The Best Films of 2009

The Best Films of 2009 (photo)

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Matt Singer: We entered 2009 with a new president who promised to bring our country hope. But looking back at the year in film, I don’t see a lot of hope; I see a lot of grief and despair. Oh sure, the box office charts were dominated by your now-typical assortment of franchises, spin-offs, reboots and sequels — a major cause of grief and despair for some — but you also had enough apocalypse movies to fill a book on Biblical prophecy. Even some of the obligatory superheroes got dark: the world (spoiler alert!) doesn’t end in “Watchmen,” but it comes awfully close.

There was an air of doom in certain quarters of the film industry this year too, as the effects of the bad economy rippled through everything from festival attendance to the shriveling ranks of working film critics. Examining my own list of the year’s best, I find that most were stories about people struggling with loss, like the husband in my #4 film, or the trio of siblings in my #2 film (too bad Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” was moved to next year, on the basis of the early reviews, it looks like it would have fit in perfectly). I also see a lot of films on my list about waiting: waiting for success that never comes (my #5 film), or for the end of a tour of duty in Iraq (#6), or for the moment when a demon will come and drags your eternal soul to hell (#3). The bleak mood may have also contributed to it being a fine year for dark comedies, including two outstanding films on my list.

I’ve read lots of complaints that 2009 was a mediocre year for movies, but people who tend to complain about that sort of thing say that every year, no matter how many good movies there are. All I know is trying to pick just ten favorites out of all the worthy films felt tougher this year than it has in the four previous I’ve been at IFC. To me, that feels like a reason to hope. Without further ado:

12202009_crank2.jpg10. “Crank: High Voltage”

Chev Chelios, the protagonist of the “Crank” series, is the perfect action hero. In each film, he’s saddled with a physical impairment that forces him to remain in a constant state of excitement. For Chelios, and for the audience of action films, boredom equals death. This time around, Triad gangsters steal Chelios’ heart and he has to get it back while keeping his artificial ticker pumping by blasting it with jolts of electricity. Subversive genre twists and clever metaphors abound: we follow a hero who is literally heartless on a quest for bigger and bigger electrical shocks while directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor try to jolt the audience with bigger and bigger shocks of their own, provoking viewers with a nonstop barrage of offensive humor, frenetic imagery, outrageous violence, and narrative non-sequiturs. Not all the jokes land, but you have to admire Neveldine/Taylor’s willingness to push the boundaries of bad taste and conventional visual storytelling. (The DIY duo shot much of the film themselves on cameras you can get at Best Buy.) They’re kind of action heroes themselves: blazing a bloody path into uncharted territory.

12202009_whiteribbon2.jpg9. “The White Ribbon”

Speaking of shocking, after films like “Caché,” “Funny Games,” and his latest, “The White Ribbon,” it may be time to anoint Michael Haneke as “The Master of Shock,” in much the same way Hitchcock earned the moniker “The Master of Suspense.” Certainly no other current director is as good as Haneke at blindsiding an audience with an unsuspected jolt of terror. You can tell when it’s one of his movies as much by what’s on the screen as by the noises the people watching them make; just listen for the moments when everyone in the theater collectively gasps for breath. Beyond its beautiful, austere cinematography by Christian Berger and its chilling portrait of a small German town’s self-destruction in the years leading up to World War I, “The White Ribbon” boasts several images so shocking that that they will haunt you for days, and weeks, and beyond.

12202009_intheloop.jpg8. “In the Loop”

“War is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought.” That sentiment, originally expressed by General Jack D. Ripper from Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” is illustrated with uproarious and terrifying results in Armando Iannucci’s “In the Loop,” a film worthy of comparison to “Strangelove” and its pitch black political satire. In depressingly believable fashion, “In the Loop” shows how careerism, infighting, and general stupidity, can send the world spiraling into an unnecessary war. The film sounds like a didactic bummer, which is what it would have been Iannucci hadn’t packed it with rapid-fire jokes, many of them highly quotable. (I’d share some, but my word count is making things difficult difficult lemon difficult.) The documentary-style visuals and madcap energy of the film’s screwball finale gave “In the Loop” a sense of immediacy and urgency that most “important” films about the war in Iraq lacked. Clearly, a work of filmmakers with plenty of strategic thought.

12202009_headless3.jpg7. “The Headless Woman”

Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s “The Headless Woman” boasted an ingenious visual style, one that put the viewer right inside its lead character’s foggy headspace. Verónica (an appealingly enigmatic María Onetto) runs over something, or maybe someone, on a deserted road and never stops to find out what. For the rest of the movie, Martel evokes Verónica’s emotional disconnection from everyone around her, framing her in the foreground of images that are otherwise blurred by shallow focus. As Verónica stares off into the murky distance, and her friends and loved ones close ranks around her, insisting she’s done nothing wrong while covering up any proof that could implicate her, we come to share her twin drives: curiosity about the full details of the accident and fear about the dark truth of her actions.

12202009_hurtlocker4.jpg6. “The Hurt Locker”

Most of us would not be able to withstand the pressure, much less the technical challenges, of diffusing a single bomb. Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) has done it more than 800 times. The power of Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” isn’t that it makes us wish we could do what he does, but that we come to some understanding of why James does. While James Cameron dominated headlines with his latest biggest movie in history, his ex-wife Bigelow beat him at his own game with a smarter, leaner movie about life in wartime against an insurgency. And like Bigelow’s “Point Break,” “The Hurt Locker” is both a well-executed thriller and an insightful character study about men with an uncontrollable compulsion for reckless thrill seeking. The movie opens with a quote from journalist Chris Hedges that reads “War is a drug.” So are movies as good as this one.

