Now, sixteen months after most Best of 2009 lists were published, we can release ours. Thank you, Netflix and DirecTV's free trial of HBO and Showtime.
Sadly, for the aforementioned reason, this may well be the last Cheese Fry best-of list for quite some time, ending a tradition started on our black-and-white Macintosh Classic in 1994 (our top five movies back then: Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, Speed, Forrest Gump, and Little Women - not too shabby, though we'd argue in 2011 that Forrest Gump has aged not well at all).
To make things interesting, our recaps will be no more than 15 words.
1. The Hurt Locker - Oscar got it right. Sweaty, tense, urgent, and vividly real. A minor masterpiece.
2. Up - Certainly the darkest Pixar movie, but also the most poignant. And with unexpected whimsy.
3. Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino's best since Pulp Fiction (1994 callback!). Complex, layered, bloody wish-fulfillment. Christoph Waltz zings.
4. District 9 - Proving how sci-fi can provide sophisticated social satire while pretending to be a conspiracy thriller.
5. (500) Days of Summer - Clever jigsaw plotting explores ups and downs of romance. Best ending of the year.
6. Up in the Air - Strong characters, sharp dialogue, movie-star acting, important themes, all polished to a shine.
7. The Fantastic Mr. Fox - Hard to describe the quirky charm and oddball sensibility of Wes Anderson's animated caper.
8. Zombieland - We love zombies almost as much as we love the deadpan talents of Woody Harrellson.
9. Taken - Slambang action. Doesn't always make sense, but it always commands your respect and attention.
10. Precious - Sometimes movies show you things you'd rather not see. Happy ending measured in baby steps.
Honorable mentions: Avatar (we begrudgingly admire the visuals), Away We Go (the token Sundance-style indie), 2012 (ridiculously over the top, but it, like, completely commits to its ridiculousness), Angels and Demons (way better than we thought it'd be given the dreck that was The DaVinci Code), The Hangover (so hilarious and well-done that it almost made our top-ten list), He's Just Not That Into You (Gennifer Goodwin's sunny presence carries the movie), Knowing (we know, we know - this should have been terrible, but it wasn't), The Proposal (classic Hollywood romantic comedy done very well), Star Trek (not as good as everyone made it out to be, but appropriately epic and important).
The two worst movies of 2009:
Terminator Salvation - There's a fine line between a dark, gritty future that's fun and cool (like Blade Runner) and a dark, gritty future that just makes you depressed and numb (like this monstrosity). We wish they'd stop making Terminator movies but with Schwarzenegger out of politics, it's surely only a matter of time before they recruit him again. And we wish Hollywood would stop force-feeding actor Sam Worthington on us. We'd offer a witty comment about the ending, but we fell asleep before we got to it.
Sherlock Holmes - The rapport between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law is exceptional. And we're happy to look at Rachel McAdams any day. But this movie is so cumbersomely plotted and crammed full of subplots and sideways red herrings that at the end, we were exhausted and just wanted it to be over. We're also not cool with the movie's decision to withhold Holmes' deductive powers until the very end. What fun is that? It makes us feel as stupid as everyone else who meets Holmes.