The Top 10 Films of 2009: Kyle's Picks

Some film fans like to make their Top 10 lists as early in December as possible; like checking off a Bingo card, they confidently assert that they've seen every relevant movie and are ready to weigh in. I envy their sureness, as it's taken me until the very last days of 2009 for my sense of the year in film to shift and settle. What was interesting about selecting my top ten movies, then, is how twinned they seemed, bound thematically, formally, and thrillingly. It may have been long in the making, but now that my list is in front of me, I couldn't have imagined it any other way.


Coraline (dir. Henry Selick)

Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze)

Sure, Avatar's Pandora provided a gorgeous 3D spectacle, but the color-saturated world that really popped for me this year was the one that Henry Selick adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel in Coraline. Though it owes more than a fair bit to Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas collaborator Tim Burton (principally the riotous near-cartoon that is Beetlejuice) it's a testament to just how much imagination is unleashed that despite Coraline's influences, I felt myself continuously surprised by what came next. Part of Coraline's daring was in its willingness to go dark, and Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are found similar rewards from mining the more fearsome aspects of childhood. It's a marvel that Dave Eggers could co-write both the year's worst film (Away We Go) and one of its best, but perhaps it helped that his potentially cloying sensibility was filtered this time through Jonze, an ineffable, inchoate, incredible auteur.

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  • HwoodHills says:

    Someone needs to make a comedy list.
    These year end "Top 10" lists rarely contain commercially successful comedies.
    The Hangover was really funny, Mr. Buchanan, and did monster business with a bunch of "unknowns." That, in and of itself, means something.
    Funny People wasn't, and Humpday wasn't "written" as much as improvised so I'm not sure that counts, technically.
    But then again, maybe it wasn't a banner year for Comedies.

  • stolidog says:


  • Chris Schoonover says:

    I just saw Imaginarium, and I treasured it, but now that I look at your list, I can see how it couldn't possibly have made your Top Ten. Bravo! I stand by the flicks you picked: some Oscar-worthy, some indie. And I'm happy you aren't drinking Cameron's Kool-Aid.

  • Best comedy of the year was Black Dynamite. Hands down.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    The discussions about "Antichrist" over at IMDB are really fascinating.
    Unfortunately, it is the sorta film I will NEVER WATCH. I am no cinema Masochist and it is pretty obvious that Lars von Trier is a cinema Sadist; giving literal meaning to the phrase "torture porn".
    My own opinion is that art is to symbolize pain and suffering, not shove it in our face so that we are truly traumatized. In that respect, the film becomes the very evil it is trying to explore.
    I love the films "The Shining" and "Marebito" (see it if you haven't!) so I am not against horror/suspense but there are somethings I don't want to see since I will never be able to unsee them.
    On the meaning of the title>
    My guess is that Christ = Good and Antichrist = Evil. From reading about the film it seems there is a play of opposites going on> The difference between the way we believe things should be and the way they sometimes are. Wife/Mother as nurturer; Husband as loving; Nature as beautiful; Lovemaking giving life; Couples adoring each others sexual organs; No actual sex in mainstream films; Cut aways during the violent parts; All of this is made opposite. Thus, ANTI.
    It all works in theory, but I still will NEVER see this film.
    I am going to send Lars a copy of the entire series of "Arrested Development" and see if that doesn't cheer him up...

  • Michael Eckley says:

    I agree with 'sunnydaze' There is enough of this stuff in real life, who the hell wants to be 'entertained' by it??? Not me.

  • Kyle Buchanan says:

    Humpday may have been improvised but it was certainly still a comedy. I do agree that comedy is an under-respected genre, especially at this time of year, but hey, I had two!