Mike’s Top Ten of 2012

2012 is the first (and perhaps only) year from this decade where the top ten list I posted at the time exactly matches my top ten now. I knew immediately what my ten favorite movies were that year, and that hasn’t changed. And, in all likelihood, that won’t change. These ten are pretty much my ten. My goal in writing up the list each year is to try to best guess what films are not only my favorite films at the moment, but also which ones are going to continue being my favorite films over time. Some years turn out better than others. And as it stands, this might be the only one of the decade where I ended up being completely right all the way through.

Which is impressive to me, because there are two choices on this list that are not mainstream choices for top ten films. I don’t think you’ll see those on most people’s lists. And if you do, chances are they won’t be around a lot of the other stuff I’ve also chosen. But I love them, and would 100% call them two of the top movies of the year.

I’m a big fan of this list.

Mike’s Top Ten of 2012

Argo

The Dark Knight Rises

Django Unchained

The Impossible

Killing Them Softly

Les Misérables

Looper

Moonrise Kingdom

Silver Linings Playbook

Skyfall

11-20: Anna Karenina, Bachelorette, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Master, Seven Psychopaths, Wreck-It Ralph, Zero Dark Thirty

Tier two: 21 Jump Street, Amour, Arbitrage, End of Watch, Flight, The Grey, Haywire, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hunger Games, Jack Reacher, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Magic Mike, Premium Rush, Prometheus, Promised Land, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Smashed, Starlet, Ted

Tier three: 3,2,1…Frankie Go Boom, The Avengers, Bernie, Brave, Compliance, Get the Gringo, Hitchcock, Kon-Tiki, A Late Quartet, Not Fade Away, Quartet, The Raid: Redemption, Robot & Frank, Room 237, A Royal Affair, Ruby Sparks, Searching for Sugar Man, Upside Down, Why Stop Now, Wrong

Tier four: The Amazing Spider-Man, Berberian Sound Studio, Best Man Down, The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Cabin in the Woods, Cosmopolis, Dredd, Ernest & Celestine, The First Time, The Five-Year Engagement, Goon, The Hunt, Hysteria, Killer Joe, Lawless, Lay the Favorite, Man on a Ledge, People Like Us, The Sessions, Sound of My Voice

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1. Django Unchained

“How do you like the bounty hunting business?”
“Kill white people and get paid for it? What’s not to like?”

There was almost no doubt that this was gonna be my #1 movie of the year. I, like a lot of people, had read the script beforehand, so even on the page, I’d have told you this was gonna be my favorite movie of the year. This is exactly everything I wanted out of a movie.

It’s Quentin making his western. Well… his first western. Since he followed this up with Hateful Eight, which is also, in its way, a western. But it’s just glorious. He brings back Christoph Waltz (who won his second Oscar for this performance) and brings in Jamie Foxx and also Leonardo DiCaprio (who is tremendous here as the villain). This movie is loaded with great supporting performances. Samuel L. Jackson is incredible, and then you have Don Johnson showing up and Walt Goggins. And it’s got a bunch of amazing Quentin scenes throughout it. I’ll spare you, because I could just rattle off about a dozen scenes and sequences in this movie that are just perfect.

This is always gonna be my #1 for this year. I just love it so much.

2. Les Misérables

♫ “I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed, that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted” ♫

There was never any doubt that this was gonna be highly ranked for me. I love musicals (though really only when they’re on screen. Stage musicals are tough for me), and, while I didn’t read Victor Hugo’s novel growing up, I did fall in love with the story when I saw the 1935 version that was nominated for Best Picture (with Fredric March and Charles Laughton, which is admittedly nowhere near a proper adaptation of the source material). So when I saw they were making this, with Tom Hooper and Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, I was all in.

This is one of the great musicals ever made. Every single song in this one is absolutely perfect. And the story it’s based on is incredible and epic, which is just the total package. I imagine everyone knows the story — guy gets sent to prison for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread, but can’t make anything of himself once he’s out because of the conviction hanging over his head. So he breaks his parole and becomes a model citizen. Only his former jailer becomes obsessed with hunting him down and spends years and years doing so. And that’s the film, all set against the backdrop of a revolutionary period in France. It’s tremendous.

The musical itself is sung-through, which means there’s no straight dialogue in the show or the film. So it’s just song after song after song. And what Tom Hooper does here is allow the actors to perform their songs. Songs are typically done in one shot (like “Valjean’s Soliloquy,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” and of course “I Dreamed a Dream”), allowing the actors to sing live and act while singing without any extra flair that musicals tend to provide. And the result is a really visceral and emotional telling of the story. Jackman got nominated for an Oscar, Anne Hathaway won, and arguably Eddie Redmayne should have also gotten nominated. But everyone is good here. People complain about Russell Crowe as Javert because he’s not the most classically trained singer, but he’s perfect for the character, and his singing is just fine. I think this movie is an absolute home run, all the way through, even though I get that it won’t be for everyone. But it’s definitely for me, and that’s why it’s here.

3. Skyfall

“I fucked this up, didn’t I?”
“No. You did your job.”

It’s not that difficult to make a good and entertaining Bond movie. But with this, Daniel Craig achieves a feat that no one other than Sean Connery achieved — multiple all-time Bond movies. Each Bond generally had one good one — Roger Moore had The Spy Who Loved me as his one all-time one. The rest range from good to fun to not-so-good. Lazenby’s one is an all-timer, but that’s all he got to make. Dalton only made two, and neither is a particularly all-time great one. Brosnan got GoldenEye as his all-timer, and then the rest are either good or they’re Die Another Day. And then Craig, right out of the gate, had Casino Royale, which is an all-time great Bond film. And then he had Quantum of Solace, which is solid, but was kind of rushed and just turned out to be a fine one. But to then come right back with this… I think even the people who are on the fence about Bond as a whole even went, “Whoa.” Because this is an all-timer for the franchise.

The beauty of the film is that it, unlike all the previous Bond films, doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Craig’s series is an arc. It starts with him as a new agent and by here, he’s older, he’s slower, his body is breaking down. And that adds to the dramatic heft of the story. And also, this film is very much Judi Dench’s as much as it is Craig’s. And she’d been playing M for 17 years by this point. It was kind of like when Hugh Jackman made Logan, and you had the added weight of him having played the character for… 17 years. Then you add on Javier Bardem, who is just an amazing villain, who also doesn’t show up for a good… like hour into the movie. And then he’s just this fucking crazy dangerous dude. It’s just an amazing piece of work all around.

