A Half-Year in Review: Film

We Look Back on the First Half of the Year 2009 By Presenting Five of the Best Film and Music Releases in the US So Far. Did We Miss Something? Disagree? Send Your Picks to [email protected]

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Coraline

Imaginative and titillatingly gothic, "Coraline" is a triumph of stop-motion animation. Director Henry Selick elevates Neil Gaiman's fantasy novella into a rare phenomenon: a homage to Lewis Carroll that's creepy, charming and heartfelt enough to dazzle audiences of all ages.

Goodbye Solo

Ramin Bahrani establishes himself as one of the great American independent filmmakers with this affecting study of two men and the friendship that develops as they journey toward an uneasy destination. Juxtaposing one man's silent desperation with the other's buoyant humanism, Bahrani's portrait of the American Dream is equal parts fleeting and regenerative.

The Hurt Locker

"The Hurt Locker" is the finest war film in years, a visceral portrait of a three-man US Army bomb squad stationed in Baghdad. By shutting out politics and conjuring humanity out of chaos, Kathryn Bigelow creates a miracle of a movie: tense and methodical, honest and contemplative, remarkably executed at every turn.

Three Monkeys

A family of three begins to erode when small failures turn into monumental lies and silences become acknowledgments of infidelity. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan won Best Director at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for his effort, and deservedly so; throughout the film, he captures the cyclical nature of sin in hypnotic, unsettling fashion.

Tokyo Sonata

Parting the veil on a Japanese household teetering on the verge of collapse, "Tokyo Sonata" may be director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's most conventional work-if conventional is the right word for a film that explores the contemporary family dynamic with such brooding fortitude. By evoking the waking nightmares of repressed souls, it brims with a terror of its own accord.

Tags: BEST OF 2009






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