Hurray! An end-of-the-year list with good movies! Rejoice!*
A lovely portrait of middle-age. The rough edges and the cynicism that characterized director Alexander Payne’s earlier films are smoothed over – to a very satisfying effect. George Clooney delivers a career-high performance. Extra kudos for the gorgeous images of everyday Hawaii.
The big surprise of the year. I, for one, would never have thought that anything that seems knock-off Twilight on the surface could make this good a film. Jennifer Lawrence proves herself to be a true leading lady, one like Hollywood has not seen in years.
A film that much resembles The Descendants, in that it is the softest, cuddliest film in the corpus of its director. Many people are annoyed by Wes Anderson’s blend of depressed Bill Murrays and high concept stylization, but this is a film with a warm and true heart. Excellent performance all around, especially by the kids, and the best soundtrack of the year.
Arguably the greatest filmmaking achievement of the year. A film project that seemed most likely to be made fun off, or at least provoke some raised eyebrows. But Tykwer and the Wachowski’s adapt an apparently unadaptable book and deliver a movie with a point as well as six climaxes. That it never feels too long is a credit to the excellent editing.
Especially upon repeated viewing it becomes clear that Nolan’s final Batman film is not as good as the two films preceding it. There is some shoddy editing, and the lack of substantial politics disappointed me. But one cannot deny that this is still really good stuff. A mature superhero film on an unprecedented scale.
An incredibly tense police film with fantastic performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. The original cinematography – a blend of found footage and first-person shooter games – is its characterizing feature, but there is much substance to all this surface. There is no space for nuance here – the bad guys are very bad indeed – but what the hell? Who cares?
Its first half hour is the best half hour of cinema I’ve seen this year. No film can look like this and still tell a good story about interesting characters, so it is good that after that half hour Anna Karenina slows down to focus on its drama. Joe Wright’s second big achievement with this film is that Tolstoy’s outdated ethics actually do seem quite sensible.
Already in 2011 this was the darling of the Sundance festival. We had to wait for a long time to get to see it here in The Netherlands, but boy, was it worth the wait! An outstanding debut for both director Sean Durkin and leading lady Elizabeth Olsen, who has more than twice the talent of her two older siblings combined.
A surprise choice perhaps. Not the choice made by any esteemed critic with proper taste. But hell, The Muppets made me happier than any other film this year. I laughed, I cried, and back at home I was still singing along with the lyrics.
Aka Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Completely overwhelming drama about modern-day Turkey and the burdens it carries from its history. The tracking shot of a half-eaten apple rolling down a hill and into a little stream is an example of filmmaking machismo by one of the art’s masters; Nuri Bilge Ceylan. But more crucial is the shot of the doctor, seeing the wife and son of the murder victim walking home. It left me breathless.
* Circumstance prevented me from seeing Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi before the close of the year. So it will be a 2013 contender.