A Look Back at 2009:
Once upon a time…
…in 2008, while the world economy went into a tailspin, Hollywood delved into super-depressing, self-important mode and the Davies Awards asked sourly, “Why So Serious?”
But then the Brothers Coen and Quentin Tarantino looked around with their impish grins and wondered, “Why can’t we be a little serious but have fun, too?” Meanwhile, The King of the World, James Cameron awoke from a decade long hibernation to deliver us into a fantastic world we had never seen and finally made a film where 3D technology rose above gimmick status. All the while, his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow masterminded the ultimate coup-d’etat. Will a woman director finally take home Oscar…for a war film?
But these golden days seemed so far far away back in January…
2009 began ominously. The multiplexes seemed a dark abyss. Slick Euro-trash like Taken (ugh) and idiotically operatic American nihilism in the form of Watchmen (easily the year’s most odious film) took filmgoers hostage. But the dark winter gave way to spring, and the summer, though glutted with the usual soulless prepackaged sequels (Angels & Demons and Harry Potter and the Whatever, it’s like I never saw you…and thankfully, Transformers 2, I didn’t), also offered some genuine surprises…not just original and daring films like Inglourious Basterds and District 9 but films that remembered what it meant to have fun like Star Trek (meh) and Drag Me to Hell (hell yeah). The summer also saw timely films like The Hurt Locker (harrowing) and In the Loop (hilarious) that made deep cuts and took biting jabs through their respective genres by riffing on recent/current events. The summer paved the way for a contemplative fall and an end of the year that saw both rousing escapist crowd-pleasers (Avatar, which I had previously thought would be a disaster) and top notch Oscar-bait (from slick populist entertainment like Up in the Air to cold foreign entries like The White Ribbon).
It was a watershed year for the niche film. For sci-fi fans, 2009 was a Renaissance with the likes of Star Trek, District 9 and Avatar reminding us science fiction can still resonate if it has fun, holds a mirror to our humanity or dazzles us with alien worlds and never before seen technology. Meanwhile, horror comedy was finally done right with Drag Me to Hell and Zombieland that proved gore and laughs go hand and hand and a little satire doesn’t hurt either. Most notably, many of those trailblazers who first wowed us in the ’90’s, came back firing on all cylinders in 2009 as mature, middle-aged auteurs. The Coen Brothers gave us their best film since Fargo with their wickedly dark and subversive modern-day Jewish morality tale, A Serious Man while that fiery SOB with ADD Quentin Tarantino reached what I believe will be looked back on as a career pinnacle with Inglourious Basterds. Showing hope for a bright future, many globally minded up-and-coming auteurs flooded the art-houses with pictures focusing on our shared humanity and the up-sides and down-sides of culture clash with intensely intimate films like Silent Light, Goodbye Solo, Jerichow and Sin Nombre.
Much like 1999 (and hell, 1989, too) there was no single film that totally blew me away (like There Will Be Blood did in 2007), but the depth and breadth of quality and imagination on display in both the art-houses and the multiplexes was refreshing and much needed after the overly dour year in film that was 2008. There’s something about the end of a decade that drives filmmakers to pull out all the stops with big gambles, and audiences rejoiced and rewarded Hollywood with boffo box office returns despite the continued global economic struggles. Only time will tell how well the films from 2009 will be remembered in another ten years, but right now I feel like I just went on a hell of a ride. And the bottom line for Hollywood was “business is a-boomin'”.
Written by David H. Schleicher
The Year in Pictures:
Take your Golden Globes and shove ’em. Sit on it, Oscar. The Schleicher Spin proudly presents:
The 4th Annual Davies:
Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film for the Year 2009.
The Top Ten Films of 2009:
- A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers)
- Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)
- The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
- Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
- The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
- Up In the Air (Jason Reitman)
- In the Loop (Armando Iannucci)
- Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani)
- Jerichow (Christian Petzold)
- Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga)
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
- Avatar (James Cameron)
- Away We Go (Sam Mendes)
- Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
- District 9 (Neill Blomkamp)
- Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi)
- Observe & Report (Jody Hill)
- Sunshine Cleaning (Christine Jeffs)
Best Picture: A Serious Man
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Nicolas Cage for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Best Actress: Melanie Laurent for Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air
Best Comedic Reading of Dramatic Lines: Christoph Waltz’s and Brad Pitt’s end of the film “negotiations” in Inglourious Basterds
Best Dramatic Reading of Comedic Lines: Fred Melamed as “sooth-talking” Sy Ableman, the level-headed adulterer trying to talk some sense into A Serious Man
Worst Reading of Lines: Jake Gyllenhaal screaming at the police, “He’s my brother! I’m your brother! You’re my brother!” in…well, would you look at that — Brothers.
Best Original Screenplay: The Coen Brothers for A Serious Man
Best Adapted Screenplay: Armando Iannucci et al. for In the Loop
Most Underrated Film: Sunshine Cleaning
Most Overrated Film: (500) Days of Summer (two hours was too much, let alone 500 days)
Best Editing: The Hurt Locker (talk about tension)
Worst Editing: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (and edited with a hacksaw)
Best Original Music Score: Michael Giacchino for Up
Best (Un)Original Music Score: The recycled greatest hits of Ennio Morricone for Inglourious Basterds
Best Cinematography: (tie) Alexis Zabe for Silent Light and Christian Berger for The White Ribbon
Best Special Effects: Avatar
Best Guilty Pleasure: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (I don’t know about you, but this was the best IQ-decreasing Saturday morning cartoon with Sienna Miller in a skin-tight outfit I’ve ever seen)
Best Horror Film: Drag Me to Hell
Best Sci-fi Film: District 9
Best Comedy: In the Loop
Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed: Cutting edge auteurs from 1990’s, the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino, settling into middle-age with their most thought-provoking works to date with A Serious Man and Inglourious Basterds.
Movie Trend I Completely Ignored: The Sandra Bullock Box-Office Bonanza Comeback Tour (The Proposal and The Blind Side)
Biggest Disappointment: Public Enemies
Worst Picture: Watchmen
Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:
We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.
Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.
Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2009.
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