We’re rapidly approaching the end of the year (or the world, if you, like many morons, give credence to the Mayan calendar) and we all know what that means:
End of Year lists!
Yes, it’s that wonderful time where every two-bit magazine hack and blogging tool (that’s me) decides to trot out their selections of the best film/book/song/etc. So, given I’m currently exhausted and sleep eludes me like the practiced tease that it is, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
At the beginning of the year, I actually remarked on a few films I’d seen, so this will bring it full circle, which I think is nifty. It’s worth noting that the films I mentioned as being on the list of things to see, I have failed to watch. I even forgot they were on the list. At least I’ve remembered there was a list, okay? I’ll get on that soon.
To recap, the fantastic films I saw at the beginning of this year were The Adventures of Tintin, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, and Hugo. Of those, I would retain TTSS and Hugo, though the other two were notable.
In no particular order, the other films I’ve seen this year that are remarkable:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
A powerful, interesting, original film concerning a small community that exists in the wild, cut-off from the rest of the world by a levee outside of a small Louisiana bayou. Part fantasy, part poem, part family drama, this is an engaging movie that stands out from everything else I’ve seen this year. The performances from Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy and Wink respectively, are flawless, brave, and heart-wrenching.
By the end of it, I actually had tears in my eyes. If I had to pick one movie for the year, it would be this.
Warning: you might fall in love.
Argo is a period piece examining the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, based on the extraordinary true story of the CIA operation executed to rescue six American diplomats from Tehran. Directed by Ben Affleck, it’s another fine film that serves as further evidence that he belongs behind the camera, not in front of it. That said, his performance is fine, and the ensemble cast is exemplary; most notably, Alan Arkin shines in his role.
I was a little dusty on the finer details of this crisis, which left me in great suspense throughout the film. I’m not sure how it would have played out for someone familiar with the material, but the writing, performances, and direction were so good that I’m certain the quality wouldn’t have suffered one way or another.
Warning: contains Ben Affleck with even worse hair than usual.
Cabin in the Woods
Hot off the heels of the phenomenal success, The Avengers, came the best horror/comedy of the year, and last several years in fact. (Note: CITW was actually made prior to the Avengers, but had a delayed release). In what was a bumper year for Joss Whedon, although it wasn’t reflected in box office sales, Cabin in the Woods stands as his finest achievement in feature film making.
A stunningly clever deconstruction of the horror genre, it has a terrific cast, put to excellent use by the capable hands of Whedon and Drew Goddard. While it doesn’t hold back on the hilarious takedown of horror conventions, it somehow manages to retain genuinely frightening moments, but never becomes unbalanced by that duality.
Warning: awesomeness ahead.
One of my absolute favourite films of the year – of the last few, even. It was also the first Wes Anderson film I’d sat all the way through (I feel as though I’ve seen parts of the Royal Tenenbaums a hundred times on TV) and I am thoroughly glad I did.
Moonrise Kingdom is a teenage romance that is deceptively epic. I say that because it caught me by surprise – it’s never presented as such, with all the characters taking it very much in their stride, especially the protagonists, but the scale of it dwarfs the two young lovers. They handle their budding, delicate romance with aplomb, but around their calm, almost surreal moments, we see the growing frenzy of the adults and other scouts searching for them, as with the helicopter, and the involvement of social services.
It’s to Anderson’s credit that despite this, we never feel overwhelmed, and it intersects seamlessly. The most wonderful aspect of this film isn’t just this story of young love, taken so seriously, that goes to such length, it’s the dual story of Suzy Bishop’s parents, Walt and Laura (played spectacularly by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). As their daughter is dwarfed by the swift and sudden bloom of love, so they are dwarfed by the decay and distance of a dying marriage. Their roles are perfect, the writing and direction is so extraordinarily detailed and immaculate, that you can’t help but be pulled in until you are utterly charmed.
The one off-moment, for me, was the lightning strike scene. I’m still not sure what to make of it.
Warning: early teen love can be painfully awkward to watch.
This is one of the more underrated films of the year. Lawless has a superb ensemble cast featuring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Guy Pearce. If for nothing else, it’s worth it to see these fine performers work, especially the chameleon Tom Hardy, who I actually didn’t recognise for the majority of the film.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s not amazing, and it won’t win any awards, I think, but it is an accomplished production with excellent writing, and great performances. It tells the story of the Bondurant boys, three brothers who run a successful moonshine operation that becomes threatened by outside forces looking to muscle in on their county. What sets the film apart from other shoot-em-up gangster flicks (aside from the writing and performances) is the interesting dynamics between the three very different brothers, and the exploration of the theme of immortality and local legends.
We all feel immortal while young, but older brothers, especially, always seem indestructible to their siblings. That perception feeds into their own awareness and bolsters them. This, in the film, coupled with the several near-death scenarios we’re told Forrest Bondurant has always survived at the outset of the film, plays upon our expectations. It sets up a will-he-or-won’t-he scenario where, as the reader, we always expect the worst. I will say this: I was entertained and surprised by this movie, in more ways than one.
Any film that can manage to surprise me deserves to be on this list.
Warning: Guy Pearce is positively repellent in this role.
I Saw The Devil
I think I’ll leave it at that. There are, I should mention, a whole mountain of notable films that I have yet to see, including: The Master, Amour, The Sessions, Cloud Atlas, Seven Psychopaths, Lincoln, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, and A Separation, among others. Some of these haven’t come out here in Oz, and some I’ve just failed to see.
So, it’s an incomplete list, reflective only of what I’ve seen to date, which actually hasn’t been all that much, I realise now. On a final note, as with the good, I should also mention the bad, and I’ll say that the two worst films I saw this year were The Dark Knight Rises and Magic Mike. I sincerely wish I hadn’t bothered watching either of them.
That’s all, folks!