Nathaniel's top ten hits this weekend but he's invited TFE correspondents to share their own, so here are my personal loves of the year. [Disclaimer: I have yet to see Holy Motors, Amour, Rust and Bone, and On the Road.]
13) Arbitrage -Nicholas Jarecki's feature debut is a whopper, a palate cleanser for the John Grisham crowd and a showcase for Richard Gere's most effortless work in this thirty-five year career. Coupled with Zemeckis' Flight, you'd be hard pressed to find two more similar and dissimilar anti heroes who crowded the multiplexes this year. Charisma carries the Devil on its cape. You've never wanted the bad guy to win more.
12) Flight -The messiest of messes, a meditation on faith, humanity and temptation that true to form, sways and stumbles and remains standing, a loud, brash bombardment of the amoral and their blinding pain. Washington is Everyman to Goodman's Satan. And who the fuck is James Badge Dale? He pulls a Beatrice Straight and basically walks away with the film.
11) Ted -There is something deeply unlikeable about Seth McFarlane, an addictive toxicity that repulses you and engages you simultaneously. With 'Ted', his watermark (read: pissmark) on network television transfers over to the big screen with a spring in its step and a grenade in its pocket. Defaming the stunted lifestyle of men all the while celebrating its appeal, Ted made me laugh harder and feel worse about myself than anything else I saw this year. It establishes Macfarlane as the newest, crudest uncle of American comedy - you hate him when he's sober, but goddamn, there's nobody else you'd rather get hammered with.
top ten from 'Cloud' to 'Cabin' is after the jump...
10) Cabin in the Woods
Metaphysics matriculate and manifest in the unlikeliest of places. Joss Whedon's real success story of the year, Cabin takes such glee with its pronounced love and hatred for modern day horror that any affinity you carry for the genre lends itself to his interpretation. Accessible, interminable fun. The Stoner Is Always Right.
9) Magic Mike
Soderbergh's best film in over a decade, armed with one of the strongest ensembles of the year, his Cinderella-cum-Showgirl-cum-Bromance is that weirdest anomaly of mainstream filmmaking; a hypersexual meditation on and objectification of men, money, and macroeconomics. Sex Sells, and Sex Sells You.
8) Anna Karenina
Mannered, majestic and only intermittently successful, Joe Wright's theatrical version of Tolstoy's revered novel is like a Cliff's Notes for Brecht Bitches. The sweeping is under scope here, and the romance is tempered by an acute and astute observation of how our feelings about ourselves, our place in the world and in others drive us to the brink; Anna's sudden, violent fate is cautionary, a loud warning of our willingness to abandon everything in the hope of ascending towards... what? It's the most intellectually satisfying, curiously controversial film I've seen this year.
7) Take This Waltz
Bright, colorful and doused in sprinkles of sunshine melancholy, Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz is yet another showcase for the remarkable Michelle Williams, a loving and lucid look at the predatory nature of lust and the mundanities of happiness. Insightful and incisive, her scalpel cuts but leaves such lovely renderings after. You are always, always hungry. The loving are never fat enough. We always want more.
6) Moonrise Kingdom
Whimsical and quietly euphoric, this lovingly told tale of a Peter Pan& Wendy / Romeo & Juliet / Bonnie & Clyde who take New Penzance under their reign, and for a few blissful days acquire what the rest of us threw away. Anderson shoots like a genius and never wastes a frame. Nostalgia gets stripped down and given a pair of new clothes. You can see through to where it hurt, and where it still hurts. Cuckoo, yes. But happily so.
5) Oslo, August 31st
The other Trier deserves to be as well known as his Danish counterpart. Taking place over twenty-four hours, Oslo, August 31st is as much a film about ghosts as anything else. The rattling chains replaced with shuffling feet and streaming tears. There's a quiet moment near the end of this film where an opportunity is afforded to our lead character, who is concurrently provided a look into what that life could be like. Dead ends plant themselves down and chain smoke in the interim. You can't go home again. There's just graves there.
My little cause célèbre of the year, this is an angry, biting little film that fucking hates you and everything about you because, goddammit, you should be where I'm at. A modern look at the treachery and tenacity of friendship between women, it's a film about little girls who play dress up, stomp around, always impatiently waiting to fill their shoes. In the meantime, just give them some coke.
3) Zero Dark Thirty
Journalist objectivism coupled with a thesis on determinism as vampirism, the labyrinthian nature of a question. Fatalism on the rampage. Less a war film, more a film about chess. The Pawn Always Leads to the King. Chastain is an absolute marvel.
Spielberg steps back and lets Kushner do the work. And as a result, he gets the best film he's made since A.I. This quiet chamber play of a towering giant is everything you thought it wouldn't be, including 'brilliant'. (Sans the sappy bookends, natch.) Kushner is an American treasure. Incorporating his vast knowledge of all things, he still hasn't forgotten twenty plus years on that Politics is People, and in this highly theatrical setting where the stage is the speaking floor, your part is always your purpose. Daniel Day-Lewis is a King of Kings. There will never be another.
1) Cloud Atlas
The most divisive, ambitious and, yes, overwhelming film of the year is also the best. Taking cues from everything from Blade Runner to Mark Twain, from Star Wars to Brief Encounter, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Wizard of Oz, this wildly off-the-rails picture is a dazzling exhibition of structural juggling and communal self-efficacy in order to provide a 'monobrow' experience that satisfies and salivates all at once. I've never wanted to see a movie twice on the same day before. I did with Cloud Atlas. It's a behemoth with the brawn of a fighter and the heart of a child. I love it with all of me.