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Originally published December 26, 2009 at 6:49 PM | Page modified December 28, 2009 at 10:11 AM

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Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald names 10 favorites of 2009

Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald's 10-best films list of 2009 includes "(500) Days of Summer," "Star Trek," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "An Education," "Up" and more.

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Putting together a top 10 list is like looking over a vacation scrapbook: Some titles, like some photos in a long array, elicit smiles and happy memories; others a quick dismissal, as if they exude a vaguely noxious odor.

And, like a scrapbook, it's a very personal thing. It's not about what was most popular (though a few titles on my list were big hits), or what was most praised by others, but what most resonated for me as a moviegoer.

What experiences remained, months after viewing them, imprinted on my memory? What titles, if I read them years from now, would immediately bring back vivid pictures? What movies were hard to shake as I left the theater, living with me for some time afterward?

These 10 movies were my favorites of 2009. I've listed them alphabetically, rather than rank any of these very different films above or below any other. All thrilled me, in many different ways. I hope each of you saw 10 films this year that are marked on your memory, the way these are for me.

"(500) Days of Summer." It wasn't a great year for romantic comedies, but this sparklingly written backward-and-forward charmer gave me hope for the genre; no small feat. And was there a happier moment in film this year than Joseph Gordon-Levitt leading a giddy morning-after dance to "You Make My Dreams Come True"?

"Bright Star." Poetry in motion, on screen. Jane Campion brought us the year's most moving love story, set nearly two centuries ago and filmed with a Keatsian eye toward finding beauty in every moment.

"An Education." Lone Scherfig's coming-of-age-in-the-'60s-London tale, perfectly scripted by novelist Nick Hornby, was a showcase for its marvelous cast — and a debutante ball for new star Carey Mulligan, who brilliantly captured the mercurial, flickering presence of a teenage girl on the verge of adulthood.

"Everlasting Moments." This exquisitely filmed Swedish drama from Jan Troell, briefly in theaters last spring, spun a tale of how photography transformed the life of an unhappy woman a century ago — and how photography, at its heart, has a magical quality. A unique and haunting film.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox." Wes Anderson's stop-motion-animation adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is fresh, creative and gloriously unexpected in every frame. And didn't we all know, somehow, that George Clooney would make a perfect fox?

"La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet." More poetry in motion. Listen carefully to veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman's beautiful film, a careful collage of vignettes from on and offstage at a great ballet company, and you'll hear a moving tribute to lives spent in the pursuit of art, however fleeting.

"A Single Man." It's easy to underrate the ever-restrained British actor Colin Firth. Underrate no more. His portrayal of quiet heartbreak in this film, directed with imagination and calm by fashion designer Tom Ford, made it one of the most moving film events of the year.

"Star Trek." True confession No. 1: I am not, by any means, a Trekkie (or Trekker, if you prefer). True confession No. 2: I watched this movie three times in theaters — once more than I saw any other movie this year — and loved every minute. (And now know a lot of Star Trek trivia.) J.J. Abrams' whooshing prequel was a terrific, witty thrill ride.

"Treeless Mountain." A simple, universal story, beautifully told: Two little girls, ages 6 and 4, travel to stay with an aunt while their mother is away. South Korean filmmaker So Yong Kim captures the girls' often wistful journey with heartbreaking realism, finally bringing them to a place where they, and we, can smile again.

"Up." The latest masterpiece from the wizards at Pixar reminded us, once again, that there's no place like home.

A splendid second 10 (any of which could, on another day, have made it into the first list): "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," "Coraline," "Duplicity," "Five Minutes of Heaven," "The Hurt Locker," "In the Loop," "Ponyo," "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' By Sapphire," "Sugar," "Up in the Air."

Best 2009 movie that won't open here until 2010: "Crazy Heart"

Ten perfectly dreadful movies I never want to think about again (way too many of which are romantic comedies): "All About Steve," "Bride Wars," "Confessions of a Shopaholic," "Did You Hear About the Morgans?," "The Girlfriend Experience," "Management," "My Life in Ruins," "Taken," "The Ugly Truth," "The Uninvited."

And I'll close the year, as always, with a wish that the new year will bring all of us joy, wisdom and laughter — at the movies, and elsewhere.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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