For the past few years I've been blogging at the end of each year about the movies I've seen and books I've read. In 2007, I saw 33 movies. In 2008, I saw 22 movies. In 2009, I've seen 16. I'm not sure this is a bad trend, given most of what's out there. A number of the movies I saw this year, I saw for free because of either Writers Guild screenings, or the free DVDs I've been getting this month because I can vote for the Writers Guild Awards (all members can, it's nothing special), which no one (including me) has ever heard of. Even a free DVD can't get me to watch most movies. Gave Bruno a chance, but my wife and I got about 30 minutes in before deciding we'd had enough.
As far as movies I paid to see in 2009, it's a pretty short list -- No Impact Man, Food Inc., I Love You Man, Funny People, and He's Just Not That Into You, along with two movies I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival (TiMER and The Good Guy) and a screening of Clear Blue Tuesday, a musical about the lives of New Yorkers in the aftermath of 9/11 directed by a friend of mine.
Putting aside the two Tribeca films and the Clear Blue Tuesday screening, I'm left with 13 movies to rank.
Best film I saw this year was Up In The Air, which I liked but didn't love. I mean, I liked a lot of it, and I thought it was a very well-constructed film. But in the end, I felt like it was trying to be too many things, and didn't quite hang together as both a romantic comedy about George Clooney and a much darker film about the recession. I think the film was both helped and hurt by the timing -- two years ago, it's a comedy, albeit a comedy with some satirical notes about corporate life and the pace of the world in which we live, but no one's writing articles about any bigger-picture relevance to the economy. Coming out now, it's impossible not to take it as a movie about the recession, but then the character pieces of it get a little lost and feel out of place. In any case, it's a bleak movie, and the trailer doesn't pitch it quite nearly as bleak as it is. George Clooney's character in the film is sad. Everyone in the film is sad. By the end, I was sad too. But I can still respect the craft, and am certainly glad I saw the movie (and think Jason Reitman is pretty darn talented).
After that, it's a mixed bag.
Second-best film I saw was probably No Impact Man, which I wrote about here. Followed by Michael Moore's Capitalism movie, which I wrote briefly about here. I have mixed feelings about both of them, which basically boil down to entertaining movie / skeptical about what it's trying to say. I have written previously about being a sucker for documentaries. There is hardly anything I couldn't be convinced to go see a documentary about.
4. I Love You Man
5. Funny People
Neither as funny as I wished, but both certainly watchable. I Love You Man frustrating because I didn't feel like it had enough to say, and Funny People perhaps because it had too much to say. The good parts of Funny People are quite good. The stand-up comedy pieces were hit-or-miss for me (mostly miss), and the last hour, where it turns into a romantic comedy, was pretty slow.
6. Food, Inc. -- which would have been more interesting had I not read Michael Pollan's past few books.
7. 500 Days of Summer -- which I wrote about here, and on second watching on DVD with my wife, I would say that my opinion didn't much change. I somehow loved it when I read the script, but it didn't quite translate.
8. Extract, which disappointed me because Idiocracy is brilliant.
9. A Serious Man, which I could appreciate as a worthwhile film but didn't quite understand while I was watching it.
10. It's Complicated
11. Taking Woodstock
12. The Invention of Lying
13. He's Just Not That Into You