday, January 3 2010

The Guilty Pleasure TV of 2009

It's here where you will find those unmentionable entertainments that keep us suckling at the glass teat for much longer than we need to. It’s not for mental nourishment or relaxation. It’s like an addiction, and going cold crappy TV turkey is just not an option.


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