I have no real claim to movie judgment, and have been forced into cine-cramming in the last few years by my movie-obsessed other half and a close friend whose tolerance for various forms of 1970s camp and cult far exceeds my own. But I did enjoy three movies this year more than most. By far the funniest was "The Hangover," a genuinely goofy male movie that almost equaled Pineapple Express in the merriment measurement. By far the deepest was "The Hurt Locker", an understated but all the more powerful film about the war so many have now forgotten, a war that still keeps 150,000 Americans perched on the edge of the ungrateful volcano that is Iraq.

My favorite has to be District Nine, a sci-fi parable set in South Africa that I caught only recently. A race of Zoidbergs lands on earth ... and the whole thing is somehow as plausible as sci fi can get. Worth a Netflix.

We saw Avatar yesterday. There's no question it's a landmark in technical film-making, and the first movie in 3D that really made it seem like a viable alternative to traditional movies. Cameron's genius is on full display - but also his flaws: the simply awful screenplay, the cipher characters, the Spielbergian schmaltz that ruined Titanic. But all of that is forgivable in the face of the awe the visuals evoke. They transport you elsewhere. Which, after this year, seems like an even better place to be.

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