Mostly because of their darker natures, these three films were not among my favorites in 2009.  I cannot recommend them – despite their undeniable excellence – for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I like movies to be fun and escapist – these are not. Two of these films are on many top 10 lists. The third may be a shoe-in for best documentary. 

I would like to describe them, so you can decide if they are the type of thing you would like to explore. If they are, you can’t go wrong. All very good films.

The Hurt Locker – This nail biter about an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in Iraq is wonderfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The tension oozes off every frame as Jeremy Renner, in a real star turn, puts on the bomb suit and replays that most tired of movie cliches, deciding which wire to cut when disarming a bomb. It’s all fresh and new here with the Iraq war and terrorism as a backdrop. Mark Boal’s screenplay is loaded with details that could only come from his being an embedded journalist. He captures the soldiers adrenaline addiction and apathy dichotomy in a most skillful way. Ultimately this a troubling anti-war message movie, which in the end left me troubled wondering what the heck are we doing sending our boys over there.

District 9 – While Avatar deservedly gets all the attention and kudos as THE alien movie for 2009, District 9 may actually be MORE creative. Unlike the lovable Na’vi, “the Prawns” are the most disgusting looking aliens I have ever seen – despite their love of cat food. The lead character is completely annoying – as is the whole film. It’s hard to watch in train wreck sort of way – you can’t take your eyes off it. There is also a transformation reminiscent of Alien that cranks up the disgust factor even more.  If you are not opposed to nightmarish visions – this film is a home run. Brilliant film making in every way. Were it not so nauseating to look at, I would recommend it.

Food Inc. – Not enough to worry about in your life? Then watch this disturbing wake up call to the food we eat. If understanding how cows, chickens, and pigs are slaughtered and how the food business has become a giant monopoly with no demonstrable interest for nutrition…this is the movie for you. It’s completely disturbing, and arguably the best documentary of the year. Another movie that makes you shrug your shoulder and say “oy!”

I feel I need to defend my choice of Taken as one of my favorites for 2009, especially when compared to these three superior films. The reason I put it on the list was because there was a real dearth of quality films when that was released last January, and that movie surprised me for its relentless action and the great star turn by Liam Neeson. Best of all, it had a satisfying conclusion – unlike the three movies above.

And one last thing. January is typically the dumping ground for lame movies – caveat emptor!