Movies I Loved (and Hated) in 2009

The Hurt Locker

From Adventureland to Zombieland, there was quite a lot to like about movies in 2009 – and the good stuff was spread out over the course of the year. Both The Hurt Locker and Watchmen were released way back in March, and Avatar came out in mid-December. And while it’s not on this particular list, I quite enjoyed Sherlock Holmes (see my review), which was unwrapped on Christmas Day. I know, I know, it’s Jan. 2 – what took me so long to post this end-of-year list? Well, I’m still watching stuff, okay? I haven’t managed to catch Up yet, so reserve a potential 12th slot for that one.

And I want to emphasize that these are movies that I loved – not necessarily the best-made or deepest films of the year. I leave that to experts who have actually seen everything. (People still read Roger Ebert, right? Or is it all about Rotten Tomatoes now?) I know Watchmen has flaws, and The Hangover is rather silly, but hey, I enjoyed ‘em. So there! Now, on with the list…

    Movies I Loved (alphabetical order):

(500) Days of Summer: As noted in my review, a chick flick for guys.

Avatar: James Cameron at his most visually dazzling. Read my review.

Adventureland: A coming-of-age tale that feels like it might really have happened to an actual person. Plus, Kristen Stewart proves she really can act. (Honest.)

District 9: Racism and alienation in South Africa.

The Hangover: Las Vegas is not really like this. But maybe it should be.

The Hurt Locker: One of the most harrowing movies in years; non-political, and an experience you won’t forget.

Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino refights World War II. (And, for the last time, yes, that is spelled correctly.)

Star Trek: This is how you “reimagine” a stale franchise – by putting some imagination into it! The future looks like fun again.

Up in the Air: George Clooney is just too cool, as indicated in my review.

Watchmen: The comic book series brought to life, almost panel-for-panel. The more you love the comic book, the more you’ll love the movie.

Zombieland: Killing zombies always seemed to me like it would be fun. As my review indicates, this movie confirms it.

And then there were movies I didn’t love so much. I tend not to even go to movies I know I will hate, hence this list is devoid of Old Dogs, Dragon Ball Evolution and whatever this year’s Twilight abomination was called. If I saw a bad movie, it was unintentional – with the exceptions of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I knew those would suck hard, but I just had to see them…

    Movies I Hated (alphabetical order):

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: I actually thought this had a chance to be a fun brainless “popcorn” movie. I was right about the brainless part. I had infinitely more fun playing with my full-size G.I. Joes as a kid. Poor Christopher Eccleston; from the DOCTOR WHO reboot to this?

Observe and Report: Seth Rogan, Ray Liotta and Anna Faris somehow wandered into this shockingly unfunny tale about a mentally deranged mall cop who fancies himself a maverick police officer.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I have no one to blame but myself; I saw the first film. And I knew the Harbinger of Film Doom was in it (No movie featuring Shia LeBeouf has ever been good.)

Terminator: Salvation: Okay, morbid curiosity drew me into this one. Could it really be as bad as people were saying? Yup. Christian Bale should have bailed on this franchise.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: From the indefensibly random casting (Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth? Really? Will.i.am as… some guy?) to the inclusion of Gambit, Agent Zero and even Deadpool… this movie was almost enough to kill comic book films.

But movies themselves will go on. Will we see more 3D? Will some movies continue to suck? Undoubtedly. And I will see you at the movies. (Just remember not to talk during our feature presentation.)

8 thoughts on “Movies I Loved (and Hated) in 2009

  1. Well, I guess the argument comes down to whether or not you believe that it takes a village to raise a child…or it doesn’t. I believe the former.

    And I agree that directors shouldn’t have to “compromise (their) vision” for negligent parents. I don’t agree that depicting rape without condemnation falls under the parameters of artistic vision, but I’m happy to agree to disagree. As I said, I think the problem is more in the marketing. I don’t mind a hard-R movie now and again, but I’d like to be prepared to see it going by the trailer. There’s such a range in what’s depicted under R. The R-rated Terminator:Salvation (on DVD) is R apparently only because of a shot of boobies. How silly!

    Anyway, sorry to have derailed your post. I was merely impressed that my feminist “top ten” had some items in common. 🙂

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  2. I think you might be surprised how many adults buy action figures and lunchboxes. And it is my understanding that most gamers are young adult males — although I know many young teens play them, too.

    I totally agree that parents who were unaware of Watchmen’s content but brought their kids anyway are a big problem. The movie was rated R, which means an independent panel deemed it unsuitable for children. It doesn’t matter if the reason was because it featured rape or murder or even frequent use of the F-bomb — the warning flags were posted.

    I don’t think it’s possible for us as a society to be forced to care for children whose parents cannot be bothered to shoulder the responsibility themselves. As for the filmmakers, their job is to produce entertainment. If the studio stumbled with the marketing campaign, I don’t think it’s fair to lay that at the director’s feet. I do not believe that Zak Snyder should compromise his vision of the film and leave out scenes that are unsuitable for children just because some parents are too lazy to police their own offspring.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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  3. I disagree that the film was targeted at adults ONLY. Are adults the main consumers of the Watchmen Action Figures sold at SuperHeroStuff.com and Amazon.com? There’s also a video game and much other merchandise. The WB store even sells three lunchboxes.

