It's been a rough year for the big boys in Hollywood. DVD sales are weak, downloading is still a cause for fear and strangely audiences refuse to reliably go see pre-manufactured pablum like Land of the Lost. 2009 was the year when big stars couldn't guarantee a film's performance (Julia Roberts in Duplicity, Russel Crowe in State of Play to name a few..) and when
other stars came back with a bang (Hello Sandra Bullock).
Still, look long and hard and you'll see signs of hope. From Fantastic Mr. Fox to Paranormal Activity and yes even Avatar, filmmakers proved that all audiences really want are artists with vision. Someone who knows how to move the camera and has something to say.
As for the industry, both blu-ray and 3D are here to stay, which means more money for people to play with. Expect more spectacles and pray for some smarts.
From 2009 here are 20 films that stood out.
Two brothers, a woman and Buenos Aires. As I said when I first wrote about Tetro, this is a time capsule of a film. A rich sip from the pre-AVID age of cinema. It's not that Coppola has made something dated, but like The White Ribbon there's a timeless feel here, which makes up for many of the great director's indulgences.
The second best documentary of the year works on many levels. As an activist film opening your eyes to a horrible crime. As a personal journey, watching a man tied to the image of the domesticated dolphin trying to make amends. And finally, as a caper, a mad mission-impossible type scheme involving high tech gizmos and daring feats. Watch the film to the end and you'll see how the director never rests on his laurels. Always finding new ways to stimulate our senses.
The story of a soccer coach makes it here for two reasons: 1) The amazing performance of Michael Sheen as the swaggering Brian Clough. You would think the arrogance would cancel out the charisma but instead it almost has a multiplying effect. 2) The beautiful structure of Peter Morgan's script, almost Shakespearean in the way he dissects and displays Clough's fatal flaw.