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Ten best films of 2009

Uncovering some gems in an uneven year at the movies.

(Page 2 of 4)

Apocalypses were big in 2009, and some of them, like the egregious “2012,” were vaguely satiric as well. (If the end of the world is nigh, so the thinking went, you might as well have some fun with it.) Others, like “The Road,” based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, were so dreary that you couldn’t wait for the world to end. (Only in an era such as ours could McCarthy’s novel have been considered good movie material.) James Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi lollapalooza, “Avatar,” posits a future where earthlings have transferred their imperialist ways into outer space. The only good humans are those who renounce their human form and go native – go avatar.

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Not many Hollywood movies thus far have dealt explicitly with recession woes, probably because, in Hollywood, downgrading usually means going without Gucci. (“Confessions of a Shopaholic” – what were they thinking?) Still, there was the notable – noble – example of “Up in the Air,” where George Clooney plays a “career transition consultant” whose job is to fly around the country firing people on behalf of cowardly bosses. Actual laid-off workers were used in several sequences, and, rather than seeming exploitative, this ploy hits home with a sorrowing force. Audiences who went to this movie expecting a breezy George Clooney comedy were only half right. Some of that breeze is as chilly as an Arctic head wind.

The depredations of the economy were more likely to turn up in documentaries than in dramatic films. Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “The Yes Men Fix the World,” “Food, Inc.,” and “The End of Poverty?” were essentially the cinematic equivalent of soapbox screeds.