Due to, among other things (laziness, of course, chief among them), a tumultuous work life over the past few months, I’m doing my now-annual “best of” lists at what I consider to be the last minute: the day of the Oscars. I’m not too terribly upset with myself about this, though; last year, I thought my personal best lists and my Oscar predictions had a lot of overlap and redundancy anyway. So here are my summarizing thoughts on the year of film that was 2009, with some Oscar predictions thrown in for good measure.
As usual, I didn’t get to see everything in 2009. There were a couple of films that people are talking about that I just don’t have any interest in—Precious, The Blind Side—and a few that I wanted to see but have yet to get around to: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Informant!, and The White Ribbon, most notably.
The most defining aspect of this year is the bitter coincidence that the Academy decided to expand its Best Picture field to 10 nominees (from 5) in a year when it’s hard to find enough films that even qualify as “good” to fill out the category. Here, though, are my personal top 10 best films of 2009, with links to my reviews of each:
- Inglourious Basterds ()
- The Hurt Locker ()
- Up in the Air ()
- Where the Wild Things Are ()
- Watchmen ()
- A Single Man ()
- Moon ()
- Adventureland ()
- Tyson ()
- Funny People ()
Oscar Prediction: Although I think there’s a real chance for The Hurt Locker, and I’d really like to see Inglourious Basterds recognized, I think the voting will go for the biggest box office success of the year (and the biggest technological achievement, too) and award Avatar with Best Picture.
Best animated films of the year:
Oscar Prediction: I find it a bit ridiculous that a movie (Up) can be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, and I think that tells the whole story—by virtue of being the only film that “qualifies” as a best-overall movie, doesn’t that automatically make Up the best animated movie? I think so.
The best performances by an actor this year, in my opinion, were:
- Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
- Sam Rockwell (Moon)
- Colin Firth (A Single Man)
- George Clooney (Up in the Air)
- Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
And a couple of honorable mentions:
- James Gandolfini (Where the Wild Things Are)
- Chris Pine (Star Trek)
Oscar Predictions: Christoph Waltz is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor, and deservedly so (though I think he should be in the Leading category). Jeff Bridges is almost just as certain to take Best Leading Actor.
The best performances by an actress were:
- Carrie Mulligan (An Education)
- Amy Adams (Sunshine Cleaning)
- Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds)
- Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
- Rachel Weisz (The Brothers Bloom)
A couple of honorable mentions here, as well:
- Kristin Stewart (Adventureland)
- Alison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell)
Oscar Predictions: These categories are much more open. While I’d really like to see Carrie Mulligan win Best Actress, I think the voting will go to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. Likewise, while I think Vera Farmiga should be winning the Best Supporting Actress category, the smart money is on Mo’Nique for Precious. I suppose I can’t comment too much on these, since the two front-runners are from movies I haven’t seen and likely never will, but there you have it.
The remaining major categories, I think, will go like this:
- Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) deserves this, and I think she’ll get it.
- Best Original Screenplay: I’d be shocked if Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) didn’t win this one.
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) should, and most likely will, win here.
- Every Technical Category will go to Avatar, including the somewhat-controversial award for Best Cinematography (how much does the cinematographer do when the whole movie is rendered by computers?).
I think 2009 was a pretty weak year in film overall, but there were some diamonds in the rough to be found. Hopefully some of my lists above can be taken as useful recommendations for which of those to seek out.