The Best (and Worst) of 2009

Article Published: Mar. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Best (and Worst) of 2009

Up, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

Oscar Madison, Oscar the Grouch, that Oscar guy from Short Circuit 2 - a smattering of cinema's most famous Oscars, all surpassed by the what is, perhaps, the most recognized trophy in the world.

At 13.5 inches tall and weighing in at 8.5 pounds, the Academy Award of Merit statuette, fondly called "Oscar" for reasons unknown even to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is almost more iconic than the films and artists it celebrates.

The 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony airs Sunday, March 7, and, for the first time in 66 years, is featuring an expanded Best Picture category of 10 nominees. In keeping with this rule of 10, your Mountain Times film critics have selected their personal top 10 films of 2009, some of which are nominated, others of which we celebrate in our own way by urging you to see them.

Right now.

Now, bear in mind that hundreds of films are released each year, and while we try to explore each title, it's not always possible. So, if you're wondering why this movie or that isn't on the list, it might be because you haven't told us why we need to see it. Let us know by emailing (

Frank's Top 10

1. Up

In Up, Disney Pixar has created an adventure-comedy teeming with life, emotion and all-out fun. Brilliantly written and beautifully animated, Up succeeds on almost every level, expertly balancing hilarity with poignancy and adventure with drama.

It's a computer-generated gem, a feature that's can delight audiences of all ages. In an incredibly moving opening montage, we watch our protagonist grow, love, wed and suffer life's common sorrows, all accomplished with minimal dialogue and a beautifully sweeping score. It's emotion at its purest, and it's a wonderful spectacle to behold. And that's just the beginning.

2. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

A gleefully manic take on Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992), director Werner Herzog's Port of Call sees Nicolas Cage deliver his best performance since Adaptation. (2002), as a drug-addled crooked-as-can-be New Orleans cop on an incredibly entertaining downward spiral - pleasure at its guiltiest.

3. Moon

Director Duncan Jones' Moon marks a welcome return to the thoughtful science fiction of yore.

Starring the talented Sam Rockwell in what could be described as a one-man show, this psychological space drama touches on themes of isolation, hope and humanity, accompanied by a brilliantly effective score and prime handmade special effects.

4. A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers win big with a modest tale of humanity, their own clever twist on the Biblical Job story. By combining human pathos with their trademark style and wit, the Coens keep audiences chuckling - and occasionally cringing - throughout this telling dark comedy, featuring a stellar cast of virtual unknowns and some known familiars.

5. Inglourious Basterds

Appropriately, Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France was director Quentin Tarantino's original title for this period epic, a spaghetti-western set in World War II. A superb cast, including Christoph Waltz as one of the best movie villains of the decade, perfectly complements Tarantino's razor-sharp writing, packed with style, suspense and a sadistic sense of humor.

6. Drag Me to Hell
7. (500) Days of Summer
8. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Road
10. Zombieland

Honorable mentions: Woody Allen's Whatever Works, Neill Blomkamp's District 9, Ricky Gervais's The Invention of Lying, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air

Frank's Bottom 5

1. Couples Retreat
2. Ninja Assassin
3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
4. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
5. Sorority Row

Joel's Top 10

1. Coraline

After the epic failure of Monkeybone, I wondered if stop-motion animation master Henry Selick would ever direct another film. It took eight years, but the dark fantasy Coraline - the best film of 2009 - was worth the wait.

Selick creates incredible visuals as he tells the story of an 11-year-old who finds a door to an odd parallel world where everything seems better and everyone has buttons for eyes. Coraline is unpredictable, fun, funny and daring - it's the kind of challenging and imaginative film that rarely comes along.

2. The Hurt Locker

Director Kathryn Bigelow's thriller is set at war, but it's not a war film. Instead, it explores the sheer madness of the men tasked with defusing bombs and almost every scene surges with pure adrenaline.

3. The Time-Traveler's Wife

Robert Schwentke's romance was ignored by many due to terrible advertisements, but was adored by this film critic. The film is not about falling in love, but about the ups and downs of a romance for a man who unwillingly time travels. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams give terrific, intimate performances.

4. Up

Pixar's animated fantasy is both heart-breaking and adventurous, a film not scared to deal with very real, mature issues in the middle of a wacky journey. From the tear-jerking opening montage to the slap-happy finale, Up will delight both children and adults.

5. Pandorum

This fantastic horror film, set in space as the remnants of mankind seek another planet to support human life, is absolutely terrifying. Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid are excellent in the lead roles, but it's the fantastic cinematography and music that help director Christian Alvart create a brooding, frightening experience that's comparable to Ridley Scott's Alien in terms of both originality and horror.

6. Inglorious Basterds
7. Observe and Report
8. Watchmen
9. Moon
10. Where the Wild Things Are

Honorable mentions: Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, Sam Mendes' Away We Go, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air and John Hamvurg's I Love You, Man.

Joel's Bottom 5

1. Halloween 2
2. The Box
3. My Sister's Keeper
4. Orphan
5. Old Dogs

Additional Images

Up, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson

The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathyrn Bigelow

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog

Coraline, directed by Henry Selick

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