So yesterday, we ran part one of this post. In case you missed it, here were my picks:
- Waiting for Superman
- Winter’s Bone
- The Company Men
- Rabbit Hole/Blue Valentine (tie)
- The Fighter
Now, without further ado, are the rest of my picks for best movies of the year.
5. The Kids Are All Right
This quirky drama won me over in no time. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple raising two children who were the product of an anonymous sperm donor. When the kids are old enough, they seek out and find their donor, who is played by Mark Ruffalo.
His character Paul is a perpetually laid-back restaurateur who drives a motorcycle and lives a bohemian lifestyle. The kids are instantly captivated, and develop a relationship with the guy, much to the chagrin of their uptight mom Nic (Bening).
I admire writer/director Lisa Cholodenko for her sensitive handling of the subject matter. A lesser director could have turned this into a slapstick farce, but ultimately the film is funny, touching, and wholly original. It is also universally relatable. Bening is a standout in the film for her performance.
4. 127 Hours
Director Danny Boyle took an unfilmable story and made something magical. This is the true story of hiker Aron Ralston, who became pinned under a boulder while hiking solo. After several days he had to amputate his own arm in order to get out alive. Despite the grisly subject matter, the film is one of the most life-affirming films you will ever see. Boyle keeps the gore to a minimum, and instead concentrates on what Ralston was going through psychologically.
Hallucinations and daydreams provide opportunity for Boyle to showcase his signature camera techniques, and keep the story rolling right along.
This was a breakthrough performance for James Franco, who should be nominated for an Academy Award. The film will very likely change your outlook on life. Powerful stuff.
3. The Social Network
This movie is sweeping all of the critic awards for best picture, and deservedly so. A fantastic adapted screenplay by Aaron Sorkin provides punchy dialogue that is effortlessly executed by star Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook, in the film. This is the somewhat sordid tale of how facebook came to be. It’s a lot more compelling than you might think. There are heroes, villains, and victims, and the story plays out as an excellent, tightly scripted drama.
Eisenberg is terrific. David Fincher directs, and Trent Reznor wrote and performed the score. What else could you possibly want? Even Justin Timberlake is great in the film.
2. True Grit
I’m not a fan of westerns, and I am a self-acclaimed fair weather fan when it comes to the Coen brothers, but this film was one of my favorites of the year. At the heart of the Coen brother’s adaptation of True Grit is one of the most exciting heroines to grace the screen in decades.
It’s uncanny that a pre-teen can be such an inspirational character, but Hailee Steinfeld (all of 14 years old) is so amazing in her debut performance as Mattie Rose, it’s truly a revelatory experience to watch her performance. Without a doubt her performance is one of the best of the year, and it will come as no surprise if she is nominated for an Academy Award. For me, she made the movie. She stars as a headstrong teenager who hires a bounty hunter to find her father’s murderer so that he may brought to proper justice.
The adaptation features some amazing dialogue that sings like poetry when delivered by Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon. The cinematography is stunning and the film is beautiful to watch. It’s a good old revenge tale, and after watching the original, I think everyone should tip their hats to the Coen brothers for doing it justice, and then some. It’s a rich and rewarding movie.
1. Black Swan
Though it’s not a perfect film, I have to say that Black Swan ended up being my favorite. It is a dark, provocative, psychological thriller set in the world of competitive ballet.
Natalie Portman (a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination) stars as Nina, an uptight ballerina who mentally unravels due to her quest for perfection. After winning the coveted principal role in Swan Lake, she slowly starts losing her (already tenuous) grasp on reality. Eventually, her reality starts to blur with the Swan Lake storyline until the two are indistinguishable. A competing dancer (played by Mila Kunis) seems to speed the process along.
The film shows the physical and emotional ravages that ballet takes on the dancers as they strive for perfection. Portman trained for months as a dancer, and it shows. Barbara Hershey is terrifying as the controlling stage-mother. Mila Kunis is quite good as well.
However, it is the music that is the real star here. It actually becomes a central character as the familiar Swan Lake score swells and crescendos during pivotal scenes. It’s amazing.
There is some ambiguity that is typical of most of Aronofsky’s films in the final act, but it works well in this film that dabbles in the horror genre. You’ll never be able to watch Swan Lake the same way again.