2009 A Year In Film: Top 10 Films from the Sound On Sight team.

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10– A Serious Man (18 Points)

Directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, The Coen Brothers deliver their most intimate film yet. Expanding upon some of the themes they’ve played with in the past, the film deals with everything from man’s search for meaning, the existence of God, pattern and randomness in the Universe, and the essential solitude of the human condition. Euphoric, extremely funny, deeply serious, sad, troubling, warm and thoughtful. The Coens have finished the decade as America’s pre-eminent film-makers.

9- Kynodontas (Dogtooth) (19 Points)

Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos

Infused with its own brand of hyper-stylized realism, Dogtooth feels so out of this world that it is quite impossible to pin down. The winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Dogtooth is so twisted and weird that the absurd comedy found in the films of Todd Solondz seems relatively lucid. Dogtooth is not for all tastes, and at many times can be unpleasant to watch. The film exposes the bizarre sexual undercurrents that exist behind a family’s life. At times the film can be extremely graphic, with pools of blood dripping on frame and at other times borderline pornography with explicit sex. It’s a labor of love from the director, a long-winded allegory wrapped within the year’s most unusual gift.

8- Up In The Air (22 Points)

Directed by Jason Reitman

Obscure alt-culture references are nowhere to be found in Jason Reitman`s follow-up to his sharply divisive runaway smash Juno. Instead, Up In the Air turns sharply towards the dramatic. Reitman manages without sacrificing his film`s cohesiveness, largely by keeping an unswerving focus on his themes and generally keeping the proceedings in the realm of the credible. Best of all, Reitman, whose co-written screenplay was derived from Walter Kim’s novel, generally avoids expected plot turns and obvious narrative shorthand (one exception – the “speech gone wrong” cliché, appears in thankfully truncated form) in favor of developments that feel natural and characters whose apparent gains may be deceptive. It won’t please the banana phone crowd, but it acts as Reitman`s successful coming of age – not only as a purveyor of comedy, but as a well-rounded filmmaker.

7- District 9 (22 Points )

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

District 9 is an allegory for our time, bursting with contemporary themes such as oppression, greed, power and propaganda and while the metaphor itself is pretty clear, Blomkamp goes for the visceral quality of the images and situations proving that sci-fi thrillers don’t have to be star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually compelling and thoroughly entertaining. This high-concept picture with a relatively small budget was a major success at the box office. Now, major studios promise to generate a calling-card system for independent filmmakers, allowing them the chance to experiment at low risk within the studio system while promising a generous marketing campaign. Hopefully, future films like The Hurt Locker and Moon will find a larger audience as studio heads shows more faith in indie film makers.

6- Up (24 Points)

Directed by Pete Docter & Bob Peterson (co-director)

An animated movie that’s far more human than most live-action ones, Up is challenging on an emotional and narrative level and shows no interest in talking down to children or their parents. Another work of art from Pixar, Up combines smart, imaginative storytelling with dazzling dreamlike visuals and the end result is an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth.

5- Moon (24 Points)

Directed by Duncan Jones

Unlike the majority of Hollywood sci-fi films, Moon is about something more than explosions or endless, mind-numbing action sequences. Moon boasts a slow, deliberate pace, focusing more on character study while tackling issues of identity, individuality, isolation, abandonment, alienation and the very idea that mankind will always wrestle with the very nature and value of his own existence. First time director Duncan Jones lets the film to ask questions without ever spoon-feeding the viewer.

4- Fantastic Mr. Fox (25 Points)

Directed by Wes Anderson

With his first madcap foray into animation, Wes Anderson adapts Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and makes the brilliant decision of shooting the whole thing in beautifully old-fashioned stop-motion animation, while lending his usual trademarks to the children’s tale. The animation is superb and Fantastic Mr. Fox represents a prime example of what can be done with this painstaking, old-school format (the same technique used for the original King Kong and Wallace and Gromit). This stop-motion escapade is alive with texture, beautifully colored and overstuffed with ingenious visual effects and brilliant sight gags. Your eyes will never stop roaming the screen and it quickly becomes clear that Dahl’s edgy storytelling fits well with Anderson’s inherent worldview and visual style. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a warm and charming film about family, adolescence, adventure that nevertheless stays faithful to the spirit of the source material.

