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