With the Oscars just days away, The Zeitgeist weighs in on his 10 Best Pictures of 2009. Guess what? It doesn’t even include half the Oscars’ snooty list

(500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer is a romantic film made for the Youtube generation, kinda like what Grease or When Harry Met Sally did for Mom and Pop. From the montages, split screens, musical numbers, cool soundtrack to the starry-eyed cast, (500) possesses a goofball quirk and charm unlike any other romantic shows. Besides the fluff and puff, (500) stands out for its real and honest take on love: it’s not as idealistic or easy as it seems.

A definite fixture on everyone’s list and we know why – spectacular effects, layered narrative and the creation of a new world filled with fantasies, impossibilities and wonder. Avatar offers the audience a sensational cinematic experience and a mesmerising visual fest in 3D no less! Movies are meant to be escapist and Avatar had us believe Pandora can be a reality, at least for those three hours. It’s entertainment at its purest and magical best.

The Cove
After watching The Cove, one should feel upset and sad at the same time. That was how I felt – fighting back tears and raising my fists halfway through the movie. And this is how documentaries should be made – filmed with a cause, passion and bravery. In fact, The Cove is an unconventional documentary that feels like watching a thriller, as it exposes the inhumane dolphin trade in Japan and…shame on those Japanese fishermen! I’m still trembling with anger as I type this.

District 9
What a mind-boggling movie! District 9 is a sci-fi classic in the making. We’re talking about a movie layered with deeper understandings on partheid, military porn, invasion of privacy, distortion of reality and perception, aliens as humans, humans as aliens and many other wildest possibilities that gotten us (or at least the geeks) seriously thinking and excited.

The Hangover
If there were ever a party like the one Bradley Cooper et al had in The Hangover, I want to be there. Let’s recap: A tiger in the bathroom, runaway stripper bride, baby in the closet, a missing tooth, playing (or was it counting?) cards, driving a police car, cash stashed in the satchel and all of them don’t even make sense! The movie was so full of laugh out loud moments, which were enough to warrant a mention on the list. Cheers (pun intended) to that!

The Hurt Locker
The seconds leading up to the explosion (or not) is so suspenseful audiences are sitting on the edge of their seats. The Hurt Locker is intense and nerve wrecking, as skilfully and emotionally crafted by Kathryn Bigelow. Besides the thrills, the war movie is also a psychodrama revealing how the soldiers are affected by the traumas of war, fighting the unseen enemies, dealing with death daily and feeding on the war like a drug. Will the craziness ever end?

Paranormal Activity
I’m not a fan of horror films, especially the slash and gore kind or worse, torture porn. Paranormal Activity isn’t like that. It’s a clever horror flick that scares you with absolutely nothing – the silences, the slight sounds in the house, the anticipation. Its comparison to Blair Witch Project is heartening because we know we would still be talking about classics like these many years from now. That’s horror for you. By the way, sleep tight.

There was this fear of falling for the maudlin trap but Clint Eastwood rises above the challenge and made Invictus truly beautiful, moving and inspiring. It could have been your predictable sports movie fare but with history, politics, emotions and especially the nuances and gravitas portrayed by Morgan Freeman, the movie becomes a graceful epic. It has heart.

To some, it may seem like a puzzling choice but it was sure fun watching Liam Neeson does a Jack Bauer and fights villain after villain to rescue his kidnapped daughter. So what if the script and characters seem somewhat one-dimensional? Let the fists and bullets fly. Fun times.

Up in the Air
This is filmmaking at its best from its inventive screenplay, perfect casting with the perfect chemistry, smooth direction to a layered narrative that intertwines issues and resonates with stories closer to home: retrenchment, unemployment, ambitions and coping with a brave new world. There’s even romance for good measure. You should hate George Clooney for carrying that cocky swagger while firing folks like us but by the end of the movie, you have fallen for his charm and most humane spirit. This is a movie of our times, of the moment and never once a flightless entertainment. It soars and lands with wit, grace and style.