I saw quite a few films this year, which is pretty standard for me, but I'm surprised at the amount of really fine films that came out this year. Here's my top 10 in no particular order:
1. Gone Baby Gone- The resurrection of Ben Affleck, which started last year with his convincing portrayal of 'Superman' George Reeves in Wonderland, is completed with his directorial debut. Set in his hometown of Boston, starring his young brother Casey,
Affleck shows a sure hand, not flashy, not rushed, but totally serving the material. Based on a best selling novel, Gone Baby Gone boasts a literate, compassionate screenplay, co-written by the elder Affleck. Not a false note in the film.
2. No Country for Old Men- Listened to the audiobook and was scared to death. Still didn't prepare me for Javier Bardem, the best villain since Hannibal Lector. Ably assisted by Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, The Coen Brothers return to form in a big way. A lot of people were upset with the ending of the film, but the key to it is the title of the film.
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford- A long troubled production, that had a consistent champion in Brad Pitt. More McCabe and Mrs. Miller than Tombstone, a meditation on celebrity with the right guy in the starring role and another strong performance from Casey Affleck. The cinematography is not to be believed.
4. Talk to Me- Director Kasi Lemmons, delivers a funny, moving and heartfelt look at black radio in Washington DC in the 70s. Don Cheadle outdoes himself as the outrageous Petey Greene, an ex-con who was one of the first radio "shock jocks". Matching him beat for beat is Chiwetel Ejiofor, as the station manager who hires, supports and chastises Greene. Two of the best performances of the year that will probably be overlooked come award time.
5. Michael Clayton- George Clooney delivers once again in a film that he originally refused to do, not wanting to work with a first time director. Fortunately, he reconsidered and may find himself in the Oscar race. As a corporate lawyer going beyond the call of duty, Clooney has the weight of the world on his shoulders and you feel the weight too. The final showdown with Tilda Swinton may be Clooney's finest moment onscreen yet.
6. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead- I saw this two days after seeing No Country for Old Men. I walked out thinking, this was as good as No Country! 83 year old Sidney Lumet pulled this crime drama out of nowhere, with great performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei. Hoffman and Hawke are two brothers that conspire to rob their parents' jewelry store. It all goes wrong and turns out worse than you'd imagine. Masterful filmmaking.
7. The Bourne Ultimatum- Anything I'd say about this film would be redundant. I'll just say if you haven't seen it, do it immediately!.
8. Sicko- Michael Moore's on the case again, this time regarding the unfunny joke that is America's health care system. Well done, essentially non political, Moore puts a spotlight on an important issue that hopefully will help make resolving this travesty a priority for the next administration.
9. Superbad- Saw the trailer and didn't expect to like this at all. Saw the film and had just the opposite response. I literally started laughing during the opening credits. A raunchy, hilarious but observant coming of age film that will be the "Porky's" of it's day.
10. Live Free or Die Hard (thanks Reggie!)- Another case of the trailer being lousy, but the film was big, big fun! Even with the slightly watered down PG13 rating, it's still an action packed thrill ride, leagues better than the other two sequels. Bruce Willis is still a bad man!
Here are a few other films that I enjoyed:
I Am Legend
Curse of the Golden Flower
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
The Notorious Bettie Page
And a few that were promising, but came up just a bit short:
3:10 to Yuma
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I started to do a list of the films that were popular that I just didn't get, but I may work with these guys someday, so no point burning bridges!