The best (and worst) of 2009
Time Out New York Project: Issue #744/745, December 31, 2009–January 13, 2010
Keith Uhlich, film writer
1 The Limits of Control
Jim Jarmusch sends a mystery man on a leisurely murderous mission and makes a masterpiece—his best alongside Dead Man (1995). Usted no habla español, verdad?
2 Night and Day
A disgraced Korean artist wanders through Paris and his own twisted mindscape in Hong Sang-soo’s finest deconstruction yet of the male psyche.
3 California Dreamin’
We lost someone special in writer-director Cristian Nemescu, who died in a car crash during postproduction of this ebullient comedy-drama, about a U.S. military convoy stuck in a small Romanian village.
4 Two Lovers
The supremely talented James Gray brings new resonance to the one-man-caught-between-two-women paradigm. If this is indeed Joaquin Phoenix’s acting swan song, he picked a hell of a performance to go out on.
5 My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
God’s in his oatmeal, the ostriches are running wild, and all is right with the basketball. It’ll make sense after you see Werner Herzog’s deceptively routine police procedural.
6 Lorna’s Silence
The brothers Dardennes patiently observe an Albanian immigrant and con artist, whose role in a green card scam slowly chips away at her sanity—even as it brings her closer to the divine.
7 Public Enemies
Michael Mann explores the presentness of the past in his DV gangster picture. The exploits of outlaw John Dillinger seem to unfold right in front of us, with untold intimacy and ceaseless forward motion.
8 A Christmas Carol
The Charles Dickens perennial is as familiar a yuletide offering as It’s a Wonderful Life. Robert Zemeckis, with a motion capture assist from plastic man Jim Carrey, gives it a thrilling vitality.
9 The Box
This bizarre mélange of trippy science-fiction and small-town melodrama is a defiantly personal project that solidifies writer-director Richard Kelly’s talent, even as it surely pushes him further toward the filmmaking fringe.
10 Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino bloodily rewrites World War II, but as usual, his violence masks something deeper: the way we use words and images to create (un)official histories.
A Single Man
Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel is an essential work of queer portraiture and activism. Tom Ford’s film adaptation is a fashion-spread pity party that regressively turns its protagonist into a token gay martyr.