Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top 10
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Matt's Top  Ten Favorite Movies of 2009
As if it weren't enough to ask
someone who critiques movies to
come up with a top ten list at the end
of every year, it seems the world
expecting a "Top 100" list at the end
of the decade.  Apparently, it's too
much to ask to just go back and
combine the ten "top ten" lists. (and
actually, it's a better idea not to do it
that way.  This way, I get to atone for
years like 2001, when the best movie
I saw was a re-release of The
Exorcist.  (I always felt a little guilty
about that one.)  Anyway, here's my

To give you some perspective (or at
least a second opinion), I've provided
the ranking that the movie received in
the Top 100 Movies of the Decade list
published in The Times of London in

100.  Lord of the Rings: The Return
      of the King  (2003)  
99.  Monsters, Inc.  (2001)  NR
98.  About Schmidt  (2002)  78
97.  Hotel Rwanda  (2004)  84
96.  Crash  (2004)  98
95.  East-West  (2000)  NR
94.  Mulholland Drive  (2001)  38
93.  Sunshine State  (2002)  NR
92.  The Painted Veil  (2003) NR
91.  Bon Voyage  (2004)  NR
90.  Traffic  (2000)  46
89.  The Brothers Bloom  (2009)  NR
88.  Sideways  (2004) 27
87.  The New World  (2006) NR
86.  Ghost World  (2001)  NR
85.  Get Smart  (2008) NR
84.  Tropic Thunder  (2008)  NR
83.  Breach  (2007)  NR
82.  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
81.  Akeelah and the Bee  (2006) NR
80.  Caterina Goes to the City
79.  Amelie  (2001)   NR
77.  Valkyrie  (2008)  NR
76.  Brokeback Mountain  (2005) 17
75.  Shattered Glass  (2003)  NR
74.  Zodiac (2007)  NR
73.  Iron Man  (2008)  NR
72.  Wedding Crashers  (2005)  90
71.  Pieces of April  (2003)  NR
70.  From Hell (2001)  NR
69.  The Bank Job  (2008)  NR
68.  Bright Young Things   (2004) NR
67.  Prom Night in Mississippi
66.  The Italian  (2007)  NR
65.  No Country for Old Men  (2007) 3
64.  Croupier  (2000)  NR
63.  Changeling  (2008) NR
62.  Role Models  (2008)  NR
61.  Good-bye, Lenin!  (2004)  NR
60.  Slumdog Millionaire  (2008) 6
59.  In Good Company  (2005)  NR
58.  Concert for George  (2003)  NR
57.  Juno  (2007)  NR
56.  The Brothers Bloom  (2009)  NR
55.  Master and Commander:  Far
      Side of the World  (2003)  
54.  The Hangover  (2009)  NR
53.  Stardust  (2007)  NR
52.  Lantana  (2001)  91
51.  Summer Hours  (L'heure d'ete)
50.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
      of the Crystal Skull  (2008)  
49.  Being John Malkovich  (2000)
48.  Wanted  (2008)   NR
47.  In America  (2003)  NR
46.  Shaun of the Dead  (2004)  58
45.  Under the Tuscan Sun
44.  Almost Famous  (2000)  NR
43.  World Trade Center  (2006)  NR
42.  Pan's Labyrinth  (2006)  74
41.  The Incredibles  (2004)  42
40.  Memento  (2000)  68
39.  The Squid and the Whale
38.  The Bourne Supremacy  (2004)
tie 2
37.  City of God  (2002)  66
36.  Far from Heaven  (2002)  22
35.  The Last King of Scotland
34.  Finding Nemo  (2003)  34
33.  About a Boy  (2002) NR
32.  Casino Royale  (2006)  8
31.  The Dark Knight  (2008)  43
30.  Thank You for Smoking  (2006)
29.  The Bourne Ultimatum  (2007)
tie 2
28.  Gladiator  (2000) 32
27.  Up  (2009)  NR
26.  Downfall  (2004)  15
25.  Howl's Moving Castle
24.  Walk the Line  (2005)  NR
23.  Moulin Rouge!  (2001)  NR
22.  The Queen  (2006) 9
21.  Lost in Translation  (2003)  39
20.  Dirty Pretty Things  (2002)  92
19.  The Majestic  NR
18.  Eternal Sunshine of the
      Spotless Mind  (2004)
17.  The Stoning of Soraya M  (2009)
16.  The Lives of Others (2007) 12
15.  Children of Men  (2006)  41
14.  Invictus (2009)
13.  Little Miss Sunshine  (2006)  48
12.  Eight Below  (2006)
11.  Spirited Away  (2001)  61
10.  The Blind Side  (2009)  NR
9.  Gran Torino (2009)  NR
8.  The Passion of the Christ
7.  Lilo and Stitch  (2002)   NR
6.  The Class  (2008)  70
5.  Avenue Montaigne  (Fauteuils
     d'Orchestre)  (2007)   
4.  Hairspray  (2007)  NR
3.  Spellbound  NR
2.  Gosford Park  (2001)   NR
1.  United 93  (2006)  NR
See all 2009 Comments
Best Supporting Actress:  Mariah Carey i When I first wrote about this movie, I said that if I'd known Mariah Carey
was in it, I might not have gone.  But I didn't, and she was, and I have to admit I was kind of blown away by her
performance as a waitress in a Texas diner.  (I was similarly impressed with her small role in
Precious.)  While it's great
that she toned down her persona for the serious scenes, it was especially nice that when she was asked to go on the stage
and play a number, she dialed that back as well.  Well done!
Best Supporting Actor:  Matt Damon iWhen you first see Matt Damon in this movie, he's sitting on a couch in his
parents' house in South Africa, and you wonder, "Where did they find a teenager who looks like Matt Damon?"  Later,
seemingly without the benefit of make-up, he looks much older than he is in real life.  He also sounds different, mastering a
tricky Afrikaaner accent.  He has great scenes with Morgan Freeman, and the play off each other beautifully.
Best Actress:  Meryl Streep  In my heart, I'm rooting for Sandra Bullock to win the Academy Award, but in reality, no
one did a better job in a movie than Meryl Streep did in this movie.
Best Actor:  Paul Giamatti   In this quirky film that will remind some of Being John Malkovich, Mr. Giamatti plays an
actor named "Paul Giamatti" who needs help with the role of "Uncle Vanya".  He "feels" the part too much, and he doesn't
think he can make it through a Broadway run if he has to keep his soul in his body.  Happily, there is an organization
which removes  souls from their bodies and stores them.  Mr. Giamatti gives a very nuanced performance it what must be
the most difficult role of his career.
Now, on with the countdown!
It's time again for the annual top ten list. As always, I don't believe in best movies--although paradoxically, I do believe in "worst
movies."  I should probably think about that.  For reasons that aren't exactly clear to me, I feel obligated to state my preferences for
major acting awards (as if anyone cared).  Here they are:
Although I do try to stay away from movies I know I'm going to dislike, there are some movies that qualify for the list of the Worst
Movies I've seen this year. They are (in the order I saw them):

