My own ten best movie list can be found here. But I've also asked my fellow Phoenix critics to contribute their own top ten, plus, if they wish, a list of five films that, if not the worst of the year, are the most disappointing, overrated, or most likely to bring about the downfall of cinema as we know it, not to mention civilization in general. For those who care about such things I will also include my own five not best at the end of this posting.
1. Moonrise Kingdom: Wes's best yet?
2. Zero Dark
Thirty: We know the guy with the beard gets it, yet
it's rife with tension and suspense in every frame.
3. Argo: Ben always showed promise, now he shows
4. Queen of Versailles: The one percent having to live
like the ninety nine, priceless.
5. How to Survive a Plague: A taut retracing of a time
of fear, hate and misunderstanding.
6. Marley:The incredible and sad life of the man who
brought Reggae to the world.
7.The Invisible War: Rape in the military as standard
operating procedure gets exposed.
8. Django Unchained: Tarantino’s nod to Sergio Leone is
both fun and QT quirky. Excellent score/soundtrack and Waltz delivers with
aplomb in every scene.
9. Silver Linings Playbook: O. Russell takes Nick Sparks
material and gives it bite while Lawrence answers the questions about range and
10. Killing Them Softly: Razor sharp dialogue and
protracted (perhaps too much) violence. Pitt's the lead, but it's all the pieces
around him that make the film hum--even if they shot this Boston based noir in
1. Barbara2. Marina Abramovic: the Artist is Present3. Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters4. Goodbye, First Love5. Perks of Being a Wallflower6. Take This Waltz7. Holy Motors8. Kid With a Bike9. Liberal Arts10. Killing Them Softly
FIVE LEAST BESTA note: I try to see only movies which sound worthwhile or come recommended, so I can't really make a "Worst List," only a list of "The Most Overrated"(in order)1. Moonrise Kingdom2. Beasts of the Southern Wild3. Argo4. Zero Dark Thirty5. Silver Linings Playbook
With Bigelow's espionage opus, Trier's soulful tale, Whedon's witty
superhero mashup, and Carax's homage to cinema, I loved going to the movies in
2012. It was a great year to trek out to the theater, despite the ever-looming
deadline for digital conversion and the usual hazard of box office clunkers. No
matter, the craft of storytelling is alive and well, and moviegoers have much to
look forward to from this crop of filmmakers.
1. ZERO DARK THIRTY2. DJANGO UNCHAINED
MOTORS4. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD5. MOONRISE KINGDOM6. OSLO,
AUGUST 31ST7. THE MASTER8. 21 JUMP STREET9. THE AVENGERS
10. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
THE MASTER. Lensed on luscious 70mm film, Paul
Thomas Anderson's follow-up to There Will
Be Blood is another inquiry into one of America's defining eras; following
Freddie Quell (a transcendent Joaquin Phoenix) as he - and his country -
searches for forgiveness, acceptance, and a sense of peace following WWII.
Mysterious yet primal, Anderson's latest may be his best; a search for meaning
in the depths of a most erratic mind.
MOONRISE KINGDOM. Wes Anderson's
lovers-on-the-run yarn about a pair of 12 year olds - nods to Pierrot Le Fou, Badlands, and the films of Stanley Kubrick abound, laughably - is,
miraculously, as romantic and soulful as it is meticulously designed. I grew up
with Rushmore, and long considered it
one of my favorite pictures, but Mr. Anderson may have topped it with this
THIS IS NOT A FILM. Jafar Panahi's
day-in-the-life chronicle- he's been banned from filmmaking for two decades and
subjected to house arrest for years by the Iranian regime- bounds between
reality and fiction, constantly questioning its own construction (15 minutes
in, Panahi - as actor and director - refutes everything you've seen thus far as
"a lie".) An audacious act of cinematic introspection reminiscent of Godard and
Kiarostami, Panahi's picture speaks not just to his struggle but to that of all
Iranian filmmakers. Make no mistake: this is a film.
ZERO DARK THIRTY. Kathryn Bigelow's last effort,
The Hurt Locker, was about being
obsessive and single-minded. Her latest film, in its own zen-like way, truly is
obsessive and single-minded. Tracking the ten-year search for Bin Laden with
emotionally detached precision, she's finally working from a script that can
match the pedigree of her dead-serious direction, and it results in her
HOLY MOTORS. I've seen Motors more than a few times since it opened a couple months ago,
and I still have no clue what it's "about". Depending on the day of the week
and my mood, if you were to ask me, I may guess director Leos Carax intended it
as a eulogy for film, or as critique of formulaic storytelling, or as a short
film anthology strung together by an inexplicable narrative, or perhaps even as
a tribute to make-up artists. The only thing I know for sure is that I can't
stop thinking about it.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA. Turkish filmmaker
Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest is somewhere between a police procedural and an
absurdist comedy; following a crew of small-town cops, forensic experts, and a
couple criminals as they spend a night trying to find a body the latter pair
buried amidst a vast nondescript terrain - while blackout drunk. The incredibly
awkward hunt takes up much of the film's 150 minutes. But the few moments of
daylight that conclude the mystery is what brings Anatolia to haunting, profound heights.
21 JUMP STREET. The year's best comedy took Judd
Apatow, John Woo, and John Hughes, threw all their aesthetics into a blender,
and produced a singular high-school-dick-comedy-cop-movie. And has any film
captured changing mores in American youth culture better than directors Phil
Lord and Chris Miller do here? Watching Channing Tatum roam the hallways,
distraught that he no longer seems to be accepted as naturally cool, and
pontificating about the evil influence of anti-bullying sentiments and Glee, we realize the nerds really taken
over the world.
MAGIC MIKE. Like many, I'm hoping and praying
that Steven Soderbergh's threats of retirement are idle. Mainly because his
recent full-on diversion into genre filmmaking - here, frontloads the film with
dance sequences full of Channing Tatum eye-candy, while spending most of his
time on a Bressonian narrative about aging and the economy and more than a few
other things - has produced some of his best work yet. With this, and Haywire, and Contagion, and so on, you come for the carnal pleasures, and stay
for the subtext.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. Unfairly written off by many
as some sort of "Diet ADAPTATION," Martin McDonagh's metatextual follow-up to In Bruges isn't so much
self-congratulatory as it is self-aware; a guilt-ridden takedown of the
unending wave of faux-Tarantino gangster films that invite you to get off on
violence and death. It's also, to borrow the parlance of Christopher Walken's
David Cronenberg's latest is a digital nightmare; an evocation of a world where
money no longer literally exists and the only thing quantifiable is that which
we "do not know". It also devolves into philosophical discussions centered on
Robert Pattinson's prostate. It's scary, it's smart, it's simultaneously zany
and brilliant - in short, it's Cronenberg,
FIVE LEAST BEST:
KEOUGH'S FIVE LEAST BEST
1. CLOUD ATLAS. Loved the book. Hated the movie.
2. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. With all due apologies to my colleagues who loved it, I thought it was patronizing, pretentious, pseudo-magical-realistic poorism.
3. COSMOPOLIS. When Cronenberg goes bad, it's this kind of bad.
4. LINCOLN. Great president. Excellent automobile. Turgid, over-rated parade float of a movie.