And then, of course, you have Sam Mendes directing and Roger fucking Deakins shooting it. And this is one of the finest jobs of Deakins’ career. The action sequences he shoots in this movie are breathtaking. And not even just that. Look at the shot of Scotland up there. Oh my god. But also the sequence in the building, when they’re fighting opposite the billboard light? Or the entire final battle at Skyfall. It’s a stunning achievement. And also, I should also mention — Thomas Newman’s score. That “Tennyson” drop, when Bond is running toward Parliament as Dench is giving her speech is one of the great score moments I’ve seen in a film this century.

This movie is so good on every level. All the way down to its POSTER! Do you guys remember what the poster was for this movie? It’s the classic Bond image of the gun barrel, only Bond is walking down the barrel of the gun! They did literally everything right with this movie.

4. Moonrise Kingdom

“We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?”

Wes Anderson. I adore this movie above most of his films. Partially because I am a sucker for movies about precocious children. But you take that and throw on Anderson’s visual and comedic style? It’s a match made in heaven. There was almost no way this wouldn’t be in my top five for this year.

It’s a simple story – a boy and a girl fall in love and decide to run away together. And then everyone in town starts looking for them. That’s it, that’s the film. But it’s a Wes Anderson film, so you know it’s so much more than that.

By now, I think everyone knows that a Wes Anderson movie is gonna be great. So it really just comes down to which ones are more your speed. Not everyone is gonna prefer this one the way I do. Which is fine. But we all recognize that they’re all great and should be seen, and that’s really what matters here.

5. Looper

“Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been. It will be instantly outlawed, used only in secret by the largest criminal organizations. It’s nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future… I’m told. Tagging techniques, whatnot. So when these criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they use specialized assassins in our present called “loopers.” And so, my employers in the future nab the target, they zap him back to me, their looper. He appears, hands tied and head sacked, and I do the necessaries. Collect my silver. So the target is vanished from the future, and I’ve just disposed of a body that technically does not exist. Clean.”

Rian Johnson. This felt like it should have been his major breakthrough. And it kind of was, but still also wasn’t. There is a disturbing amount of people who don’t know about this movie. Which is crazy, since after Brick and The Brothers Bloom, you’d think people would have been all over this. But nope. This movie made so-so money and just kind of got forgotten about. But it’s incredible. It’s one of the smartest sci fi movies I’ve ever seen. And it got a great performance out of Bruce Willis. Do you know how hard that is to do nowadays, when he’s basically stopped trying in every way? (Which, come to think of it, that’s back to back good Bruce Willis performances on this list. Unheard of.)

The premise for the movie is actually explained right up there in the quote I chose. And it’s great. The best thing about the premise is that it’s built in that the loopers eventually have to kill themselves in the future. So their time is finite, even though they’re well compensated for their work. So there’s this unspoken notion that the people who do this are not from great backgrounds and are pretty much just choosing 30 years of a good life over whatever else is out there. Which I love. But then you have the overarching mystery of the film, where the reason all the loopers are dying is because of this crime figure called “The Rainmaker.” And Old Joe (the Bruce Willis character, who is the older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character) is back to try to kill this guy before he becomes the figure that starts killing all these people. And there’s so much richness there, in terms of who Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, and who Bruce Willis is, and all the stuff that’s happened in between.

I really cannot recommend this movie highly enough. There’s just so much there to mine. And you can ignore all of it and just watch it as a great action thriller. It’s unfathomable to me that people wouldn’t mention this among the best movies of the decade, because they don’t really get much better made or smarter than this one is.

6. The Impossible

So this is a movie that came to me by complete surprise. No one knew what it was or had any expectations for it. I knew it had a late year release and was gonna be pushed for awards, but I really didn’t know much past that except that it was based on the true story of a family who had experienced something during a vacation. And so I got a chance to see this probably in late October, early November, and I had zero expectations for what I was in for. And so I’m watching this movie, thinking, “Okay, this is fine.” And then the fucking tsunami hits. And holy shit.

Some background — the movie is directed by J.A. Bayona, who had, to this point, only directed The Orphanage, and since this has directed A Monster Calls and Jurassic World 2. And it stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland. And the beginning is them on vacation in Indonesia, and then boom. It happens that suddenly. That shot above is the first time you realize shit’s about to go very wrong. And the next like, 30 minutes of the movie is just them surviving this thing. Maybe more. They really put you in the situation, which is just amazing and visceral and one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a film this decade. And what happens is, the family is those three and two younger boys. So Watts and Holland get separated from McGregor and the other two boys. So for like twenty minutes, we’re just following Watts and Holland as they’re in this insane situation. And then we swap out to McGregor and the other boys, and the film is about them trying to reunite with one another in the aftermath of this insane thing.

I cannot say enough great things about this movie. Fortunately Naomi Watts got nominated for Best Actress for it, which means that maybe someone will stumble upon it more easily than otherwise. But still, she’s great here, McGregor is great here, and Tom Holland — you wanna see Tom Holland’s dramatic chops, watch this movie. He’s so good here. And Bayona directs the hell out of it. The disaster sequence is one of the most realistic things I’ve ever seen put to screen. You feel like you’re in it. I don’t know why this wasn’t one of the biggest movies of the year. I really don’t. This is an incredible film.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

“You let me lie to you for a week?”
“I was trying to be romantic.”

I love this movie. David O. Russell, man. He expands on the style he began with The Fighter, where he makes movies about all these characters where the actual plot is secondary. This movie is a rom com, but it doesn’t feel that way, does it? Kinda feels like hanging out with this wonderful group of weirdos.

Bradley Cooper stars as a bipolar man just out of a treatment facility who is dealing with a recent divorce. He goes back to live with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and is set on trying to get back together with his ex-wife, which no one thinks is a good idea. He then meets Jennifer Lawrence, his friend’s wife’s sister, who is struggling after the sudden death of her husband. And the pair bond over their mental illnesses and eventually start training to enter a dance competition together. It doesn’t sound like something that would be great, but trust me, it is.

Everyone in this movie got nominated for Oscars. Cooper, Lawrence (who won), De Niro and Weaver. It’s just an amazing movie. I find that I can just put this on and enjoy it no matter when it comes on. You just want to watch these people. The scene in the living room when Lawrence chews out the family after the Eagles game is just so, so good. This is one of the more rewatchable movies of the decade and remains one of Russell’s best films. And he’s got a bunch of those.

