2009: Best Year for Movies in US History



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Faith Lapidus.  

Happy New Year! Before we look ahead to two thousand ten, we want to talk about some of the best movies and books of two thousand nine.

And we play some great music we did not have a chance to play last year.


Best Movies


Two thousand nine was the best year in history for movies in the United States. Movies earned more than ten billion dollars in ticket sales last year. This was helped by the steady increase in movie ticket prices. Shirley Griffith tells us about some of the best movies of last year.


Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in
Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in "Avatar"
Americans spent a record two hundred seventy-eight million dollars on movie tickets last weekend. The 3-D science fiction adventure movie, "Avatar," was the most popular film that weekend. Reports say "Avatar" cost more than three hundred million dollars to produce. Several film critics called it one of the best movies of last year.

"Avatar" uses special effects that have never been seen before in a movie. It combines live action, motion-capture, animation and computer-produced images. The movie is about a man who travels to a distant planet about one hundred fifty years in the future.

Several traditional movies also were named among the best of two thousand nine. One is "The Hurt Locker." It is a tense and exciting movie about American soldiers in Iraq whose job is to find and safely destroy hidden explosive devices. 

(SOUND: "Hurt Locker")

"Up in the Air" is also on many critics' list of best movies of the year.

George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in
George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in "Up in the Air"
(SOUND: "Up in the Air")

It stars George Clooney as a man who spends most of his life flying around the country to different cities. His job is to dismiss people from their jobs. This movie hits very close to home. It includes people who have really lost their jobs during this time of high unemployment in the United States.     

Critics have also praised a movie called "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." It is about an extremely overweight black teenager in the Harlem area of New York City. Precious suffers horrible sexual and physical abuse from both her parents.  But caring teachers and social workers help her improve her life.

Two other favorite movies of last year are based on children's books. "Where the Wild Things Are" is a live action film based on the popular book by Maurice Sendak.  A young boy named Max runs away from his mother and sails to an island full of frightening-looking creatures.  And critics also liked "Fantastic Mister Fox" based on a book by Roald Dahl. This stop-motion animation movie was called creative and fun for both children and adults.

Best Books


In December, many newspapers and booksellers in the United States publish lists of the year's best books. Steve Ember tells us about several favorites of two thousand nine.


"A Gate at the Stairs" is writer Lorrie Moore's first book in over ten years. It takes place in two thousand one shortly after the terrorist attacks on America.  It tells about a young girl named Tassie who attends college in the Midwest. She takes a job as a babysitter for a woman and her husband who have adopted a child of mixed race. It is a funny, sad and emotional story about marriage, race, family, terrorism and war.

Critics also praised the latest book by Irish writer Colm Toibin. "Brooklyn" is about a young Irish girl named Eilis. Her family sends her to live in the Brooklyn area of New York City in the nineteen fifties. Mister Toibin describes how she slowly gets used to her new life in America.  Eilis soon falls in love with a kind Italian-American young man named Tony. Eilis must return to Ireland because of a family tragedy. She must choose between Tony and her family.

"Cutting for Stone" was written by the medical doctor and writer Abraham Verghese. It is a powerful story about twin brothers born in a Catholic hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their mother, an Indian nurse at the hospital, dies in childbirth. Their father, a British doctor, flees as soon as they are born. The brothers are raised by two Indian doctors who live at the hospital. One brother later moves to the United States. This is a story about the extremes of love, family, and medicine.

Other top books include the British historical novel "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. It is about King Henry the Eighth and his advisor Thomas Cromwell.  Daniyal Mueenuddin's book "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders," was also noted as one of the best books of last year. It is a collection of linked short stories about the lives of very rich and very poor people in Pakistan.

Critics also praised several non-fiction books. They include Terry Teachout's book "Pops", about the jazz great Louis Armstrong. "Lords of Finance" by Liaquat Ahamed tells about the financial crisis during the nineteen twenties. And, in "Lit: A Memoir," Mary Karr tells about her struggles with motherhood, marriage and alcohol.

Music We Missed


We play a lot of great music on American Mosaic. But there are just not enough shows in a year to play everything. So today we play music from some of the best albums we missed in two thousand nine.

We start with the rapper Fabolous. His two thousand nine album, "Loso's Way," came with a DVD starring the rapper and some of his friends.

Singer Keri Hilson performs with Fabolous on "Everything, Everyday, Everywhere" from "Loso's Way."


Neko Case
Neko Case
Neko Case is a singer-songwriter who has gained some fame as a member of the indie rock band the New Pornographers. But she also has a career on her own. Last year, she excited music critics with the release of "Middle Cyclone," her fifth studio album. It went to number one on the American indie music charts. The first song on the recording is "This Tornado Loves You."


"Veckatimest" is the latest CD from Grizzly Bear, the Brooklyn, New York-based indie rock band. It is on most critics' lists of best rock or indie albums of the year.  The album was named for a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. The band spent some time near there recording the album. One of the most popular songs from "Veckatimest" is "Two Weeks."


Finally, there is Paramore. The five member band got its start in Tennessee in two thousand four. All of the musicians are under the age of twenty-five. Not surprisingly, Paramore's sound is youthful and energetic. We leave you with "Turn it Off," from the Paramore album, "Brand New Eyes."



I'm Faith Lapidus. Our program was written by Shelley Gollust, Dana Demange and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.