12202009_anvil.jpg5. “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”

Life isn’t fair. In a world where celebrities are made overnight for singing poorly on reality television shows, talented guys like Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner of the Canadian metal band Anvil have been toiling in obscurity for 25 years. They inspired a generation of rock bands who appear in the film to sing their virtues, but they still spend their days making ends meet working construction and catering jobs and their nights playing gigs in dive bars. Now middle-aged with families to support, they should have given up their dreams of stardom long ago. Thank God they didn’t because the result of that stubborn, and maybe even borderline stupid, determination was this heartbreaking and heartwarming documentary, a moving story about the power of perseverance and friendship. Director Sacha Gervasi, a screenwriter turned first-time filmmaker was an Anvil roadie in the 1980s, and it shows in the finished product. Only a documentarian with a personal connection to his subjects could have crafted a film this affectionate, candid, and insightful.


Two for None

Watch Free Episodes of Benders and Gigi Does It Right Now

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The 50th season of Documentary Now! is drawing to a close tonight starting at 10P with the tale of friends, falsettos, and feathered hair, “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee.” After the moving finale, stay tuned for special sneak peeks of your two favorite new shows Benders and Gigi Does It. Or if you can’t wait, you can watch them RIGHT NOW below.

Watch an episode of Benders

Watch an episode of Gigi Does It

Crack open a cold one with a sneak peek of the Benders premiere at 11P —it’s what the hockey loving team members of Uncle Chubbys would do! This band of friends loves drinking beer and playing hockey, but they’re really only good at one of those things.

Then starting at 11:30P, get to know Gigi Does It, the new show starring David Krumholtz as a grandma who gets her groove back. Gertrude Rotblum, a.k.a. “Gigi,” may have lost her beloved husband, but she gained a new lease on life thanks to a secret bank account filled with millions. With her trusty sidekick in tow, Gigi is ready to take on the world, one buzzword, politician, and naked art class at a time.

In addition to YouTube and right here on IFC.com, an episode each of Benders and Gigi Does It can be seen on VOD and TV Everywhere platforms through IFC’s cable partners.

Early looks got you hooked? Then be sure to catch the new seasons of Benders and Gigi Does It when they premiere on IFC starting Thursday, October 1 at 10P and 10:30P, respectively. It’s like Christmas in early October!


Turkey Day Binge

Spend Thanksgiving in Sweatpants With IFC’s Sweatsgiving Marathon

Spend Thanksgiving weekend on the couch with Todd Margaret, That '70s Show and more.

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Thanksgiving means food, family, stretchy pants, and a lot of time on the couch. Make the most of your couch time and come hang out with IFC, because we’re spending the long weekend running marathons. No, not the kind that involve actually sweating. We’re running back-to-back episodes of all the shows you love and movies you can’t stop watching. Don’t believe us? Check out the turkey-tastic video below.

Starting early Thursday morning, November 26th, head to Red’s basement for some quality time with Jackie, Kelso, Donna, Fez, Hyde, and Eric with a marathon of That ’70s Show. Afterwards, sink into a turkey-induced TV coma with David Cross and the Thunder Muscle crew in seasons one and two of Todd Margaret before the new season starts on January 7th.  On Black Friday, skip the shopping-crazed hordes for marathons of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Exorcist movies. And while you’re gorging on leftovers on Saturday, catch a Resident Evil movie marathon that’ll sate your zombie-killing appetite. (Comedy Bang! Bang! fans take note — Scott and Kid Cudi will return Thursday, December 3rd at 11P with back-to-back episodes.)

If you’re spending the weekend on the couch, be sure to tweet or Instagram along with us using the #IFCSweatsgiving hashtag. Post a selfie watching IFC with the hashtag #IFCSweatsgiving and you’ll be entered to win a sweet pair of IFC pants. IFC’s Sweatsgiving is the perfect way to catch all your favorite IFC programming and avoid your kooky Aunt Edith this Thanksgiving season.

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.

D's Best

Tenacious D’s 10 Most Insane Live Performances

Catch The D at Festival Supreme Saturday, October 10th.


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Tencious D knows how to rock. Hard. And they’ll be melting faces with the power of their rocking this Saturday, October 10th, at Festival Supreme in Los Angeles. As a tribute to The D and their awesome comedy and music festival, check out some of their most mindblowing-ly insane live performances below. How will their Festival Supreme appearance compare? Better grab tickets and find out.

10. Wonderboy on Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien

The boys get to play dress up in this classic Conan clip.

9. Ben Stiller Joins The D (NSFW)

It’s all fun and games until Ben Stiller crushes your dreams.

8. “Throw Down” on The Late Late Show

The boys’ religious history lesson is a bit more Metal than your typical Sunday school class.

7. “Dude (I Totally Miss You)” Live (NSFW)

KG threatens to leave the band, but can’t resist the silken voice of best friend Jables.

6.Tribute” feat. Dave Grohl from MADtv

You don’t often think of rock when it comes to MADtv, but when they let The D loose the result was TV gold.

5. All Jazz, All The Time in Milan

Jack announces that Tenacious D is now a jazz band, and somehow still makes it sound hardcore.

4.Roadie” at SXSW (NSFW)

“Coming to you live at the…what is this place?,” the boys take a moment to honor the unsung heroes of rock.

3.Beelzeboss” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Lead guitarist John Konesky is possessed by the Devil, and the only way to save him is to rock!

2. “F*ck Her Gently” at Blizzcon (NSFW)

JB teaches us how to make love The D way in this classic performance from the 2010 Blizzcon.

1. “The Metal” Live and Uncut

The only way this could be more metal is if it were not a video clip, but a bar of iron.

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