My friend L Cubed challenged me to put together a list of films for 2009. I took him up on the challenge. I don’t mean this to be my list of the best films of 2009. Rather it is a list of the films I quite enjoyed. I find myself talking about them and referring to them in subsequent conversation. They’re not necessarily even films that premiered in 2009. A number of these films were released last year, and one was released in 2004. These are films I saw this year. That’s my criteria for consideration: I saw the film in 2009, I enjoyed the film, I’ve talked about it with someone since viewing it.

The list is heavily skewed toward the fantastical: science fiction, fantasy, horror. While I enjoy those genres a great deal, I was somewhat surprised at the dominance in the list. Self-reflection may be good for something after all, I suppose. Perhaps this is telling me I enjoy the feeling of escape those genres can produce. But enough pop-psychoanalysis. Here is my list, presented in the order of viewing.

30 Days of Night : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
The first of several vampire stories I enjoyed this year: a comic-book adaptation set in Barrow, Alaska. Thirty days without sunlight is an awfully long time for the undead to cause havoc.

Shine A Light : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Film icon shoots rock legends: Martin Scorsese captures the Rolling Stones at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Everything about this works: the music, the historical footage, the documentary work, the lights, the cameras, the egos.

Primer : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Completed on a $7000 budget over three years. Primer is a triumph. It combines a simplicity in effects, an acknowledgment of the audience as rational beings, and a fundamental device of science fiction: time travel. The result is brilliant.

Cloverfield : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
J.J. Abrams’ skillful update of the classic Godzilla story is at once straightforward and shot at an angle. This is a study in taking a classic story and adapting it to be your own.

Teeth : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Smart, original and frighteningly funny. This is great black-comedy horror. Again, very low on special effects. The story drives the story.

Watchmen : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Zack Snyder completes what Terry Gilliam said was “unfilmable”. With last year’s The Dark Knight, Watchmen decisively settled the question as to whether comic-book movies can successfully transcended a cult sub-genre. Watchmen proves that films adapted from comic-books can be serious, successful, powerful works in their own right. Despite anything Alan Moore has to say about it.

Let the Right One In : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist adapted his novel by the same name to the screenplay for this breathtaking and intelligent interpretation of the vampire myth.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
The beautiful film adaptation of the deeply personal book by the same name written by French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby. Since my brain injury I have looked for voices and means of expression of what I went through and continue to carry with me. This is one such voice.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
With the death of Dumbledore, this chapter is the tipping point of the Harry Potter story.

District 9 : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Science-fiction has long been used as a vehicle to talk about real issues. District 9 effectively combines story, character, setting, effects and narrative into something quite compelling.

In Bruges : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
Carefully crafted and well executed, this black comedy follows two hitmen in hiding in the extremely photogenic town of Bruges, Belgium. This is another film where story and characters trump action and special effects. And I’ve always been a fan of Brendan Gleeson.

Avatar : Netflix | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
I know, I know. The plot is pedestrian. The villains are one-dimensional. — The film is brilliant. With Avatar, James Cameron marks a watershed moment in film production.

Paving Stones to Hell

Of course there are a number of films that were released in 2009 that I would have liked to have seen. For whatever reason I have not. Presented in order of US premiere here is my 2009 “Paving Stones to Hell” list.