The 2nd most joyous day of the new year has arrived! It’s part two of my Top 15 list! The third most joyous day of the new year can be found right HERE. Admittedly, as I look back on my list this year and last year, I think doing 15 is a bit excessive and probably weird. Especially in our “Top 10” hungry culture. But then again, I loved so many films this year that I didn’t want leave too many in the “honorable mention” zone. It’s very much like the film version of the “friend zone”, except movies are inanimate objects that can’t stalk me when I’ve given them the “just a friend” speech. Moving on now, before the next section of films I want to champion, I’ve also weaved a beautiful tapestry of films that I absolutely hated or were disappointed by. If you should dare defy my lists, please sound off in the comment section. Or come protest outside my window. I have a lot of fetishes, so whatever works!
Haters Gonna Hate:
10. The Wolf of Wall Street (Click for Original Review):
The level of enjoyment you receive from Martin Scoresese’s film is likely a function of your tolerance for bare breasts, slapstick humor revolving around Quaaludes, and watching Leonardo DiCaprio blow cocaine into a prostitute’s asshole. Oddly enough, the acts of debauchery aren’t necessarily the reasons why the film is divisive. Rather, the film’s lack of punishment for its central character is often cited as the basis for the audience’s claim of irreconcilable differences. In the spirit of the film, those looking for a digestible morality tale can go fuck themselves. The Wolf of Wall Street is a brash film with a dark comedic streak, assuming its audience is smart enough to know that it isn’t a celebration of greed any more than an absurd reminder of money’s stranglehold on our inhibitions. Lead by deranged performances from Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese not only delivers one of the year’s best films, but also its boldest.
9. The Spectacular Now (Click for Original Review):
Even as a teen I viewed films depicting the “teen life” as gross fabrications. Beautiful people seducing beautiful people, parties reaching unimaginable drunk climaxes, and saccharine monologues solving any longstanding problem. The Spectacular Now isn’t one of those films. The drinking isn’t glamorous, sexual intimacy is awkward, and romantic relationships are uneven adventures spared from trite speeches. It’s the understated tale of an alcoholic teenager unimpressed by the future, often choosing to live in the cocoon of the “now” as a security blanket for his disappointing prospects. The teen, impressively played by Miles Teller, falls in love with a young woman (Shailene Woodley) living in the margins. A simple, yet effective love story unfolds, reminding us of the joys, the complications, and the inevitable death of youth by the hands of a fast approaching future.
8. The Act of Killing (Click for Original Review):
I imagine blood soaked hands are hard to wash clean, with each drop of crimson acting as corrosive agent that etches a ghostly reminder into the skin of a killer. In the case of The Act of Killing, a documentary that follows two active participants in the Indonesian killings of 1965 and 1966, genocidal behavior is celebrated. In this sickening documentary, director Joshua Oppenheimer asks his subjects to recreate their grotesque behavior on film. The two killers bask in the nostalgia, often proudly brandishing their methods of death. But in time, one of them begins to question the pain he inflicted on the innocent. And this is where The Act of Killing takes a fascinating route, as it leads its delusional subject away from his status as a national treasure. A man who was treated like a hero for nearly forty years finally starts to recognize himself as the villain. It’s powerful, unflinching filmmaking.
7. Stories We Tell (Click for Original Review):
Truth is a malleable entity, one that’s warped over the years by a shifting perspective and fading memories. Invariably, as time goes on, personal embellishments consume reality. This is a notion that plagues writer/director Sarah Polley in the phenomenal Stories We Tell. What initially started out as an investigatory ode to her long deceased mother, a person Sarah views more as a stranger, turns into an exploration of family shadows. Mixing interviews with home movies, as well as a unique narrative twist, Sarah sifts through years and years of secrets in order to construct an honest image of the woman who was taken from her too soon. The answers don’t come easy, but Stories We Tell is an absorbing and loving tale, one that affectionately chases an elusive beast: the truth.
6. Blue is the Warmest Color (Click for Original Review):
The rise and fall of young love is painstakingly detailed in Blue is the Warmest Color, a film that’s organic to the point it feels like a documentary. We follow young Adèle ( Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she has a sexual awakening of sorts, finding herself strangely drawn to a blue-haired woman (Emma, played by Léa Seydoux) she walks by in a crowded street. Adèle comes across the woman again a few months later and begins a relationship with her that spans a few years. Over the course of a three hour running time, we experience the romantic highs and the sobering lows, with each spark and fizzle eliciting a resounding emotional response from us. And the actresses on display are powerhouses, creating wholly authentic performances that are as vivid as anything you’ll see on film.