Tim Cowlishaw

2014: The Year One Film Soared Above the Rest

In Additional Facetime on January 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Better late than never, here are my top 20 films for 2014. I was trying to wait for a few films to get to Dallas and this team called the Cowboys kept me busier and even traveling to Green Bay longer than anticipated. For what it’s worth (very little), I watched none of the Golden Globes and have no idea how the Oscar nominations went Thursday. But I’m not trying to predict what movies will capture awards and which ones won’t. If that were the case, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have ranked “Bernie” ahead of “Lincoln” two years ago.
I rank films for my own amusement. I go to lots of movies, but I’m no film critic. When I took film classes in college, I may have enjoyed Italian Cinema (mainly “Bicycle Thief”) but when I was introduced to “Wild Strawberries” in another class and expected to marvel at its greatness, I just said, “What the hell was that?”
Anyway, it’s kind of ridiculous to take film rankings too seriously when I see some in empty theatres and some when it’s jam-packed and I’m on the front row (“Wild”). These are radically different experiences. So I try to rank movies based on 3 things, and that’s really it. 1. How long did I continue to talk or think about it when it was over? 2. How much was I interested in seeing it again? 3. How badly did I want to tell my kids, my friends, whoever that they had to see it?
With that in mind, I can tell you that I could take 2 thru 7 on this list and pull them out of a hat and be OK with it. But as far as the best movie of 2014, I will quote Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) from The Exorcist: “There is only one.”

1. BIRDMAN
Never seen another film directed by Alejandro Inarritu. Not sure I’d like them if I did. But “Birdman” is brilliant from the first shot, and by the first shot I mean (what appears to be, although it’s not quite true) the one and only shot in the entire film, and if you’re not mesmerized by what’s going on with the camera and the storyline about a former Batman-type actor here, if you don’t think this is as good as Michael Keaton gets (and that’s fantastic), if you aren’t laughing with or at Edward Norton when you see what’s happening or realizing what a talented actress Emma Stone is, even as she manages to appear in about five movies a year, then I just can’t help you. I didn’t think anything else would touch this in 2014 and nothing ever did.

2. BOYHOOD
It’s a gimmick, yes, to make a film over a 12-year period, but it’s a hell of a gimmick not like trying to get people to sit still for a black-and-white silent film and calling it genius. More and more it seems Richard Linklater is one of the great directors that no one puts on any list of great directors. There was nothing about this movie that disappointed me. And when Ethan Hawke attempted to explain to his son that the Beatles actually made great music after breaking up, it was icing on the cake.

3. WHIPLASH
The movie that confirmed that yes, in fact, our best actors ARE spending most of their time in insurance commercials. I can see Nick Saban screaming “Not my tempo” at his quarterback after watching this movie. Given the story and the fact I absolutely hated “The Spectacular Now” and I was holding that against the young Miles Teller, I did not expect to even like this movie. But I loved it, it’s powerful and is the rare film that actually ends ABSOLUTELY THE WAY IT SHOULD END.

4. AMERICAN SNIPER
Each year it seems we deal with more and more people in movies who like to talk, who think they are sitting on their couch, who do not know how to shut up. In “American Sniper,” which I saw in a large sold-out Northpark theatre since it wasn’t showing anywhere else, you could feel the audience holding its breath for about two hours. Not the biggest Bradley Cooper fan in the world but he’s perfect for this. For a movie that perhaps has 5-6,000 bullets in its soundtrack, director Clint Eastwood avoids being graphic when he doesn’t need to be. I saw this twice (not because I wanted to see it a second time more than other movies but just through circumstances), and when the ending approached on second viewing, I was gulping, wishing it could go another direction. But it couldn’t. And, sad as it is, Eastwood handled it perfectly.

