Barack Obama had just been sworn in as President, the Great Recession was in full swing, and swine flu was a thing. It seems like yesterday, and it also seems like a million years ago. It was 2009, one short (and also long) decade in the past.
The highest-grossing film of the year was James Cameron’s Avatar, which also just happens to be the highest-grossing film in the history of film. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs were also having a good year.
There was reason to be sad; jobs were scarce and people were hurting. There was reason to be hopeful; a new President promised to not only fix those problems, but as the first African-American President in history, it seemed for a moment as if we were making real progress as a nation. In short, there was reason to go to the movies, both to escape and also to get in touch with that sense of optimism and hope.
For our inaugural season of The Rewind Project, we chose six films celebrating their tenth anniversary that captured where we were in 2009. Some are, quite frankly, better films than others – but they all, to some degree, speak to the time in which they were created.
If you’d like to view the films before listening to the shows, here they are. Happy viewing, and mark your calendars for April 26, when The Rewind Project officially launches!
Up in the Air probably captures the zeitgeist of 2009 more than any other film on our list. George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a corporate road warrior who criss-crosses the country, firing people from their jobs. Along the way, he encounters Alex (a luminous Vera Farmiga) and is joined for a time by Natalie (Anna Kendrick), an ambitious young professional. Ryan’s philosophy of detachment is challenged by these two women, and he wonders if it’s time to finally connect with the people in his life. Clooney, Farmiga, and Kendrick all received Oscar nominations, and the film was nominated for Best Picture. Up in the Air is available on Showtime and TUBI TV.
Watchmen is a superhero ensemble movie that predates our current Golden Age of superheroes at the movies. It’s a Zack Snyder film, so it’s predictably dark – but so is its source material, Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, depicting an alternate 1980’s, overrun with urban blight, hopelessness, and the third term of Richard Nixon. Malin Ackerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffery Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson star as our not-so-merry band of heroes. A new take on Watchmen is being produced by HBO for a 2019 release. The 2009 version of Watchmen is currently available on Netflix.
2012 was the endpoint of an ancient Mayan calendar, and in the late aughts, people started to wonder if the world would end in that year, because apparently they missed all of the paranoia that surrounded Y2K. So, Roland Emmerich made a movie about it, starring John Cusack as a struggling writer, Amanda Peet as his ex-wife, Thandie Newton as the President’s daughter, and Woody Harrelson as the conspiracy-loving kook who saw the whole apocalypse coming. Lots of special effects and narrow escapes make the end of the world almost entertaining (“almost” is a key word here). 2012 is available to rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Sherlock Holmes is an action-filled blood-pumper. No, seriously. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, there’s just as much brawn as there is brain as the duo solves the mystery of a cult leader who is hanged and then comes back to life. If you’ve longed to see Sherlock Holmes in a shirtless cage match – and who hasn’t, really? – this is the version for you. A sequel was released shortly after, and a third installment will be released in 2020. Sherlock Holmes is available for rent on YouTube and Google Play.
The Blind Side is the story about a wealthy Tennessee woman who meets a poor black boy on the street, takes him in, formally adopts him, pays for his tutoring, bullies his teachers into giving him better grades so that he can qualify for a football scholarship, and would do a much better job coaching the football team at the nearby elite private school, if only she had the time. Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Lee Ann Touhy, and the film was nominated for Best Picture. The Blind Side is available for rent on YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play.
Finally,Up is a Disney-Pixar film that is unlike any other animated movie you’ve ever seen, mostly in that it tells the story of a senior citizen and his quest to find meaning in his life after the death of his beloved wife. If that sounds depressing, there are also talking dogs, an irasciable scout, a tropical bird who loves chocolate bars, and a house that floats with the help of a few thousand balloons all the way to South America. It’s a fantasy with real human emotion at its center, and if you don’t cry in the first ten minutes of the film, you have no soul. Featuring the voice talents of Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer, Up was nominated for Best Picture and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Up is available for rent on iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Later this year, we’ll be discussing the films of 1994, 1969, and 1944. There were some great films made in those years, and we’re excited to talk about them.
By the time the April 26 launch rolls around, we will be available for you wherever you listen to podcasts. Until then, please follow us on Twitter, or like our Facebook page. Information about the launch will be disseminated there, and you won’t miss a thing.