Where is my “Titanic”?
Where is my “Godfather” and “Rocky”?
Where is my “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Patton” and “The Sound of Music?”
It’s time for me to compile my list of the top 10 movies of 2009, and I don’t have a No. 1.
Seriously, I don’t have a No. 1. Even if I were to grade on a curve, I wouldn’t have a No. 1.
I don’t believe that any movie I’ve seen this year is worthy of a No. 1 ranking. I’ve got plenty of No. 2s, but no No. 1.
All of the films listed above were not only my No. 1s, but they walked off with the best picture Oscar. And each deserved the honor.
Hollywood isn’t turning out No. 1s anymore. If you don’t believe me, here are the last five best picture winners, working backward from last year: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “No Country for Old Men,” “The Departed,” “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
All fine films, to be sure, but give me a break. Can any of those films compare with “The Best Years of Our Lives”?
And don’t blame the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. They are often accused of being elitist film snobs who shun public favorites and vote for low-budget films that almost nobody in the real world saw.
I don’t think they have much to choose from each year. I know some of you will argue that there have been epic-type films in recent years that were ignored by the academy, but if you are honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit that your favorites probably were not Oscar-worthy.
This year is no exception. The frontrunners for the big Oscar are director Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” and Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War film “The Hurt Locker.”
I liked both movies, but I’d hardly put them in the same class with the great films of the past. Neither movie stayed with me longer than the ride home from the theater. Neither film haunted me for days after, or made me think about weighty issues.
Therefore, I am putting my foot down. I refuse to pick a No. 1 for 2009. I am going to pick only No. 2s, and that’s it.
I doubt that my protest will have any impact in Hollywood, but wouldn’t it be great if they made this announcement at the Oscars: “We’re sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but we are not awarding a best picture Oscar until Hollywood starts making epic movies again.”
Here are my picks for the second-best movies of the year. These films are, literally, second to none.
“Up in the Air” — This movie has received so much Oscar buzz for so long, one has to tip a collective hat to the studio’s marketing department. It’s thoroughly entertaining, but hardly a great movie. Still, I have no problem with Oscar talk for stars George Clooney and Anna Kendrick.
“The Hurt Locker” — A powerful film about military bomb defusers in Iraq that will blow you away (pun intended). But it lacks the epic quality that we look for in a Best Picture.
“Avatar” — You’ve seen this story many times before (think “Dances with the Blue Man Group”), but you’ve never seen anything like this. The state-of-the-art 3-D technology is so spectacular that it easily makes up for any lack of plot originality.
“Nine” — Frankly, I am not fond of movie musicals. I haven’t loved a movie musical since “West Side Story.” I hated “Chicago,” but director Rob Marshall has redeemed himself in my eyes with this lively adaptation of the Broadway hit.
“District 9” — One of the most interesting films of the year. On the surface, it appears to be a metaphor for South African apartheid, but it could be a finger-pointer for almost any civil or cultural conflict.
“(500) Days of Summer” — Fun, clever and a genuine surprise.
“Star Trek” — Just because Oscar voters are going to ignore it. This is a blow struck for populist films.
“Adventureland” — I liked this movie very much, but there is no way this belongs on a top 10 list. That gives you a general idea on the quality of this year’s “serious” films.
“Sunshine Cleaning” — A black comedy that is anything but a comedy. It says more about family, and the tenuous relationship between sisters, than any film this year.
“Zombieland” — For almost a month before this movie opened, people came up and asked me what I’ve liked lately, and the answer was always “Zombieland.” People would then say, “No, seriously.” I would have to convince them that I was being serious. Once it opened, people who saw it apologized for doubting me. Certainly not “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” but a lot of fun.