Robert Saucedo's Best of 2009

Call me crazy, but I dug the films that 2009 gave us.

It may not have been a perfect year and not every movie I went to see in the theaters or rented from Netflix was a winner — but over all I was entertained.

And isn’t that what movies are supposed to do?

This is most certainly not a list of the best films of 2009 — despite what the title might say. It’s a list of my favorite films. And yes, there is a difference. While I might have appreciated the hell out of movies like Precious or The Hut Locker and a film like Star Trek managed to do the impossible and actually make me care about the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise — these are the films that caused the biggest emotional reaction in me as I left the theater.

These are the movies that still resonate in my mind however many days or months it’s been since I first saw them.

They might not all be perfect films — each have their own faults — but they are movies that I love and probably will still love ten years from now.

Films that just barely missed being on the list include Inglorious Basterds, Precious, Star Trek, The Hangover and G-Force. Just kidding about that last one.

Boy was it hard to make this list — hopefully, though, it will inspire you to go and check out some of the films on the list you may have missed.


10. Sons of a Gun

This documentary by Rivkah Beth Medow and Greg O’Toole took me by surprise in a way that few documentaries do.

The story of three grown men who suffer from schizophrenia and their caregiver, an alcoholic abusive man named Larry, Sons of a Gun managed to keep me guessing and constantly reevaluating my assumptions.

As I watched the movie, I found myself drawn into the life of the subjects — a dysfunctional makeshift family of outcasts that have banded together inside of a cramped motel room as they await eviction.

Larry, the elderly man who serves as caregiver to Lance, Craig and Ubaldo, is one of the most complex characters ever caught on film. His three grown wards think of him as if he was their real father yet he treats them like human garbage at times — berating them for things out of their control.

This is not one of those well-polished Hollywood documentaries that get churned out come award-season — this is a hardscrabble look at real people with problems not easily solved.

I, for one, can’t wait until this film sees more prominent distribution so I can share it with as many of my friends as possible.


9. Drag Me To Hell

Sam Raimi’s return to form is like visiting an old childhood friend. Watching Drag Me To Hell, I was overcome with warm memories of growing up on the Evil Dead films. Evil gypsies, dancing demons and possessed livestock — this movie had everything I look for in a horror flick.

Alison Lohman and Justin Long were both great in the film but for me the real star was Lorna Raver as Sylvia Ganush, the gypsy who has a hard time with rejection.

Drag Me to Hell was a great bloody way to spend an afternoon and I’m finally once again looking forward to whatever comes next from Sam Raimi’s bag of tricks.


8. Humpday

I felt like such a noob when I discovered Mark Duplass this year.

After watching both Humpday and True Adolescents, I was convinced I had uncovered the next great comedic talent in Duplass only to discover that he was already a star of the mumblecore genre — a genre I am admittedly not yet well versed in yet.

Humpday is a great semi-scripted film about two straight male friends who, because of a healthy dose of macho posturing, decide to have sex with each other as part of a “make-your-own-porn” contest.

Believable characters and an interesting story helped carry this film to my list of favorites. Joshua Leonard co-stars as Andrew, the carefree soul who breezes into town to shake up the life of Ben (Duplass).

I still haven’t seen the show The League, a series about fantasy football that Duplass stars in, but because of Humpday, you can be assured that when the first season’s DVD is released it will go to the front of my Netflix queue.


7. My Suicide

There have been a lot of movies that have been released lately that utilize the whole found footage/YouTube culture to cultivate of a sense of hipness or “in-the-know.”

My Suicide is a how-to guide for successfully pulling it off.

Gabriel Sunday is going to be big. Take my word for it.

Sunday star in, wrote, produced, edited and was an assistant editor on the film — a coming-of-age story about Archibald Holden Buster Williams, a social misfit who proclaims one day during class that he is going to kill himself on camera as part of a homework assignment.

Shot entirely with footage that could have been shot and edited on a home computer by Archibald, the movie uses everything from animation to musical numbers to become the ultimate YouTube video — perfect for creating the story about a kid from today’s generation of youth.

Mariel Hemingway, Nora Dunn, Tony Hale and Joe Mantegna co-star. David Carradine, a casualty of the great celebrity rapture of 2009, also makes a memorable appearance as Vargas, a moody writer of somber fiction.


6. Best Worst Movie

I can’t say much more about the film then what I already wrote here.

Suffice to say, Best Worst Movie was my favorite documentary of the last year because of the sheer love of the subject matter, the terrible film Troll 2, that shines through every minute of the film.

An exhaustive look at a movie that probably doesn’t deserve such treatment, Best Worst Movie is a whole lot of fun — regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the terrible movie in question.


5. Observe and Report

I feel sorry for Seth Rogen. Now that he’s found a lot of success with his films, he’s beginning to experience a sort of backlash from those who, I guess, think he’s achieved too much in too short of time.

Well, as long as he keeps making movies like Observe and Report, he can have as much success as humanely possible — he deserves it.

The product of the twisted mind of Jody Hill, Observe and Report is one messed up film. Seriously. Playing more like Taxi Driver then Knocked Up, the film is an exploration into the lonely life of a mall security guard.

I’m not going to lie — the reason I like the film so much was because of the fact that Rogen’s character, Ronnie Barnhardt reminded me a lot of a childhood friend of mine. It was scary — almost as if they had followed my friend around and filmed his life.

But that’s testament to the skills of the filmmakers — that they can take such a seemingly outlandish character like a violent sociopathic mall cop and create a believable personality.

Expect to see this film grow in cult status over the next ten years.


4. District 9

Neill Blomkamp would have made an amazing Halo movie. Unfortunately, that project fell apart. Fortunately, he made District 9 instead.

Is it a social allegory or a violent space monster movie? How about both?

Shartlo Copley does an amazing job as Wikus Van De Merwe, a neebish pencil pusher who finds himself way over his head when he begins doing his best impression of the Brundle-Fly.

Amazing special effects, an outstanding story and pacing that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats — District 9 is a winner through and through.


3. Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’ve always been a Wes Anderson apologist — I’ve unabashedly loved every single one of his movies.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, his first foray into animation, is my favorite animated movie of the year.

Staring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and, in an amazing performance, Jason Schwartzman, the film is a continuation of the same themes that seem to run through all of Anderson’s film — conflicts between father and son, the desire for the unreachable and the fact that Bill Murray can do no wrong.

The animation, a charming throw back to retro stop-motion television specials, perfectly sells the timeless nature of the film. I can’t recommend this film enough.


2. (500) Days of Summer

I know for a fact that if I had seen this movie when I was a lovelorn high school kid, (500) Days of Summer would have been my favorite movie of all time. As it stands, it’s my second favorite film of the year.

Marc Webb takes an amazing script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber to create a lovely story about the dissolution of a love story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are perfectly cast as two people who aren’t right for each other — as much as Tom Hansen (Gordon-Levitt) might wish for the opposite.

It was a great movie and one that only gets better every time I watch it. Seriously. It’s out on video right now. What are you waiting for. Stop reading this column and go and watch it.


1. Avatar

Well, if you’re still reading that must mean you’ve either already seen (500) Days of Summer or are just willfully ignorant. Either way, you’ve probably already seen Avatar. At this point — who hasn’t.

It’s not a pefect movie but boy, oh boy, it’s a movie in every sense of the word. Truly epic, unrelentingly poignant and impressively impressive, the movie is the theater-going event of the year. Avatar (do I even need to summarize the plot) is awe-inspiring, soul tugging and it makes sweet, sweet love to your eyeballs for almost three hours. There’s really not much more to say except the fact that I can’t wait to see it again.

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