5. THE IMITATION GAME
Make a movie about World War II and I’m in. Make it about code-breaking and I’m in line the first day. Saw “Enigma” and read the Richard Harris book a few years back, and both were fine, although this is a more honest re-telling of Alan Turing, who should be remembered as the man most responsible for saving the world from the Nazis but never has been and still won’t be. Some scenes not as great as I’d like them to be but the versatile and awkwardly named Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent throughout.

6. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Of all the dramatic and overly serious actors who make surprising turns to comedy, who was more surprising than Ralph Fiennes in this film? I’m not always a huge Wes Anderson fan (yes, I’m the ONE who didn’t think “Royal Tenenbaums” was genius), but this was about as perfect as “Moonrise Kingdom.”

7. WILD
Reese Witherspoon walks 1,000 miles or so. Somehow it’s worth every step.

8. THEORY OF EVERYTHING
There was no more touching moment in cinema this year than a crippled but brilliant wheelchair-bound man (that would be Stephen Hawking) bumping his chair softly into his wife in a last gasp of affection. Eddie Redmayne worked hard at this role and it paid off.

9. NIGHTCRAWLER
This was a movie that got better in my mind the further I got from having seen it. But mostly it’s just Jake Gyllenhaal paying wonderful tribute to Travis Bickle while not exactly imitating him in an LA that is as dark and rotten as New York appeared through “Taxi Driver” windshield.

10. FOXCATCHER
Unfortunately fell into the “Crowd doesn’t know what to make of this so they are laughing at Steve Carell” category early. As the movie went along, I never thought his performance was as powerful as both wrestlers and particular Mark Ruffalo. A film that intentionally makes the audience uneasy throughout — nothing wrong with that.

11. THE DROP
Sadly the last we will see of James Gandolfini, but Tom Hardy’s performance drives this occasionally difficult-to-follow who is stealing from whom film set in a miserable Brooklyn bar.

12. THE ONE I LOVE
Is it more than a long “Twilight Zone” episode at heart? Maybe not but who cares? Gives me one more opportunity to mention how much I love Elisabeth Moss (Peggy in Mad Men) and remind you that “Top of the Lake” is the best six-episode TV series you never saw.

13. INTERSTELLAR
Certainly expected this to be much higher on the list when I first saw the previews. The truth is that as strong as my UT man-crush is on McConaughey, I tend to fell Christopher Nolan gets worse as a director the further away he gets from “Memento.” I give the film credit for trying to be much more honest in its depiction of space travel than “Gravity.” At least as honest as one can be while zipping around the edges of black holes. Doesn’t mean it’s not a long, tedious ride that somehow finds McConaughey and Matt Damon staging a fight that looks one step removed from “Lost in Space” on the authenticity meter.

14. A MOST WANTED MAN
The tragic career of Philip Seymour Hoffman goes out not with a bang, but a solid, memorable performance in a truly dismal Hamburg, Germany. Neatly avoids being a run-of-the-mill spy tale at the end.

15. GONE GIRL
Ben Affleck has done better. Director David Fincher has done a hell of a lot better. Whatever great truth this was supposed to unveil about how the media drives a story, it says it poorly but in (at times) highly entertaining fashion.

16. FORCE MAJEURE
How long are we defined by our worst moments? What if they didn’t cost us anything? What if they could have cost us everything? Also has some nice skiing photography. Part funny, very disturbing.

17. DIPLOMACY
What did I say earlier about World War II movies? I see them and I tend to like them. I’m not big on plays turned into movies that needed to stay plays, but the story of what might have happened to Paris if not for a Nazi general making a late conversion to morality is worth seeing.

18. SELMA
The Martin Luther King speeches by actor David Oyelowo provide the only real impact although the MLK-LBJ fights are amusing if wildly inaccurate. King had more enemies than any man deserved, why did they choose to turn LBJ into one of his biggest? Too much of the film simply drags along. An important part of civil rights history doesn’t get its due here.

19. THE TRIP TO ITALY
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon trading imitations falls near the bottom of the “social significance” scale compared to blacks being systematically denied their voting rights in the film ranked just above. Not as funny as “The Trip” but still worth the ride.

