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Ten Best of 2009

December 30, 2009 3:19 p.m.

KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando picks the best of 2009.

Related Story: The Best and Worst of 2009


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS FM Radio Film Review: Ten Best of 2009
By Beth Accomando
Air date: December 31, 2009

As 2009 comes to a close KPBS Film Critic looks back on the year’s releases to assess the best of the year.

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(Tag:) You can find more of Beth’s best and worst of 2009 on her blog at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie. And you can post your own picks as well.

Every year I agonize over my ten best list because I always feel like I’m comparing apples to elephants. Three films tied for the tenth spot illustrate my quandary. There’s Terry Gilliam’s wildly inspired “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus;” the luminous Mexican contemplation on faith, “Silent Light;” and the crass adrenaline driven B-movie “Crank High Voltage.”

CLIP “Without a body police have yet to piece together the events of a day that can only be described as implausible.”

Implausible is what I thought when I heard that Bruce McDonald had made a zombie film without zombies. But “Pontypool” is precisely that and McDonald reinvents the genre in ways I could have never imagined. In this zombie scenario, the infection is spread through language and words can destroy your mind.

CLIP “Missing, missing, missing, Mr. Mazi’s missing as in he’s not here…”

Showing up in fine form this year is John Woo with his historical action film “Red Cliff.” My only complaint about this period war epic is that it was released in the US as one condensed film rather than in its original five-hour, two-part form. Contemporary warfare provides the backdrop for Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker.” Jeremy Renner scores big as a bomb expert who’s an adrenaline junkie but not a gung ho warrior.

CLIP “What’s the best way to go about disarming one of these things.”
“The way you don’t die sir.”

“The Hurt Locker” delivers a fresh perspective on the war. And a fresh perspective on everyday life is what makes Majid Majidi’s “The Song of Sparrows” so special. This Iranian film turns simplicity into breathtaking artistry. Heading into the fifth slot you’ll find a distinct change in tone and style with Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” This film is just damn fun as Tarantino revels in his love of cinema and delivers a gritty war film in the tradition of Sam Fuller and Robert Aldrich. And no one delivered a better performance than Christoph Waltz as the Nazi officer.

CLIP “Oh that’s a bingo, is that the way you say it, bingo how fun.”

If Tarantino specializes in audacious fun, the Coen Brothers excel at precision control. “A Serious Man” serves up one of the year’s best ensemble casts as it delivers a film that is painfully funny. Every man Larry Gopnik protests early on that he hasn’t done anything and this eventually turns into an existential refrain.

CLIP “I didn’t ask for any records.”
“To receive the monthly main selection you do nothing.”
“That’s right I haven’t done anything.”

But director Neill Blomkamp does everything right in his feature debut “District 9.” This film kicks butt on “Avatar” in terms of innovation, clever scriptwriting, and putting the humanity back into science fiction.

CLIP News report

“District 9” takes familiar elements – aliens on earth, evil government/corporation conspiracy, the immigrant experience, and xenophobia – but allows us to view them from a new perspective. The human element is front and center in another feature debut, Tom Ford’s “A Single Man.”

CLIP “For the past 8 months waking up has actually hurt.”

Colin Firth gives the year’s best lead performance as a man coping with grief and loss, and Ford’s ability to convey Firth’s subjective point of view is what makes this film a standout.

And finally, coming in at number one is Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” a wildly inventive portrait of Guilio Andreotti, one of Italy's most powerful, feared and intriguing political figures. Sorrentino knows he has a fantastical tale to tell and he delivers it with all the drama, spectacle, and flamboyance of a great Italian opera.

Well that’s it for 2009, here’s looking forward to what 2010 will bring.

For KPBS, I’m Beth Accomando.