Tuesday, January 1, 2013
There are several, surely Oscar contending, films that came out in the last month (“Django Unchained”, “Les Misérables”, “Life of Pi”, “Zero Dark Thirty”) that I haven’t got around to, but their loss for missing out on this prestigous list. (A few of these films have links to fuller reviews.)
10) “Coriolanus” – Sure, it’s Shakespeare, but some of the bloodiest of Shakespeare. Set in modern times, Ralph Fiennes as the title character spend most of the film battling Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius. But both of them probably would think twice about going into the arena with Vanessa Regrave’s Volumnia. This was a play I didn’t know, but the story and most of the dialogue was still clear and exciting.
9) “Sleepwalk with Me” –Pretty much just the names have been changed in Mike Birbiglia’s true, funny story of his battle with a sleep disorder.
8) “The Avengers” – Marvel fans were in awe of this being actually pulled off, so many big names from the books brought to the screen in a way that seemed to do justice to them all. Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Firefly”) fans marveled that their hero was finally entrusted with a budget and time to follow his vision. And finally, someone got the Hulk right. (This film arguably edged another comic book film, “The Dark Knight Rises” and another Whedon film “Cabin in the Woods” off the list.)
7) “Bernie”- Surely a film starring Jack Black as closeted gay funeral home director, set in Texas is going to be mocking and insulting about that part of the country. And since the character is active in the church, one must assume the church will also in for a drubbing. But no. This true story of a strange but engaging man manages to get a lot right about sin and grace.
6) “The Grey” – Liam Neeson makes a lot of bad films. This wasn’t one of them.
5) “Damsels in Distress” – In the past couple of decades, Whit Stillman has made only four films and I’ve loved every one. This film is much more fanciful than “Metropolitan” or “Barcelona”, but it is still very funny. Set at a college, we follow Greta Gerwig and her roommates as they try in Emma-like fashion to come to the aid of their fellow students. (Favorite absurd lines, “If my eyes are blue, why don’t I see everything with a blue tinge?” About the education students who keep trying to commit suicide by jumping off a two story building, “How can they educate the youth of tomorrow if they can’t even destroy themselves?”)
4) “Skyfall” – There’s something to be said for having Bond be more human than superhero (though he still survives pretty incredible falls.) Even better to have a coherent story, decent villain and none of the shaky camera work from the last couple of Bond films. I also enjoyed the Bond backstory brought into play. And you can’t go wrong in bringing back the Aston Martin.
3) “Argo”- Finally, something good from the Carter Administration.
2) “Lincoln” – Just when I was ready to write Spielberg off with Lucas.
1) “Moonrise Kingdom” – I can understand people dismissing this film as fey and artificial, as Wes Anderson’s work can be, but I really liked the strange little world he made here. Young love and scouting are both duly honored. In a year where Bill Murray and Bruce Willis got good roles (“Hyde Park on the Hudson” and “Looper” respectively), they did their best work here (and that’s two of my favorite actors working.) When I wasn’t laughing, I was still smiling.