8. Killing Them Softly

“America’s not a country. It’s just a business. Now fucking pay me.”

The second movie on this list that, when I saw it, I said, “This is one of the best movies of they ear.” And then immediately it felt like absolutely nobody knew that it existed. And even now, I don’t think people really know much about it.

The reason I was all over it is because it’s directed by Andrew Dominik, and The Assassination of Jesse James is one of my all-time favorite films. Like, top 15 favorite. And this was his followup to that. So I was all over it. Plus the cast — Brad Pitt, Ray Lotta, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard, James Gandolfini, Ben Mendelsohn — amazing.

It’s about — and I don’t want to get into it too much, since they spend the first act explaining what the story is, and it’s not really about the story — a group of guys who rob a mob card game. And so the mob hires Brad Pitt, a hitman, to come in and kill them. And that sounds like you know where a lot of the movie is going when you hear that. But you don’t really get that movie, and I suspect that’s why it didn’t ever really get a proper audience. Since it’s not really about him going to kill the people. I mean, it is, but it’s about all the down time in between and about politics and economics in a weird way. The whole movie is framed around the election of Barack Obama and there a lot of nice little allegories for the state of the country as you watch it. Which you don’t necessarily need to pay attention to if you don’t want to, but it definitely does make the movie more interesting.

Not a lot really happens here, which is what I love about it. James Gandolfini’s character and performance are amazing. His character shows up, does nothing, and then leaves. And it’s perfect. I think what they were going for got lost on a lot of people (either that or they didn’t particularly care for how much of a blunt force the ending is in terms of its message), but that’s also assuming enough people even saw it to have that opinion. I think this is just one of the most criminally underseen movies of the decade.

9. Argo

“What does the title refer to?”
“The Argo. You know, it’s the thing.”
“Like Jason and the Golden Fleece, or what?”
“No, no. It’s the ship. It’s the spaceship. It goes everywhere. It goes all throughout space.”
“So, it’s Argonaut.”
“No.”
“What does Argo mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“It means ‘Argo fuck yourself.'”

In his third time out, after hitting two doubles with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Ben Affleck hits a home run. This movie is great. It’s the kind of true story that was made to be a movie.

It’s about the Canadian Caper, which was a CIA operation during the Iran Hostage Crisis that helped get a group of American diplomats out of Iran after the American embassy was stormed and they had to hide out in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Ben Affleck plays the CIA officer who designs the plan, which is — go into Iran under the guise of making a movie. “We’re a bunch of Canadians scouting to make a Star Wars-style knockoff movie.” And the first half of the film is them setting this up to look utterly realistic — using a real movie producer, a real effects artist, creating a real company, finding a real script, and making it look as legitimate as possible. And then they go in, convince the Iranians that they’re legit, and then hopefully sneak out with the people without anyone knowing.

It’s great. It’s really, really great. It’s just a fun movie that everyone will enjoy. There’s a reason it won Best Picture this year. It’s just a fantastic piece of work, and has now forever given us the phrase ‘Argo fuck yourself’ to add to the lexicon.

10. The Dark Knight Rises

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”

The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I remember him saying that each of the three films is built around a particular theme. Batman Begins was about “fear,” whereas The Dark Knight was about “chaos,” and this one was about “consequences.” And that’s what it feels like.

It’s a conclusion to the story that was started in Batman Begins, and shows the consequences of what happens when you become a hero to an entire city by being a vigilante. The strength of this film is that it doesn’t treat the characters like they exist in a serialized world where each outing is just a chapter in their lives. It takes place about seven or eight years after The Dark Knight. And Bruce Wayne is older, he’s battered and he’s trying not to have to be the Batman if he can help it. But then Tom Hardy as Bane shows up (which, do we need to say anything about him and that performance?) and throws the city into chaos. And it’s wonderfully realized.

I think some people will have a few issues with how the movie ends (the autopilot, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ending, and for me at least, that final shot with Michael Caine, which I felt would have been much better had we not seen the other side), but there’s no denying that this entire trilogy is just incredible in terms of how it realizes this universe and for once makes superhero movies with some dramatic weight to them. Whatever quibbles any of us may have… it’s an incredible achievement all the way through.

– – – – – – – – – –

11-20:

Anna Karenina — Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Tolstoy novel. They’ve made this a bunch, and at this point all of these adaptations feel rote most of the time. It takes a lot to make me interested in one of them. But here, we have Joe Wright, who takes the material and makes it visually interesting. The first half of the movie feels almost artificial, as if they were making an interactive stage version. Which I absolutely adored, though I’m aware that may not be for everyone. Because this story is like a lot of them — Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre — by now you know the story, so it’s not like you need to pay attention to that part. You wanna see how they tell it. And I think it was told absolutely beautifully here. The cast is great: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Olivia Williams, Cara Delevingne, Emily Watson, Holliday Grainger, Ruth Wilson, Michelle Dockery and Bill Skarsgard. The cinematography is stunning and the sets, costumes and score are equally lush and beautiful. I love everything about this movie.

Bachelorette — So, full disclosure, I didn’t like Bridesmaids. I still don’t. I didn’t think it was anything more than a decent movie with some parts I truly did not like. And everyone’s reaction to it was surprising to me. Rarely is my opinion so opposite the majority that strongly. But then everything died down and I sort of forgot about it. And then this movie came out. And it was everything I wanted Bridesmaids to be and more. I love this movie. And I’m surprised no one ever bothered to go see it. It’s written and directed by Leslye Headland, who created Russian Doll. And it’s about Rebel Wilson getting married, and her three friends from high school — Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan — coming to be her bridesmaids. And all of them have their own shit going on and none of them ever really particularly liked her. They always made fun of her behind her back. But now they’re reuniting, and the three of them decide to go have fun, which quickly turns into disaster and devolves into some real dark and fucked up (and hilarious) situations. I know most people will disagree with me on this one, but this is truly far and away above Bridesmaids for me and is always going to be such.

