In an entirely selective, non-scientific way, here are the best films I saw in 2009. There are many films I would like to see that I haven’t gotten to yet – top of the list would be Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Capitalism: A Love Story, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. Based on what I did see, here goes…
An Education dir. Lone Scherfig – an engrossing look at a sad slice of family life in 60s swinging London. Nick Hornby shows he’s an accomplished screenwriter as well as novelist in his adaptation of the source material, British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir of an ill-advised first tryst. My only quibble, the lead actress Carey Mulligan who will deservedly garner an Oscar nomination, seemed simply too old to be cast as a precocious, intellectual, sexually curious 16 year old. To my mind, this film could have been one for the ages had the producers cast more convincingly.
Bright Star dir. Jane Campion – Campion is a great veteran filmmaker at the top of her game in this bio film about the poet John Keats and his doomed platonic relationship with a female admirer. A gorgeous, erotic film evocation of art and ideas. My favourite film of 2009.
Un transport en commun (English title: St. Louis Blues) dir. Dyana Gaye – Gaye is Senegalese, based in Paris. This mid-length musical features original songs, some African and some charmingly of the French variete tradition, sung by a driver and his passengers traveling Senegal by taxi. Fun, fun, fun with uncanny performances from a largely amateur cast. A musical that’s the most intelligent portrait of twenty-first century hybridity (cultural theorists love that word) that I saw on screen last year. Try to catch it at a festival or perhaps on a TV network that takes culture seriously (most likely only BRAVO in Canada alas), you’ll be glad you did.
Up In The Air dir. Jason Reitman – a big surprise here. A dark, yet bitingly funny social satire of American decay featuring one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, George Clooney who simply shoots the lights out. Fabulously entertaining with a sad, sad centre, this film establishes the young Reitman as the best Canadian director producing intelligent mainstream Hollywood fare since Norman Jewison.