(Note: I’ve talked and written about the best movies of the year so often by this point you’re getting the JUST-SEE-THE-FUCKING-MOVIE-ALREADY version. Honestly. How many times do I have to tell you to see 12 Years a Slave? One more, apparently.)
12 Years a Slave
If you haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, you’re supporting the Confederacy, communism and Mitt Romney. It depicts slavery in its non-Gone With the Wind anti-glory: Brutal, terrifying and inhumane. Director Steve McQueen takes a giant leap forward from Shame as a director, bringing John Ridley’s screenplay to horrifying life. Chiwetel Ejiofor, as kidnapped-and-sold-into-slavery-free-man Solomon Northup, gives the best performance of the year in the best movie of the year.
Blue is the Warmest Color
Blah, blah, lesbian sex scenes. For the naysayers out there, go to the movie again, leave during the sex scenes and come back when they’re done. Still great, right? In Blue is the Warmest Color’s three-hour running time, we follow Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she slowly comes out (to herself but not her family), finds love (and nearly obsession) with Emma (Lea Seydoux), and makes a life as a young professional. It’s long and indulgent, but like many of the best movies, it rewards the patient.
All Is Lost
Recipe for a great movie: An icon, a boat, rotten weather and shitty circumstances. A tight script and surefooted direction (by JC Chandor, who directed Margin Call in 2011) helps. And finally, Robert Redford the actor lives up to his reputation. All Is Lost is tense, but it goes down easy.
The Spectacular Now
This high school tale about the wild child Sutter (Miles Teller) who falls in love with the good girl, Aimee (Shailene Woodley), could have been Afterschool Special saccharine, but it escapes that thanks to a smart script, exceptional performances and solid direction. This movie has been unfairly compared to John Hughes; it’s much, much better. See it with Kleenex.
Having watched Drinking Buddies 16 times (an exaggeration), the thing I notice most is how often its characters make slurping noises when they drink. Are those choices? Or do Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson need finishing school? Anyway, this sounds-banal-but-it’s-totes-amazeballs story of two co-workers with palpable sexual tension is brought to life by the performances and the breezy-seeming ease with which Joe Swanberg directs.
Director Alexander Payne’s Nebraska gets my vote for best original screenplay (by Bob Nelson); Lake Bell’s writing and directing debut In a World… manages to combine a romantic comedy with explorations of gender roles, marriage, and the world of voiceover acting; No is as captivating as they come. Gael García Bernal is perfect as the leader of the “No” advertising campaign in this story of Chile’s 1988 referendum on whether to keep Augusto Pinochet; Matthew McConaughey was in two winners, Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. It’s nice to see him use his powers for good instead of evil after years and years of terrible romantic comedies; for horror movie fans out there, there’s You’re Next. It’s a simple premise: What happens when there’s a home invasion and the invaders run into someone who’s just as violent as they are?
Now, because I love you enough to warn you away from the bologna: Here are the five worst movies of the year. And there were plenty to choose from:
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
I’ve still only viewed the first 45 minutes and I’m confident this is the worst piece of shit that hit screens this year. “Bad” doesn’t begin to describe it. Try smug, stupid (but thinks it’s smart), indulgent, wrongheaded. And I haven’t even mentioned that it stars Charlie Sheen. TRIPLE BARF.
My safe haven would be a world where this wannabe weepie (based on a Nicholas Sparks book BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS) is destroyed. All prints and the negative burn in a horrible warehouse fire. Oh, and there’s a fire in the movie. How appropriate! Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel try, but make it worse.
I maintain that Napoleon Dynamite is wretched, and I’m convinced Austenland’s awfulness (directed by Dynamite’s co-writer) proves it. The only thing worse than Jerusha Hess’ direction is her insipid script (with Shannon Hale). How does anyone make Keri Russell unwatchable? Ask them. Or don’t. Just avoid this dum-dum anti-feminist romantic comedy in which the actors fumble through a week at a Jane Austen-themed resort that doesn’t know the first thing about Jane Austen.
Renoir and The Artist and the Model
I’m sure I could have made other choices, but two movies that are equally terrible that tell essentially the same story? That hasn’t happened since Tombstone and Wyatt Earp. All you need to know about either of these movies is that they’re unflattering portraits of nude young women and the old white assholes who slobber over them. Just the worst.
It’s time for Terrence Malick to give women something to do other than dance like children (To the Wonder); Room 237 does the impossible: It takes the joy from The Shining. How? By making us listen to conspiracy theories about the movie. Much like my wish for Safe Haven: Burn everything.
See you in 2014!