Honorable Mention (in no order):
Farewell, My Queen (dir-Benoit Jacquot)
White – Melody of Death (dir-Gok and Sun Kim)
Foreign Letters (dir-Ela Thier)
The Innkeepers (dir-Ti West)
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (dir-Matthew Akers & Jeff Dupre)
The Pact (dir-Nicholas McCarthy)
The Avengers (dir-Joss Whedon)
Bernie (dir-Richard Linklater)
The Ambassador (dir-Mads Brugger)
The Imposter (dir-Bart Layton)
30) Beyond the Black Rainbow (dir-Panos Cosmatos)
29) Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (dir-Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim)
It’s Tim and Eric doing a satire on Hollywood! What’s not to love? I hate saying this kind of thing, but you’re either on board or you’re not. Sure, it doesn’t exactly flow together like a full length movie should (the same could be said for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, which I equally loved), but it does present a world where you can basically wander around a Tim and Eric themed shithole shopping mall, and that is fucking awesome. I mean, if you’re willing to pretend that you’re inside the actual movie and shit. The point is, I managed to get my Tim and Eric poke on, and that’s a good thing.
28) The Dark Knight Rises (Dir-Christopher Nolan)
Aside from the ending and a few dumbass plot holes, this was a very worthy followup to The Dark Knight, with Nolan taking a standard villain/superhero conflict and pushing it into darker and heavier territory. Bane was effectively portrayed as hating authority and society itself, while Batman was tired and wounded. Usually, the evil guy is evil for no reason, and the good guy is always up for the challenge, so that was a nice change of pace. Also, I got the genuine feeling of an entire city that is realistically nearing total collapse, and not just some Rolland Emmerich bullshit where all the buildings collapse into CGI dust all at once just because.
27) A Separation (dir-Asghar Farhadi)
Nader is an asshole that refuses to let his wife get a much deserved divorce, and continues being an asshole through major plot developments which shall remain unspoiled. A totally realistic drama that manages to become more and more gripping by raising the dramatic stakes without ever feeling melodramatic or forced. There are no heroes or villains, just people, although asshole Nader comes close to being a villain, but elicits the viewer’s sympathy on account that he is forced to care for his invalid father, and he also gets a bit of a pass considering that his religion and society seem to promote a particularly asshole-y brand of chauvinism which might be misconstrued for villainry.
26) The Hunter (dir-Daniel Nettheim)
Willem Dafoe does Herzog-sploitation (like Refn with the great Valhalla Rising) in this story about a hunter torn between his quest (tracking down a mythical tiger) and humanity itself, represented by his burgeoning role as a surrogate father. I loved the attention paid to Dafoe’s hunting process, the details of the world where he feels the most comfortable in, away from others. Then there’s the effectively mysterious and foreboding landscape that Dafoe is ultimately drawn to, like many a Herzogian hero.
25) The Snowtown Murders (dir-Justin Kurzel)
A horror movie that is more horrifying because it doesn’t fit into a horror movie structure, but instead is more of a ragged drama that shows the myriad of ways a family can disintegrate when there is a psycho at the head of the table. Congrats to Daniel Henshall for portraying one of the most believable sick fuck nutbags in recent movie history.
24) Take This Waltz (dir-Sarah Polley)
Sometimes a marriage just doesn’t quite work, even though both parties have good hearted intentions and are seemingly in love, and Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan makes us feel every moment of it. Yes, THAT Seth Rogan, who delivers the surprise dramedy performance of the year. Also, I don’t think I’ll ever listen to that Buggles song quite the same way again. Also, since you’re asking, yes, you can also see Sarah Silverman’s bush in the movie. If you’ve already seen her bush (perhaps you bumped into her at a Whole Foods in Echo Park and asked politely), please ignore this message.Also, the movie is one more reason why Sarah Polley is awesome, and here’s another reason:
23) The Wicker Tree (dir-Robin Hardy)
22) The Deep Blue Sea (dir-Terence Davies)
Tom Middleston is a perpetually drunken jerk married to the quietly suffering Rachel Weisz, trapped in a marriage based in believable love instead of plot mechanics or forceful imprisonment. A stripped down marriage-tragedy from the great and underappreciated Davies, retaining his trademark operetta touches without taking away from the heart wrenching kitchen sinkiness of it all.
21) Holy Motors (dir-Leos Carax)
The most original movie of the year with maybe the most impressive performance of the year from the great Denis Lavant (also amazing in Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge). It’s a series of scenarios where Lavant takes on different characters and engages in oddball mini-adventures, like a series of carnival rides where he adopts a movie character and indulges in a strange variation on silent comedy. It also acts as an fun and inventive satire on modern Hollywood (and movies in general).
20) Monsieur Lazhar (dir-Philippe Falardeau)
The titular Monsieur (the fantastic and endearing Mohamed Fellag) is an Algerian immigrant teacher in Montreal that replaces another teacher who committed suicide right there in the classroom (bad day at work I guess). Like The Class, this is an authentic portrayal of class room life among young students, but is more emotionally touching, like a Dead Poet’s Society that isn’t manipulative Hollywood B.S. (although I haven’t seen Dead Poet’s Society, but whatevs). Also, Monsieur is just damn charming and the movie is actually funny. Kids can be humorous instead of annoying when they are allowed to be natural and are not force fed “cute” lines.
19) Last Days Here (dir-Don Argott & Demian Fenton)
The story of Bobby Liebling, former lead singer of fairly unheralded but awesome doom metal band Pentagram. Bobby has since fallen on harder than hard times, and then fallen into a pit of darkness, at the bottom of which are harderer times. He’s a destitute older man who lives in his parent’s basement, looking even older on account of his addiction to crack and heroin. However, he manages to overcome this impossible station in life and acquires his old band back, a new record deal, and even a hot young girlfriend. Strangely, this is one of the most life affirming movies of the year, made even more so by the fact that it’s all real. That, my friends, is the power of metal. METAL!!!!
18) The Kid with a Bike (dir-Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
A truthful and well observed portrait of a child who is extremely angry about being abandoned and essentially alone in the world, but is unable to understand or cope with this anger. Another great film from the ever reliant Dardennes about the specific emotional consequences that shitty absentee parenting can have on kids (like REALLY absentee).
17) God Bless America (dir-Bobcat Goldthwait)
Along with The World’s Greatest Dad (which made my list the year it came out), this cements Bobscratch Goldfarb as a new pioneer of satirical black comedies, combining a great comic mind, righteous indignation, and balls for miles. I know the movie is awfully reliant on the lesser Murray giving endless speeches about things he hates, but you gotta let some shit slide when western civilization hangs in the balance. Hopefully this isn’t all just a precursor to Bobscratch landing a sweet, high paying sell-out gig as the director of the eventual Police Academy reboot.
16) Hello I Must be Going (dir-Todd Louiso)
Melanie Lynsky of Heavenly Creatures fame stars in this indie romance that reminds me of the great indie movie character pieces we got before annoying quirk became the norm. She plays a dumped wife in her 30’s that has to move back in with her parents. Her plan of vegging out, feeling sorry for herself, and figuring out what to do next with her life goes awry when she has a fling with a 19-year-old actor. Both unforced humor and cringe inducing moments arise naturally out of the characters trying to manage through their awkward lives.
Numbers #1-15 coming in a few days or so. Patience people. Patience.