5. X-Men First Class
Just a straight-up good time. Fun 60s feel with just the right combination of kitsch and kicking ass. James McAvoy was a treat and Michael Fassbender, as always, was flawless. Made me wish this was the Magneto origin movie it was originally supposed to be. This film also wins the award for best cameo of the year. I won’t spoil it for you.
My one complaint: the entire portrayal of Emma Frost.
4. Midnight in Paris
Paris, literature, art, music, time travel, and lots of booze. This film was like crack cocaine for my inner nostalgia junkie. But at the same time, it emphasizes the fact that the past was never as good as we imagine it was.
From A. O. Scott’s review, “It is marvelously romantic, even though — or precisely because — it acknowledges the disappointment that shadows every genuine expression of romanticism.”
And finally, the absolute scene stealer: Hemingway.
3. Never Let Me Go
Ok, yes, technically this came out last year, but I saw it for the first time this spring and it blew my mind, or more accurately, my tear ducts.
A dystopian story that was actually shot with a very warm color pallet. The story was bleak, but the images were not. It was beautiful and simple and so sad. I cried so much, I had to change into a dry shirt after the film was over.
And the score, oh, what a lovely score by Rachel Portman. Haunting and delicate.
This one came out of left field. It was barely marketed. I saw a few people post about it, thought I’d give it a shot.
What. a. ride.
Ryan Gosling is the nameless, practically wordless (anti?) hero. The film oozes cool. It’s beautifully shot and the action hits hard. And in those long stretches of non-dialog, there’s always the driver to look at.
And just try to play Kavinsky’s Nightcall in your car at night and not feel swag. Impossible.
1. Tree of Life
I can’t even really do this film justice with my words. You should probably just watch the trailer and read what Roger Ebert had to say in it’s entirety.
“Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.”
Overrated film of the year:
This film was extremely well-crafted. It was beautifully shot and the acting was top notch. Sadly, I could not escape the clutches of Lars Von Trier’s ego. It felt patronizingly artsy and left a bad taste in my mouth.
A lot of people have been comparing this to Tree of Life, and while I can see why you would compare them, I would call Melancholia the polar negative of Tree of Life.
Honorable Mentions - The Feel Gooders:
Funny. Clever. Nostalgic. Musical. Loved it.
The Adventures of Tintin
Swashbuckling. Witty. Non-Zemekis-y animation. Very Indiana Jonesy. A great time.
A couple more year end lists to come! Books and songs and things.