We're in a recession, but the movie business has never been better. Not every film has been a hit, but, for the most part, people kept the movie theaters every weekend ringing in good sales.
As usual, the majority of the successes and number one films were remakes, reboots, or recycled garbage.
But, going with the theme that what's old is new again, 3-D movies have made a comeback. Discarded back in the 70s, the influx of digital projectors has given a way for movie studios to bring back the overrated gimmick.
I must say, however, that the first half of 2009 was a whole lot better than the first half of 2008. As before, the best, namely most of my favorites, were the independent or arthouse films.
Regardless, the movies on this list are superb, powerful, and entertaining. Here are the best movies of 2009... so far:
THE HURT LOCKER - Without question, this is the best film done about the current war in Iraq. With the nation of Iraq finally taking its military sovereignty, people can look at it with some kind of perspective. The film centers on a military bomb squad with a cast of young actors who give strong and stark performances in this tense drama.
AMERICAN VIOLET - Racism within the criminal justice system is exposed via the true life case of a Texas woman falsely arrested and charged with drug trafficking. I would rank this up there with such classic court room and social issue movies as To Kill a Mockingbird or Erin Brockovich.
TWO LOVERS - Joaquin Phoenix reportedly gives his last performance as a movie actor and yet proves why he's a two-time Oscar nominee. His portrayal of a depressed, New York man who has to choose between two polar opposite women is nothing short of brilliant.
SIN NOMBRE - A young Honduran girl trying to immigrate to America gets caught in the middle of a MS-13, gang dispute in Mexico. Director Cary Fukunaga captures the harshness and desperation and at the same time a bittersweet love on the run story.
MOON - David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, specifically wrote this film for Sam Rockwell, an amazing and underappreciated movie actor. A lone astronaut starts to lose his mind following an accident on Earth's moon in this Twilight Zone-ish, sci-fi thriller.
MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY - This most recent, Mumblecore movie centers on an African-American couple in San Francisco who spend the day together following a one-night-stand.
THE INTERNATIONAL - This slick adventure about an Interpol agent who investigates the shady dealings of a large bank, possibly responsible for murder, features the best shoot-out scene I've seen staged outside a Michael Mann movie. The Guggenheim museum scene is one to watch.
I LOVE YOU, MAN - This year's best comedy, in part because of the great performance of Paul Rudd, is about a groom in need of groomsmen, as well as his inability to form male friendships. It's an excellent step forward in the recent wave of romance films.
HUNGER - If you thought the treatment of the Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib was bad, you haven't seen how Irish terrorists were treated in Britain's Maze Prison. Black, British filmmaker Steve McQueen grants us a harrowing look inside the jail's walls, and, actor Michael Fassbender delivers a startling performance as one of the prisoners.
SUGAR - Baseball may be America's past-time, but, for young men in the Dominican Republic, it's their only hope. So many, however, come here and get so close only to fade away. The American Dream is the bait that lands a lot of Dominicans either in the fryer or out to flop. This is a poignant and touching story that seeks to depict a sliver of that.
SITA SINGS THE BLUES
PONYO ON THE CLIFF
PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI
WHATEVER WORKS - Woody Allen returns to New York with a quintessential comedy, which is probably the funniest he's done this decade. Many actors have tried to play Allen but I don't think Allen has found a kindred spirit better than Larry David. Playing off themes he knows well, old man-younger woman, Allen does well here.
TETRO - Francis Ford Coppola directs his first film based on an original screenplay he himself wrote in about 30 years. Coppola directed an artistic film a couple of years ago that did not do well, but, in terms of artistic directors who do films personally and passionately, there is no other shining example better than Coppola.