As I already complained in a previous post, I have been having trouble finding good movies this year. A top 10 would have been a pathetically half-hearted effort, so I’m limiting my list to a top 5. Here they are, a few shining examples in a sea of “eh.”
5. The Dark Knight Rises
I considered several options for the number 5 movie. In the end I picked the movie that left the biggest impression on me. Since The Dark Knight Rises was a cultural event of sorts, it may seem like an obvious choice. Still, fresh faces made for a fresh experience in the third film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Based on the previews, I was skeptical of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, but she surpassed my expectations as a worthy sparring partner for Christian Bale’s Batman. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is always a welcome addition. And despite being an easy target for mockery, Bane was a villain with the power to truly frighten me.
4. Sweet Land
My friend Jenny has been telling me about Sweet Land for years. It’s a simple pioneer tale about a German bride sent to marry a Minnesota farmer. Because of prejudice from World War I, the community is suspicious of her and won’t allow the couple to marry. It’s charming to watch them fall in love, sometimes following social norms and sometimes making their own rules. The cinematography captures the beauty of the prairie in a way that any Midwestern girl can appreciate.
3. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games offered a rare opportunity to see a midnight movie premiere in my post-college life. The atmosphere just can’t be beat when you’re sitting in a theater full of excited fans. I already discussed some of my qualms with this film adaptation in a lengthy review, but now let me list some of best attributes. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Amandla Stenberg as Rue. And did I mention Jennifer Lawrence? That casting director deserves a raise.
A baseball movie without a baseball game. It sounds like a horrible idea, but Moneyball finds the drama in the office instead of on the field. This movie made me think differently about a game that I’ve been around my whole life. The real triumph of Moneyball is the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. On paper it shouldn’t work, but their characters are perfect foils for each other. I laughed out loud many times, but I also felt the tension of the game without a single extended action sequence. That’s an achievement in itself.
Argo had me from the first five minutes. With typical Affleck flair, he drops the audience right in the middle of the Iran hostage crisis. I felt genuine fear during the scenes of the embassy takeover. Shots of one female embassy worker almost brought me to tears. The fact that I felt so much empathy is a credit to the actress’s performance (I have tried in vain to find out her name) and also to Affleck’s talent for creating tension. Yes, this is the second year that I’ve picked a Ben Affleck movie as my favorite. At this point I have probably said all I have to say about his talent as a director. No other movie excited me like Argo, got me thinking and made me want to tell my friends.
Come back tomorrow for the first installment of my top 10 books of the year!