1. The Hurt Locker – Brilliant pacing, spare dialogue and intelligent filmmaking all the way through. The film puts the audience uncomfortably square in the middle of the conflict both internal and external. Bigelow has always been a master of action and hope this film makes people review her other work especially the underrated Strange Days. I hope she wins the Oscar for Best Director, it’s about time a woman did.
2. Where the Wild Things Are - Spike Jonze’s pic is a polarizing adaptation of Sendak’s masterpiece. I might have responded to my childhood memories of the book but also that I couldn’t imagine how someone could interpret that work. But Jonze did a masterful job of capturing the complicated emotions of a child while introducing some of the most stunning visuals I’ve ever seen captured on film.
3. A Single Man – This underrated film has been well lauded for Colin Firth’s heartbreaking performance, but Tom Ford should be applauded for a stunning feature debut as both a writer and a director.
4. A Serious Man – Coen Brothers do it again. This strange tale of decent reminds me most of Barton Fink. But proves they are at the top of their game.
5. District 9 – Great imaginative storytelling and realistic visual effects. The allegory of immigration is not subtle but effective.
6. Precious – I really wanted to like this film more than I did. I think Lee Daniels took a mammoth task and pulled some of the best performances of the year from Gabby Sidebe, Monique, Paula Patton, Mariah. Where he lost me was in the breakaway sequences, some of which worked but a lot I found disconnected me from the story. It would have made it higher my list if not for that. Still kudos.
7. Avatar – Ok I was really debating this one. Sophmoric storytelling. Can’t stand Cameron. But I have to say that I was truly transported for moments that make up for all of its obvious flaws. Is it a masterpiece? No. Did I see something that I haven’t ever seen before? Yes. Was I thrilled? Yes at times. That’s enough to make my list.
8. Up – This takes the cake for the best 4 minute montage love story I’ve ever seen. Literally had me in tears 10 minutes into the film. For that. This film makes my list.
9. The September Issue – Fascinating look into one of pop culture’s most elusive figures. But the real revelation was Grace Coddington. Their back and forth ying and yang was fascinating and fun to watch. I should say I have NOT seen The Cove or We Live in Public or Food Inc. So please keep that in mind.
10. Up in the Air - Again, debated this one a lot. But overall the writing is what puts this on my list. Also the breakout performance from Kendrick.
TIED: Fantastic Mr Fox - Welcome back Wes Anderson. I think in a way his form of storytelling is best suited for this kind of animation. Homemade and meticulously detailed, the retro look and feel of the film were charming and obviously a labor of love.