Really good movies are few and far between these days. Maybe it’s the aftermath of the writer’s strike of a couple of years ago, or perhaps Hollywood is tailoring its products mostly for its huge youth and foreign audiences. We go to the movies every week, usually to Cincinnati’s art theaters, the Esquire and the Mariemont. We also take in selected mainstream Hollywood movies at the Rave. Here are my picks in rank order for the best so far in 2011. Since we try to go to the best movies in town, our sample is necessarily biased. Plus this is a pretty subjective ranking.
1. Bill Cunningham New York. An intimate, inspiring documentary about the 80+ year old New York Times photographer who, for years, has been riding his bike around Manhattan and recording fashion trends on the street by day and at New York’s social functions at night for his weekly columns in the Times. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%; Blog: A.
2. Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams. A warm, loving fantasy written and directed by Woody Allen about a man who is a tourist in Paris with his unpleasant fiancé and her parents and is magically transported at nighttime to the 1920’s world of Hemingway, Picasso, and Gertrude Stein. Yahoo critics: B+; Blog: A-.
3. Another Year. Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville. Tom and Gerri, a happy couple in their sixties with a grown son, deal with the emotional upheaval of their friends and relatives over the four seasons of a year; makes you laugh and cry. Yahoo critics: A-; Blog: A-.
4. Water for Elephants. Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz. An old-fashioned romance set in the thirties in which vet school student Jacob loses his parents, jumps a train and joins the circus, then falls in love with equestrian star Marlena, eliciting the wrath of her husband, ringmaster August. Yahoo critics: B-; Blog: A-.
5. Waste Land. Vik Muniz. Documentary of artist Vik Muniz’s collaboration with the pickers of Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill outside Rio de Janeiro, as he recreates photographic images of them out of recyclable garbage and reveals their dignity and despair. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%; Blog: A-.
6. The Fighter. Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg. A gritty, distressing, documentary-like picture of the early years in Lowell, Mass., of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother Dick Eklund who helped train him before he went pro in the mid-80s. Yahoo critics: B; Blog: B+.
7. Hanna. Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana. In a film involving nonstop action, suspense, and a teenage super-heroine, Ex-CIA man Erik raises his daughter Hannah in the wilds of North Finland to become the perfect assassin, then recognizes that she needs to go out in the world for the first time to deal with her family’s unfinished business. Yahoo Critics: B; Blog: B+.
8. Incendies. Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin. When Nawal Marwan dies, her twin son and daughter receive from her will a pair of letters to deliver to a father they thought was dead and a brother they didn't know existed, leading to an incredible, suspenseful journey through their family history in the war-torn Middle East and their discovery of the tragic fate and remarkable courage of their mother. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%; Blog: B+.
9. Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph. A funny comedy on the surface and a serious drama at its core, maid of honor Annie tries to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre marriage rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids, but creates one disaster after the next. Yahoo Critics: B+; Blog: B+.
10. Super 8. Kyle Chandler, Ellen Fanning. With Jaws-like themes and suspense inspired by producer Steven Spielberg, a group of teens are filming a Super-8 movie when a pickup truck derails a speeding train, setting in motion a reign of terror by a creature from outer space in their small southwestern Ohio town. Yahoo critics: B; Blog: B+.
ALSO RANS: Buck (B+); Cave of Forgotten Dreams (B+); The Conspirator (B+); Biutiful (B+); Rabbit Hole (B+); X-Men: First Class (B); Jane Eyre (B); The Tree of Life (B).
NOT SO HOT: The Lincoln Lawyer (B-); Source Code (B-); Everything Must Go (B-); Unknown (C+); True Grit (C+); Blue Valentine (C); The Adjust Bureau (C); Thor (C-).
YOU COULD SAY AWFUL: 127 Hours (D+).
-Phyllis SS (7-1): Dave, I'm so impressed that you see so many movies. I think I'd seen four of your total. I know Bill Cunningham's work very well. He's got at least one book out. I hope Blockbuster gets the movie; it sounds great. P
-Vicki L (7-2): Hi Davey, Thanks for the thumbs up and down. I'm so out of the loop I need all the help I can get! Do you subscribe to Netflix or only to what's current on the big screen. Love the movies. Sis