January 15, 2010




The Best and Worst Film of 2009

The film critics of kcactive.com have bought together their list of the good and bad in the film world for 2009. Our readers are, of course, free to agree or disagree.


This year I had trouble compiling a worst list, because 2009 was a cinematic year filled with many mediocre movies and a few really good ones. I have a hard time panning the average ones (although that’s what I wound up doing).

What I found strange and sad is that most of the films on my worst list are romantic comedies. When I first started writing movie reviews, I just loved romantic comedies no matter how silly or clichéd. I went into these films knowing what was going to happen but still allowing myself to be swept away by the fantasy, the adult fairytale. But several years and dozens of romantic comedies later I’ve had enough. I still enjoy romantic movies, even comedies, but now I’m only swept away by a unique twist, well-rounded characters and witty dialogue.

Two thousand and nine was also an eclectic year, a year that saw a few artistically stunning blockbusters as well as notable indie films. It was a year that saw the release of a film (Precious) that garnered an Oscar Best Director nomination for an African American director (which has only happened once before in Oscar history).

The Best

1. Precious
Director Lee Daniels’ adaptation of the novella Push by Sapphire transcends race to tell the coming-of-age story of an abused, overweight black teen. Fantasy scenes put us inside the main character’s head to reveal the tragic and comical aspects of her existence. Thanks to Geoffrey Fletcher’s screenplay, audiences get a chance to meet a spunky girl with a troubled background and go inside her world. She just happens to be an African American. Another feat of this film is that it doesn’t get mired in the muck of the main character’s life. Some scenes will make viewers want to look away because the action is so cruel or sad. But the story is so compelling that they probably won’t look away for long.

2. Avatar
Simplistic, yes, but Director James Cameron’s latest movie is first and foremost visually stunning. And it’s thoughtful, although some folks will take exception to the sympathetic re-imagining of the cruel treatment of Native Americans by European settlers in the “new world.” This film’s fictional world, Pandora, teems with deadly beast and magical spirits. The box office records hint that this feast of the senses also has the rare ability to hold audiences’ attention through its approximately two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

3. Bright Star
A compelling historical story remains relevant for centuries. Director Jane Campion has taken such a story (about the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne) and infused it with the cinematic equivalent of air and light. All of the cinematic elements (music, visuals, and dialogue) form a perfect union.

4. Up
Who could have imagined that an animated film about a bitter old man who just lost his wife would be a hit with kids and parents? The tasteful handling of a sad story paired with the technical precision it took to create all those animated balloons makes this one a winner.

5. The Young Victoria
Actors Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend seemed to step right into the personas of Princess Victoria and Prince Albert. The filmmakers have created a historical drama that tells of the complications of love between people at disparate social classes in a way that is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in centuries past.

Honorable Mention

500 Days Of Summer, Crazy Heart, Star Trek, This Is It, The Princess & The Frog

The Worst

1. New In Town
City slicker Lucy (Renee Zellweger) slides her stilettos on and heads to an icy, snowy little locale in Minnesota to close down a plant and fire its employees. She winds up meeting a man and tasting some great tapioca. Need I say more? Nothing about this story rings true, and the characters are walking insults to small town dwellers everywhere.

2. All About Steve
Sandra Bullock: This one should go into your personal hall of shame, right next to that picture of you tackling Dolly Parton in Miss Congeniality 2. There are some laughs, but the greatest thing about this flick is that its runtime is under two hours.

3. Confessions Of A Shopaholic
Director P.J. Hogan has been here before, with the 1997 comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding. Like that extremely sad comedy, Shopaholic has an immature, self-centered and extremely unlikable female protagonist, Rebecca (Isla Fisher). That gal lost me long before she decided to get a grip.
4. He’s Just Not That Into You
This is not a new story. The African American version is called Waiting to Exhale, which was almost as contrived but without the fairytale ending. These characters were all just types, predictable humanoids.

5. I Love You, Man
Can straight men be friends without constantly defending their heterosexuality? Maybe they can in real life but not in these “bromance” movies. That’s the most off-putting aspect of this movie (and this subgenre).

Dishonorable Mention

Fast & Furious, Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, Law Abiding Citizen, Couples Retreat, The Ugly Truth

Deborah Young can be contacted at dkayyoung@hotmail.com.