Beasts of the Southern Wild — It took me a while to come around on this one. Part of it is because all the people who made it went to the same school I did and there were some… struggles there for various reasons that had nothing to do with the film. But truly, this film is a marvel. It’s so good. I still go back and listen to parts of the score from this movie, which was co-written by Benh Zeitlin, the film’s director. This film stars Quvenzhané Wallis (who I think is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever because of this film) as a young girl growing up in “the Bathtub”, a community on the edge of the Bayou in New Orleans, which, due to global warming, will eventually flood over. It’s dangerous for everyone to live there, but the inhabitants refuse to leave. So the film is about this girl growing up here and about her relationship with her father, whose health is slowly deteriorating. It’s… so incredible. I can’t say enough good things about this movie. The more I watch it, the more I fall in love with it. It’s truly one of the best films of this year and of the decade.

Cloud Atlas — This movie isn’t for everyone. A lot of people are gonna watch it and wonder what the hell they’re seeing. But I remember seeing this for the first time and being absolutely blown away by it. I thought it was beautiful. It’s about a bunch of stories in the past, present and future, and the conceit is that the same group of actors play all the different characters in all the different timelines. But they do so regardless of race or gender. Which can be a bit disorienting, but I loved it. It’s this beautiful tapestry of stories impeccably directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. There’s so much going on here it would take a dissertation to try to discuss it all. But I think this is a stunning achievement that is one of the absolute best movies of this year that everyone needs to see.

Life of Pi — It’s almost like the setup of a joke: “guy gets stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, a monkey and a tiger…” I thought this movie was gonna be ridiculous when I heard it was being made. I had no idea about the novel itself, nor did I consider that Ang Lee would make such a visually sumptuous film. But man, this movie defied a lot of my expectations. It’s an allegory, but it’s an interesting one. An Indian boy traveling with his family gets shipwrecked and after he is found, he tells the doctors his story, which involves being stranded in a lifeboat with those three animals. And a lot of the film is this story, him in the lifeboat with this tiger and the uneasy alliance (and even friendship) that comes of it. It’s a really beautiful film.

Lincoln — Steven Spielberg’s movie about the passing of the 13th Amendment. Aww yeah, get hyped! Isn’t this what everyone expects when they go to a Spielberg movie? It’s about America passing the amendment that abolished slavery, and all the underhanded politics that had to go into doing it. The film is centered around Abraham Lincoln, stunningly portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis (earning himself a well-deserved third Oscar for his performance). I was saying to people at the time, and it’s still my point of reference for sublime performances: I watched this movie and I was engaged and enjoying it and I found myself going, “Yeah, Tommy Lee Jones is really good. And James Spader is really good. And Sally Field. And David Strathairn. And then President Lincoln. And then…” Because Day-Lewis is so good that I just assumed I was watching the president. He’s that great here. And also, the film was written by Tony Kushner and is just an incredibly-written movie. I always feel like I don’t like this movie as much as I do (except for those multiple endings. I still can’t believe he didn’t end it on him walking up that hallway at the end), but every time I go back and watch it, I like it even more than I previously did. This movie is amazing and missed my top ten by about a nose hair. It’s basically #10.5 for me this year, I like it that much.

The Master — Paul Thomas Anderson, baby. Some people think this is his best film. I’m… not that I don’t love it, because obviously look where it is. I find that I enjoy watching most of his others over this one, simply because I feel like the thing with his movies is that they get funnier and funnier each time you go back and watch them (Phantom Thread is a straight up comedy and There Will Be Blood is also hilarious with some of the things Daniel Day-Lewis does and says). This one not so much. The humor tends to get drowned out. I’m guessing it’s because Joaquin Phoenix is so intense and weird and Philip Seymour Hoffman is basically playing L. Ron Hubbard, and as ridiculous as a lot of scientology is, it’s more scary than funny. But just as a pure film, this movie is incredible. It’s just a masterpiece. But that’s what Paul Thomas Anderson does. He makes masterpieces. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only person who could have played this character. And then Joaquin — this was his first performance in what felt like years (mostly because he did that documentary and was off being weird for a few years. Which was only about three but felt like six or seven). And then you see him come back on screen and immediately within ten minutes, you’ve forgotten about all of that and you realize what an incredible actor he is. By the time you get to that scene in the department store when he’s taking photos and moving the lights, you’re just spellbound by everything he’s doing. This movie is just a marvel. And it’s insane to me how Anderson can make these literally every time.

Seven Psychopaths — Martin McDonagh. By this point, most people (even those who didn’t see it in theaters or the immediate aftermath) realized how amazing In Bruges was. But for some reason no one bothered to go out and see this one. It’s admittedly a different film from In Bruges, but it’s still McDonagh and it’s still hilarious. I don’t even know how to begin to describe this movie — Colin Farrell is a writer whose friends are Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Who kidnap dogs and return them to owners for reward. Only one day, they kidnap Woody Harrelson’s dog. And he’s a very ruthless gangster with a severe attachment to his dog. And, well… they’re in deep shit. It’s such a weird fucking movie, but also hilarious. It’s so funny. Everyone in this movie is great. Rockwell, Walken and Harrelson especially. Oh my god. It’s a step below In Bruges and Three Billboards, but my god, is this hilarious.

Wreck-It Ralph — This movie was so incredible at the time. They fucked it up with an unnecessary (and terrible) sequel, but this first one is still a near-perfect entity. It’s about a video game villain who hates his lot in life and wants to be the hero for once. Only, in his quest for doing so, he might end up destroying the entire arcade where his game is. And it’s just wonderful. The inner world of the video games is perfectly realized and the characters are just lovable. This movie has so much heart and it’s just a beautiful, beautiful film. One of the best Disney has made, period.

Zero Dark Thirty — Kathryn Bigelow’s followup to The Hurt Locker, this is a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain plays a composite character whose sole goal is to find this guy. The opening section is her getting information from tortured detainees, then we see her following leads for a while and dealing with military bureaucracy, and then eventually they find out where he is and the latter section is the Seal Team 6 raid on his compound. It’s really well-made. The direction here is fantastic and Chastain is very, very good as well. It’s not on the level of The Hurt Locker, but it’s a really terrific film.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tier two:

  • 21 Jump Street
  • Amour
  • Arbitrage
  • End of Watch
  • Flight
  • The Grey
  • Haywire
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • The Hunger Games
  • Jack Reacher
  • Jeff, Who Lives at Home
  • Magic Mike
  • Premium Rush
  • Prometheus
  • Promised Land
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Smashed
  • Starlet
  • Ted

