A "few" runners-up. So many memorable scenes, any of which could easily have made it to my top 10:
-Avatar: First becoming Na'avi/Riding the creatures
-Bright Star: Butterflies in the room/Fanny in the field
-Broken Embraces: Caressing the movie screen
-Coraline: Coraline's visit to the circus at her neighbor's house.
-Crazy Heart: Really all of the performance scenes
-District 9: Ending
-The Hurt Locker: Suicide bomber/Bomb in the Car/Standoff in the desert
-Inglorious Basterds: "Wait for the Creme"/Movie Theater with Shoshanna's face
-Moon: Watching the ship travel away
-Precious: Coming home with the baby
-A Serious Man: Meeting Cy Ableman/Talking with the young Rabbi/Ending
-Up in the Air: When Ryan Bingham makes a key discovery....
-The White Ribbon: Bringing the bird to his father
And my Top 10:
10. Where the Wild Things Are- "Snowball Fight" : The opening of this film had perhaps the purest evocation of childhood fear and sadness I've seen. This (and the opening real-life scenes) are so good, that it is almost a let-down when Max gets to the monsters.
9. An Education- "Talking with the Headmistress": A master acting class between Emma Thompson and Carey Mulligan. This is perhaps Mulligan's strongest scene in the movie, where she articulates why she makes her choices. The smart thing about the movie, though, is that neither Mulligan's nor Thompson's characters are completely right. They've just made different life choices.
8. Goodbye Solo- "Visit to the Rock": Director Ramin Bahrani leaves the viewer with so much to think about with a scene that gives a sense of closure without being too explicit.
7. A Serious Man- "The Boat Ride": "Look, we got another Jew!" Hilarious. I could have picked multiple other scenes from this movie, but this one probably got my biggest laugh in the theater.
6. Bright Star- "Knocking through the Wall": What I loved about Bright Star is how director Jane Campion takes the 19th-century lovers seriously. They are melodramatic, yes, but only because love has swept them away.
5. The Hurt Locker- "Sergeant James talking to Son": "And by the time you get to be my age, maybe it's only one or two things. With me, I think it's one." I couldn't pick between the action sequences, so I picked this heartbreaking short scene that pretty much sums up the character of William James.
4. Up in the Air- "Ryan, Natalie, and Alex Talk about Relationships": Three specific characters with very different perspectives on what to look for in a partner. I love how the two women take over and almost leave Ryan in the dust in the scene. This scene is even more fascinating when you look back at the end of the movie.
3. Precious- "Social Worker's Office": As Mary confesses so much, we come to begin to comprehend (although not excuse) what led to the cycles of abuse that happened to Precious. Mo'nique is quite simply astonishing in this sequence.
2. Inglorious Basterds- "Opening in the farmhouse": This long but absolutely riveting scene is the perfect opening for the film. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) brings a sense of slowly encroaching dread to the scene and Tarantino milks it for all its worth, until its brutal climax. The perfection of this scene makes the vastly inferior chapter 2 that much more disappointing.
1. Up- "Married Life Sequence": What other movie could bring an entire audience to tears in 4 minutes? A beautiful silent sequence that perfectly captures love and loss. Once again, I wish all of Up (which I enjoyed) lived up to this opening scene.
Readers- what were you most memorable images from 2009?