As always, this is a list of my favorite movies of the year, not the best. If you want to tell me how wrong I am, that’s what Twitter is for.
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild
There are two distinct ways to tell a kid: by their age and by their actions. Age is linear, it moves in one direction; I turn three, then four, then five. Actions are most decidedly not a linear thing; I suppress lashing out at someone today, but not tomorrow. Because they aren’t linear, actions that we associate with kids occur in people of all ages. (think of the term, “he’s acting childish”, which doesn’t usually describe actual children and is never used positively)
So when does someone stop being a kid? Age may be relatively easy to determine (13? 16? 18?), but what about actions? When do we stop acting like a kid? When does someone calling us childish turn into an insult?
Could it be the first time we are forced to accept reality? The first time we are faced with inarguable evidence that’s contrary to the way we think?
Beasts of the Southern Wild is about the things we know to be true as children that we forget when we grow up. It’s about all of us having our place in the world. It’s about knowing what is right and staying to watch it happen. It’s about staring a harsh reality in the face and saying no, thank you.
In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.
4. Seven Psychopaths
Seven Psychopaths may not have the whimsy of Moonrise Kingdom, the deep-seated emotion of Amour or the faith-based issues of Life of Pi, but screw those guys. Nihilistic to its core, razor sharp and bitterly funny, Seven Psychopaths is the most fun you’ll have at the movies this year. Well, assuming you agree that everyone knows that Ghandi was wrong, but nobody’s got the balls to come out and say it.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
It’s interesting to me the lack of comparison between this film and Beasts of the Southern Wild; both have similar themes with inexperienced child stars, yet one is hailed as a masterpiece of cinema and the other has Edward Norton in short shorts.
But where Beasts deals with staying resilient in the harshness of reality, Moonrise Kingdom is more concerned with the clinging to the last gasp of a fantasy world where everything turns out OK. Sometimes that means running away to the wilderness, sometimes that means an affair, sometimes that means leading the local scout troop. This world is harsh, you find respite wherever you can, even if it’s not real.
You may not be able to outrun reality, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying.
2. Django Unchained
People who dislike Quentin Tarantino say that he merely repackages old movies, but that’s a criticism that could be directed at everyone. This paragraph is merely reordering and repackaging words that someone else created. The Mona Lisa was painted with colors that other people had discovered. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was composed with notes that were already in existence. Quentin Tarantino crafts movies out of movies that have already been crafted. This ability is why critics call him a genius.
But why do non-critics do the same? Why does most everyone coming out of a Tarantino movie rave about it?Because he understands why most people go to the movies.
Film Crit Hulk put it the best:
THE GENUIS OF QUENTIN TARANTINO IS HE NEVER ONCE PRETENDS THAT WHAT YOU ARE WATCHING IS NOT A MOVIE.
— FILM CRIT HULK (@FilmCritHULK) December 26, 2012
Most people aren’t looking to go to a movie to change their life. They think Amour is depressing or the Master is about nothing. Tarantino knows that if a movie is going to be loved by the general public, it better damn well be entertaining.
Entertainment is just as essential to a Tarantino film as sound or picture is to films in general. Pair that with a filmmaker who is willing to do whatever it takes to comment on a subject (sometimes to his detriment) and you have why Tarantino has a claim on the title of the greatest living filmmaker.
1. Zero Dark Thirty
Everything in our lives have costs and benefits. If I pay $20 for dinner, I have the benefit of dinner, but the cost was $20. If I work out five days a week, I have the benefit of health, but the cost is time and pain. If I spend time with my friends instead of studying, the benefit is the good time I had, the cost is that I do poorly on my next test. Our lives are filled with an almost infinite amount of choices that shape the very being of who we are.
What happens when we get to committed to making a series of choices? If I pay $20 for dinner every night, I may not have money to pay my rent. If I work out five days a week, my body may break down under the load. If I go out with my friends and never study, there goes my chances to get a good job and have a happy life full of hard work.
This is the space that Zero Dark Thirty lives in.
Was the search for Osama bin Laden worth it? We have the benefit of the man who ensured that 2,753 people still aren’t coming home to their families being dead, but are we sure we understand the cost? Did there come a point that we were so committed to the choice to search for bin Laden, that the costs didn’t matter to us anymore?
Zero Dark Thirty isn’t about giving answers to these questions; it’s about setting us up to search ourselves for the answers. It’s the seminal work of 2012.
Great movies inform people of where they are. Zero Dark Thirty allows us to inform ourselves.
Cloud Atlas, The Queen of Versailles,The Impossible, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Killer Joe
Yet to see:
End of Watch, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, the Loneliest Planet