Back Again: The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2009
by Alex Billington
January 21, 2010
Although it's now 2010, that doesn't mean we can't look back at some of the best movies you didn't see last year. Back by popular demand, it's our third annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2009 (you can find the older lists here: 2008, 2007). Featured below is a hand-picked selection of the best independent and mainstream films that were either quietly dumped by distributors, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well. So to give these films some extra time in the spotlight, and to support some of the best filmmakers out there, we've put together this 2009 recap just for you. Read on for the complete list!
I would like to encourage everyone to watch at least one of these that they haven't heard of (or didn't see) beforehand. If you spend the two hours or so that it will take to watch even one of these movies mentioned below, it would mean that much more to the filmmakers who put so much time and effort into making each of these movies. This isn't about getting kudos for mentioning certain films, this article is about pointing out movies that don't deserve to be forgotten and are begging to be watched. So pick one and watch it tonight!
Opened on October 16, 2009
Directed by Lone Scherfig
A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.
Why it's on here: An Education contains one of the best performances of 2009 from the extraordinarily talented, and quite beautiful, Carey Mulligan. Not only that, but the story is meticulously crafted yet paced well enough to never bore. It's a charming, sometimes frustrating, and occasionally comical story of a British girl getting a chance to grow up. It takes a lot to impress me with a film like this, and I can't say it was my favorite film of last year, but it certainly was one that I haven't forgotten. And I'll be rooting for Carey Mulligan at the Oscars - she deserves to win for Best Actress.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Opened on April 10, 2009
Directed by Sacha Gervasi
At fourteen years old, best friends Lips and Robb Reiner made a pact to rock together forever. Their band Anvil, hailed as the “demi-gods of Canadian metal,” influenced a musical generation including Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. Though Anvil never made it, they never stopped playing or believing.
Why it's on here: Here's the second-best documentary of last year. In this rags to rags story, we're privy to the tale of Canadian metal band Anvil, toted as one of the most influential bands of its generation -- and one of its least successful. Having never hit it big despite garnering a world-wide following, Anvil bandmates Robb Reiner and Lips embark on the journey of recording their 13th studio album. There wasn't a single film last year that displayed more heart than Anvil!. While on a calamitous European tour, you'll cry out as the band is stiffed. Again. Lips and Robb are now in their late fifties, still chasing their boyhood dreams. I've never wished more success for someone. Long live Anvil! (Written by Brandon Lee Tenney)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Opened on November 20, 2009
Directed by Werner Herzog
Terence McDonagh is a drug- and gambling-addled police detective working in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants.
Why it's on here: I'm sure a lot of people will be wondering why this is on here at all, but screw it, it deserves to be. There is one simple reason for that: I went to see this expecting to hate it, and walked out loving it. It's such a crazy movie and I love seeing Nic Cage get even wackier every minute. This was the film he needed to do to let all that craziness out (and get back on track with his acting). Combine Cage with Werner Herzog, lots of drugs, Eva Mendes, and Xzibit, and this is what you get - a crazy but highly entertaining cop movie. Just make sure you go in ready to laugh your ass off, even if you think you're not supposed to be laughing. It'll help you enjoy it even more!
The Brothers Bloom
Opened on May 15, 2009
Directed by Rian Johnson
The Brothers Bloom are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Now they've decided to take on one last job - showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world.
Why it's on here: From the director of Brick comes this brilliant con man comedy. It took me a few viewings to fully appreciate The Brothers Bloom, but it was one of my top 10 movies of 2009. I love the score, created by Rian Johnson's cousin Nathan Johnson, and the three lead performances from Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo are fantastic as well. It's a great con man comedy with a story that takes them all over the world. And the whole movie itself is kind of a con, too, and it will take repeat viewings to figure out, but it's worth it. Johnson is one of my favorite directors for a reason - he knows how to make unforgettable, original movies.
Straight to DVD on October 6, 2009
Directed by Tom Shankland
A relaxing Christmas vacation turns into a terrifying fight for survival as the children begin to turn on their parents.
Why it's on here: I'm not the biggest fan of horror, but after seeing this at Fantastic Fest last year, it instantly became one of my favorite horror movies of all-time. It's a creepy but beautifully shot horror/thriller about some children who go crazy and kill their parents while on Christmas vacation. Sure, that's been done a few times before, but The Children is still worth seeing because of its style. Director Tom Shankland does a great job keeping the story contained on a low budget and not going all out with effects or anything like that. Plus it's always great to come across an indie horror movie that even I can call a personal favorite.
Opened on July 31, 2009
Directed by Louie Psihoyos
Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renown dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Why it's on here: This documentary from director Louie Psihoyos is, flippers down, the best of the last year. A little bit heist film, a little bit environmental outcry, and a lot of one of the most staggering, nearly unbelievable explorations of human immorality I've ever seen. Led by infamous, world-renown dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, a team of activists infiltrate a small cove in Taijii, Japan in order to expose the blood-boiling truth that thousands upon thousands of dolphins are slaughtered each year without any repercussions. The film ably blends the tension and excitement of an action film with brain-swelling knowledge and an intensity that could cause the comatose to join the picket lines. See this film. Or do you hate dolphins? Come on! (Written by Brandon Lee Tenney)
In the Loop
Opened on July 24, 2009
Directed by Armando Iannucci
A foul-mouthed comedy that draws on non-specific events to create a world that is terrifyingly familiar: The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war, but not everyone agrees that war is a good thing.
Why it's on here: There's a difference between you and I. For one, I have an expanded vocabulary of curse words and insults. It's not that I grew up any different, but simply that I've seen Armando Iannucci's chest-burning comedy In the Loop. Over the course of 106-minutes, the characters (mostly Peter Capaldi) actively create countless new ways to insult each other. It is all part of a wicked political satire that is simultaneously authentic and absurd. It is also evidence that Anna Chlumsky, the star of My Girl (and My Girl 2) still has an acting career. And she's lookin' good. (Written by Neil Miller of FSR)
The Killing Room
Straight to DVD on October 13, 2009
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Four individuals sign up for a psychological research study only to discover that they are now subjects of a brutal, classified government program.
Why it's on here: This incredibly intense thriller got screwed in a straight-to-DVD release, which is unfortunate considering it's such a great movie. The Killing Room is sort of one of those stuck-in-one-place movies about four people who think they're going in for a research study, but we soon discover they're in the secret CIA MK-Ultra program. Liebesman shows that he's a very capable director with this, using nuance and emotion to pull us through the story, which does have big twists and turns this time. Even Nick Cannon does a good job starring alongside of Timothy Hutton and Shea Whigham. If you want to see a very well directed thriller, start with this, you won't be let down.
Opened on April 8, 2009
Directed by Derick Martini
Set in the late 70's, seen through the innocent eyes of a fifteen year old boy, Scott, Lymelife is a unique take on the dangers of the American Dream. This funny, sad, violent and sometimes tragic look at first love, family dynamics and divorce weaves an intricate tapestry of American life during a time of drastic economic and emotional change.
Why it's on here: I first saw this at the Toronto Film Festival in late 2008 and instantly fell in love with it. I could've put it on here solely for all of the hilarious Star Wars references (since it's set in late 70's), but it's actually a great movie as well. It's another coming-of-age drama full of fantastic performances from brothers Rory Culkin and Kieran Culkin as well as Alec Baldwin. It's a bit more subtle than most movies on here, but the writing is top-notch and the directing is good, too, which amounts to a movie I think most should try and seek out.
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