Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 Year in Review: My Favorite Films #10-#6

Let's knock some more of these out:


Drake Doremus' Like Crazy reminds me of (500) Days of Summer in the way it realistically portrays a contemporary relationship between twenty-somethings. I've seen this relationship. I've been in this relationship. Even if I haven't experienced the visa problems of Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones' Jacob and Anna, this film cut into the open wound of yearning that we've all felt. The film is assured, beautifully shot, gorgeously written and performed, and completely earnest. Occasionally this sincerity can come across stilted and treacly but thanks to the top-notch performances it feels raw and lived-in. I can't wait to buy this and watch it over and over again. A shout-out to Dustin O'Halloran's incredible work on the score. It's an integral part of the film's emotional resonance. (And the use of Ingrid Michaelson's "Can't Help Falling in Love" cover in the trailer is inspired.)



I read Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin this past summer in anticipation of the film's awards-season release. I remember enjoying the novel immensely but frequently telling friends how much I believed it'd work better as a film since the power of Shriver's novel hinges on imagery (the paint on the house, the McMansion Kevin grows up in, Kevin's uber-tight clothing, the harrowing scene in the gym, what Eva returns home to afterwards, etc. etc.), and I'm happy to say I was correct. The film is a showcase for Tilda Swinton's masterful performance--and coming right after both Julia and I Am Love we REALLY need to see her as our greatest living screen actress--but Lynn Ramsay's direction is what makes the story sing. The last 20 minutes of the film gave me chills, and I can't remember the last time a film has achieved that. The last scene alone would put the film on this list, but that there is a whole two hours of fantastic before that is what cements it as a true stand-out from a great year in art-house cinema.



Ok, ok. So I already wrote about Bridesmaids over the summer in my "5 Best Films I Saw On Hiatus" blog post, but it's actually fallen a bit in my estimation since then. I still swear by the fact that it's the funniest film I've ever seen, but upon re-watch the few kinks showed a bit more. Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne are by far the greatest part of the film (I'm sorry, but I can't and don't understand all of the Melissa McCarthy love), but the pacing of the film is a bit rough in the third act. Besides that, this is a film that I will watch many times in years to come because the jokes are great, the actors are top-notch, and I will always love a comedy whose heart is just as big as its grin.

Favorite part: The airplane sequence.
Least favorite part: The food poisoning sequence. (I know, I know.)



Jason Reitman has a way with dramedy. I've enjoyed all of his previous films, but Young Adult is without a doubt my favorite. Besides Charlize Theron reminding the world that she is an incredible talent, Young Adult has an emotional core that I found surprisingly resonant. When the climactic scene finally comes the emotion hit me from behind and I haven't been able to shake it since. At first glance the film is about a girl trying to win back her high school sweetheart. What you come to learn is that it's about those of us who leave the comforts and safety of becoming a 'townie' to chase success and big-city living, and then look back and wonder if we'll ever be as happy as those who are still there and settling down in obscurity. It's a potent emotional charge and it's one that the films earns seemingly out of nowhere. That may be entirely in part to Diablo Cody's incredible screenplay and the aforementioned bravura performance of Theron.



Ah, yes. The Tree of Life. My first exposure to this film was the trailer, and the first time I saw it I cried. I know how that sounds but I refuse to edit it out. So its inclusion on this list was predestined. The admiration for the film is deafening, as is the disdain. I luckily am of the former, but I have some of the latter in me as well. I do find the creation of the universe sequence to be entirely unnecessary, and I think it harms the film much more than it helps it. Yes it's beautifully shot and it's fascinating in a National Geographic sense, but it feels like it's been tacked-on as opposed to a part of the narrative all along (if you could even say the film has a narrative). Without taking that sequence into account the film is an unmitigated stunner. Brad Pitt is the best I have ever seen him, the children's characters are fully-realized, and it's amazingly shot. The way it captures the sense of looking back on your childhood is heartbreaking and hypnotic. I can't wait to revisit that family again and again. What I like about the film is because it's so abstract each viewer walks away with an entirely different experience. It's something I can't say I've ever seen before, and I'm thankful that Malick exists and is working to give us films such as this. It's a beautiful and tender work that I think about at least a few times a week since seeing it for the first time in June. I remember hearing it described as a 'tone poem' or a 'visual hymn,' and I don't think I could do more justice to it than that.

My favorite Malick is still The New World, and if you have yet to see that you need to put it in your Netflix queues immediately!!!

Trailer (that made me cry...many times...):

Coming Soon: #5-#1!

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