State of Play
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
Transformers 2
The Girl from Monaco
All About Steve

To all of you, I say, "Yuck!"

Likewise, there were some movies that I thought were pretty terrific, but they just didn't make the cut.  They include:

The September Issue
Eine Frau in Berlin
Taking Woodstock
Sherlock Holmes

To all of you, I say, "Well done!"
10  Prom Night in Mississippi   was the featured film at the recently completed Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson and will
    be shown on HBO in June.   The high school in the hometown of actor Morgan Freeman, Charleston, Mississippi, has
    been holding separate senior proms for white and black students since the school integrated in 1970.  In an effort to do
    something to provide some racial healing in the school and the town, Freeman offered to pay for a prom, if it would be
    integrated.  This movie is a record of the progress from idea to actualization of his offer.  What a coincidence that I would
    see this movie less than a week after seeing
The Class.  Both movies are quite good and will appear on my list of favorite
    movies of 2009.  I'm sorry to say that the 17- and 18-year-old Mississippi students come off very poorly compared to their
    14- and 15-year-old French counterparts.  In fairness, the French students were played by actors, and the Mississippi
    students were--for the most part--just trying to live their lives.   But still, the Charleston students come off as much less
    verbal, much less interesting and much, much more obese than their Parisian counterparts.  That's not really the point, but
    the comparison does kind of smack you in the face.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (BTW, after the screening, I was
    asked to give one of the student actors a ride to Delta State where she's in her first year of elementary education.  In the
    movie, she claimed that although she had the highest scholastic average in her class, she was denied being named as
    valedictorian.  I meant to ask her how she knew that, but I forgot.  She's a bright, articulate young lady who had the good
    sense not to be too impressed when she met Paris Hilton at Sundance.  (4/6/09)   

