Photo by Kozology

Well 2010 is here, and to be contrary, I have put together the inevitable list of what moved me, thrilled me and blew me away from films in 2009. Oh and the stinkers as well. So, in the order in which they popped into my head, are my top films…In The Loop

In The Loop is without doubt, the rudest, viscous and hysterical film I saw all year. The plot is pure farce, the casting of the US politicians is as inspired as is the comforting sight of Peter Capaldi reprising the awesome Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. It’s a triumph of writing and acting and how much fun you can have with a lot swear words imaginatively re-packaged.

Obligatory clip.

Mesrine: L’Instinct De Mort & L’Ennemi Public Nº1

Released in 2008 in France but in August over here, these two films tell the extraordinary story of Jacques Mesrine, a French criminal from the 60’s and 70’s who became infamous throughout France for his daring and numerous successful escape attempts. The film is anchored by a tour de force performance from Vincent Cassel, he brilliantly brings to life Mesrine’s unique charms, his ruthless killer streak and out-sized ego, which of course become his great weaknesses. Starting with his grizzly death at the hands of the French Police in 1979, it then goes back in time to chart his ascent from small time crook to public enemy number one. His escape from the maximum security prison in Quebec in particular is a great piece of action filmmaking, all the more impressive as this is how it happened in real life. Without a doubt Mesrine is a great and largely undiscovered surprise. Get it.

Inglorious Basterds

I wrote about this in glorious detail a few months ago and I’m glad to say it still holds up on repeat viewing. It’s a rip-roaring return to form for Tarantino, with a brilliantly interweaving storyline and cracking performances throughout. The standout scene still is the Mexican standoff in the bar with Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger deep undercover with the other Basterds. Tarantino at his best. (in German!) If you haven’t seen it yet, then leave your prejudices at the door and dig it out.

The Hurt Locker

Why this film has not got a better release over here in the UK is an absolute mystery, but be assured, if does get Oscar nominations then go and see it when it is re-released. A tense, tight and visceral exploration of the pressures that war heaps on soldiers, the Hurt Locker tells the story of a group of IED bomb disposal experts in Iraq in 2004. It’s directed by Kathryn Bigelow of Point Break (!) fame and is powered by a stunning performance from Jeremy Renner as SSgt William James. James is the unorthodox heart of film, his methods and reckless abandon both put him in extreme danger but also show how war is fought in the 2000’s. Small bursts of adrenalin, smothered in hours of stifling tension and boredom. There literally is no escape. A stunning film.

Funny People

Not everyone was into the most recent Judd Apatow film, but for me it was one of the most charming and heartfelt films made this year. There is a blurring of reality and fantasy  in this film that I found genuine and warm. It is the ultimate ‘Apatow family’ film, Adam Sandler in particular looks like he is making up for all the shitty films he has made for the dollar, just as his character George is as well and even though he can still veer into horrendous territories, it is his best film yet. The moments of comedy are subtle, it’s not a rip-roaring laugh out loud film, but you come out of it vowing to treasure the people in your life, from friends to family, because you never know what’s around the corner. It might be a bit too corny for some, but I bought it, best give it a go on DVD methinks.


I saw Up twice, once on my laptop and it made me cry, the second time was my first experience of 3D film, (Avatar next…) the film took on an even more wonderful, touching quality. This by far the best achievement for the Pixar Studios, probably because it is their least ‘childlike’. The soundtrack is one of the best I have heard in many a year, and the unfamiliarity of the voice acting (Ed Asner is the lead) makes it sound and feel like something totally unique. Visually stunning, it’s probably the film that in a year of hardship and misery for many, has had the most positive impact of the year. A joy.

Paranormal Activity

I have actually seen both versions of this film (Wikipedia’s got the background on that one) the differences are small, but extremely effective. The ending, drastically changed, certainly puts a more Hollywood spin on it (read – opportunity for a sequel) but whatever version you end up seeing, it is a chilling, jumpy and genuinely unsettling film. Talk of people seeing things and waking up in the night are not over-exaggerations, merely reactions to a film that plays brilliantly with your nerves. Tip; go see it in a group, the shrieking from the cinema is way more effective than watching it at home.

Almost there…

Star Trek
The Hangover
District 9

No Avatar yet, or Fantastic Mr Fox so I can’t really put them on my list. BUT the worst/most disappointing films of year are…

WORST: Harry Brown

It’s a great Michael Caine performance for about 25 minutes but the reality is it is so obviously trying to stoke/reinforce fears about the chavs of England that it just comes across as nasty and nihilistic. The riot on the estate at the end is ludicrous in the extreme.

WORST: The Invention Of Lying

God alone knows what Ricky Gervais was thinking as he got through this tidal wave of shit. It’s a great concept smothered in cliched rom-com dynamics. The locations are wrong (surely New York or L.A would have provided a richer palette to play with?), the actors involved are wrong and the whole thing feels like it just gives up and falls into a lazy attack on religion from about an hour in. Avoid.

DISAPPOINTMENT: Where The Wild Things Are

I was sooooo looking forward to this, even though I wasn’t familiar with the book, it looked like a great fantasy piece, it had a great cast and a great director, but when i saw it, well it just bored me. The kid is annoying in the extreme, it doesn’t feel like it would interest a kid at all, which sort of leaves as a film made for hipsters who want to re-connect with their inner child while musing on the fantastic cinematography. A real shame. Even it’s numbers at the box-office seem to tell their own story, just not quite there… A real shame.

  1. Roy says: January 5, 20101:09 AM

    C’mon James, you know that WTWTA wasn’t that bad. In fact it was great, and the kid incredible. I don’t think it was meant for kids and the book was surely only an inspiration. Shit, maybe I’m a hipster. Shit, maybe you’re not!! x

  2. […] choice of Spike Jonze is an inspired one. Whatever my feelings about the failings of “Where The Wild Things Are” he is a visionary and wildly playful director, and this film, ostensibly a love story with robots, […]

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