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The best of "best of" movie lists for 2009

Some people vow to lose weight and start exercising in the New Year. I resolve to whip my Netflix queue in shape, trimming out last year’s worthy crap and replacing it with this year’s best offerings, which I have 12 months to get through before they turn into last year’s worthy crap. Aiding me in this task are the nation’s critics, who dutifully spend all year watching movies and the last few weeks in December compiling “best of” lists. Many of these lists tend to look more or less the same, but some offer the occasional surprise. These critical taste quirks are the spice of list reading.

So here, in the spirit of 10 best lists, are the 10 best “10 best movie” lists of 2009. I must warn you that, as a parent of two small children who only rarely leaves the house to sit in the dark with cinematically minded strangers, I have seen very few of the movies on these lists. (Thus the great importance of proper Netflix queue maintenance.) Then again, given how many kid-friendly movies made it onto the lists this year, that excuse may be a bit flimsy. Too bad. It’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. On to the list of lists! Numbered, but in no particular order:

1) The Best Films of 2009 by Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) The veteran critic cleverly sidesteps a variety of reader complaints by compiling not one but two “10 best” lists: one comprised of “Mainstream Films,” the other of “Independent Films.” It’s the latter one that Ebert seems most excited about.

2) A.O. Scott’s Top Movies of 2009 (The New York Times) Bonus points for a varied mix and stretching the list to 19 movies. Demerits for the not-easy-to-scan slide-show format and the lack of new perspective-providing blurbs, though links to the original reviews are included.

3) Manohla Dargis’s Top Movies of 2009 (The New York Times) Same format complaints as above. Dargis selects a lucky 13, five of which also appear on her colleague Scott’s list. Still, she includes a few unexpected picks.

4) Best Movies: My favorites of the year and the decade by Dana Stevens (Slate) Stevens has mastered the art of the shame-faced intro, explaining how much she hates making these lists. She also adds on a list of 10 runners-up and the best films of the decade. More is better, from a Netflix queue-building point of view. You’ve probably already seen most of her decade’s best, but a few may have slipped through the cracks. Good time to catch up.

5) Stephanie Zacharek’s best movies of 2009 (Salon) My friend and former colleague and I don’t always have the same opinion about movies, though we very often do. Still, if she loves a movie, it’s undoubtedly worth seeing, I find. Lars von Trier, though? Must I, Stephanie?

6) Andrew O’Hehir’s best movies of 2009 (Salon) O’Hehir, also a pal and former colleague, specializes in indie film. He’s a wise man with eclectic taste and his advice has long guided my DVD rental selections. He rarely disappoints. (He also gives von Trier’s ANTICHRIST a nod, so I suppose resistance is futile.)

7) 2009: The Year in Review (The New Yorker) Sheesh! How many “best of” lists — of the year, of the decade — can one publication print? The New Yorker online features 28 of them — no less than five of them about film: The Best Films of 2009 by Anthony Lane; The Ten Best Films of 2009 and The Best Films of the Decade by David Denby; The Best Films of 2009 and The Best Films of the Decade, by Richard Brody. Wowza.

8) Top 10 Movies of 2009 by Richard Corliss (Time) Corliss’s list, which features THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, UP and FANTASTIC MR. FOX in the top three slots, is nothing if not family friendly. Come to think of it, so is his Best Movies of the Decade List (No. 1: WALL-E). Kid at heart, I guess.

9) Cinema’s Best of the Year by David Ansen (Newsweek) Ansen picks 12 narrative movies, 12 nonfiction films, 12 best actresses, 12 best actors, 12 best supporting actresses and 12 best supporting actors. Nice to see so much on-screen talent singled out.

10) Revealed Emotion and Stop-Motion: The Best Movies of 2009 by David Edelstein (New York) Edelstein chooses his top 10 (well, 11, really … FANTASTIC MR. FOX and CORALINE tie for No. 4), and then, on his blog, he chooses some more. Good for him.

And what’s good for him is good for the rest of us. Here are a few more choice lists, which easily could have been included above if I hadn’t already reached the magic number 10:

Best of 2009 – Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

Best movies of 2009 – Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times)

The Year in Film (The A.V. Club)

The best films of the ’00s (The A.V. Club)

The 19-plus worst films of 2009 (The A.V. Club)

The experts’ 20 best movies of 2009 by Daniela Dean (CNN)

The 50 Best Movies of 2009 (Inside Movies/Moviefone)

Box Office 2009: A Very Good Year (Time)

Best movies of 2009 by Geoff Berkshire (Metromix)

10 overlooked movies of 2009 by Geoff Berkshire (Metromix)

World’s Greatest Dad: And nine other great movies you didn’t see this year by Grady Hendrix (Slate)

And Slate’s nifty “interactive guide to all the ‘best movies of the decade’ lists”: The Aught-omatic