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MOVIES: The Best (and worst) of 2009

Meryl Streep starred in "Julie & Julia," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "It's Complicated" in 2009

Meryl Streep starred in "Julie & Julia," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "It's Complicated" in 2009

Though not nearly as memorable as 2007 or 2008, the movies of 2009 bested most of what came earlier in the decade and delivered a handful of instant classics.

Like last year, the typical high-quality, late fall Oscar hopefuls were in short supply which should prove to be interesting when the upcoming Oscar nominations are announced. This will be the first year since the mid-1940s when 10 titles will be nominated for Best Picture, a move by the events' organizers to boost the broadcasts' continually sagging ratings.

What certainly wasn't sagging was the take at the box office. The receipts for last week's Christmas holiday weekend broke a record and pushed the annual total to over $10 billion for the first time ever. In the middle of a recession, movies -- despite inflated ticket prices, overpriced concessions and people talking on cell phones -- still provide one of the best entertainment values.

It's time now for my annual year-end list of standouts and industry embarrassments. Some choices are obvious, some hopefully are not. Thanks for reading and have yourself a safe and happy 2010.

Best Lead Actress:

1. Carey Mulligan in "An Education"

2. Melanie Laurent in "Inglourious Basterds"

3. Yolande Moreau in "Seraphine"

Best Lead Actor:

1. Tom Hardy in "Bronson"

2. Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker"

3. George Clooney in "Up in the Air"

Best Supporting Actress:

1. Rachel Weisz in "The Brothers Bloom"

2. Marion Cottilard in "Nine"

3. Natalie Keener in "Up in the Air"

Best Supporting Actor:

1. Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"

2. Christian McKay in "Me and Orson Welles"

3. Alfred Molina in "An Education"

Best Director:

1. Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker"

2. Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds"

3. Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air"

Best Foreign Language Film:

1. "Seraphine"

2. "Summer Hours"

3. "Departures"

Best Documentary:

1. "Food, Inc."

2. "It Might Get Loud"

3. "Anvil: The Story of Anvil"

Best Original Screenplay:

1. Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds"

2. Bobcat Goldthwaite for "World's Greatest Dad"

3. Mark Boal for "The Hurt Locker"

Best Adapted Screenplay:

1. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach for "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

2. Nick Hornby for "An Education"

3. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for "Up in the Air"

Best Animated Film:

1. "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

2. "Up"

3. "Ponyo"

Best (or worst) of the rest:

* Absolute proof women over 50 are still very sexy: Michelle Pfeiffer in "Cheri"

* Best Billy Bob Thornton in "Sling Blade" imitation: Brad Pitt in "Inglourious Basterds"

* Best cinematography: "A Single Man"

* Best date movie (clean): "He's Just Not That into You"

* Best date movie (risque): "New York, I Love You"

* Best date movie for AARP members: "It's Complicated"

* Best ensemble cast: "Nine" (live-action) and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (animated)

* Best film with a no-name cast: "A Serious Man"

* Best guilty pleasure: "Jennifer's Body"

* Best movie (almost) no one saw: "An Education"

* Best movie that will ever be made about the current U.S. wars: "The Hurt Locker"

* Best movie shot in Atlanta: "Zombieland"

* Best non-romantic romantic comedy: "(500) Days of Summer"

* Best performance by a pop singer: Mariah Carey in "Precious"

* Best performance in an only average film: Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart

* Best performance by a non-human: The tiger in "The Hangover"

* Best pinch-hitter: Colin Farrell in "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

* Best reboot: "Star Trek"

* Best remake: "Last House on the Left"

* Best scenery chewing: Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"

* Best soundtrack: "Pirate Radio"

* Best special effects: "Avatar"

* Best sports-themed movie: "The Damned United"

* Best Stanley Kubrick rip-off: "Moon"

* Best stoner scene: Meryl Streep and Steve Martin in "It's Complicated"

* Best stylistic throwback: "A Serious Man"

* Best vamp: Amy Landecker in "A Serious Man"

* Best villain (female): Mo'Nique in "Precious"

* Best villain (male): Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"

* Biggest disappointment: "Sherlock Holmes"

* Biggest flop: "Amelia"

* Both creepy and unfunny: "All about Steve"

* Likely winner of every possible sound, visual and technical Oscar: "Avatar"

* Look out Dakota Fanning: Carey Mulligan in "An Education"

* Most accurate portrayal of the South: "That Evening Sun"

* Most clunky title: "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"

* Most depressing: "The Road"

* Most egregious grave-robbing: "Michael Jackson: This Is It"

* Most innovative method of masking profanity: "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

* Most likely to be the subject of a 2010 movie: Sarah Palin

* Most memorable line: "We got one mission -- killin' Nazis," Brad Pitt in "Inglourious Basterds"

* Most original concept for a documentary: "Good Hair"

* Most overrated: "Precious"

* Most overused technology: 3-D

* Most popular number in titles: 9 -- "9," "Nine," "District 9" and "$9.99"

* Most pretentious title: "Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire"

* Most realistic mob movie ever: "Gomorrah"

* Most underrated: "It's Complicated"

* Please get your facts straight: Michael Moore for "Capitalism: A Love Story"

* Proof Robert Pattison ("Twilight," "New Moon") can actually act: "Little Ashes"

* Proof that genius has an expiration date: Harold Ramis for "The Year One"

* The Little Engine That Could: "The Blind Side"

* V.I.P. (female): Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "It's Complicated"

* V.I.P. (male): George Clooney in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Up in the Air." Not so much for "Men Who Stare at Goats"

* What were they thinking: "Where the Wild Things Are"

* Worst "Blair Witch" rip-off: "The Fourth Kind"

* Worst bait-and-switch: "Funny People"

* Worst continuing trend: Overlong running times

* Worst date movie: "Couples Retreat"

* Worst family film: "Old Dogs"

* Worst movie of the year: "Year One"

* Worst sequel: "Transformers 2"

* Worst waste of an ensemble cast: "Shrink"

* Worst waste of two previously talented actors: John Travolta and Robin Williams in "Old Dogs"

* Your 15 minutes are officially over, now please go away: Will Ferrell in "Land of the Lost"

Top 10 favorite 2009

live-action films:

1. Up in the Air

2. An Education

3. The Hurt Locker

4. Moon

5. Star Trek

6. Inglourious Basterds

7. District 9

8. Little Ashes

9. The Hangover

10. A Serious Man