2009 has seen some pretty great movies, which makes it hard to whittle everything that’s been released this year down to a list of 10. But here at Spike we don’t shy away from difficult tasks...we take them by the horns and wrestle them to the ground with our brute strength. And then we make them cry uncle before we send them to the slaughterhouse to make an angry, horned-animal stew.
Source: Paramount Pictures
Say what you want about Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, but the movie was if nothing else extremely faithful to the comic book (the ending notwithstanding). And you sure got your money’s worth of effects, fight scenes, and running time. No one can accuse Snyder of making films that are short on content.
But more than anything we love Watchmen because of Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as the dangerous, enigmatic Rorshach. There have been few actors who have brought a comic book character to life as perfectly as Haley did Rorshach. For all the glowing blue men and stilted line readings that peppered Watchmen, Haley was the frightening embodiment of a man living on the very edge of society, waiting and watching to bring the pain to a city full of sinners.
Oh, and let’s not forget the sex scene in mid-air with Malin Akerman. This movie belongs in any cinephile’s library.
9. The Hangover
A lot of people who either haven’t heard of the Internet, or simply don’t keep track of up and coming talent, had no idea who Zach Galifianakis was before The Hangover. But there’s no missing him now. The same can be said of Ed Helms, though he had a good deal of exposure as Andy Bernard on The Office long before this movie hit screens.
The Hangover was a hit in part simply because it wasn’t yet another comedic disappointment, of which 2009 was full. Between Funny People (arguably the least funny movie ever made with the word funny actually in the title) and Extract, there was a lot to dislike this year, but The Hangover delivered. You’ve got missing teeth, unleashed tigers, and Mike Tyson – when was the last time you saw a comedy that had any of those things?
This was one of those rare instances of inspired casting and great writing that combined to make us laugh our asses off. Rumor is there’s a sequel in the works. Whether or not that’s a great idea is another matter entirely, but The Hangover was one of the few comedies of 2009 that didn’t leave us wishing we’d just stayed at home and re-watched season two of Arrested Development.
Can Pixar make a bad movie? Are they even capable of it? Or have they become the King Midas of studios, where everything they touch turns into computer-generated awesomeness? So far Up is more evidence that the latter is closer to the truth. The only competition Up will probably have for best animated film at the Oscars this year is Coraline (also a great film), and since Pixar is beloved by all you can guess how that’s going to turn out. The only question at this point is what happens when they finally do make a bad movie? Will the universe implode, will children all over the world come down with an epidemic of sad-pox? Hopefully we’ll never have to learn the answer to that question.
7. The Invention of Lying
Ricky Gervais writes, directs, and stars in The Invention of Lying, one of the most original comedies to come out of 2009, or really the better part of this decade. Like The Hangover, this was one of the few comedies to be released this year that wasn’t a huge disappointment. The story is kind of like the reverse image of Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar, and is so simple you’d think someone would have made it before now, but thankfully no one did. No one plays the wise-cracking loser better than Gervais, and no one can make the banality of every day life look as funny.
The fact that the British version of The Office ended as quickly as it did is a tragedy, but if we can’t have any more of that show – or Extras, for that matter – then all we can hope is that Gervais continues to make movies as hilarious as this one.
6. Up in the Air
Jason Reitman’s third movie, Up In the Air, has all the humor of Juno minus the obnoxious, Diablo Cody-infused hipster talk. George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a guy who’s figured out how to spend the rest of his life avoiding meaningful relationships by racking up 10,000,000 frequent flier miles and spending his life in hotel rooms.
This movie manages to be funny, intelligent, and believable, not to mention actually making us care about the main characters. On top of everything else, despite its unrushed pacing, the story stays unpredictable and we’re genuinely surprised several times throughout the film.
There’s a lot of buzz about Oscars for this movie, particularly a Best Actor Oscar for Clooney, and rightly so. This is one of the few dramatic comedies of the year that takes itself seriously enough to make us laugh in spite of ourselves. Whether you’re feeling disconnected, unemployed, or both, Up in the Air succeeds at making us feel better without tricking us into thinking life is warm and fuzzy.