Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Movies we Watched in 2009

As I've mentioned (probably to point you are sick of reading about it) we watch movies while we work out on our indoor trainers in the Pain Cave (otherwise known as the basement).

It is the time of year for Top 10 Lists, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. These are listed in the order we saw them, not in a ranking order.

All 10 get top marks from us – they engaged us, made us think, entertained or inspired us – as films are meant to do.

Young at Heart []

The current performers in Young@Heart range in age from 73 to 89. There are some with prior professional theater or music experience, others who have performed extensively on the amateur level, and some who never stepped onto a stage before turning eighty.

The movie concentrates on the rigorous two-month preparations for a 2006 concert at the Academy Theater in Northampton. Rehearsals (there are three a week) are quite demanding; the challenge only makes it more exciting.

The Long Green Line, “a film about running, teamwork and life.”

The Boys Cross Country team at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois is the most winning high school team in any sport in the entire United States, a feat accomplished in no small part by the caring mentorship of Joe Newton, who has been coaching that team for half a decade. In a sport where only the top five athletes per team score points and only even are included in the competition, a staggering 214 boys have joined the York team simply to be in the presence of such an iconic and inspirational leader.

Taking Chance 

In April 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC, came across the name of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a young Marine who had been killed by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran with 17 years of military service, requested that he be assigned for military escort duty to accompany Chance's remains to his family in Dubois, Wyo. Witnessing the spontaneous outpouring of support and respect for the fallen Marine - from the groundskeepers he passed along the road to the cargo handlers at the airport - Strobl was moved to capture the experience in his personal journal.

'Taking Chance' chronicles one of the silent, virtually unseen journeys that takes place every day across the country, bearing witness to the fallen and all those who, literally and figuratively, carry them home. A uniquely non-political film about the war in Iraq, the film pays tribute to all of the men and women who have given their lives in military service as well as their families.

King Corn[]
Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn. In KING CORN, recent college graduates Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis leave the east coast for rural Iowa, where they decide to grow an acre of the nation’s most powerful crop.

But where will all that corn go? With their crop growing head-high, Ian and Curt leave the farm to see where America’s abundance of corn ends up. As they enter America’s industrial kitchen, they are forced to confront the realities of their crop’s - and our nation's - future.

Running on the Sun

"Running on the Sun" is a documentary dealing with the Badwater 135 Ultra-marathon. While an ultra-marathon is defined as any race with a distance longer than a marathon (26.2 miles), Badwater is a grueling 135 mile race beginning in Death Valley (Badwater, California, elevation 282 feet below sea level) and ascending to 8000 feet by the race's end which includes an 18 mile stretch where the elevation rises over 5000 feet. With temperatures reaching 125 degrees in the middle of the day, the Badwater 135 is perhaps the nastiest race in the world.

There is something in "Running on the Sun" to recommend the movie to anyone. Runners will see something that is probably beyond their dreams or even desire, but they will surely appreciate the effort. Other endurance athletes can also appreciate what the competitors of Badwater are attempting. Those who are simply curious will see a film about perseverance and accomplishment through adversity.

Gran Torino 

Gran Torino packs an emotional punch. You’ll laugh in spite of yourself and you’ll cringe from time to time, but it’ll make you think.


The film follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker as he crisscrosses the country explaining America's unsustainable fiscal policies to its citizens.

If you are looking for a better understanding about our national economic crisis, you won't find a more sobering nonpartisan look at it than in the PBS documentary, "I.O.U.S.A."

UltraMarathon Man: 50 Marathons – 50 States – 50 Days

This documentary chronicles celebrated endurance athlete and best-selling author Dean Karnazes's seemingly impossible quest to run 50 marathons in 50 different states in a remarkable 50 straight days. Striving to raise awareness about the childhood obesity epidemic that has swept across America, Karnazes's display of determination touches the hearts people everywhere he goes.

10 Items or Less: Sometimes in Life You Have to Change Lanes.

A well-known actor, who hasn't accepted a role in four years, is considering a project. The cousin of the director drives him to Archie's Ranch Market, in Carson, and drops him off to do a little research. He's fascinated by one of the checkers, Scarlet, a young woman from Spain. She hates her job, stuck at the 10 items or less lane. The actor chats her up, and when her shift ends, he asks for a ride. In the course of the afternoon, he helps her prepare for a job interview. She needs to have confidence, he needs to commit. Human contact, however brief, can change people.


Created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Firefly is an "outer-space Western" set some four to five centuries in the future. Nathan Fillion starred as Captain Mal Reynolds, a disillusioned interplanetary-war veteran and outlaw of the Alliance, the current ruling government. Reynolds was skipper of the transport ship Serenity, a "Firefly-class" vessel. 

We really enjoyed this series and the follow-up film, Serenity. Great dialog, likeable characters, a little action, a little romance. . . why can't a show like this find an audience? More to the point, why does a show like Two and a Half Men stay on the air for season after season when a gem like this can't make it past 12 episodes?

There you have it. The 10 best films we saw in 2009. Do you have any suggestions for our NetFlix queue?

1 comment:

  1. I would put the long green mile and serenity/firefly at the top of that list!
    Lv, PK