9  The Hangover    Don't hate me, but I loved this movie.   Four average joes (OK, maybe three average joes and someone
    who may or may not be a registered sex offender) set out from Los Angeles for the proverbial bachelor party in Las Vegas.  
    I don't want to spoil any surprises, but the night goes horribly and hilariously wrong from the opening toast on the roof at
    Caesar's Palace.  Suffice to say that a live tiger, chickens, Heather Graham, Mike Tyson, Chinese crime lords and do-
    it-yourself dentistry are part of the plot.  

8  I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell  Unapologetic misogynist Tucker Max (think of him as Ferris Bueller crossed with Eliot
    Spitzer) talks his innocent best friend into letting him take him to a hands-on strip club in a town 250 miles away.  Also
    along for the bachelor party is mutual friend Drew, who's recently been dumped (probably because he can't refer to the
    female gender in any kind of language that can be repeated in a family-friendly website).   Sounds li
ke The Hangover,
    doesn't it?  Sure it does, but there are some key differences.  For one thing, it's toned down considerably from and much
    grittier th
an The Hangover.  In IHTSBIH, there are no circus animals, retired boxers or Asian criminals.  One of the
    characters indeed goes to jail, but rather than being tasered by vindictive children, he just gets the crap beaten out of him.  
    Instead of marrying a stripper, one of the characters finds a stripper who can match him verbal zinger for verbal zinger.  
    Which leads me to the biggest surprise about this movie--and the key point of differentiation fr
om The Hangover:  in this
    movie women are real people, and they also get some of the best lines.  Instead of the cliché of the left-at-home bride being
    a self-centered harpy, we get a woman with a few ideas in her head who moves things along.  I liked it a lot.  (10/04/09)

 7  The Brothers Bloom   Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody play the title characters as a couple of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels who
     are "the last gentleman con men."  (Obviously, the movie was made before the Obama Administration took over.)  I've not
     always been fans of their work, but they're fine in this movie.  They just happen to be in a movie where Rachel Weisz is
     acting circles around them.  She plays the delightfully neurotic ( and it's been a long time since we've seen a delightful
     neurotic on screen) New Jersey heiress and the brothers' latest mark.  When asked what she likes to do, she says she
     "collects hobbies." Her knowledge of a little bit about lots of things make her a pleasure to watch on screen and a major
     impediment to the brothers' plans.  It's funny, poignant and--well, it's mostly funny.  (6/13/09)    

 6  L'heure d'ete (Summer Hours)  OK, it's not Chekhov, although the plot sounds a lot like The Cherry Orchard.  The
     wonderful Juliette Binoche, the talented Charles Berling from
Ridicule and Some Other Guy  who's a good actor and will
     be a big star some day, play three French siblings who must come to grips with the passing of their mother and the disposal
     of her home filled with  treasures from the Beaux Arts (I think) period.  The Musee d'Orsay and Christie's are interested,
     but not everyone wants to let the house and its furnishings out of the family.  What I loved most about the movie is that
     although the three do not agree on how the assets will be disposed of, they discuss it rationally, like three people who
     actually love each other and will continue to do so.  If this were an American film, I suspect it would have to be punched
     up with some verbal or maybe even physical histrionics.  As it is, it's perfect.  See it.  (6/16/09)  

 5  The Stoning of Soraya M   "Its a man's world," says the husband of the title character of this stunning movie about an
     Iranian wife and mother of four who is savagely stoned to death after refusing her husband a divorce in order that he might
     move to the city and marry a fourteen-year-old girl "with shining eyes".  Practically the entire town knows that the husband
     is a dangerous jerk, but no one stops this slow-motion tragedy  before it moves to its ultimate conclusion.  (To sweeten
     the pot for the two sons that the father wants to take with him when he leaves, he tells them, "You can be Republican
     Guards!")  The best acting in the film comes from Shohreh Aghdashloo, a recent Academy Award nominee for
     House of Sand and Fog
.  Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ plays the French journalist to
     whom she tells her story.  It's a powerful and heartbreaking movie.  Don't even think about taking a child to see it.

