14) Tomboy (dir-Celine Sciamma)
A quietly observational piece about a young girl that moves to a new town and is mistaken for a boy. She then decides to adopt this identity in order to fit in. One of the best movies that I've seen about the social dynamic of young people, and nowhere near as forced as it sounds.
13) Skyfall (dir-Sam Mendes)
A nice split between the more character based Casino Royale and the more set piece based, visually expressive Quantum of Solace. Probably my favorite Craig Bond by a hair.
12) The Turin Horse (dir-Bela Tarr)
A poor farming couple pin their hopes on an old broken down horse that once belonged to Nietzsche, struggling as they are in a barren wasteland whilst being perpetually smothered by cruel, fierce winds. Naturally, pizazz fueled shenanigans ensue. Well, not really. If there can ever be said to be a post-apocalyptic neo-realist farming movie, this is it. It’s also one of the windiest movies ever made, perhaps only supplanted by the obscure western Gun Fever and Twister.
11) Good for Nothing (dir-Mike Wallis)
10) Jiro Dreams of Sushi (dir-David Gelb)
If you thought sushi porn couldn’t be spiritually uplifting and a treatise on a working life lived well, then you’ll be surprised by this one. If you expect exactly that from sushi porn, you have really high expectations for your sushi porn if I may be so bold. I don’t even eat sushi, so I really had no preconceived notions before seeing this movie, but now I associate sushi, not with the taste of raw fish, but with spiritual uplift and a working life well lived. If you can figure out what the fuck I just wrote, you will have taken your first step on the path to enlightenment.
9) Klown (dir-Mikkel Norgaard)
8) Killer Joe (dir-William Friedkin)
I thought my family was fucked up.
7) Silver Linings Playbook (dir-David O. Russell)
Not the rom-com it was seemingly advertised as, but another damn fine patented David O. Russell screwball comedy of which only he can pull off (see I Heart Huckabees and Flirting With Disaster). Well, make that screwball dramedy, dealing with the issue of bi-polar disorder as well as just good old fashioned failed expectations in life, but not being heavy about it. One could argue that the ending is in the realm of “forced Hollywood bullshit closure”, but I feel it was a knowing and amusing take on such endings, pushed into the realm of the fittingly absurd (fitting for the absurdity of life portrayed in the film).
Bradley Cooper goes beyond any notion of a good looking leading man aiming for Oscar Gold by footstompingly exhibiting a psychiatric tic, but instead totally embodies the character and fucking delivers. Jennifer Lawrence delivers too, but we already knew she would. By the way, I enjoyed J-Law’s (I’m calling her “J-Law” from now on because I am annoying) non-committal goth style for the 1st half of the picture. Of course, she’s yummy when she’s wearing the tights and doing the dancing stuff, but that’s a given. My only major complaint is that J-Law didn’t combine the “non-committal goth” look with her “uber-spandex athletic dancer” look; maybe black tights with a Smiths shirt or something. It's a minor issue I know, but I have to complain about shit in order to fill up these posts.
6) Argo (dir-Ben Affleck)
Maybe it is all Hollywoodized (as a dumbass American I wouldn’t know), but the poor man’s Casey Affleck delivers in this combination of real world thriller and amusing comedy, milking the absurdity of the setup and letting Alan Arkin rip through some sweet one-liners. Laughter and tension is a tough combination to pull off, considering a lot of Hollywood comedies produce no laughs whatsoever, and a lot of Hollywood thrillers produce no tension whatsoever. I gently chide Ben as being the poor man’s Casey Affleck as an actor, but maybe Casey is the homeless man’s Ben Affleck as a director. However, I haven’t seen Gone Baby Gone or The Town, nor Casey's directorial effort I'm Still Here, so I can't really say exactly, but Casey might get knocked down a step on the Affleck family ladder if I ever eventually see them.
5) Django Unchained (dir-Quentin Tarantino)
Third act issues aside, Waltz and Foxx deliver big time, with layered flamboyance and stoic anger, respectively, in this rich and satisfying revenge western that thankfully isn’t overly homage heavy (or to put it another way, the homage doesn’t override the characters and the thrust of the story). Oh, and like Inglourious Basterds, another kickass soundtrack that maybe shouldn’t work but does. I’m digging this new QT style, sort of a nice balance between the likes of Kill Bill and the likes of Jackie Brown.
4) The Master (dir-Paul Thomas Anderson)
A riveting two-person psychodrama that thankfully doesn’t go the easy route of sledgehammering Scientology (not that Scientology doesn’t deserve to be sledgehammered, just that doing so for 140 minutes would be boring and pedantic). Instead, we see the very human motivations every step of the way for both master and student, at a time when psycho-therapy was in its infancy and the resulting void was easily filled.
3) Moonrise Kingdom (dir-Wes Anderson)
An adorable and warm coming of age romance layered with charming quirk instead of upstaged by it (although it gets close to doing so at several points). In that sense, it worked a bit better for me than the family-pain-layered-in-not-quite-as-charming-quirk that was present in The Royal Tenenbaums, maybe because the approach here better suits a child-like world. Now my second favorite Wes Anderson movie after Rushmore.
2) Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury (dir-Garrett Brawith)
1) Amour (dir-Michael Haneke)
Described by several critics as “a story of true love”, I saw it as more of a horror movie where Trintignant’s character tries to stay strong and hold his life together (and hold on to his wife), but he can’t shake the unrelenting spectre of death. I know most everyone else thinks this is a complete departure for Haneke, but I think it fits right in with his other films while offering something new (his first film The Seventh Continent was about the horrifying domestic disintegration of a similarly named couple). However, Amour lacks the judgmental eye of the likes of Cache and Funny Games, instead presenting a horrifying scenario where there is no right or wrong answer, no good guys or bad guys, but doing so with compassion and beauty; an amazing feat indeed.