So last year I missed my top 10 movies list, so I thought this would be a good way to start my finals week procrastination. Here are my best films of the year.
- The Departed
Picking this year’s best movie was easy. When I started jumping in my seat with anger and emotion over a character’s death, I knew that The Departed stirred me in a way few other films have. I loved how while the story is full of parallels, there is a certain unevenness in the cinematography and editing that energized the film. To see something like this from a director in the twilight of his career is all the more exciting. The Departed has all the elements of a good movies (director, cast, visuals, soundtrack, etc.) yet still works as a whole, which seems to be where most award-hopeful films fall short. I can’t wait to see this movie again and again.
- Little Miss Sunshine
The dysfunctional family comedy seems to be overdone these days, yet somehow Little Miss Sunshine made it seem fresh and original. I think a lot of credit goes to the writer/directors for not sticking to their convictions and letting the humor play out, rather than go for instant laughs. This is also a fantastic ensemble cast. Sunshine is a lot of fun and has a lot of heart, which are hard to come by in movies these days.
- Science of Sleep
Michel Gondry makes art films that literally look like art. This film takes the visual imagination displayed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and his music videos to a new level. The effects also aid a touching story about a young man who confuses his imagination for reality. I connected with this story, especially since the main character is almost named after me (Stefane). Some had trouble with the ending, but I think it was a fair ending to a fun journey.
Borat earns points for shocking and surprising me even after I had watched some of its funniest scenes in trailers and commercials. I left the movie feeling a little shaken, but in retrospect this really a great movie. Many have noted that Borat is holding a mirror up to America more than the other way around. Sacha Baron Cohen is deadly funny in this movie and has arrived as a movie superstar.
- The Fountain
This is another visually beautiful movies that I really enjoyed. Of Darren Aronofsky’s movies, I “got” this one better than the any of the others – though I understand not everyone will. The movie has a lot to say about life and mortality and I it tells it through images, rather through lengthy dialogue. Also like Science of Sleep, it uses organic visual effects rather than a glut of CG. The result is breathtaking.
- The Descent
Every weekend another horror film premieres, so its hard to separate the good from the bad. What separates The Descent is a truly horrifying premise that doesn’t rely on serial killers. The scariness of The Descent is that it has you jumping at the everyday things like cave-ins and broken bones before a creature even comes on screen. It also has strong character development, with an all female cast that breaks most horror film norms. This is a preciousfilm.
- Inside Man
I initially saw Inside Man as Spike Lee “selling out” or at least making a more accessible film. And while the latter is true, this movie still has all the powerful elements of his other movies. It has a stellar cast, a fun plot, and the visual style of a Spike Lee film. It also is filled with more subtle explorations of race and American society that stays true to his style.
- Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
Dave Chappelle’s not crazy, he’s just got better things to do. Block Party is amazing because a free concert generally doesn’t translate into an interesting movie. The unsung hero of this project is Michel Gondry, doing a turn as a documentary filmmaker, who finds the interesting stories that surround Chappelle and the event. Technically this all happened before the comedian “went nuts”, but watching the film you get the sense that perhaps Chappelle was just too normal to keep up with his onscreen personae. Anyway, this is a lot of fun.
- Thank You For Smoking
Probably the sharpest satire of the year, Smoking does a great job of demonstrating the power of free speech in our society. The movie doesn’t make a case for tobacco, but rather our freedom to defend what we want and do what we want. In a time when civil liberties are taken lightly, this is an appropriate film. It’s also very funny and makes Aaaron Eckhart a star.
- Casino Royale
I don’t generally like Bond films and I went to Casino Royale on a whim. Boy am I glad I did. This is easily the best action film of the year and many would agree its one of the best Bonds to hit the screen. Ian Craig does a great job of reinventing the character, or bringing it back to its roots from the caricature the later films created. It also is the first that seems firmly rooted in the post-Cold War world, which is ironic since it is also a throwback to early Bond. I hope the producers continue on this storyline, sticking to the novels and perhaps remaking other Bonds.
Honerable Mention: Accepted, Apocolypto, Clerks II, Gridiron Gang, V for Vendetta, Slither, Tristam Shandy, Pirates of the Carribean 2, Snakes on a Plane, Superman Returns, Prairie Home Companion, Stranger Than Fiction, Monster House, Rocky Balboa
Still Need to See: Hard Candy, The Illusionist, The Prestige, The Last Kiss, Art School Confidential, The Good Shepherd, Letters from Iwa Jima, Pan’s Labrynth, Children of Men, Little Children, A Scanner Darkly, Half Nelson, An Inconvinient Truth