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KENNETH TURAN

Best Of 2009

December 20, 2009

In line with personal tradition, I'm going to mention more than 10 films in my Top 10 list, the better to spread the word about what should be seen. I'm even going to split my No. 1 pick between two films that have a lot in common even though they seem quite different:

Jane Campion's "Bright Star" and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." While "Bright Star" is an emotional love story and "The Hurt Locker" is an overwhelming, tense saga of men at war, the two share -- in addition to an increasingly rare female director -- impeccable filmmaking skills and a commitment to telling stories with the kind of artful ironclad restraint that gets maximum effect out of emotional material.

I'm putting the rest of my list in alphabetical order:

"An Education." Invariably funny and inexpressibly moving in the way it looks at a young girl's journey from innocence to experience. Other largely British adult dramas worthy of mention include the soccer-themed "The Damned United" and the Helen Mirren-Christopher Plummer Tolstoy tale, "The Last Station."

"Avatar." Say what you like about James Cameron -- and people have -- he's given us something spectacular to see in this 3-D extravaganza and attention must be paid.

Children of Sundance. The launching pad for "Amreeka," "Adventureland," "Big Fan" and the Oscar short-listed doc "Sergio" (not to mention "An Education"), last January's festival was the gift that kept on giving.

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus." As unusual as its title, this product of Terry Gilliam's fantastical visual imagination is the director's best film in years.

"Julie & Julia." A consummate entertainment that echoes the rhythms and attitudes of classic Hollywood.

Music and sports documentaries. This was a banner year for both subjects: in music, consider "Afghan Star," "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" and "Soul Power," while sports offered "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29," "More Than a Game" and "Tyson." And though it didn't fit in any category, "Unmistaken Child" took your breath away.

"Up." One of Pixar's very best, which is saying a lot. Other exceptional animated films included "Coraline," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Ponyo."

"Up in the Air." Blends entertainment and insight, comedy and poignancy, even drama and reality, and never seems to break a sweat.

Women overseas on the verge of nervous breakdowns. The list of spectacular female performances in foreign-language films is more than impressive, so here's to the stars of "Coco Before Chanel," "Everlasting Moments," "The Maid," "Moscow, Belgium," "Seraphine" and "A Woman in Berlin." In a word, wow.

kenneth.turan@latimes.com

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