5. Observe and Report (my review)(Buy the DVD/Buy the Blu-Ray)

Not every movie is for everybody. It doesn’t mean people don’t get the movie, it means it wasn’t for them. That’s okay. Observe and Report is one of those films, but if you are the kind of person for whom the movie was made you’ll recognize a work of sheer, demented brilliance. A comedic version of Taxi Driver, Observe and Report confirms director Jody Hill’s obsession with the self-made wacko, although now he’s getting into dangerous territory. It started with Foot Fist Way and continued in Eastbound and Down, where Danny McBride played delusional but funny guys who were very impressed with themselves. In Observe and Report Seth Rogen busts out of his lovable slacker role and plays a delusional guy who is very impressed with himself… who has violence deep in his heart and a loaded gun at his side. Hill takes the story from funny to disturbing without ever missing a beat, or a laugh. Yeah, this isn’t Knocked Up, Mall Cop, so don’t expect a joke a minute. Expect lots of funny stuff, though, much of it mired in the darkest and creepiest aspects of ourselves.

Contributing Factors: I think Jody Hill might be a genius. He has an understanding of a certain kind of blue collar loser who nobody really examines anymore. There’s something ineffably Great Depression 2.0 about Hill’s characters, and while Ronnie in O&R might be a dangerous lunatic, Hill has a certain sympathy for him. And an understanding of him – how else could Hill manage to score Ronnie’s savage beatdown to Queen’s Flash Gordon theme? He gets this guy.

Performance to Savor: Michael Pena. You spend the first half of the film wondering what the fuck he’s thinking and the second half realizing he was a genius all along. Coming up just behind are The Yuan Twins as The Yuan Twins and Danny McBride as a hilarious crack dealer.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “You’re not getting Knocked Up – you’re getting knocked out!”


4. District 9 (my review)(Buy the DVD/Buy the Blu-Ray)

A masterpiece of allegorical action scifi, District 9 is a movie that just knocked me on my ass. Worried that it wouldn’t hold up at home I watched it on Blu the other night and found that it once again knocked me on my ass. Neill Blomkamp paces his movie with a breathlessness that doesn’t try to outrun smarts. And it definitely doesn’t outrun character – Wikus is one of the great modern schlub heroes, selfish right up to the end, and the prawns themselves come alive despite first seeming like horrible, disgusting beasts. Blomkamp transports us to another reality and makes it feel solid and present, puts us right in the action through genius use of the faux-doc format for the first act. The designs of the prawn are incredible and their execution photoreal, and Blomkamp holds back enough info to fire our imaginations and keep us wondering about these aliens and their homeworlds. To me that’s the hallmark of great science fiction, that it leaves me wanting more answers and wanting more exploration of the world it creates. Also, it’s filled with messily exploding people.

Contributing Factors: If what I hear about The A-Team is true Sharlto Copley may not end up the next Johnny Depp, but as used here by good friend Blomkamp he’s funny and sad and kind of a terrific dick. Also working in the film’s favor is Blomkamp’s own South African heritage; the film has been accused of being on the nose as well as racist in its own right, but I don’t think those critiques hold up. The movie’s not a 1:1 parallel, and actually uses South Africa’s racial history as a way of informing the reactions of the populace and the government. Just as the apes in the Planet of the Apes films don’t simply equal black people, neither do the prawns in District 9.

Performance to Savor: Christopher Johnson. Never before has a completely non-human character been so fully formed. He has an utterly alien face, but you can read so much from his eyes and his body language that you truly come to care for this insectoid pile of pixels. No other director has been able to make me care so completely about a CG alien before, and it’s probably been since ET that I’ve cared so much for a special effect.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “A fookin’ great movie!”


3. Antichrist (my review)(pre-order the DVD/pre-order the Blu-Ray)

I’m not particularly a fan of Lars von Trier. I’m not against the guy, but I’m not salivating for each of his films in advance. Antichrist could change that. Evil and surreal and beautiful and terrible, this film is a mindfuck of epic proportions. Is it serious? Is it a joke? Is it misogynistic? Is it crying out against misogyny? This is the kind of film that will first test your ability to watch it – the violence is as serious as you’ve heard – and then test your brainpower as you keep talking about it and going over it in your head. This is a movie that hit me on every single level I would want to be hit – it’s great to look at, it’s totally fucked up, and it has a ton of stuff to ponder afterwards. One part cabin in the woods horror movie, one part art film, one part bizarre head trip, Antichrist is a film that is only for the most serious filmgoer, and one that will push you to the very limits. An amazing, breathtaking work of sheer fucked upedness. 