20 (tie). ROSEWATER
Jon Stewart left “The Daily Show” for several months in order to travel to the middle east and film this tale, and it’s not as if he failed. Maybe we have simply seen too many people wrongly imprisoned, and I hate to think I have become that jaded. It definitely succeeds in becoming claustrophobic.

20. SKELETON TWINS
I will go ahead and mention SPOILER ALERT here although I don’t think it’s entirely necessary. There are some wonderful moments shared between former SNLers Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. So…..whose idea was the escapist happy ending?

SAW AND DIDN’T HATE: Chef, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Leggo Movie, This Is Where I Leave You.
SAW: Horrible Bosses II, The Gambler, The Rover, Sex Tape.

See you next year.

The best Scorsese is the other Scorsese in 2013

In Additional Facetime on January 1, 2014 at 11:35 am

I don’t know why I spend so much time anguishing over my Top 10 movies of the year which last year was expanded to Top 20 and this year reaches the almost unneccessary level of a Top 25. I am not a film critic. I do not pretend to be a film critic. There are choices on this list that you won’t likely find on other lists, mostly because I have my own way of looking at these things.

I thought 2013 was an excellent year with probably 7-8 movies I could have ranked No. 1 and at least 20 I could have listed in my top 10. So while trying to compile this list, I thought of 3 things in determining where these films should be ranked. 1. How much did I think about it when it was over? 2. How badly did I want to see it again? 3. How quickly did I want to tell friends to go see this movie?

OK, I’ve got a lot of rankings to run through here, so let’s get started.

1. AMERICAN HUSTLE — Was director David O. Russell paying respects to Martin Scorsese or just copying all his trademark techniques — lot of zooming in on characters, occasional freeze frames, great soundtrack? Doesn’t really matter to me. Russell has had his own great run of top 10 films lately (“The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) so I pretty much feel he can do what he wants. I just thought Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper were all great here, in particular Bale who lets others (notably Jennifer Lawrence) do the scene-stealing here. And I guess I knew Amy Adams could look like that? But I never really though about Amy Adams looking like that. There was nothing I didn’t love about this movie.

2. IN A WORLD — Up until two weeks ago, I thought this terrific film by Lake Bell was going to be my No. 1 pick. It has two of the funniest moments I saw in movies all year (“What’s wrong with the blue towels?”). The title refers to all those movie trailers you have seen through the years (“In a world where….”), and with the death of the man who had cornered the market on that industry, everyone is competing to be the new “In a world” guy — including Lake Bell against her own father. It’s kind of odd that I ranked it this high and picked “Bernie” No. 1 last year because I don’t like most movie comedies. This is not standard comedy material, just great stuff.  

3.  DALLAS BUYERS CLUB — Matthew McConaughey is on an amazing roll — “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “Mud,” a small but great part in “Wolf of Wall Street” plus the upcoming HBO series “True Detective.” Somewhere in the midst of all this in the last two years (sorry I left off “Magic Mike”) he found time to lose 40 pounds and shoot this film (in New Orleans, not here) about a very heterosexual man diagnosed with AIDS in the ’80s. Jared Leto is probably going to win a series of Best Supporting Actor awards for his transgender character who eventually moves McConaughey’s angry young man into a more tolerant position.

4. GRAVITY — For a second viewing, I took my 87-year-old father. It was Willis’ first 3-D experience and I knew he would love all those incredible shots of Earth from above. I feel like giving this film a special award for being one of the few this year that isn’t 20 minutes too long or even more which brings us to…

5. WOLF OF WALL STREET — The latest Scorsese is all about excess in every conceivable way. Lots of money, lots of nudity, lost of cocaine to the point that when Leo rips open his own couch to find another cocaine stash in the film, it has zero impact. We’ve seen it. We get it. These people are unlikable and way out of control. And at 2 hours, 59 minutes, this is far more than any of us ever need to know about Jordan Belfort or any other corrupt real-estate types. Now having said that, it’s Scorsese, so it’s film-making brilliance throughout and there are scenes I would love to watch again and again. My favorite is DiCaprio (Belfort) on his yacht talking pleasantly to the FBI agent investigating him. When the conversation becomes something other than pleasant, it’s an amazingly powerful moment given that no one is so much as raising a fist. But, hey, Leo, you don’t mess with Coach Taylor of Friday Night Lights TV fame. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, buddy.