Smashed is a wonderful indie with one of the best lead performances o the year from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s truly a star-making performance that somehow didn’t make her a star. James Ponsoldt directs, and this helped get him noticed (en route to The Spectacular Now). Winstead and Aaron Paul play a couple of alcoholics whose marriage is built on that. Only she then decides to get sober, which tears their relationship apart. It’s a great indie and she is so good in it. This is every bit the performance that Short Term 12 was for Brie Larson. Yet Winstead still hasn’t gotten her Room. End of Watch is David Ayer doing cops again. This one has the conceit of being ‘found footage’, meaning the entire film is shot via the body cam that the cops wear. I think the conceit is that one of them is documenting it because he’s a film buff or something. Whatever. It actually does work, somehow, as much as I hate the found footage premise. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play two LAPD cops on the beat. And that’s really all you need to know. It’s a tremendous movie. It’s so good. It might be Ayer’s best. I’m partial to Fury myself, but this one might be the consensus favorite among all of Ayer’s films. Jeff Who Lives at Home is a wonderful Duplass brothers movie. My favorite of theirs. It’s about two brothers, played by Jason Segal and Ed Helms. Segal is a slacker who still lives in his mother’s basement and doesn’t seem to have any ambition and Helms plays a salesman. Helms thinks his wife may be having an affair so he takes his brother along to go to find out. And it’s just beautiful movie about two brothers coming to terms with… a lot of things. I really liked it a lot. It’s a very sweet movie.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a terrific film that I loved. Lorene Scafaria’s debut (I can now say that she did Hustlers and people will know who she is) and it’s about what people do when they know the end is near. An asteroid is approaching earth and there’s nothing they can do about it. So basically everyone knows the date and time that the world is going to end. And we see the aftermath of that. Some people go nuts and start murdering people. Some people start having orgies. Some go spend their final days with family. Others just carry on as normal, because they have nothing else to do. Steve Carell is one of those people, and the film is about him, his wife having left him, going on a road trip to find his childhood sweetheart. Keira Knightley plays his neighbor who comes along for the ride. And it’s just a wonderful movie. It’s an interesting style exercise, where you know the movie is going to end with the end of the world and that there’s no out from that. And I like how satisfying the whole thing feels, even though it ends with mass death. Big fan of this movie. Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie that I kept wanting to confuse with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, even though it’s not even remotely the same movie. This is based on a personal ad a guy posted in the newspaper asking for someone to accompany him in his time machine. The title refers to the last line of his ad. And Jake Johnson plays the guy, while Aubrey Plaza plays a journalist who sees the ad and decides she wants to write a story about it. Because who is this guy? And so it’s this weird romance of sorts with him being convinced that he’s built a machine that can go back in time and her clearly thinking he’s crazy, but also eventually starting to believe him. And it’s just a wonderful little movie. Colin Trevorrow turned this into Jurassic Park (and almost Star Wars). It’s a very likable movie.

21 Jump Street is the first of two movies in the summer of Channing Tatum. This movie was a complete surprise to everyone. First off, a 21 Jump Street movie was a ridiculous proposition to everyone, and we all just assumed it was gonna be a dumb comedy. And then Lord and Miller came on to direct and we all realized they weren’t taking the concept seriously at all, and within fifteen minutes you realized you had a great movie on your hands. Few comedies feel as fresh and as fun as this does, because it’s not taking itself or its premise seriously. And it just works. Tatum and Jonah Hill are hilarious and the whole movie makes you laugh. It’s one of the best comedies of the decade. Magic Mike is the other movie in the summer of Tatum. A movie based on his experiences as a male stripper before he became an actor, he got Steven Soderbergh to direct it and it turned into one of the surprise hits of the decade. This became Channing Tatum’s coming out party (and yes, because also… strippers) and also is a part of the McConaissance as well. There’s a lot going on here. I remember being really surprised at how fun this movie was. I never really liked the dark parts about the younger stripper who got into drugs and stuff. That slowed the movie down for me. Mostly I liked the funny sections among the strippers themselves and all the buddy-buddy stuff. Which is what the sequel to this is, and that’s why, as much as people love this movie, I like the sequel so much more than I like this. But this one is still pretty great on its own and both these movies are worth seeing.

Starlet is a Sean Baker movie which I came to (as I imagine a lot of people did) after I saw Tangerine and The Florida Project. And man, is this as good as those are. It’s the same kind of style, with a lot of unknowns and non-actors to create a sense of absolute realism. What I really like is how they handle the main character, who is a young woman living in Los Angeles who goes to an elderly woman’s yard sale and finds a bunch of money inside one of the objects she buys and then tries to befriend the lady. And the film becomes a story of friendship between these unlikely people. It’s better if you just take the film on its own terms and figure it out as it goes along. It’s so well-done. Baker is terrific at making films that feel like life but also feel perfectly told. I’m a big fan of him and of this film. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first one. It’s… long. There’s a dinner party scene that feels as long as an actual dinner party. It’s very broad. Very much skewing younger than the Lord of the Rings films. There’s also too much going on here that doesn’t need to be going on. There are problems with this movie. But, I’ll take a Middle Earth film over most other films. Sure, the first trilogy is perfect. This one, just kinda good. And I’ll take kinda good. Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel. Same basic premise — ship goes to an abandoned planet, things go wrong, people die. You know the situation. Covenant is the one that more closely bridges the gap to the original Alien, and I suppose there’s meant to be a third one to that. But… Prometheus on its own is pretty solid. Looks nice, has that slow burn that you got from the original Alien. It’s never gonna be as good as that, but it’s solid enough to hold its own within the same universe. Plus you get Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba. Which is a pretty sweet cast.

Flight is an awesome drama directed by Robert Zemeckis. Denzel got nominated for Best Actor for it and gives a tremendous performance, reminding you of how great a dramatic actor he is when he’s not doing action films. He plays an alcoholic pilot who saves all his passengers after his plane malfunctions. His quick thinking allows him to maneuver the plane in such a way that saves all but two of his passengers (rather than everyone dying). And so he’s a hero… only now an investigation into the crash is taking place, and his alcoholism is going to pose a real problem and may cause him to be brought up on criminal charges. It’s great. It really is great. I highly recommend this one. Denzel is terrific in it and it’s one of Zemeckis’s best films that isn’t generally known as one of his best films. Promised Land is a movie written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski that was going to be Damon’s directorial debut until he decided at the last minute he had too little time to prepare so he called up his buddy Gus Van Sant, and he directed it. Damon stars as a corporate salesman who is sent to a small town to basically get them on board with fracking. But he starts meeting opposition in the form of Krasinski. I really liked this movie a lot when it came out. It made my 11-20. I haven’t really seen it since, but I still think it’s a really solid movie. Haywire is a Steven Soderbergh action thriller. And it’s dope. Gina Carano stars and it’s just a nonstop thrill ride with famous people showing up nonstop and getting their asses beat. It’s great. This is one of his semi-experimental films, where he took the action movie, deconstructed it a little bit, but also took a non-actor (she was an MMA star making the transition into acting, kind of like Sasha Grey with The Girlfriend Experience) and put famous people around her to add legitimacy. So you have a 90 minute film where all these people show up: Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton. And it’s awesome as hell.