Contributing Factors: The cinematography by Andrew Dod Mantle is as stunning as it is varied. The film has many looks, many moods, even many genres. The performances by Willem Dafoe and especially the ethereal yet earthy Charlotte Gainsbourg are brave and captivating. And sometimes hilarious. It’s that back and forth, the tension within the film itself, that speaks most to von Trier’s sheer brilliance.

Performance to Savor: The fox. Chaos fucking reigns indeed!

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “You’ll believe a dick can spurt blood!”


2. Up (my review)(Buy the DVD/Buy the Blu-Ray)

Yeah, I wept. I wept when I saw the first half of the movie in rough animatic form. I wept when I saw the movie at a press screening. I wept when I saw the movie at 3 in the morning during an all-night movie marathon with friends for my birthday. I could probably weep now if I think about it too much. But none of that weeping feels manipulated; if anything Up undersells its most emotional moments, letting the characters and story do the work. Let’s face it, when you say that this is the best Pixar movie ever, you’re really making a statement. But it is, and it’s a pitch-perfect blend of heart, humor and adventure, all beautifully rendered and animated. But again, the focus isn’t on the whiz-bang, it’s on the characters, and while Pixar certainly offers up lots of eye candy it never, ever skimps on the people we can care about. This is the most adult animated movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s a solid PG. It isn’t tits or violence that make a movie adult, it’s the melancholy themes that Up bravely explores. For that alone, it deserves a spot on this list. But considering the fact that it’s utterly excellent, it gets the number 2.

Contributing Factors: Man, Ed Asner. How good is he in this? At first I was disappointed that Pixar didn’t populate its lost world with dinosaurs and monsters, but then I realized I was missing the point. They flew the dinosaur in and the monster had been living in his blimp for some time.  

Performance to Savor: Bob Peterson’s Dug is such a warm and loving character that it’s hard not to fall right back in love with him.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “This movie will grab your heartstrings and fly them straight Up!”


1. Inglourious Basterds (my review)(Buy the DVD/Buy the Blu-Ray)

When I first saw Basterds I knew it would be on this list. Then I saw it again and I knew it would be high on this list. Then I kept thinking about it and realized it’s the best movie of the year. It’s also the best movie of Quentin Tarantino’s career. It’s an incredibly mature work, a completely assured work and still a totally kick-ass work. After the misstep of Death Proof (great concept, poor execution), Tarantino is back with those trademark dialog scenes, only this time he’s wielding them as weapons of pure tension. It’s hard for me to imagine his other films being called Hitchcockian, but Basterds completely fits that bill. The only other movie this year that comes as close to being as nail-bitingly tense is The Hurt Locker (a movie that just missed being on this list), and that film had bombs in it. Tarantino does The Hurt Locker one better in scenes with people just sitting at tables, talking. And then of course there’s the end – an orgasmic catharsis as well as a stern reprimand, the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. Only a master of the cinema could deliver the blow so well.

Contributing Factors: Tarantino has made the ultimate cinephile movie – a film where cinema can end World War II. It’s exhilarating, even though it’s light on actual action. Tarantino promised us a men on a mission movie and he gave us something better. But the men that he gave us are great, and plenty of fun, especially in the final premiere scene. Quotability and rewatchability – Tarantino at his best.

Performance to Savor: Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, of course. He’s THE character of 2009. But also an amazing character is Shoshanna, played by the luminous Melanie Laurent. The Basterds may get the title, but Shoshanna is the hero of the film and the revenge of her giant face is not just the best cinematic moment of 2009, it tops the decade. When people make their YouTube montages of the 00s, that image of the face laughing on the smoke will be what they use to cap the whole thing off.

CHUD.com Pull Quote: “You get that medal for killin’ Jews… or watching Inglorious Basterds?”