6. THE ATTACK — It’s hard — I mean really hard — to make a film about a Palestinian suicide-bomber in Israel that finds a way to show both sides of the equation. To paraphrase as best I can remember what one character tells another near the end of the film, “We can talk for a thousand years and we’re never going to hear each other.” A terrific and intelligent look at an impossible situation.

7. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS — “Look at me. Look at me…I’m the captain now.” The first 90 minutes of this film has it competing for the very top spot on the list. By the end, when what appears to be the entire U.S. Navy shows up — even if that’s a fairly factual account of what happened — it takes too long and leaves you remembering those initial scenes when you were amazed at what the Somalian pirates were trying to pull off.

8. MUD — McConaughey again? Damn right, but there’s a lot more to this film than his puzzling island-bound character. You have to love the two kids, one of whom had never acted and just won an audition in Arkansas based in part on his ability to handle a boat.

9. FRUITVALE STATION — I really liked this account of what happened on New Year’s Eve in the East Bay a few years back, and it was only after the movie I learned I had been watching Wallace from “The Wire” in the lead role. I thought he looked familiar with those puffy cheeks but I didn’t know.

10. ENOUGH SAID — On the other hand, like everyone else, when I went to see this movie, I knew it was the last I’d see of the great James Gandolfini. That can’t help but have an impact on how you feel about a film. But not only is he great — very un-Tony Soprano like — so is Julia-Louie Dreyfus who is on a great roll herself with the success of one of my favorite shows, “Veep.”

11. THE HUNT — What happens when you’re wrongly accused of something truly awful? Do you ever get over it? Will people let you?

12. SIDE EFFECTS — Allegedly the last full-length film Stephen Soderbergh is directing. I’m a sucker for anything Rooney Mara is in and for “I didn’t see that coming” moments because, frankly, I never see them coming.

13. 12 YEARS A SLAVE — I know this is much higher on critics’ lists and it’s not as if I didn’t think it was outstanding. But I always feel that overdoing a thing works against a director’s best interests, even if we’re talking about slavery and mistreatment. Two or three shots of someone getting whipped do the trick. Eighteen shots of it diminish the impact for me. But there are some great performances here even if Brad Pitt riding to the rescue is a little much.

14. THE CONJURING — I don’t usually go see anything that falls into the “good scary” movie category because, to be honest, they scare me. I think my son Ben and I were both a little nervous as we settled into the Inwood balcony for this one. But I’ll watch anything that has Ron Livingston (“Band of Brothers,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Office Space” and apparently “Sex in the City”). First hour was good. And scary. Last hour was an Exorcist take-off but still very much worth seeing.

15. NEBRASKA — In the battle of “This Movie Is Going To Be Slow and Viewers Are Okay With It”, this film gets the nod over “Inside Llewyn Davis.” I remember seeing Bruce Dern on stage here almost 40 years ago at a Texas Film Festival showing of “Smile” and I haven’t seen a heck of a lot of Dern in between. He’s really good here and so is Jenna’s boyfriend from “30 Rock.” Not much happens. It’s in black and white. And that’s OK. It’s real.

16. THE WAY WAY BACK — Better than I expected. Steve Carell as someone you don’t like takes some getting used to.

17. PARKLAND — A story on the fringe of the big story here on Nov. 22, 1963. Lots of familiar faces popping in and out — loved, yes, Ron Livingston again as the beleaguered FBI agent James Hosty who didn’t follow up on an Oswald lead.

