The Movie of the Year 2009

Earlier in the summer I began an ill-advised attempt at writing haiku over at The Film Talk (what’s the verb for composing a haiku?  Haikuing?  Haiku-tecturing? Haiku-grammising?) in response to some of the films that have intrigued me this year.  The experiment was abruptly ended by an outbreak of good taste, but as we roll into the fourth quarter of 2009, in anticipation of the awards season ‘quality’ epidemic that’s sure to colonise our screens over the next few months, I thought I’d return to reflecting on how intriguing a year this has been at the movies.

As the last three months of the year traditionally see the release of Oscar-bait, our vision of the best films of 2009 will inevitably be somewhat skewed toward films that haven’t been released yet.  I’ve mentioned before that Roger Ebert may have made the most sensible suggestion for renewing the Academy Awards in a fashion that would both help films released earlier in the year not to be forgotten, and allow audiences to expect decent movies from January to September.  In that spirit, let’s have a thought experiment: I’m going to attempt having two ‘best lists’ for this year; starting with this last week of the month, I’m going to post my treatment for the film of the year – a quixotic notional endeavour, in which the bits that made me feel happiest to be a film lover are cut together in a genre-bending masterpiece that exists only in my head, because that’s the only place it can exist – you will have your own choices, and I’d love to hear about them here on the site – so please share your own imaginings in the comments section.

We’ll break it down into sections – today I’ve written about the premises that I enjoyed the most; I’ll post again on Wednesday with thoughts on the best intros and moments; Friday will see the best endings and even closing credit sequences (trust me, there are a few) that I’ve seen.

And I promise to return to all of this when the year is done; some of these films will be forgotten in year-end lists, and part of the reason I’m writing this as a reminder to myself. Please forgive the indulgence if you’re not interested; but if you are, I’d love to have a conversation in the comments, starting today with your thoughts on the best premises and/or opening sequences you’ve seen this year.


Old guy saves the world through non-violence; gives a kid a car.

Gran Torino

Middle-aged guy saves world through old movies; gives a guy a scar.


Old guy gets his world back by letting go of a balloon-powered house.


Depressed guy falls in love with both Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw; they love him back.  Kind of.

Two Lovers

Depressed artist lives with an incredibly beautiful woman in Argentina but can’t write; learns to love his brother. Tetro

Old guy friends try to heal their boredom by failing to have sex with each other but film the foreplay and end up figuring out what happens when a generation is raised on boredom.


Old guy talks about the pictures he took; one of which ended the War in Vietnam.

An unlikely weapon

Old guy runs Italy into the ground.

Il Divo

Old guy and young guy drive around in a taxi.

goodbye solo

Guy lives on the moon.

Moon Sam Rockwell

Old guy saves dolphins from amphibocide.

The Cove

Middle-to-older aged guys play loud music; get big in Japan.anvil

Young guy enjoys bomb disposal; can’t choose between cereals.

Hurt Locker


4 responses to “The Movie of the Year 2009

  1. Your selection depresses me as it further exemplifies the fact that films are overwhelmingly about men and their experience of the world, or “guys” as you put it. Shame there is such slow slow progress in the area of gender equality, both in Hollywood and outside of the mainstream.

  2. garethihiggins

    You’re absolutely right – though I’d add the following caveats:

    1: I haven’t seen ‘Seraphine’, ‘Bright Star’ or ‘The September Issue’, all of which are currently screening near me – and all of which have strong female protagonists.

    2: The ‘guys’ in my premises list are not all portrayed as likeable.

    3: I’ll say something about ‘Sita Sings the Blues’ ‘Mary and Max’, and ‘(500) Days of Summer (all of which would be unthinkable without their female protagonists) in my ‘endings’ post later in the week.

    4: I should have mentioned that both ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Humpday’ are directed by women, and are exceptionally insightful about men.

    I hope therefore that my selection can be seen as reflecting rather than endorsing the chauvinism in the industry.

  3. I’ll have to check out those others you mentioned. And I wasn’t intending to say you were endorsing it as I know that wouldn’t be your intention. I am just a little disconcerted at the reality your list reflects. I’m sure it would be madness to blog about Roman Polanski given the masses of very angry blogs already out there but I can’t help but make a connection with the overwhelming sexism in the film world and the disgusting defence of a man who raped a child and then skipped the country when it seemed his plea bargain was going to backfire. When there are names on a ‘Free Polanski’ petition like Almodovar, Wenders, Scorsese, Lynch…it makes you question their approach to their female characters and what they would have to offer women through their art.

  4. garethihiggins

    This is a hugely important question; I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about Polanksi and haven’t figured out a way to write about it yet. But I’ll attempt a post later on.