Kenneth Lonergan’s follow-up to his drama “You Can Count on Me,” follows Lisa Cohen, a high school student who witnesses a horrible bus accident and is forced to deal with survivor’s guilt afterward. Having no one to communicate with, Lisa’s odyssey through grief is characterized by pain and poignancy. Lonergan, a veteran of the New York stage, writes complex characters and mines deep drama while never feeling manipulative. Production lawsuits and editing wars plagued this film’s release, so make sure you get your hands on the 2012, 188-minute director’s cut.
2. THE IMPOSTER
The most thrilling film of the year is also the most vexing and terrifying. This documentary from Bart Layton recreates the mystery of the disappearance of a young boy from his Texan family and the fascinating and troubling conditions of his reappearance. Layton pushes his subjects to talk about sensitive issues, giving us insightful interviews. Frederic Bourdain, the title character, is one of the best of the year. “The Imposter” is completely engrossing and not easily forgotten.
3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon were, like most horror fans, mourning the ge
nre’s present state. That is until they decided to write this post-modern deconstructionist horror film, what the two maestros refer to as a “loving hate letter” to horror films. “The Cabin in the Woods” is a wicked sharp satire that takes intriguing turn after intriguing turn through a never-ending hall-of-mirrors. By the time the film’s wild and wacky third-act rolls around, you won’t be able to believe what you are seeing. “The Cabin in the Woods” is funny, refreshing and so smart, it’s scary.
4. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. That saying goes for westerns as well as comedies. David O. Russell’s screwball comedy about bipolar disorder feels dog-eared and loved long before it hits our screens. Sympathetically written and crafted with a manic energy all its own, “Silver Linings Playbook” boasts the best ensemble cast of the year, including Bradley Cooper, Jennifew Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro. The wit and whip-flash dialogue and editing set this film above other rom-coms. Its laughs are never cheap, and its tender drama hard-earned.
5. CLOUD ATLAS
This globe-trotting, time-travelling epic from Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer provided my most complicated emotional reaction at the cinema last year. It is inspiring, moving, enlightening, amusing, devastating, depressing and frustrating all within 172 minutes. A huge cast, cross-dressing and race blurring all blend together with a smattering of genres, both pulpy and stuffy, to create a whole new tapestry of a film in a league of its own. Some thought “Cloud Atlas” crashed, but I say it soared. Either way, there was not a more ambitious film made this year…maybe in the last several years.
In a great scene in “Lincoln,” Daniel Day-Lewis, performing as our nation’s 16th president, says, “I am the president of the United States, cloaked in immense power. Go get me those votes!” Rare is a movie that so elegantly captures the passio
n and character of a man so vastly portrayed in media. Steven Spielberg’s film portrays Lincoln’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment during the Civil War. Day-Lewis so accurately interprets Abraham Lincoln that, at times, it seems Honest Abe, and his wisdom, has been resurrected in the 21st century.
2. ZERO DARK THIRTY
If Kathryn Bigelow’s goal was to simultaneously make a blockbuster film and agitate the U.S. Congress, then call “Zero Dark Thirty” the Picture of the Year. Bigelow asks the audience to question the use of torture, unmanned drones and other, shall we say, touchy, techniques to gather the intelligence necessary to pin down Osama bin Laden. By bringing the Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars, as we
ll as the covert operations in Pakistan, back to American’s minds, this movie advances popular culture’s role in checking America’s role in the world and the so-called war on terrorism.
3. THE HOBBIT — AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE
The return to Middle Earth could not have been more splendid. Martin Freeman shines as a sheepish hobbit, Bilbo, who is sent on the journey of a lifetime by Gandalf the Grey, portrayed once again by Ian McKellen. True to J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical novel of the same name, poor Bilbo accompanies 13 dwarves on their quest to recapture ancient dwarf treasure from the dragon Smaug. The story
continues this December with part two and concludes in 2014.
4. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
In the final Batman film in the Christopher Nolan series, Bruce Wayne, as Batman, must find a way to stop Bane and his cronies from initiating a class war and reducing Gotham to rubble. The viewer is left reeling as Wayne faces challenges that make him question his character, his purpose and his own self-worth. In a year where the political conversation revolved around the 47 percent
, Nolan, through Batman, states that society, through its own good will, shall always receive the hero it deserves, so long as it demands it.
5. LIFE OF PI
Ang Lee’s adaptation intimately describes one man’s struggle to comprehend faith and God. The protagonist, Pi, whose father owns a z
oo and is forced to move to Canada following unrest in India, decides to practice Catholicism, Islam and Hinduism concurrently. Needless to say, his parents are not thrilled. And while Pi’s adventure takes him over waves on the sea, the viewer is taken on an adventure concerning spirit and life that both captivates and stretches the imagination. My suggestion is to see the movie as well as read the book. Some aspects of the book are not adaptable to film.