Here "The Artist" impressively scores number one on three more lists. I
feel so bad that's it's not my favorite movie. More divisive are "J.
Edgar," "War Horse," and "Melancholia, which have been showing up on
both best and worst lists. Sometimes from the same critic.
1. "The Artist"
2. "The Descendants"
3. "Dreams of a Life"
5. "Project Nim"
6. "A Separation"
7. "The Skin I Live In"
8. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
9. "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
10. "Wuthering Heights"
It would be so easy to pick "New Year's Eve" or "The
Hangover Part II." But a degree of failed ambition is required for a film to
make my "five worst" list.
2. "The Awakening"
3. "J. Edgar"
5. "War Horse"
1. "The Artist"
4. "A Separation"
5. "Midnight in Paris"
6. "Attack the Block"
9. "Martha Marcy May
2. "What's Your Number"
3. "Johnny English Reborn"
4. "Seven Days in Utopia"
1. "The Artist"
The story of the year, really. Michel Hazanavicius, a
Belgian light comedy director, makes a black & white silent film that
debuts at Cannes. People give it no chance to succeed in the US market. And
Harvey Weinstein, who quietly brought the film to Cannes, makes a splash by publicly buying it
and makes clear to everyone that there's a path straight to the Oscars for this
modern silent film.
Great story that
starts in 1927: a rising young starlet played by Berenice Bejo picks a failed
male matinee idol played by Jean Dujardin out of the dumpster of history where
studio boss John Goodman has chucked him. The Artist is a romantic comedy about
the first great technological hurdle: the coming of sound to motion pictures..
2 "City of Life and Death"
This absolutely heart-stopping 2009 film almost never made
it out of China after its
showing in Cannes and Toronto. The Chinese government disapproved
of its moral irony about the infamous rape of Nanking, the former capital of
China, by the Japanese imperial Army during the second Sino-Japanese War in
1937. You're transported to a different world, where the everyday horror of a
different holocaust makes your jaw drop and your eye weep. A wonderfully shot
and acted film. Another KinoLorber.com release.
3. "Melancholia" (Lars
brilliant revenge fantasy about the end of the world
4. "Le Havre" (Aki
A simply wonderful
take on the old French spirit in her northern port city.
5. " The Descendants" (Alexander
Set in Hawaii, AP continues his
pursuit of truth in paradise with George Clooney
6. "Iron Lady"
Phyllida Lloyd continues her unexpected good time liaison
with Meryl Streep-they last made "Mama Mia" together - to challenge received
opinion about Margaret Thatcher, who tacked Britain to the right as Prime
Minister for an unprecedented three terms over nearly a dozen years starting in
busted unions, sold off British Rail and other nationalized industries, slashed
spending at a time when Britain was in the same recessionary jam as Greece is
today, sought a flat tax that sparked riots, opposed a common Euro currency,
and beat the pants off Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
script toggles back and forth between Thatcher's young womanhood as Margaret
Roberts and her dotage, marked by some form of dementia, while detailing her
long marriage to Dennis Thatcher - played here by that British gentleman
specialist Jim Broadbent.
The film also
finds deep admiration for her highly resisted rise to top of the Conservative
party and thence Prime Ministership.
"The Iron Lady," I
am advised by people who know better than I, takes liberty with some of the
facts, and perhaps doesn't contextualize the times well enough. But it never
fails to thrill.
7. "Tuesday, After Christmas"
A small gem from
Romanian director Radu Muntean about a man having an affair with a dental
assistant who works on his daughter's misaligned bite. He's got to leave either
his wife or his lover by Christmas. From Cannes
2010, and perfectly done for our adulterous age. You can find this on DVD from
KinoLorber films online.
French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's never less than
riveting story that whips back and forth between a Middle Eastern country that
is reminiscent of Lebanon
and its civil war of the 1980s and present day Montreal. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
9. "J. Edgar" (Clint
Gay screenwriter, lefty producer, righty director, and a
pretty damn good set of performances - by Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover,
and Armie Hammer as his faithful servant. I go back and forth on this one, but
it was one of two biopics this year-the other is coming up-that made monsters
10. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Tomas Alfredson)
A remake of the 1979 version of John Le Carre's George
Smiley spy novel. That one starred Alec Guiness, who was very nearly invisible
onscreen, and this one Gary Oldman, whom a film critic friend of mine says
makes Guinness look like a ham. I disagree, but pretty darn great performance
by Oldman but without the urgency that anything is at stake save a bit of