Arbitrage is a hugely underrated gem of this decade. Richard Gere gives one of the performances of his career in this. The film is basically about a rich white dude who gets away with murder. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the story. He’s a rich dude trying to sell off his business for a huge profit, only he’s out with his mistress one night and gets into a car accident that kills her. And the rest of the film is him trying to keep that as well as some of his business dealings a secret so everything doesn’t come crashing down. It’s a tremendous movie. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Hunger Games is a franchise I dismissed entirely before it came out. “This is just YA Battle Royale!” And admittedly, it is. I don’t care what fans of the books will say, it’s a Battle Royale rip off. And there are worse things to be. So I just figured it was gonna be stupid because of YA tropes. But, as I sat down to watch this movie, I found myself going, “Oh… this is good.” They had a really smart way of slow-playing exposition in this movie that surprised me. Usually movies like this can’t wait to throw it at you and overload you with it to the point where you stop caring. This one handled it really well and told you things as you needed to know and it felt really organic. I’m guessing that’s the influence of Gary Ross, who directed and co-wrote the film. I’m impressed by how this franchise managed to keep the YA tropes at bay until the third movie. Jack Reacher is an adaptation of the Lee Child series. They got Tom Cruise to play Reacher, which people made fun of, since the character in the books is like 6′-something and Cruise notoriously has to wear lifts on set because he’s like, 5’6”. But aside from that, why wouldn’t you want Tom Cruise playing your action hero? Seems like it’s generally a good idea most of the time. This was directed by Chris McQuarrie, who became Cruise’s personal director after this. It’s just a fun movie. And it’s got Werner Herzog as the villain!

Premium Rush is an awesomely unknown action movie, directed by David Koepp (who wrote a couple movies called Jurassic Park and Carlito’s Way, as well as a personal favorite of mine, Snake Eyes. Oh, and the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man). Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a bike messenger in New York City who delivers envelopes and packages to people all day, at breakneck speeds. Only one of his packages, unbeknownst to him, contains a lot of money. A lot of money that a corrupt cop, Michael Shannon, needs. So Shannon begins chasing JGL all across the city. And it’s just awesome. Pure B movie fun. Cannot recommend this highly enough as a movie you just put on one night and just enjoy the shit out of. Amour is a movie that’s so good that it’s one of only ten foreign language films to be nominated for Best Picture. Most would consider it Michael Haneke’s masterpiece. It’s a spectacular piece of work. It’s about a married couple, both in their 80s, who live happily until one day the wife has a stroke. And the rest of the film is the husband now trying to care for his wife. And it’s just beautiful, and sad, and just an incredible film. Every film fan should see this movie, as heartbreaking as it may be to watch. Ted is Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut based on the premise, “What if your Teddy Ruxpin came to life when you were a kid… and then stayed alive when you became an adult?” So you’ve got the magical toy when you’re 7, and now at 30, you’re just hanging out, drinking beer with him. And that’s the comedy here. The bear curses and fucks and things. And it’s funny. And admittedly, it works. It’s a funny movie that made a lot of money and got a sequel that’s not as funny but still kinda funny. One of the better comedies of this decade. The Grey is the movie where Liam Neeson fucks up some wolves. That’s it, that’s the movie. His plane crashes in the wilderness and he and the survivors have to fight off some wolves who wanna eat them. Simple survival movie. And awesome as shit. Who wouldn’t wanna watch Liam Neeson beat the shit out of some wolves?

– – – – – – – – – –

Tier three:

  • 3,2,1…Frankie Go Boom
  • The Avengers
  • Bernie
  • Brave
  • Compliance
  • Get the Gringo
  • Hitchcock
  • Kon-Tiki
  • A Late Quartet
  • Man on a Ledge
  • Not Fade Away
  • Quartet
  • The Raid: Redemption
  • Robot & Frank
  • Room 237
  • A Royal Affair
  • Ruby Sparks
  • Searching for Sugar Man
  • Upside Down
  • Why Stop Now

A Late Quartet is a wonderful movie about a famous string quartet who struggles after one of its members decides to leave due to health issues. So the rest of the group slowly starts coming apart at the seams now that they can no longer be the well-oiled machine they used to be for a quarter-century. And of course, all the stuff that was hidden by their success now comes to the surface, and… well, you get the idea. It’s a really great drama that stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken and Imogen Poots. Walken in particular is tremendous here. A performance I thought should have earned him an Oscar nomination. It’s also a performance that provided me this, which has given me endless amounts of joy:

Not Fade Away is a film directed by David Chase (who created The Sopranos) about a group of friends in New Jersey in the 60s who decide to start a band together. It’s a wonderful coming of age tale with a terrific supporting performance by James Gandolfini as the main character’s father. I adore the film, but Gandofini’s performance here is so, so good. (I said many times on this site that I felt that Gandolfini this year in both this film and Killing Them Softly should have been nominated for an Oscar.) Kon-Tiki is a great foreign film that was nominated for Foreign Language Film. It’s based on the true story of Norwegian explorer who crossed the Pacific ocean on just a raft. That’s it. That’s the movie. He and some other guys travel on a raft for 100 days. It’s great. A Royal Affair is a solid foreign film that was nominated for Foreign Language Feature and helped introduce Alicia Vikander to the world. She plays a young queen whose husband is… crazy. The only person he listens to is his doctor. And then Vikander starts to fall for the doctor… hence the title. It’s a really strong film and it really shows what kind of a presence she has on screen. She’s the highlight of the film. Hitchcock is a biopic of the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitchcock and Helen Mirren plays his wife Alma. And Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh. It’s fun. Not the greatest movie ever, but you have people you like playing famous people making a famous movie.

