David Nofire (aka Vern Snackwell) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He currently favors low budget films from the 1970s and 1980s and makes no arguments as to the relative quality of the films on this list as they are his personal favorites.
1. Drag Me to Hell – In an attempt to earn a coveted assistant manager position, bank loan officer Christine Brown denies an elderly woman a third extension on her mortgage and is cursed as a result. Yes, the plot is derivative of Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 film Night of the Demon and a 1953 issue of the comic book Vault of Fear. Yes, the ending is predictable. But for me the primary pleasures of this film were in Sam Raimi’s direction, Alison Lohman’s performance as Christine, and in the shared audience experience of witnessing the PG-13 over-the-top gross-out extravaganza that ensues. In Drag Me to Hell Sam took me back to the much-loved tone of his films Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, especially in the editing, cinematography, dialogue, and voice work found in the film’s séance sequence. It’s a movie I’ve enjoyed again and again since first seeing its last showing of the day on May 29th, 2009 and then again for the first showing the next morning.
2. Inglourious Basterds – The many things I love about Quentin Tarantino’s long gestating WWII ensemble revenge film include sharp dialogue, confident pacing, a dazzling performance by Christolph Waltz as the Nazi detective Col. Hans Landa, and a film-as-weapon storyline which endears itself to me as well as to many other lovers of cinema.
3. Love Exposure – To commit sins worthy of confessing to his detached Catholic priest father, teenager Yu Tsunoda becomes involved in a group of perverted artful dodgers who acrobatically take upskirt photographs of unsuspecting girls. That’s just the beginning of Sion Sono’s audacious, genre-bending film which involves religion, guilt, cults, love, and perversion across its four hour running time.
4. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Husband, father, newspaperman, and former smooth criminal Mr. Fox decides to pull one last series of heists on wealthy farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, who later plot to kill him. Humor and the usual Wes Anderson obsessions made this by far my favorite of the two 2009 talking-fox movies I saw.
5. (500) Days of Summer – Tom Hansen non-chronologically recalls his failed relationship with the desirable but mismatched and misunderstood Summer Finn. After seeing it for the first time I wondered if it was coasting its way into my heart on the charming cast, their gorgeous clothes, and on its references to The Smiths. I found myself greatly endeared to the film with subsequent viewings because I can relate to it personally, because of the casting of the leads, and because of moments like the much talked-about split-screen sequence showing Tom’s expectations and reality.
6. Star Trek – My favorite part of this movie is Karl Urban’s embodiment of the boozy Dr. McCoy.
7. Up – This is another outstanding film from Pixar with endearing characters and a heart-warming story.
8. District 9 – I’m glad I steered clear of advance reviews and synopses for this one, as I was unfamiliar with any of the actors and did not know where the story would initially take me.
9. The Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans – Here Nicolas Cage re-enters Vampire’s Kiss territory to deliver my favorite performance of the year after Christolph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.
10. Orphan –Indie darlings Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard find themselves in B-movie heaven when they adopt a murderous but seemingly quiet and well-behaved girl named Esther, who wears old fashioned dresses with velvet ribbons on her wrists and neck. I call her look Little House on the Scary.
11. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
12. The Hurt Locker
14. The Road
15. In the Loop
19. The Cove
20. Black Dynamite
Almost making the top 20: Up in the Air and the Man Trilogy (A Single Man, A Serious Man, and I Love You, Man). 2009 films not yet seen include Crazy Heart, The White Ribbon, Sin Nombre, Sugar, A Town Called Panic, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.