 4  Up   After a sour note with Wall-E last year, Disney's Pixar is back on its relentlessly perky track.  I don't know what I
     was expecting (maybe something like an American version of
Howl's Moving Castle, I guess), but what I saw was The
     Wizard of Oz
Meets Gran Torino.  The slow-moving but richly textured opening chronicled the loving but not particularly
     special lives shared by Karl and Ellie in a house that is in grave danger of: 1) falling in; and 2) being redeveloped.  An
     unfortunate accident leaves Karl (voiced by Ed Asner) cranky, alone (he thinks), and with no prospects beyond being
     traumatized by his neighborhoods.  But, when he decides to do something about it and thousands of balloons sprout
     from his chimney, picking up his house and carrying it to South America ("It's like America--but South!"), the movie
     takes off along with the house.  The house doesn't land on a wicked witch, but it does land in close proximity to a nearly
     extinct bird, a pack of talking dogs, and Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).  After a slow start, it's a great ride
     and a wonderful lesson about what constitutes a meaningful life.  Go see it.  (6/6/09)  

 3  Invictus   It's hard to know where to start talking about this movie.  Has any director ever had a run of movies as good
     as the last six from Clint Eastwood (
Invictus, Gran Torino, Changeling, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima,
     Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River--
to say nothing of  Pale Rider,Unforgiven or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)?
     Has there ever been an actor like Morgan Freeman, who can play God on three occasions, Satan on at least one, and
 drive Miss Daisy?  I don't think so.  Invictus is long (too long); it's somewhat muddled in its early narrative; some of the
     art design is unfortunate (especially at the "White House"); and a big chunk of the music is just woeful--but almost
     everything else is very nearly perfect.  Eastwood falls all over himself not to deify Mandela, and I think he succeeds.  
     All of the performances are admirably understated, and the actors--especially Matt Damon-- do a good job of working
     with a tricky dialect.  This is a special movie, and I recommend it to you highly.  (12/22/09)

 2  The Blind Side  is as good as everyone around Mississippi hoped it would be.  Sandra Bullock shines as Leigh Anne Tuohy,
     the former Rebel cheerleader who--for whatever reason or motive--takes Michael Oher off the mean streets of Memphis
     and into her home and eventually into the NFL.  Is it enough to say that I smiled at the screen for over two hours?  There
     are a few nits to be picked--mostly having to do with disappointment that locations in the film really didn't resemble their
     real life counterparts--but such complaints are picky indeed.  If you want to go to a movie that will make you feel good
     about life in general as you leave--here's your ticket.  (12/01/09)

 1  The Class   is the best movie of the year.  I think so now, and I'll think so later on when I put together my list of my
     favorite movies of the year.  It was made in 2006, and was not distributed until last year (when it won the Palme d'Or at
     Cannes).  The movie stars Francoise Begaudeau, who wrote the book that the movie is based on, and a classroom-full of
     gifted young actors who play his 14- and 15-year-old students.  It's shot in a documentary style, and as you're watching
     it, you can't imagine that this is scripted behavior.  I don't know if this movie could made in English to conform to
     American or British sensibilities.  I think the film makers would want the teacher to be more visibly noble than Mssr.
     Begaudeau appears to be here.  He makes mistakes; he clearly doesn't connect with all of his students; and it's clear that
     he's not trying to save anybody.  I've emailed a couple of teachers I know and encouraged them to check it out.  I can just
     imagine them sitting in darkened theater somewhere and nodding their heads in recognition.  (3/30/09)     
Matt's Top 100 of the
Past Decade
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2008
See all 2005 Comments