18. LORE — What happens when you see a torn photo and that appears to be your father…in a Nazi uniform?

19. DON JON — I would say this film gets a lot of things right about porn, but, hey, I don’t even know what that is. So I’m just guessing.

 20. BLUE JASMINE — Kate Blanchett’s pretty interesting and it’s fun to see Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), but this isn’t the quality of Late Era Woody that “Midnight in Paris,” “Match Point” or “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” are.

21. ALL IS LOST — I realize this is a great, nearly soundless one-man performance from Robert Redford but about 15 minutes in, all I could think of was: “Man, I hate sailboats.”

22. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS — Yeah, I’m still buying in because Zachary Quinto gets a young Spock about as right as someone could get it.

23. 42 — Nothing really new about Jackie Robinson here. Interesting to see that the kid from “Sling Blade” is now old enough to play Pee Wee Reese.

24. PLACE BEYOND THE PINES — SPOILER ALERT: This movie has been out almost a year, don’t read the next two sentences if you are still waiting to go see it. I liked the first movie a lot. I just didn’t know there were going to be three. I mean, really, when Ryan Gosling hit the pavement, didn’t you think “That can’t be it!” ?

25. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS — I read a very interesting article about the cat in this movie in The Atlantic the day after I saw it. I didn’t get any of that. Maybe if I had, I would have been less inclined to look at my watch. The Coen Brothers make some of the best films in modern cinema, but for me, this is “A Serious Man with a Guitar.”       

               

Who Beat Lincoln? My Top 10 — No, Make That 20 — Movies of 2012

In Top Cat Goes to the Movies on December 27, 2012 at 9:12 am

Who Beat Lincoln? My Top 10 Movies of 2012 begins now…
(DISCLAIMER: I am not an official film critic. Or an unofficial one. I go to more movies than the average person but I don’t see everything, or almost everything, like critics do. If you read this list and say “Where’s ‘Dark Knight Rises?’ “ I never got around to seeing it. But it wouldn’t have made it, anyway. And if you read this list and say, “Where’s “The Avengers?’ ‘’ In that case, you’ve come to the wrong place but I couldn’t begin to tell you where to look.)
Since this was an excellent year and a few movies I really liked fell out of the top 10, I have expanded this to a top 20. I couldn’t have come close to doing that last year and, in fact, it would be impossible most years for me.
20. HITCHCOCK – If there are three films I know nearly every piece of dialogue from, it would be “It’s a Wonderful Life,’’ “Taxi Driver’’ and “Psycho.’’ The first remain an annual event. The other two relate more to a slightly disturbed childhood or young adult life. But since “Hitchcock’’ was ostensibly about the problems Alfred Hitchcock had making “Psycho’’ and how he was going to get the shower scene past censors, it had a chance to be great. Missed by a mile. I knew more about “Psycho” going into the theatre than I did coming out. Wasted efforts by some good actors.
19. THE GREY – I think I saw this last January so I’m putting it on list. Lots of wolves. Lots of snow. Lots of Liam Neeson showing toughness. And a surprise ending. But not much else.
18. MY WEEKEND WITH MARILYN – It seems like DMN film critic Chris Vognar (who you really should follow on twitter and read) called this a “bauble’’ and that’s exactly right. Michelle Williams does a great job playing Marilyn. Kenneth Branagh portrays Laurence Olivier as about what I expect he might have been like. But there’s not a heck of a lot here.
17. PROMETHEUS – I think I was supposed to like this more than I did. Maybe it was the sofas at the Inwood that nearly put me to sleep. It wasn’t bad or anything but I pretty much left the movie feeling the same emotions that Charlize Theron displayed throughout. Not a big sci-fi guy unless McCoy is saying, “I’m a Doctor, Jim, not a bricklayer.”
16. SEVEN PSYCOPATHS – Had more funny moments than expected but if you saw the preview, you got the basics. A movie being very cool about being a movie. For “Boardwalk Empire” fans, a rare (but brief) chance to see the long lost Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) along with not so rare appearance for Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) who was also in “Lincoln” and “Hitchcock.”
15. THE MASTER – See, I told you I wasn’t a critic. If I wrote for Rolling Stone, I guess I’d have it No. 1. I thought a lot about P.T. Anderson’s film after seeing it. For about half the time I was watching the film, I liked it. Loved Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack (but that’s a given as a Radiohead fan). But by the end, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one that thought this made no sense at all and there was nothing here. I realize others see it quite differently, even consider it a masterpiece. But when I think about “There Will Be Blood,’ “Magnolia’’ and “Boogie Nights” I wonder how this falls into the same category with Anderson’s previous great works. For me, it doesn’t come close.
14. LOOPER – The rare time travel movie where I walk out saying, “I think I understood that!” Nice work by Bruce Willis.
13. FLIGHT – Really enjoyed Denzel Washington’s portrayal of a high-functioning alcoholic who has a chilling ability to lie to those around him (a subject with which I am not unfamiliar). Really enjoyed Don Cheadle because he is great at everything, even if it’s commercials for the World Series. But then about every 20 minutes I think they felt they were losing the audience so they popped John Goodman onto the screen performing in a completely different movie. Ends up all over the map but certainly worth seeing for Denzel in a different role.
12. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Love April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) on “Parks and Recreation” and she’s more than capable of carrying this indie film from start to finish. Won a screenwriting award at Sundance.
11. LIFE OF PI – I suspect the million readers of this book would rank this much higher. I missed the book. And I liked the film a lot, and I’m not a 3-D moviegoer at all. The only thing I didn’t care for would require a spoiler alert so I’ll just pass and say it was very good and would make top 10 for me almost any other year.
10. KILLER JOE – Not for everyone. But it was a big year for Matthew McConaughey and this role played a huge part. It’s dark. And it’s set in Dallas although if you recognize any of the sets, more power to you. Not sure if any of it was filmed here. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”) was still alive. But he’s clearly still determined to scare the crap out of his audience or at least bother them to no end. I wasn’t a regular at KFC before this movie, and this film did not encourage me to give its products another try. The one thing I was thinking afterwards was that, knowing how many takes are required in some films, how much fried chicken Gina Gershon had to ingest.
9. SKYFALL – Never expected to see a James Bond film on this list. I pretty much checked out of this series when Sean Connery did. But Sam Mendes directed the very good “Road to Perdition” and “Revolutionary Road” and my favorite film of the last 15 years (“American Beauty”) so I gave it a chance. The 2-1/2 hours went by quickly. Hard to make a fight scene we haven’t witnessed before but the one in a Shanghai skyscraper at night filled with glass and reflections was just outstanding.
8. DJANGO UNCHAINED – It’s not as good as “Inglorious Basterds’’ but it’s still damn good. And that’s despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of violence always (for me) takes away from any film because it’s so over the top, who can take any of the rest of it seriously? People don’t explode like hamburger when they get shot…except here. I know Spike Lee’s criticism of Tarantino turning the slavery issue into a Sergio Leone western, and I understand that point as much as I can without being able to empathize with it. There is a certain discomfort about watching so many white actors dropping the N-word so cavalierly (it is 1858 in Mississippi, after all) and a mostly white audience laughing along with it. But Tarantino isn’t much for social causes. Spike Lee should understand better than I do that he makes films for people to listen to and think about. Tarantino makes movies for people to look at and say “Hey, I get that obscure reference.” Beyond that, Christoph Waltz is just too good throughout for this movie to fall out of my top 10 despite some reservations about it as a whole.
7. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – It’s funny that a new movie can feel almost dated because of the main characters’ love for Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. I’m still amazed that Jennifer Lawrence can possibly be the same young woman who was at the center of “Winter’s Bone’’ two years ago. If you saw it when it came out, you surely noticed how uncertain audiences were to laugh at certain scenes or lines. That’s not a bad thing. That’s real life.
6. SMASHED – This film might have been in Dallas for a week before disappearing, I’m not sure. It’s a shame. I would have hoped Aaron Paul (Jesse in “Breaking Bad”) would have been enough to pull in the audience, but the star is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She plays his young wife and is someone who realizes they have a drinking problem and decides to stop and finds that stopping might end one very large problem but opens up unexpected new ones with the people around her (another topic with which I have gained some familiarity). Go see Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson) in a completely different role.
5. SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN – This would have been an amazing documentary even if the man from Detroit known to almost no one in this country but almost everyone in South Africa named Rodriguez couldn’t sing. But he can. His sound is a cross between Dylan and Jose Feliciano, and he made two albums in the ‘70s that did nothing here so he vanished back into construction work and occasionally ran for political office in Detroit while he was somehow becoming a superstar in South Africa. Years later he got the applause he deserved there. Played at House of Blues here a couple of months ago and, except for the usual assholes talking throughout the show, it was a solid performance.
4. ARGO – Who had Ben Affleck on their list of “Next Marginal Actor Slated to Become Great Director?” OK, he’s better than a marginal actor even if he fell into some bad habits after making it big. When I think of “Good Will Hunting” although it’s really Matt Damon’s film, the scene I always remember is Affleck’s monologue near the end telling Damon he doesn’t want to see him hanging out and drinking beer and watching Patriot games in 20 years. “Argo” is an amazing tale set during the Iran hostage crisis. Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston (Walter White in “Breaking Bad”) carry it even if Affleck is the central character. Of all the nervous moments I had watching movies this year, No. 1 without a doubt had to be the “get that plane off the ground” feeling in this one.
3. MOONRISE KINGDOM – I was temporarily stripped of my hipster card by local restaurateur and full-time film buff Josh Babb (Kenichi, Shooters) a few years ago when I admitted to not liking “Royal Tenenbaums.’’ I hope to get it restored by placing Wes Anderson’s best film at this lofty spot. It’s about young love and awkwardness and scout camp and other things I can’t begin to explain. It has a host of big-name stars (Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton) but the kids at the heart of the film are the reason you love it.
2. LINCOLN – Ranking somewhere alongside “Miami Heat’s chances to make the playoffs” you will find “Daniel Day Lewis’ chances of winning an Oscar for Best Actor.’’ To say he gets Lincoln just right is to suggest I know what Lincoln was like. I’m old but quite that old. But his is a performance – amidst some great supporting work by David Straithairn and Tommy Lee Jones – that makes you say, “That’s got to be just about right.’’ You watch Lewis getting into one of Lincoln’s storytelling moments and start thinking, “Are the other actors on screen scared to death of screwing this up?” The shouting scene between which Lewis and Sally Field as his troubled wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, is as powerful as anything on the screen all year.
1. BERNIE – I have a very test for determining which movie was the best of a given year. It’s the one I went to the Magnolia to see three times. That’s in part because I saw it first by myself, then knew I needed to take my kids to see it. Rachel was in Europe, so I took Ben. Then when she got back, Ben and I took Rachel. Good grief, my parents pretty much dropped out of the movie-going business 20 years ago, and they went and loved it. Obviously, Jack Black and McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine are excellent at the core of a movie based on a Skip Hollandsworth Texas Monthly article about a murder in Carthage, Texas. But the East Texas townspeople shot in Richard Linklater’s documentary style – some real townspeople, a few actors like scene-stealer Sonny Carl Davis – generate even more laughs than the major stars. Yes, it’s a murder-comedy and it’s based on real events. And it’s as good as Jack Black will get I’m afraid. And I wouldn’t mind seeing it a fourth time this afternoon.

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