2013 may be upon us, but so is awards season so instead of looking forward to the new year, lets discuss the memorable movies of last year. Some of these are actual awards contenders, but most are not. In no way am I suggesting these are the best movies of the year (despite the title of this post), merely the ones that standout in my mind.
Note: These movies are not ranked, but in alphebetical order because it is hard enough narrowing it down to 10. Also, there are 11 movies on this list because narrowing it down to 10 was hard, too.
This was a film I had a lot if expectations for. It took me a while to actually get to the theater to see it and the buzz I was hearing was constantly glowing. And I have to agree with it. This is a truly impeccable film that manages to be sweeping yet small and creates palpable tension even when you know the outcome. For anyone who doubted Ben Affleck as a director before; you no longer have an argument.
The greatest homage to the late, great Nora Ephron this year was Celeste and Jesse Forever. Celeste and Jesse are like the mirror opposites of Harry and Sally, the end result of a relationship that has devolved into friendship. It was equal parts sweet, loving and, most importantly, funny.
This disturbing tale is made even more disturbing when you realize it is based on the true story of a prank phone caller who toyed with people’s response to authority. Everyone gave a truly amazing performance and while it was decidedly uncomfortable, that's what made it all the more fascinating.
Unfortunately not many people were able to see this movie after it got slapped with an NC-17 rating. Somehow theaters got in into their heads that no one will see a movie if its rated NC-17 even though it just means you should be over the age 17 to enjoy the movie (true of so many films that don’t get slapped with the rating of death). And it really is a shame because while Killer Joe is extremely violent, has harsh language and shows a lot more of Gina Gershon than most films, it is also brilliantly written, perfectly executed and contains two of the best performances of the year (Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple).
This movie lands in this list with the highest achievement (according to me): the best dialogue of the year. The movie itself is more like a collection of scenes, a kind of slice of life film except the lives happen to be criminal. For a hit man movie the action scenes are few and far between (but you get to them, they’re spectacular) and it’s probably the most thought provoking movie Ray Liotta has ever been a part of. It makes you realize this recession is effecting everyone, from the middle class all the way down to the criminals and that is fascinating.
My feelings about Les Miserables are conflicted. I’m a diehard musical fan and this is by far one of the best screen adapted musicals ever. The decision to have the actors sing live was inspired and really did allow for some masterful acting performances, which is great for a story that’s so moving and powerful. It’s just that this musical also happens to have some of the most difficult songs ever sung in musical history. The actors did alright, but if you need further proof listen to “On My Own” and then anything else from the soundtrack. My advice for any other director wishing to try live singing, get singers not actors. But even with that, Les Mis has still landed in my top ten of the year and is likely going to clean up this awards season, so maybe don’t listen to me at all.
I didn’t go into Looper with the highest expectation which is why I was so genuinely taken aback. What may have been advertised as standard sci-fi fare was also a deep and poignant look at how choices can change the world. Oh, and Joseph Gordon Levitt does an awesome Bruce Willis impression.
The only way to describe The Master is breathtaking. I got the opportunity to see the film in 70mm and the sheer beauty of the film is really overwhelming. Add to that the insanely perfect performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams and you have a movie that needs to be recognized. Unfortunately it’s looking like it won’t be come awards season.
I’ve never been a Wes Anderson devotee, but he won me over this is simple tale of young love. Painted like a picture book, the story unfolded like a fairy tale, with all the zany twists that come along with that. But anchored by the superb performances of the young stars and the support of the all-star adult cast, it never slipped into the absurd and remained entertaining and enjoyable throughout.
If you blinked you probably missed this little film (if it even showed in your town, of course) and that’s a shame because this was the sweetest movie released in 2012. It may not be as loud as some of the others on this list, but it’s the one I’ve found myself thinking about the most after I saw it.
Silver Linings Playbook
What can be said about this dark comedy that hasn't already been said? It has every cliche of a rom com, but anchored by such steller performaces and such a well crafted script it breathes new life into the genre and proves that hitting all the required marks doesn't have to spell disaster.
Honorable Mentions: Django Unchained, 7 Psychopaths, Skyfall, Bernie.
Most Overrated Movie of the Year: Beasts of the Southern Wild