    The problem isn’t so much that kids snuck in, it’s that many parents took their kids to see the movie. The trailers didn’t hint at rape and child molestation/murder. Many parents don’t check to see why the film has an R rating. As someone who sees rape as a major crisis we Americans and others face, I would ask for a greater condemnation of it in cinema. The rating system is not a law but rather a guideline and individual theaters can enforce it or not. A movie with an horrific full rape scene (The Last House on the Left) came out about the same time, but the film was poised in such a way that audiences knew the rape was wrong.

    I’m not saying the filmmakers are evil; in fact, I would praise the way director Zach Snyder handled rape in his previous film The 300. However, I think we need to look at Watchmen as representative of how our culture is negligent about the treatment of women. One in six women has been or will be raped. That’s the current statistic that’s upheld. The Comedian may be a villain to those who recognize him as such, but there were many a young boy coming out of the film gasping, “Wasn’t it cool when the Comedian destroyed and killed…”

    Who’s job is it to protect and educate kids about this violence? You’re right, Mala. It’s a parent’s job. But whose job does it become when parents are asleep at the wheel? I think it becomes society’s job, and thus a filmmaker’s job, if we don’t want those neglected kids to grow up to pollute our culture with crime, greed and hatred.

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  4. I think the issue I have with Watchmen is more the marketing than the execution – though, a handful of critics would argue that it’s in the execution. I remember being in the theater with kids – kids! at this hard R-rated film. And without parents or responsible patrons to explain to them the ins and outs of the near-rape scene over the pool table, they went along their merry way without flinching. I too had no idea going in that the film wasn’t just another Dark Knight- or Spiderman-type spectacle. The trailers didn’t give me any other idea than that. Additionally, a visit to the film’s forum on imdb.com demonstrated that many teenage viewers were disappointed that there was no sex in that scene. When it was pointed out that sex in that scene would be rape, they denied that they wanted to see rape and just confirmed their desire for nudity and sex. “But it would be rape!” “So…” I think that the movie could have taken a stronger stance on condemning the act of rape for the benefit of the underage viewers it sought to attract. I recall seeing Sin City and wondering why all the female characters have to appear scantily-clad or naked…even the cop who gets her hands cut off. The cutting off of someone’s hands removes their agency. While you and I might be smart enough to see this as mere spectacle, there are many teenage boys who see these movies and don’t subsequently know how they should treat real women in real life.

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    • Unless it’s a film expressly about rape and its consequences, I don’t know that it’s a movie’s responsibility to educate a teenage boy about the subject. That’s a parent’s responsibility, a society’s responsibility, and just plain common sense. Watchmen had a responsibility to tell a story, one that was based on a celebrated graphic novel about a gritty, ugly dystopic universe. The film was rated ‘R,’ and a few Internet searches in this easily accessible digital age would reveal to folks that it wasn’t a happy-go-lucky superhero film.

      If underage kids are sneaking in and being exposed to violent content, that’s the theater’s fault for not screening, and a parent’s fault for not knowing where their kids are spending their time.

      Also, the desensitization of kids to violence and sex is a much larger problem than one film can possibly take on. Again, that’s a societal issue and not something Watchmen, which was clearly targeted to adults, should bear the brunt of.

      To borrow and bastardize from the film, who watches the parents who should be watching the kids who are watching Watchmen?

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  5. I would rank “(500) Days of Summer” as one of my favorite films of the year. I am a huge fan of the “Watchmen” comic, and I really enjoyed the loyal film adaptation. I can understand where you’re coming from on the rape issue, but I personally do not agree that the movie trivializes the crime. The Comedian was a sick fiend who committed any number of heinous acts. He was reprehensible, and treated as such. I do agree with you that “Observe and Report” got it all wrong. In fact, so much about that film is wrong, that I cannot recommend it to anyone. I watched “O&R” with a small group, and no one wanted to talk about anything related to that movie afterward.

    I would love to see Kathryn Bigelow bring home the big prize; she totally deserves it. Will be fun to watch that race if she’s nominated against James Cameron!

    Thanks for the comment

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  6. I wrote a feminist “Top Ten.” Avatar and Inglourious Basterds are on it, but I also liked The 500 Days of Summer and Star Trek. Watchmen was an abomination. Great opening title sequence, but it, like Observe and Report, trivializes rape, I believe. However, Observe and Report made my list, not because it’s a good movie – it isn’t, but because it is so obviously WRONG about date rape and it is polemical enough to get men and women talking about this issue.

    It’s funny that Kathryn Bigelow may become the first woman to win a “Best Director” Oscar this year – only the fourth woman ever nominated, but she’d win it for making one of the most masculine movies of the year, The Hurt Locker.

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Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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