Let's keep this quick and easy. You've probably seen twelve dozen year-end "best of 2009" lists, but this one is mine! No rambling commentary, no goofy synopses, just 20 films from the past 12 months that I liked the best. (These are listed alphabetically.)

(500) Days of Summer -- There are tons of romance-intensive films that are funny, familiar, and/or heartbreaking, but here's one that tackles one of the pricklier situations: when one partner is clearly "more into" the relationship than the other. Leads Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel provide pitch-perfect performances, and the screenplay is a surprisingly insightful mixture of warmth, intelligence, reality and fantasy. I saw this one way back in January and it still stands as one of my very favorite films of the year.

Avatar -- Whether or not it becomes the "game-changer" that the hype machine promised is none of my concern. All I know is that, without fail, the equation of {Cameron + sci-fi + action} is always something worth watching. And in the case of this futuristic tale of supreme culture clash, there's simply too much to enjoy to focus on the nitpicks. Epic in scale and full of great little details, it may not be James Cameron's best film, but this director's B+ is most directors' fondest dream.