The Top 10 Films of 2009: Michelle's Picks

Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze closed out the last decade (and the millennium) with two of that decade's best films; since 1999, the boom in independent filmmaking that fostered their breakthroughs has either flamed out or blown open the doors, depending on how you look at it. That they both made big budget studio adaptations of children's classics this year can also be seen two ways, but what seems clear is that spirit of regression has provided a sort of temporary refuge, a regrouping point for two of America's best and most innovative storytellers.

I would argue that the majority of the films on my list are informed in some way by that spirit -- even Avatar, an almost completely digital film whose technological genius serves a story straight from James Cameron's childhood fantasies. A friend of mine, whose father's entire family was killed in the Holocaust, has told of the dreams she had as a girl of flying -- superhero style -- back in time to kill Hitler with her bare hands -- to save the world. It's an impulse no less powerful for being childish, as Quentin Tarantino proved to strange and devastating effect. The films I loved this year told old stories, invented and re-invented the past and offered us that respite from the present, a re-grouping point. In no small way, and like all of the best art everywhere, ever, they tried to save the world.

1. Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

2. Avatar (dir. James Cameron)

3. Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion)

4. Summer Hours (dir. Olivier Assayas)

5. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (dir. Wes Anderson)

6. Two Lovers (dir. James Gray)

7. The White Ribbon (dir. Michael Haneke)

8. Adventureland (dir. Greg Mottola)

9. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (dir. Sacha Gervasi)

10. Where the Wild Things Are (dir Spike Jonze)

PREVIOUSLY: The Top 10 Films of 2009: Kyle's Picks


  • SunnydaZe says:

    "and like all of the best art everywhere, ever, they tried to save the world."
    Well said, Ms. Orange; Well said.

  • Chuck says:

    Avatar? Seriously? What, did you get a big check from James Cameron to say that? Avatar is an almost 100% CGI film that looks cartoonish at best. I've played real-time rendered video games with better graphics. If you're going to rely on that much CGI, at least wait until the technology catches up with your dreams.
    On the plus side, it'll look really good when they re-render it again in ten years for the Super-Blu-Ray-Double-Plus-Good edition.

  • Ben says:

    Avatar is awful. As racist a white person gone native fantasy as I've ever laid eyes on, dripping with misanthropic zeal and self parodying environmentalist moralising. It is even worse than the film we all thought it would be when we were mocking it months ago, yet somehow people have bought into the hype after seeing it on the big screen. Just wait. In years to come this film will be savagely ridiculed, as it ought to be.
    Even the visuals failed to impress, in my opinion. When did we all start going to the theatres to watch glorified videogames?