As always, my list includes my own personal favorites, not the films I consider best — a classification I find to be both impossible and absurd. I have no idea what the “best film” is, but I know the films I enjoyed the most. I also only reference films that have played or will play widely in theaters. If I included our Spiritual Cinema Circle films, this would be a completely different list!
1. The Blind Side
One of the most touching, charming, wondrous, uplifting and, miraculous movies of the last several years. Sandra Bullock was born to play the lead role and has never been better. Hollywood has to stop equating dark, cynical, and dreary with “quality.” This film is a throwback to a time when movies illuminated the beauty of human nature, rather than its ugliness. The Blind Side literally makes you feel better about being human. What a gift. What a movie.
Avatar is unlike any other film ever made and provides a glimpse into the potential of film to literally immerse the viewer in the story. Only peer jealousy could prevent James Cameron (Titanic) from winning another Oscar for Best Director. The spiritual metaphors of Avatar are also truly dazzling. Aren’t all of us as humans truly avatars? Spiritual beings temporarily inhabiting human bodies while our spirits evolve? Someday, the technology of Avatar will be used (sans violence) by filmmakers to take us much further into the spiritual journey of our souls. Into the dreams we call illusion and the illusions we call reality. Into the awe and wonder of this majestic, mysterious and mystical adventure that we call life. Into a new world of Spiritual Cinema.
3. It’s Complicated
And adult life certainly is. Nancy Meyers’s newest film illuminates the choices we make and how time changes our perceptions of how and why we made them. Meryl Streep is her usual unparalleled self, and Alec Baldwin gives one of the most vulnerable male performances in years. This very grown-up film is resonant, witty, and wise.
Brilliant, haunting, and completely surprising. Ads made us think it was going to be Chicago 2 but it’s much, much deeper than that. Daniel Day Lewis is mesmerizing as a very flawed and human film director in crisis. When you see it for what it is, not what a horrible ad campaign told us it was, you’ll be enchanted, engrossed, and entertained.
5. Julie and Julia
Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Nothing else need be said. Just don’t see it on an empty stomach. You’ll get so hungry that you’ll never make it to the end credits. Thank you, Meryl and Julia. And Bon Appetit!
6. Star Trek
What a great surprise. Director JJ Abrams introduces all the characters of the original series, giving them rich and textured back-stories. Oh, THAT’S why they are who they are to each other. An E-ticket ride through the galaxy with real people who care about and support each other. Such good fun. Beam me up!
It could have been #6 or #8 but I couldn’t resist putting 7 and Up together. (Groan intended). One of the most loving relationships between husband and wife, and man and child in 2009, Up also is an inspiring reminder that, regardless of age, our dreams have no expiration date.
8. Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges gives the performance of his career as burned-out country star Bad Blake. A penetrating examination of how our actions have consequences and a reminder that forgiveness is truly a personal journey. Includes a great country soundtrack, with Bridges doing all of his own music.
9. Cold Souls
Paul Giamatti plays an actor who has his soul temporarily removed so he can play a difficult part. His soul gets peddled on the black market so he has to go to Russia to retrieve it. One of the most thought-provoking film premises since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Somewhat predictable and curiously unemotional at times, the film is nonetheless a wonderful tribute to Nelson Mandela’s grace and vision. Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon with his usual confidence and taste, and the film reminds us of who we can be as human beings when we operate at our very best.
What were your favorite films from 2009? Please join the discussion on our message boards!
Hugs and Happy 2010.