The top five films of 2009

1. The White Ribbon
Austrian auteur Michael Haneke’s examination of a village in pre-WWI Germany is a devastating masterpiece that stands as one of the best films of the decade. Haneke is known for his ability to explore the psychology of his characters, and he is up to the same tricks here, albeit in a different and subtler way. The White Ribbon contains a sense of horror unprecedented in cinema.

2. Extraordinary Stories

The first of two four-hour features on our top five, Extraordinary Stories is an awesome explosion of momentous narrative, exploring the nature of storytelling itself. At once both deconstructive and illustrative, it stands as one of the most impressive frenzied films, putting pop culture favourites, like Pulp Fiction, to shame.

3. Phantoms of Nabua

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's (nicknamed “Joe” in America, for obvious reasons) ten-minute short film is a portrait of home through a collision of lights and sounds. In short, the film documents several shadowy figures as they kick a burning soccer ball around, while a fluorescent light flickers in the background. Their game comes to an end once the flaming ball burns a screen canvas to the ground. In ten minutes “Joe” finds a way to extract an emotional reaction and relation from the viewer that many feature films can't match.

4. Love Exposure
The second four-hour film on our list is Japanese director Sion Sono's magnum opus on genitalia and religion. Basically, Sono takes Japanese stars with fame equivalent to Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus and casts them in his epic that infiltrates and destroys all popular notions of organized religion. Sono maintains a rare sense of humour throughout, and by the fourth hour, the reoccurring visual motif of the main character's boner becomes a serious dramatic device; no joke. Sono, often likened to Tarantino in his pop film-making style, beats Tarantino at his own game by showing his responsibility as a humanitarian and filmmaker in his thematic battle for upheaval against religious institutions.

5. Up
While not perfect, the latest Pixar classic is a true gem that continues an insane 14-year streak of quality that has been peaking since Ratatouille. Sincere and heartfelt, the story of an old widower trying to honour the memory of his wife by flying to South America in a house lifted by balloons is genuinely moving. The first 20 minutes or so, which beautifully summarize the protagonist’s life, are as good as anything in American animation.

//Adam Cook and Curt Walker

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