After the Oscars, catch up on all the best movies of 2009 that you missed.
Where the Wild Things Are - Buy it
Spike Jonze's masterpiece feels like a Jonze movie (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) in that it blurs the line between reality and fiction. The beasts - created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop - have to be seen to be believed. Max Records stars as the rebellious young Max, backed by a phenomenal supporting cast including the voice talents of James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O supplies one of the best soundtracks of the year, freshly snubbed by the Academy.
Ponyo - Rent it unless you have kids, then Buy it
Hayao Miyazaki's animated world may initially look similar to the more-familiar Disney, but his stories usually reflect something very different. Almost all of his films revolve around imbalances in nature - think WALL-E without all the preaching - and, unlike most Disney movies, the bad guy is usually defeated by changing his mind, not destroying him. The English-language dubs of other Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) have been flawless, so expect nothing less from Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, and Betty White. The main characters are voiced by Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas.
Also released on March 2: 2012 (Rent it) and Gentlemen Broncos (Skip it)
Capitalism: A Love Story - Rent it
Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is a fantastic filmmaker and he's not going anywhere. This time, he goes after Wall Street and Americans' tax dollars. Appealing to the hurt caused by bank mismanagement, he gets you pretty good this time. It's a subject that any American could talk about at length. Over 80 minutes of bonus features mean that there's plenty to see even if you already spent money at the theater.
Up in the Air - Buy it
Jason Reitman (Juno) directs this timely, poignant character study that stars George Clooney as a professional axeman who jets around the sky with a lifetime goal of ten million air miles. And he certainly earns his Oscar nomination this time. Reitman features 22 people in the film who were actually laid off because of the economic downturn. You can tell that they aren't actors, but it doesn't make their performances any less moving.
Also released on March 9: Old Dogs (Skip it), Precious (Rent it), The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (If you know what this is, Rent it. The rest of us can Skip it)
The Princess and the Frog - Rent it
Out of the two, I would sooner recommend Ponyo for the kid set this month. But Disney's latest seems worth checking out, if only for the feel of a real hand-drawn film in a way that hasn't been produced recently by the company. With the voice talents of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, and Keith David.
Also released on March 16: Astro Boy (Skip it), The Fourth Kind (Skip it), Ninja Assassin (Skip it), Twilight: New Moon [3/20] (I'll just say that I'm not a fan)
The Men Who Stare at Goats - Rent it
George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey play "psychic soldiers" in this war comedy, also with Ewan McGregor. The movie is unbalanced, but when it's fun, it's a lot of fun. Those of you who have seen Avatar (and who hasn't?) will recognize Stephen Lang, who plays a... quite different type of role. The film walks a line of dark humor that not all would appreciate, especially any who place a great deal of confidence in our armed forces. You've been warned.
Fantastic Mr Fox - Rent it
Clooney is pulling triple duty this month, with all three of the movies that he made last year coming out over two weeks. Wes Anderson's first foray into animation is about what you'd expect from the auteur. He's got a style, and he doesn't care what everyone else is doing. If you've liked his movies in the past, you're sure to enjoy this. And despite the way the film looks, you might want to think twice about the kids - they probably won't find the movie very funny.
The Blind Side - Rent it
If only to see what made the Academy nominate Sandra "Speed" Bullock. No, but in all seriousness, I've heard good things, I guess.
Also released on March 23: Brothers (Rent it)
An Education - Buy it
A Oscar-nominated screenplay by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) is a great start, but add Best Picture and Best Actress nominations on top, and you've got a sure-fire winner. The ensemble cast with Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams and Carey Mulligan is top notch. If the Brits start spinning out films like this every year, we're going to have to really start to worry.
Sherlock Holmes - Rent it
This film surprised me - I was worried that Guy Ritchie's style may be cramped by what seemed to be his first big commercial outing, but I was pleasantly surprised. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are a perfect pair, even if the characters do not match the Holmes/Watson characters of yesteryear. It's an action movie and it's well-executed. See it if only to see one of the greatest imaginings of 1890's England in cinema.
Also released on March 30: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel (Skip it)
Story by Shawn Martin
Starpulse contributing writer