Ruby Sparks is a wonderful movie. It’s written by Zoe Kazan, who plays the titular character and directed by Dayton and Ferris (who did Little Miss Sunshine). It stars Paul Dano as a novelist with writer’s block who creates a female character he’d want to meet in real life… only to have her show up in his life. Which is quirky and cool, but then it goes to some dark places at times, because literally anything he writes about the character happens. Literally anything he wants her to be, she can be. So it’s not quite Stranger Than Fiction. It’s a metaphor for unhealthy relationship and is a really smart and well-written film. And yet another great performance from Zoe Kazan, who is eternally underrated. The Avengers is the first one. It was the biggest movie of the year this year. They teamed all the heroes together. It’s fun. Not my favorite Marvel movie, probably middle of the pack, slightly upper middle for me. It’s fine. Not really much else for me to say about it since everyone knows it, everyone’s seen it and everyone has their own opinion on it. Compliance is a wonderful little indie based sort of on true events (not specifically, but… this happened). A prank caller calls up the manager of a McDonalds claiming to be police and says one of the employees stole money from a customer and forces the manager to perform some really fucked up things to the employee. And it’s a terrifying movie, because it’s about how people just blindly follow what they perceive to be authority. This movie features a terrific performance from Ann Dowd as the manager of the restaurant and is really a terrific film

Get the Gringo is an awesome Mel Gibson action movie. This is the kind of B movie kind of action that I grew up watching and love. He plays an American who gets caught in Mexico after a bank robbery and is thrown in a Mexican prison. And the film is about him finding a way to survive in there. And it’s awesome. Trust me on this one. If you love Mel Gibson movies, you want to see this one. It’s so much fun. Room 237 is a documentary about The Shining, and all the various interpretations that people have about it. Some of them are interesting… some are batshit crazy. But the documentary is interesting. Brave is Pixar. A Scottish princess doesn’t want to fit into the social norms expected of her and wants to do things her own way. And it’s a great first act of a movie. And then mom turns into a bear and it kind of kills the film a bit. It’s still really solid. Just… the bear stuff isn’t for me. I much preferred the first act. 3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom is a really solid little indie that I ended up liking way more than I thought I would, particularly in one specific aspect. It’s about the relationship between two brothers: Charlie Hunnam and Chris O’Dowd O’Dowd has, for years, made these low budget films and forced his brother to star in them, often putting him through painful and humiliating circumstances. And now, he’s secretly filmed a sex tape with his brother, and now he, his brother and the girl have to get the tape back stat, before it gets seen. It sounds bad, but it’s actually kinda fun because the characters are well-drawn. And the real highlight of the film is Lizzy Caplan, who gives one of the single best supporting performances of this year. I love her performance her and I think it’s one of the most overlooked of the year.

Robot & Frank is a wonderful little gem of an indie. Frank Langella plays an aging thief who is in the early stages of dementia. His son sends him a robot designed to help look after things for him. But he decides to teach the robot how to crack safes and use it on jobs. It’s really awesome. I highly recommend this one. Why Stop Now is a fun comedy with a great premise. Jesse Eisenberg is a music student whose mother, Melissa Leo, fell off the wagon again. He finally convinces her to go to rehab. Only, when they get there, they won’t admit her. Because she needs to have drugs in her system in order to be allowed in. So they literally have to go get drugs for the drug addict so the drug addict can go to rehab. Which turns into an insane madcap adventure that takes place in the few hours before Eisenberg has the biggest audition of his life for a famous music conservatory. It’s a nice little gem of a movie. Definitely recommend it. Quartet is a Dustin Hoffman-directed film based on a play by Ronald Harwood (who wrote The Dresser and The Pianist and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). It stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon as retired musicals in a living facility who decide to throw a concert together. It’s a really cool movie with older actors getting to get some nice lead roles. Searching for Sugar Man is the documentary that won Best Documentary this year. And it’s great. It’s about what happened to a folk singer from the 70s who just disappeared, and two South Africans who grew up on his music setting out to find out what happened to him. And it’s a great story. Mostly what’s great is that we get to rediscover the music, which is great.

Bernie is Richard Linklater making a really fun dark comedy with Jack Black, who once again reminds us what a great actor he is despite often going unnoticed for it. He plays a weird, but nice guy who strikes up a friendship with Shirley MacLaine, a rich widow. And then… well, shit happens. It’s fun as hell. Matthew McConaughey is also in it. And it’s great. It’s so much fun. Upside Down is a wonderful little sci fi movie about two people who fall in love despite living in opposite worlds. Picture two Earths facing one another, one being the literal opposite of the other. And a guy from one falls in love with a girl from the other. And the film is about lover conquering all. It’s fun. It looks great, the visuals are fantastic and it’s just a really solid romance. The story isn’t as good as the ideas it presents, but it’s a very solid and worthwhile film that feels like the kind of movie that will influence someone else to do something extraordinary in some different way. Man on a Ledge is, quite simply, a movie about a man on a ledge. Guy goes up on a hotel balcony, threatening to jump, and they send a police psychologist to try to talk him down. Of course, what he’s doing up there and all that get revealed over the course of the film, and not all is what it seems. It’s a fun little thriller. I had a lot of fun with it, even if it’s not the greatest movie ever made. The Raid: Redemption is a great Indonesian action movie that launched the career of Gareth Evans. It’s about a SWAT team trying to take down a mobster who have to climb the floors of an apartment building to go get him. And it’s just nonstop action. Like a video game. Floor to floor, baby. It’s awesome. This and the sequel are both great.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tier four:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man
  • Berberian Sound Studio
  • Best Man Down
  • The Cabin in the Woods
  • Cosmopolis
  • Dredd
  • Ernest & Celestine
  • The First Time
  • The Five-Year Engagement
  • For a Good Time, Call…
  • Goon
  • The Hunt
  • Hysteria
  • Killer Joe
  • Lawless
  • Lay the Favorite
  • People Like Us
  • Savages
  • The Sessions
  • Sound of My Voice

Killer Joe is William Friedkin’s last film, based on a Tracy Letts play. It stars Emile Hirsch as a drug dealer who is in major debt, so he decides to put a hit out on his mother to collect her insurance money. Matthew McConaughey plays the titular hitman who shows up in the middle of this fucked up family situation and getting right in the middle of it. It’s… dark. And funny. It’s really good. Berberian Sound Studio is a really fun movie that is worth it for the sound design alone. It’s an atmospheric horror/psychological thriller about an American sound engineer working on an Italian giallo film. And pretty soon, he stops being able to differentiate fantasy from reality. It’s well done. The Sessions is an interesting little drama that was one of the indie darlings of this year. John Hawkes plays a guy in an iron lung who decides he wants to lose his virginity before he dies. So he hires Helen Hunt, a sex surrogate. And the film is about the relationship they develop during their visits. It’s a really solid, well-acted movie. Hunt was nominated for it and Hawkes just missed out on a nomination (in what is one of the stronger Best Actor categories out there). Lawless is the second movie from Nick Cave and John Hillcoat, about a family of bootlegging brothers during Prohibition.The brothers are played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke. And it’s also got Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Bill Camp and Dane DeHaan. It doesn’t fully work as well as The Proposition does, and given the people involved it was kind of a letdown at the time. But it’s still a solid movie that’s worth seeing for the cast.