3- Antichrist (25 Points)
Directed by Lars von Trier

Plunging headfirst into a realm of depraved evil, leaving behind him any and all polite norms of filmmaking (mainstream, independent or otherwise), Lars von Trier has unleashed his most audacious creation to date, which has been branded everything from “misogynistic” (according the Cannes` Ecumenical Jury, who awarded it a special “Anti-Prize”) to an elaborate joke on von Trier`s part. Make no mistake, however: Antichrist is deadly serious, both in intent and result. To consider it anything less than that – whether you find yourself disgusted or enthralled – is to misread both the film and von Trier’s intentions.

2- The Hurt Locker (31 Points)

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

There is a lot to like about this film from its direction to its style to its brave performances. It never draws too much attention to itself nor is it ever too flashy. You always feel the sense of urgency and danger and Biglow never gets boggled down with any cheap tricks here but rather masterfully builds up the suspense. A fascinating character study that doesn’t spend its time moralizing and isn’t weighed down with any political message, it’s a nerve-shredding visceral thriller that is not only the best Iraq war film but one of the best war films ever made.

1- Inglourious Basterds (68 Points)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

(Inglourious Basterds is the only movie to appear on everyone’s list)

It’s the magic and power of cinema that Tarantino addresses in Basterds, which may leave the mass audience far behind. Regardless a truly distinctive piece of American pop art and somewhat of a transition for the director, Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s war film but more importantly his love letter to cinema. Tarantino’s passion comes through in every frame and love him or hate him, he makes the movies he wants to make and enjoys every minute of it.

Individual Lists:

Ricky D

1-     Inglourious Basterds

2-     White Ribbon

3-     Where The Wild Things Are

4-     Headless Women

5-     Love Exposure

6-     A Serous Man

7-     Dogtooth

8-     Fantastic Mr. Fox

9-     The Clone Returns Home

10- Moon

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Simon Howell

1-     A Serious Man

2-     Dogtooth

3-     In The Loop

4-     Antichrist

5-     Inglourious Basterds

6-     Moon

7-     Up

8-     Humpday

9-     Up In The Air

10- Summer Hours

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Al Kratina

1-     Antichrist

2-     Inglourious Basterds

3-     Bad Lieutenant: Port of Calls New Orleans

4-     Observe and Report

5-     Dogtooth

6-     Life Is Hot In Cracktown

7-     Thirst

8-     The Road

9-     Trash Humpers

10- Princess and the Frog

Mariko McDonald

1-     The Hurt Locker

2-     Inglourious Basterds

3-     Antichrist

4-     Thirst

5-     Fantastic Mr. Fox

6-     A Serious Man

7-     Playing Columbine

8-     Up

9-     Anvil: The Story of Anvil

10- Zombieland

Eric Hatch

1-     District 9

2-     The Hurt Locker

3-     Up

4-     Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH

5-     Up In The Air

6-     Star Trek

7-     Inglourious Basterds

8-     An Education

9-     Fantastic Mr. Fox

10- Moon

Nigel Hamid

1-     Inglourious Basterds

2-     Star Trek

3-     Hangover

4-     Public Enemies

5-     Up In The Air

6-     Julie and Julia

7-     The Hurt Locker

8-     500 Days of Summer

9-     Paranormal Activity

10- The September Issue

Myles Dolphin

1-     Bad Lieutenant: Port of Calls New Orleans

2-     Fantastic Mr. Fox

3-     Avatar

4-     Inglourious Basterds

5-     District 9

6-     Drag Me To Hell

7-     In The Loop

8-     The Cove

9-     The Hurt Locker

10- Bronson

John McEntee

1-     Let The Right One In

2-     Moon

3-     Enter The Void

4-     A Single Man

5-     The Hurt Locker

6-     Avatar

7-     Encounters At The End of the World

8-     Fish Tank

9-     Martyrs

10- In The Loop

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