Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favorite Movies We Saw in 2012

Dear George,
Movies have been a big part of Katja’s and my lives together we started going on dates to the Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs in the late 1950s.  Nowadays we go to the movies on most Friday nights with our fellow cinema devotee Donna.  The 6-screen Esquire Theater in our Clifton neighborhood shows top-rated independent and foreign films, as well as some mainstream productions.  We also go frequently to the Rave in Western Hills or West Chester.  Here’s a rank-ordered list of my favorites that we saw this past year (note that some of them actually opened in 2011).  I’ve added a list of my “least favorites” too, though, because we only go to movies that we think will be good, I liked all my “least favorites” too.  Frankly, as long as there are images moving around on the screen, I enjoy it.  Hooray for the movies.

1.  Moonrise Kingdom.  Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton.  Two twelve-year-olds fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness.  A visually sensational, gripping fairy-tale which pits the maladjusted children against the nerdy adults.  Rotten Tomatoes: 95%; Blog: A.

2.  The Master.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix.  A World War II Navy veteran is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd.  Brilliant performances by the principals and a tense, in-depth exploration of the inner world of a cult (maybe Scientology).  Rotten Tomatoes: 84%; Blog: A.  

3.  The Iron Lady.  Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent.  An intimate portrait of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who broke barriers of gender and class in a male dominated world.  Meryl Streep completely earned the Best Actress Oscar for her remarkable performance, one of the best of her career.  Rotten Tomatoes: 55%; Blog: A.

4.  Django Unchained. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx.  Set two years before the Civil War, slave Django is the only person who can lead bounty hunter King Schulz to his prey, while Django is focused on rescuing his wife Broomhilda.  A complicated, thought-provoking mix of spaghetti western, slavemaster brutality, racial liberation, comic satire, and romantic love – engages the viewer on multiple levels.  Rotten Tomatoes: 88%; Blog: A.

5.  Life of Pi.  Suraj Sharma.  Surviving a shipwreck at sea, a young man in a lifeboat forms an unexpected connection with another survivor, a fearsome Bengal Tiger.  A compelling fantasy that probes the nature of human survival and the interdependence between living species.  Rotten Tomatoes: 87%; Blog: A. 
6.  Melancholia.  Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg.  Family tensions mount at Justine and Michael's wedding while a planet called Melancholia is on a collision course toward Earth.  Justine's and her sister Claire's angst take different forms, but both are consistent with a metaphorical depiction of death in the guise of the world’s end.  Rotten Tomatoes: 78%; Blog: A-.

7.  Ruby Sparks.  Paul Dano. Zoe Kazan.  A struggling novelist makes a breakthrough by creating a character named Ruby, but is flabbergasted when he finds Ruby in the flesh in his apartment a week later.  A discourse on writing, creativity, the thin line between reality and fantasy, issues of control and freedom, and romantic love – plus an effective outlet if you want to have a good cry.  Rotten Tomatoes: 79%; Blog: A-. 

8.  Silver Linings Playbook.  Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence.  Discharged after 8 months in a mental hospital, Pat is determined to rebuild his life and reunite with his wife, but things get complicated when he meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.  A sweetheart of a movie which convinces us once again that love heals.  Rotten Tomatoes: 90%; Blog: A-.      

9.  Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  Jiro Ono.  (Documentary)  The story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, the proprietor of a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station who is  considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef.  An absorbing, thought-provoking portrait of a remarkable if somewhat obsessed man, his staff, and their interesting world.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: A-. 

10.  We Need to Talk About Kevin.  Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller.  A mother copes for 15 years with the increasing malevolence of her first-born child, Kevin, culminating in a school massacre.  No light moments in this family horror story, but it’s a gripping, thought-provoking effort to understand the roots of evil.  Rotten Tomatoes: 78%; Blog: A-.  

RUNNERS-UP:  11.  Pina 3D (makes you want to dance); 12. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (splendid cast); 13. Beasts of the Southern Wild (an astonishing world); 14. Les Miserables (lush and lovely); 15. The Artist (intriguing); 16. Marvel’s The Avengers 3D (special effects); 17. The Bourne Legacy (nonstop tension); 18. Chimpanzee (amazing film-making); 19. The Hunger Games (well-crafted);  20. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (visually elegant).

LEAST FAVORITES AMONG THE MOVIES THAT WE SAW IN 2012: 36. Skyfall (dreary); 37. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (corny); 38. Arbitrage (one-dimensional); 39. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (unfunny);  40. Taken 2 (blood & guts); 41. Lincoln (boring); 42. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D (superficial); 43. Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D (live show is better); 44. Jack Reacher (formulaic); 45. Total Recall (uninvolving); 46. Sparkle (lackluster); 47. Rock of Ages (weak leads); 48. Safe House (gratuitous violence); 49. The Grey (mindless).  

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (1-18):  Django – loved it too. 
-JML (1-9): Hate to say it Dad, I used to agree with you a lot about movies, certainly more than with mom, but it looks like our movie-taste has changed over the years. Moonrise Kingdom and the Master were among my least favorite movies, the first too stylized and plastic, the second a complete butt-acher with no redeaming characters. Saw a lot of names that I had not heard of so i'll have to check out netflix. Thanks for the reviews nonetheless, J…

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