Movies of the Year:
This list is most definitely incomplete. Despite my repeated pleads and demands to the studios, they still refuse to send me advanced screeners for all of the films that come out each year, so I have to make due with DVD and the theater, like any other plebian Joe Lunchbox with a jones for foreign and independent film (you know who you are). I have three kids, a wife, and a job, so my four-or-five movie-a-week habit has been woefully truncated (much to my wife’s relief). Plus, there’s all this reading, writing, television, and exercise.
It’s a hell of a life.
So, three lists this year: The movies I really liked, the movies I kind of liked and the movies I still want to see.
10 Movies I Liked this Year (No Particular Order):
1. The Debt: I haven’t seen the original Israeli film, but I really enjoyed this one, which has a coiled menace, not to mention Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren.
2. Insidious: Very scary, even with all of the psychic-transference horse-pucky that almost ruined it.
3. 13 Assassins: Bloody and great. Very well directed by Takashi Miike. The final battle sequence is truly epic, and I’m not really someone who gets his rocks off with a battle scene. Braveheart? Yawn. Lord of the Rings? Triple yawn. 13 Assassins? Hell, yeah.
4. The Beaver: OK. I made a deal with myself. I can continue to like old Mel Gibson movies (Lethal Weapon, Road Warrior, etc.) as long as I pretend that Mel Gibson actually died in 2002, right after Signs, and was replaced by a psychotic, racist robot. Then he made this, which is touching and weird and really, really good. Crap. Chalk one up for the psychotic, racist robot. That thing can act.
5. Thor: I know. This list is hitting bottom fast, right? Thor? Are you kidding? I am not. This is good stuff. Better than Iron Man. Maybe better than any comic book movie since Spider-Man 2 (yes, that includes The Dark Knight—refer your vitriol to the comments section).
6. Bridesmaids: Best comedy of the year. Maybe the best movie, period. Certainly the best three or four performances I saw (Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rodolph, Rose Byre, who was also great in Insidious).
7. Beginners: Quiet, thoughtful, and really beautiful. Best father-son film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and Ewan McGregor’s performance reminded me why he’s such a good actor. Christopher Plummer was excellent too, though the praise heaped on his performance smacks of the Jack Palance variety for a body of work rather than this one in particular.
8. X-Men: First Class: Second best comic-book movie of the year. Michael Fassbender was great. It’s hard for me to buy Kevin Bacon as anything but a skinny little weasel, but he’s effective, I guess. James McAvoy looks like a former student and my wife and daughter both have crushes on him. Three strikes and you’re out, Mr. McAvoy.
9. Super 8: Not as great as I wanted it to be. But still great. I was really drooling for this one, but it felt way too borrowed. Love the homage, but homage is a slippery slope, especially when the guy you’re blowing kisses at is still making better films than almost anyone else alive.
10. Horrible Bosses: Second best comedy of the year. A lot of times comedies, even good comedies, bunt between big swings (it’s why all the funny stuff is typically in the trailer—it’s the only funny stuff). Even the throwaways in this movie are funny, and the screenplay is really tight and well-done.
11. Captain America: Third best comic-book movie of the year. Square, hokey, and very, very well directed by Joe Johnston
12. I Love You, Philip Morris and Crazy, Stupid, Love: Same writers and directors, so I put them together. Both are fantastic. Both are romantic comedies. People who really like I Love You, Philip Morris will probably like Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not sure if the reverse is true. Watch both and tell me why.
13. The Future: Miranda July continues to charm and infuriate me.
14. The Help: The kind of movie Hollywood can still knock out of the park: great performances, solid, unobtrusive direction, clever writing, white guilt. Thanks Hollywood!
15. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: I did not want to see this film. I did not, not, not. It looked awful and even worse, unnecessary. It’s the best action movie of the year except for 13 Assassins. No reason this level of quality should’ve been spent and executed so fiercely.
16. Fast Five: See #15
17. Our Idiot Brother: Nice trick, taking Dostoevsky and making him a granola-muncher played by Paul Rudd. Goes soft at the end, but smart and mean throughout.
18. Moneyball: Fast, funny, and smart. Not as good as the book, but good nonetheless.
19. The Ides of March: Fast and nasty. Good script, nice 1970’s direction by George Clooney, solid lead performance by Ryan Gosling.
20. Hugo: Probably my favorite film of the year. It legitimizes 3D and calls attention to the magic of film by making you look at everything. The central conceit, that the world is a machine and there are no worthless parts, is bullshit, but it’s a kids’ movie, so I’ll let it slide.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Friends with Benefits
A Dangerous Method
Movies I Still Need to See:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame