Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2009 Year in Review: Introduction

2009 was the best year of my life in some ways, and the worst year in others. On the positive side, I finally married the girl of my dreams after six and half years of dating. We had a wonderful wedding and an amazing honeymoon in Italy. The summer was the best of my life as we also moved into our first house and had a great time for all of July and August, the lone exception being a major one – when my grandmother died in late July. We have started to talk about having kids, and she is the one person in my life that I can always rely on.

On the negative side, I spent the first six months of the year working two jobs to pay for the wedding and the honeymoon, and was miserable and depressed for almost the entire time. After the high of the summer wore off, and the Toronto Film Festival was over, a lot of that depression returned. Combined with work stress and course stress, much of the year I was not very happy.

But in life, as in movies, you have to take the good with the bad. We go through shit because it makes the good stuff in our lives seem all the better. With so many major life changes in one year, is it any wonder that I was stressed and depressed for much of the year?

I mention this in my introduction to by year in movies review because movies do not exist in a vacuum. Depending on what you are going through at any given moment, movies hit you in different ways. In many ways, my top ten list this year in the darkest it has been in a long time. Yet, there is also some lightness that goes along with it, and I do believe that no matter what I went through this year, the two best films of the year would have been at the top.

But this year, with the marriage, the house, the death of my grandmother and all the talk about kids, family was certainly on my mind a lot, and I think that my top ten list reflects that.

It is customary is these pieces for critics to decry the death of cinema, and talk about how terrible the past year was in comparison to the years that went before it. Very rarely do you see many critics talk about what a wonderful year it was. They seem to want to hasten the demise of their chosen medium. I am not one of those critics. I love movies, and even if some years are better than others, each one offers it own rewards. 2009 was neither a phenomenal year, like 2007 was, nor a dismal one like 2008, but rather it was a normal year. There are many films out that I loved, and in the following pages you will get to read all about them.

I am saddened to report that some great films I saw at the Toronto Film Festival – Andrea Arnold’ Fish Tank, Bong Joon-ho’s Mother, Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass, Sean Bryne’s The Loved Ones and Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere did hit theaters in 2009. All of these films are wonderful, and would have made a few of the lists that follow, but they will have to wait until next year. And if you think I will forget about them by then, just remember, I saw The Hurt Locker at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008.

Of course, where there is good, there is also bad. I tried hard this year, as I had less time than normal, to stay away from the worst of the worst, and yet I still saw a hell of a lot of bad films this year. I will take much less time discussing those films, because frankly, it is rather depressing recounting all the hours in the past year that I wasted.

The next week (actually more like 2) will be full of a look back at 2009. Today, it gets kicked off with the Best Films - my top ten list and fifteen runners up. On Wednesday, we’ll look at the best performances of the year - 4 top ten lists, one for each Oscar category, full of the best performances of the year. Thursday, we’ll slow down a little bit and have just one post - my own personal “Oscar ballot” with commentary. Finally, on Friday, we’ll look at the worst films and performances of the year. Next week, we’ll look a little more deeply at the animated, foreign, documentary directorial debuts and films I saw in 2009 that won’t be released until 2010. Of course, that week will also be looking at the Oscar nominations. Sometime soon, also look for my list of the 50 best films of the decade 2000-2009, and a look forward at my 50 most anticipated films of 2010.

So let’s not waste any more time on this introduction, and get right into the recap. Once we’re done, it will be time to put 2009 behind us, and start looking ahead to 2010 and the films that we will see during the next 12 months. I cannot wait.

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