Well, it’s the middle of August, but better late than never. I’m finally confident that I’ve watched everything from last year worth watching and thus can put together my own top 10 list and not lay awake at night, wondering if that one last elusive film might’ve made the list, if only I’d managed to see it.
1. Gone Baby Gone
Hands down my favorite movie of the year. I think more attention was paid by critics to the nespotism – Ben Affleck behind the camera, Casey Affleck in front of it – than to the actual story, and the telling of it. A movie that wrestles with difficult moral questions, while still managing to me a remarkably good detective story.
2. Lars and the Real Girl
The funniest, saddest, sweetest movie of the year. Granted, it’s a strange premise, but if you can look past that – as the people around Lars were able to – you’ll find a heartfelt movie about loving broken people where they’re at, and hoping for better things for them. I’ve been recommending this movie to just about everyone I meet since I’ve seen it.
3. Michael Clayton
Smart, sharp, and committed to its story and its characters. Tom Wilkinson chews scenery in the best possible ways and George Clooney shows he’s no slouch as an actor. As a corporate thriller, it dwelt in the real world far more than other movies in the same genre.
4. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
If I had an Oscar ballot, Best Actor would’ve gone to Brad Pitt and Best Supporting Actor to Casey Affleck. Or you could switch that. Such different parts, but both actors load their performances with nuance and subtext. Which makes this a fascinating movie to watch, gloomy though it is.
Everyone’s been talking about Juno. Either you love it or you hate it. I loved it – I thought Ellen Page did a remarkable job straddling the line between sarcastic and snarky. An inch further one way and she would’ve been unbearable, and inch further the other and the movie would’ve lost its edge. As it is, it is sweet, sarcastic, and incredibly funny.
6. I’m Not There
This bizarre biopic found unity in diversity, and reinvented the genre. Bob Dylan has always been an enigma, which is probably why a movie’s never been made about him before. Kudos to Todd Haynes for taking on, and pulling off, such an ambitious project.
It could’ve been depressing, and it coud’ve been schmaltzy – a story about a paralyzed man who writes his biography by blinking his eye. But instead it feels like a stubborn tribute to the human spirit – and an incredibly artistic technical achievement.
Twenty minutes longer than it needed to be, and so terribly bleak – besides that, it would’ve been higher on this list. An absolutely masterful, completely spellbinding cat and mouse story shows the Coen Brothers back on their game.
A documentary that forgets it’s supposed to keep its distance, and just gets wrapped up in its story — which might be the best sports rivalry since, I don’t know, Magic and Bird?
Honorable Mention (the top 30)
12. This is England
13. Knocked Up
14. Deep Water
16. Sweeney Todd
17. Black Book
18. Into the Wild
19. No End in Sight
22. Across the Universe
23. In the Valley of Elah
25. Away From Her
26. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
27. Eastern Promises
28. The Savages
29. There Will Be Blood