Hysteria is a fun little comedy named after the ‘affliction’ they would attribute to frustrated women in the late 19th century and is about the doctor who scientifically created the first vibrator. It’s very funny. At first the doctor gets all these ‘hysterical’ women coming to him, and he helps ‘cure’ them by giving them pelvic ‘massages’. And pretty soon he becomes the most popular doctor in town. So eventually he comes up with a design that will allow the women to ‘cure’ themselves. It’s very fun. The Amazing Spider-Man is Sony’s reboot with Andrew Garfield. It’s them retreading old ground, only with a slightly different villain. I really enjoyed this at the time. I thought it set them up well for a new version of the franchise. They fucked it up with the sequel, but this one is still fun. In the long run, Marvel went leaps and bounds ahead of this and the Tobey Maguire movies still carry their own charm. So this is just gonna be a Spider-Man footnote, but still, I’ll take almost any Spider-Man movie over most stuff. Savages is Oliver Stone’s movie of the war on drugs. Well, not really. It’s fiction and it’s based on a Don Winslow book. It stars Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Blake Lively and Taylor Kitsch as pot dealers who get involved with the Mexican cartel. It’s solid enough. Never gonna be considered one of Stone’s best films, but he makes it better than it would be if someone else directed it. Plus you get Benicio del Toro warming up for his Sicario role, Salma Hayek, John Travolta, Demian Bichir Emile Hirsch and Shea Whigham.

Lay the Favorite is a Stephen Frears movie. And I don’t think people know that. Because it’s a weird choice for him. Though if you look at his resume, he is kind of all over the map in a good way. This one is a little comedy with Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis and Vince Vaughn. Hall stars as a Vegas stripper turned cocktail waitress who meets Bruce Willis, a gambler, who teaches her how to do what he does. And she turns out to be really good with it. That’s pretty much it. It’s a weird movie that I think people really don’t like, if they’ve seen it at all. I like the cast and I think the movie’s perfectly entertaining, though admittedly this would be something most people would glaze over when skimming through Frears’ resume. Dredd is a remake of Judge Dredd, only serious and action-y instead of campy the way Stallone made it. The plot is essentially a remake of The Raid. There’s a plot about him taking down a gang and all that, but it’s literally the same thing as The Raid. He goes into a building where the gang is holed up and fights his way to the top. It’s fun. The First Time is a coming of age movie about two high school kids who meet and fall in love over the course of a weekend. It’s very sweet and very likable. Sound of My Voice is a fun little indie. It’s Brit Marling’s second movie that she wrote and starred in alongside Another Earth. It’s about a filmmaking couple who decide to expose a cult leader for being a fraud. And, well, you can imagine how that goes. It’s well done. Marling plays the cult leader and it’s just a really smart little movie made for no money.

The Five-Year Engagement is an interesting dramedy that’s not quite either of those two genres. And I think the lack of a designation is what led to it not really getting noticed when it came out and it being forgotten. It stars Jason Segal and Emily Blunt (Segal co-wrote the film with Nick Stoller), and it’s about a couple who get engaged but can never seem to find the right time to actually get married. It’s solid. I think the fact that it’s in the gray area of genres is what appeals it to me. It’s not just the dumb comedy I would expect. Goon is a fun hockey movie. The hockey genre is pretty sparse. There’s Slap Shot and The Mighty Ducks and then Miracle. That’s basically it, save one or two others. This is about a guy with no particular hockey skills who is good at one thing: getting in the game and beating the shit out of the other team. And that’s the movie. An easy-going guy who joins a team and who’s sole job is to fuck up the other guys. It’s fun. For a Good Time, Call is your typical comedy about two roommates who start a phone sex line together in order to pay the rent. A very fun premise and a very fun movie. The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most beloved horror movies of the decade. I, not particularly liking horror movies or Joss Whedon movies, don’t really care about it, though I do think it’s more fun and smarter than most horror movies, which is why I do kind of appreciate it. But this isn’t gonna be nearly as high as it would on other people’s lists. It starts as your typical horror set up, which a bunch of kids going to (insert title here), and bad things happening. But then we pull back to reveal that there’s more going on and the film starts openly playing with genre conventions. It’s very smart and very fun.

Best Man Down is a movie about a recently-married couple who have to cancel their honeymoon after the groom’s best man dies suddenly after the wedding. And at first you think it’s one kind of movie — oh, the crazy best friend who gets into all sorts of shit died and caused another issue. But then it turns into something else, as they slowly figure out that the guy wasn’t exactly who they thought he was. It’s a really sweet little movie. The Hunt is a great Swedish film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Mads Mikkelsen is a single father and teacher whose life is turned upside down when a student makes up a story about him, which turns his entire town against him. It’s really well made and Mikkelsen is fantastic in it. Cosmopolis is a David Cronenberg film adapted from a Don DeLillo novel. It’s a day in the life of a 20-something billionaire as he rides in his limo across town to get a haircut. That’s the film. A rich guy rides across New York City to get a haircut, and lots of things happen along the way. It’s a well-made film. Robert Pattinson stars and is very good. I’m not sure people particularly like this movie, but I love the concept. The concept is what makes me like this movie more than most. People Like Us is a solid little indie drama based on the director’s own life. After his father dies, a guy finds out he has a sister he’s never known about. So he sets out to meet her. And it’s a beautiful little movie. Ernest & Celestine is a great (and Oscar-nominated) animated feature about the friendship between a bear and a mouse. Beautifully designed, and just a really sweet, lovable film.

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