The Best Films You Might Have Missed in 2009

It’s an exciting time for film critics and the geeks who love ’em: AFI, the Boston Film Critics, and Los Angeles Film Critics have already named their top picks of the year, and the New York Film Critics will make their announcement later today. (If you’re having trouble keeping tabs on it all, may we suggest this helpful chart over at Movie City News.)

In the spirit of the moment (and to give you something besides The Hurt Locker to add to your rental queue), we’ve decided to celebrate a handful of indies and foreign imports that you might have missed the first time around. Check them out, and leave any additions to our list in the comments.

1. 35 Shots of Rum

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Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum is set in the outskirts of Paris and inhabited by characters whose resumes are intentionally hidden. Her film’s emotional peaks are felt rather than understood, and this creates a series of rare cinematic moments which are more akin to music, or a painting; the feeling generated by them is less of a manipulation by the artist than a personal reaction by the viewer. Read more>>
Watch the trailer:

2. Hunger

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The many accolades for British artist Steve McQueen and his elliptic debut Hunger line up like happy-to-harp witnesses to a history lesson: The Camera d’Or (or Best First Feature) at Cannes; a Golden Hugo Award here, a BAFTA there; and, for just one more round of applause, Best Picture of 2008 according to go-to film glossy Sight and Sound. Read more>>
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3. A Serious Man

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The latest entry from the Coen brothers is a little Lebowski, a bit of Barton Fink, and a lot of No Country. Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a hapless Midwestern physics prof, trying to find reason, rhyme, and wisdom in the unraveling of his life, his religion no longer holding the comfort it once did. Read more>>
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4. Still Walking

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Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life imagined a hereafter in which the dearly departed face a profound order: single out a favorite memory to retain for eternity, with the rest left to the ether. Memory is one of the acclaimed Japanese director’s obsessions, along with loss and what happens to those left in that wake. Whether Maborosi’s disconcerted widow or the young brood abandoned in a Tokyo apartment by their mother in Nobody Knows, Kore-eda’s characters are vulnerable but never exploited. Read more>>
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5. Tetro

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Besides the obvious directorial draw — it is Francis Ford Coppola’s first original screenplay in 30 years — newcomer Alden Ehrenreich’s spectacular portrayal of the optimistically angsty Bennie revitalizes the traditional coming-of-age story and provides enough reason alone to see the film. Read more>>
Watch the trailer: