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Chris Garcia's Top 10 movies of 2009

From an instant war classic to dancing animated foxes, it was an eclectic year at the cineplex

Chris Garcia

1. 'The Hurt Locker.' So taut it's almost minimalistic, Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama gets everything right. Kablooey happens, but that's background noise. The film, shot with stark, startling realism, burrows into soldiers' psyches in ways we haven't seen before. A new kind of war demands a new kind of telling. This is it.

2. 'Goodbye Solo.' Ramin Bahrani's sad but defiantly affirmative indie drama is a textured study in compassion and the zest for life. Its mile-wide soul is infectious.

3. 'Up in the Air.' A model of classical Hollywood craft, with all the pieces — acting, storytelling, tone, look, sound — falling together with effortless precision.

4. 'Moon.' A man on the moon (Sam Rockwell) wrestles with identity, his corporate bosses and, in the strangest way, himself in director Duncan Jones' witty and transporting debut.

5. 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil.' Heavy metal, a sound of rage and release, isn't known for its emotional range. But this documentary about jowly '80s metal band Anvil staging an impossible comeback is as affecting as the best "Rocky" tales. It's one of the great soul-baring portraits of a band in crisis, up there with 2004's "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster."

6. 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.' One of our most organically loony filmmakers, Werner Herzog, tackles a generic American crime story and makes it hypnotic and new and crackpot funny. Nicolas Cage is downright possessed, and those reptilian cameos graze the psychedelic.

7. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox.' Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated throwback plinks just the right notes of whimsy. A wry, even worldly, fable that finds uninhibited joy without cloying.

8. 'Bright Star.' What could have been an effete costume melodrama — about the doomed romance between 19th-century poet John Keats and seamstress Fanny Brawne — is, in Jane Campion's artful hands, the most heartbreaking film of the year.

9. 'Funny People.' It's funny, it's sad, it's a mess. But Judd Apatow's valentine to the art of stand-up comedy — and to life — rings true in so many satisfying ways that you leave full and happy.

10. 'Crank 2: High Voltage.' Stupid, obnoxious, indefensible. An orgy of psychotic movie love bordering on the avant-garde.

Fifteen more movies I liked (in no order): "Summer Hours," "Harmony and Me," "Ballast," "Me and Orson Welles," "Star Trek," "A Town Called Panic," "District 9," "Coraline," "The Messenger," "Precious," "Zombieland," "Sin Nombre," "Seraphine," "Where the Wild Things Are," "The Cove"