Bromance is in the air
The dude-bonding genre really flowered in 2009. So too bad that the genre's Babe Ruth, Vince Vaughn, hit a slump. Elsewhere, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel were the funniest buds since Bert and Ernie in I Love You, Man, The Hangover took ritual male bonding to absurd heights, and the little-seen indie comedy Humpday took things that final step over the hetero comfort line.
The Good the Sad and the Ugly
Sandra Bullock had a truly wild and weird comeback year. She earned huge goodwill from harmlessly lame, surprise box-office smash The Proposal, then squandered most of it on the unspeakably lousy All About Steve. She did turn it around, with a Golden Globe nod for her sturdy, likable performance as a fiercely protective Southern football mom in the hammy feel-good weeper The Blind Side. You go, girl!
The Day the Laughter Died: June 12, 2009
After withering due to many years of neglect, bad management, hubris and fart jokes, Eddie Murphy's leading man career finally slipped away with the release of the profoundly tepid kiddie comedy Imagine That. Martin Lawrence was unavailable for comment.
Hollywood was pretty intent on destroying the earth in 2009, with Terminator Salvation, Knowing, The Road and 2012 all pulverizing strip-mall America into smoldering chunks of concrete and twisted metal. All that destruction was real drag. Only Zombieland really made the world's end look fun, with a rowdy, gun-toting Woody Harrelson blowing away waves of ghouls in search of one last delicious Twinkie.
Cut. Print. Already.
This was the year that nearly everyone in Hollywood forgot how to edit, and the annoying trend of ballooning running times reached new patience-straining, butt-numbing length. Tarantino took 153 goddamn minutes to win the war while 2012 blew up the entire planet in 158 minutes. At nearly three hours, Watchmen had people watching the clock. Avatar was so long it felt like you could actually travel to that distant planet more quickly. The movie that felt longest, however, may have been Funny People, a comedy that clocked in at 146 freaking minutes, a good 58 of which involved Adam Sandler moping and whining about his ex.
Turn on, toon in
While Pixar continued its decade of headline-grabbing dominance, as the marvelous Up soared to new heights, there was plenty of other animated eye-candy to dazzle. There was the usual kiddie crud, but even such mainstream fluff as Monsters vs. Aliens offered grand entertainment. This was also the year of the hipster cartoon colonization, with the handcrafted stop-motion craftiness of instant classics Coraline, and Wes Anderson's joyous Fantastic Mr. Fox. Even more impressive were the immersive fantasy worlds of Spike Jonze's moody Where the Wild Things Are and James Cameron's Avatar, which upped the human-on-CGI interaction — and interspecies loving.
Doc it to me
Once again, on the planet of ego, Michael Moore sucked up all the oxygen with his brilliant but scattershot Capitalism: A Love Story, but there was plenty of life in the format. Earth gave us beautiful views of our fragile world, and Crude showed how oil giant Texaco tried to suck the life right out of it. Broadway hopefuls sang their hearts out in Every Little Step, and This is It gave the King of Pop a fitting encore. But the real superstars were the driven animal rights activists of The Cove, who used guerrilla tactics to expose a heinous dolphin slaughter, risking their behinds to save our souls.
The Best (in order): Up in the Air, Still Walking, (500) Days of Summer, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Cove, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Drag Me to Hell, Up and Precious.
The Worst (in order): 2012, The Fourth Kind, The Informers, The Road, New in Town, My Life in Ruins, I Love You, Beth Cooper, Angels and Demons, Dance Flick and All about Steve.
Clearest indication the latchkey generation is starting to run the show
Though it was inevitable, and the transition has been long in the making, 2009 saw a big uptick in high-profile flicks made by the latchkey gen, while big-name boomer directors struggled to remain relevant. Yeah, the Coen brothers still do right as artists, and Cameron will once again break box-office expectations. Still, nearly every flop or artistic disappointment came at the hands of AARP-certified filmmakers. From Tony Scott to Michael Mann to Nora Ephron to Rob Marshall's nonsensical Nine, it's been an inglorious year for the senior set.
On the flipside, Hollywood's creative and economic coffers were filled courtesy J.J. Abrams, Todd Phillips, Quentin Tarantino, Chris Weitz, and Pixar's Pete Docter. Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson (Where The Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox) pushed the envelope of what it means to make a kid's flick; Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) delivered one of the most "adult" movies of the year; and a nobody from South Africa raked in $200 million with his apartheid version of Alien Nation (District 9). Look, I'm not saying Michael Bay is anyone's idea of a cinematic role model, but he's earning serious Spielbergian coin. Viva la revolucion!
Director who isn't getting the love she deserves (and is it because she's a she?)
Anything boys can do, she can do better. Kathryn Bigelow had only $12 million and a cast of unknowns and not only ended up delivering the best Iraq war film to date, she orchestrated more thrills than all of Michael Bay's films combined. The Hurt Locker is a sphincter-tightening exercise in cinematic tension that could teach a few male directors how to shoot an action flick. You watch: The 58-year-old Bigelow probably won't get the mad props she deserves for turning a series of death-defying bomb-defusing scenarios into an intense character study. Maybe they'll let her direct the next Transformers sequel instead. Oh, the horror!
Lars von Trier hates you. He really really hates you.
The abuse started with 2003's Dogville, a vicious indictment of traditional American values. Critics were divided, but fans applauded von Trier's uncompromising artistry. He showed his appreciation by spitting in their face with its noxious sequel Manderlay. Now, with Antichrist, the director makes clear his scorn for audiences in general. Misogynistic? Maybe. Misanthropic? Definitely. Brutally violent? Hell, yeah. How does a grindstone screwed into Willem Dafoe's ankle followed by his penis spurting blood sound? And, for the ladies, there's a delightful bit of labia-snipping, courtesy Charlotte Gainsbourg's very large scissors. I have no doubt Eli Roth (Hostel) got an erection.
The best film no one saw
Actually, the best film of the year, period. It's not surprising that crowds didn't show up for a slow-burning Japanese family drama. Nevertheless, Still Walking was the most poignant, insightful, beautifully composed film to hit the screen in 2009. It's a testament to the DIA's wonderful Detroit Film Theatre and the Michigan Theater that this remarkable movie even played in Michigan. After all, its entire U.S. box office was a mere $20K. If you consider yourself a true film lover, seek out this exquisitely crafted gem.
From outta nowhere
The Messenger, District 9, Paranormal Activity, Moon, The Road, Zombieland ... where the hell did these guys come from? OK, first-time director Duncan Bowie (Moon) is Ziggy Stardust's kid, but Aussie John Hillcoat barely had a résumé when he landed behind the camera of The Road; Oren Peli turned a 10-day no-budget shoot into a $100 million phenomenon; and Ruben Fleischer made zombies cool again while shooting the decade's best opening credit sequence. Want to know who'll hit next? Start scouring YouTube.
Repeat after me: They are not vampires.
I don't care how many teenage girls send me nasty Facebook messages, the pale-skinned heart throbs in Twilight and New Moon are not vampires. If they can walk around in sunlight and don't have fangs, they ain't part of the Dracula family. Call 'em broody superheros or immortal goth rockers, but don't mistake these teeny-bopper Anne Rice rejects for true-blue bloodsuckers. There are rules, people. Even HBO's True Blood gets that.
Low turnout, high quality (in no particular order): The Cove, The Messenger, Ponyo, Revanche, Moon, Summer Hours, Adventureland, Coraline, The Class, Duplicity, Sin Nombre, Drag Me to Hell, In the Loop, I Sell the Dead, Crude, Bright Star, (500) Days of Summer, A Single Man, The Invention of Lying, The Informant!, An Education, Bronson, I Love You, Man and Good Hair.
You should know better (in no particular order): Paul Blart, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2012, Angels & Demons, Taken, Knowing, The Informers, Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Year One, Imagine That, The Taking of Pelham 123, G-Force, Couples Retreat, Old Dogs and Amelia.