One week to go until the Academy Awards, where we get told by a bunch of old Hollywood farts what the best movie of last year was. As usual, they are probably going to be disappointing but most of us will still watch anyway. But before then, I might as well get my opinion out of the way. Please keep in mind that I have not seen every film that came out last year, and that this is my opinion so don’t get fussy if your picks aren’t mine.
20. WRECK-IT RALPH – A charming animated adventure set in the world of my other favourite pastime: video games. Full of great gags and obscure references, this is Disney’s best animated effort in a long time and also the best animated film of the year.
19. DREDD – Ignoring the unfaithful Stallone film, Dredd delivers us a film that does Judge Dredd justice (pun intended). Delivering action set pieces and dark humour reminiscent of classic 80’s bullet-fests, this movie delivers on everything it promises and more.
18. CHRONICLE – An interesting combo of superhero antics and found footage, Chronicle delivers a brilliant take on the rise of the super villain. Featuring a star-making performance by Dane DeHaan and having fun with its handycam style, Chronicle sets a new benchmark for what can be done with found footage.
17. THE MASTER – Featuring phenomenal performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master tells us a tale vaguely reminiscent of a certain religious leader. With its astonishing 65mm cinematography and all the quirks you expect from a PT Anderson flick, The Master is a long journey worth taking.
16. LOOPER – Time travel is always a fascinating subject for sci-fi movies, and it’s great when someone can dig up some fresh ideas for the concept. Rian Johnson did just that with Looper. Sure, the plot doesn’t make complete sense when you really think about it but even the movie seems aware of that fact. Don’t miss this interesting sci-fi tale.
15. KILLING THEM SOFTLY – Depicting America in a light that isn’t exactly sunshine and flowers, Killing Them Softly is a bleak and violent comment on the state of US society. Featuring stellar performances from the entire principle cast and great use of slow-mo, this is one of the most underrated films of the year.
14. JACK REACHER – Tom Cruise decides to stop grinning for once and becomes a gritty crime-solving machine in this stylish thriller. Bringing back that classic 70’s/80’s thriller feel, Jack Reacher fills this somewhat familiar story with some well done fight scenes and a good sense of humour. It’s a pity we’ll probably never see that sequel.
13. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – Whilst I still have a fondness for the original Raimi films (yes, even the third one to an extent), this reimagining truly brings the wall-crawler to life in a fashion more suiting to our times. Andrew Garfield delivers a Spider-Man much more believable and flawed than Tobey Maguire ever could, and action sequences that rely more on practicality than CG. I can’t wait see what Marc Webb can come up with in his imminent sequel.
12. FLIGHT – Denzel Washington gives another Oscar worthy performance in this brilliant drama. A true return to form for the great Robert Zemeckis, Flight’s opening scenes are some of the best in recent memory and, while the rest of the film never matches up to it, still tells a tale of alcohol and lies worth watching.
11. THE RAID – This Indonesian action-fest is a real kick in the backside for Hollywood action movies. With some of the most inventive and bone-crunching fight choreography ever put on camera, The Raid remains some of the most fun I had in a cinema last year. With action scenes this great, who cares if the story is a bit generic?
10. THE AVENGERS – Marvel pulled off what many saw as impossible by combining several of their heroes into one giant nerdgasm. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to pull this diverse set of characters together in a way that doesn’t feel too contrived. The film does what many Hollywood blockbusters fail to do (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay’s Transformers) by setting up their characters well enough that you give a s*** during the third act of chaos. My only worry is: how the hell are they going to top this?
9. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – This indie gem deserves a lot more attention. With its hilarious script and fun performances from the principle cast, Safety Not Guaranteed shows how much you can do with a minimal budget and still tell a story this high concept. I can’t say much more; you just have to watch the movie.
8. DJANGO UNCHAINED – Tarantino has returned in top form with his best film since Pulp Fiction. A bloody ode to the Spaghetti Western, the all-star cast and witty script heighten this film beyond just a bunch of references to Sergio Leone films. Easily his most accessible film and also quite possibly his most fun.
7. SKYFALL – 007 has finally washed the taste of Quantum of Solace out of his mouth, and has returned in one of the best Bond movies ever. Javier Bardem’s bad guy is a true match for Bond in every facet, and gives Judi Dench the swansong she deserves for such an important role. Sam Mendes proves he can do more than just Oscar-bait dramas with this film that shows up Christopher Nolan and his decent-but-incredibly flawed The Dark Knight Rises.
6. ZERO DARK THRITY – The hunt for Osama Bin Laden has quickly gotten the Hollywood treatment, and who better to tackle the tale than the team behind The Hurt Locker. Jessica Chastain gives a career-defining performance in this thriller that shows the events leading up to that fateful raid in a neutral manner that doesn’t try to spoon feed you it’s own opinion.
5. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – Martin McDonough’s Tarantino-esque tale of dognapping and screenplays is a terribly bleak comedy of epic proportions. Sam Rockwell’s performance is one of his best, and the witty script provides many a good jab at the quality of writing in American crime films. A bloody good time.
4. THE SESSIONS – A charming true story that will make you both laugh and cry, John Hawkes’ performance is the best I’ve seen all year and it is a true crime that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his efforts. Helen Hunt and William H. Macy are great in their supporting roles, and the story manages to leave you satisfied despite the situation these characters end up in.
3. ARGO – Speaking of Oscar crimes, where is Ben Affleck’s nomination for Best Director? The man has crafted here one of the most intense, engaging and entertaining dramas in recent memory. The script is quick and witty, the cast all perfectly fit their roles (except maybe Mr. Affleck himself, but he’s still great anyway), and the third act is thrilling despite the fact there is little to no action involved.
2. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – How could this not be on my list? Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have crafted one of the most inventive, crazy, hilarious and jaw-dropping horror/comedies ever conceived and does it all with a straight face. Every time I thought “How could this get any crazier?”, it did. A true landmark for the genre, it’s going to be hard to take the Evil Dead remake seriously after watching this.
1. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – My pick for my favourite film of the year features no guns, explosions, aliens or superheroes. It does, however, have a great script and powerful performances from all involved. Bradley Cooper shows range here I thought he never had, Jennifer Lawrence manages to trump all her other brilliant performances, Robert De Niro gives his best role in years, and even Chris Tucker comes off as good here. David O. Russell has managed to tell a story here that touches the heart and the funny bone in equal measures, and I can’t wait to watch this masterpiece again.