Some Favorites

Ryan Gosling didn't get an Oscar nomination for "Drive," but he still has a better jacket than you. Image from: http://www.salon.com

This year’s Oscar nominations were just announced yesterday morning; I haven’t seen most of the films on offer yet, but have enjoyed both The Artist and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (hooray for Gary Oldman! How is this his first Oscar nomination, I ask you?) Since I’m lucky enough to work with a very large film collection on a daily basis, I tend to wait until most things come out on DVD. A few favorites from this past year:

Another Year

This is a very nice movie about a lovely older couple named Tom and Gerri. It follows their lives for an entire year, as they work at their jobs, invite friends over for dinner, and work in their garden. They live modest but fulfilling lives, and they seem mostly happy and very much in love, a rarity in the movies. This probably sounds horribly boring to most people, but since Mike Leigh is the director, the film is instead a touching and realistic portrayal of love and how people spend their time together. We should all be so lucky as to live a life as charmed as the central couple in this film. (Side note: this movie technically came out at the end of 2010 in limited release, but didn’t make it to video until this past summer).

Attack the Block

This might be the movie that Super 8 wanted (but failed) to become. Set on a council estate in South London, the film follows a group of teenagers who have to defend themselves and their neighbors from hostile alien invaders. I almost watched this one twice-in-a-row, because even though all the young, unknown actors are really great, their accents are rather heavy and I know I missed a few jokes the first time around. Next time I might turn the English subtitles on. Also of note: if you get a kick out of seeing how movies are made, there are lengthy (and highly entertaining) bonus features included, illuminating all the hard work that went into making this low-budget horror gem.

Beginners

This is another nice movie about very nice people. It focuses primarily on father and son Hal (Christopher Plummer) and Oliver (Ewan McGregor), who both have recently begun new lives of sorts. After the death of his wife, Hal decides to come out of the closet at the ripe age of 75 and live his life to the absolute fullest. Meanwhile, Oliver realizes that he too has put his romantic life on hold for far too long, and decides to cautiously try his hand at love once more with the agreeable Anna (Mélanie Laurent). This is a lovely film about family and memory, as well as attempting to make more room in life for happiness. It also has an adorable dog that talks in subtitles, which is not nearly as obnoxious as it sounds, and Christopher Plummer just received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his supporting role.

Drive

This seedy little movie is all about a jacket–namely, a stained white bomber jacket with a yellow scorpion embroidered on the back. The jacket is worn by The Driver (we never learn his name), a wheelman for hire who works as a stunt driver for movie productions by day, and steers a getaway vehicle for armed heists by night. The Driver is played by the not-terrible-looking Ryan Gosling, who portrays him as a loner who speaks little and always carries a toothpick (and sometimes a hammer). Some things happen, the driver gets involved in a bad heist, and lots of nifty electronic pop music plays on the soundtrack.

Meek’s Cutoff

I have honestly never said to myself, “Boy, I sure wish someone would make a movie about pilgrims traveling the Oregon Trail.” I grew up in Oregon, and in school we had all that Oregon Trail whatnot shoved down our throats, and had to take boring field trips to see pilgrims’ graves…which means we would ride in a bus for 90 minutes so we could look at a large pile of rocks. I think this was supposed to make history more “real” for us, but hopefully in the future they’ll just show kids this movie instead. It’s good, and really does give one a sense of what it might have been like to cross the United States at the pace of an ox — scary, lonely, dirty and discouraging.

Midnight in Paris

Are you a Woody Allen fan? I’m honestly not sure if I am. I’ve liked some of his movies (Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters) and have been slightly unimpressed by others, but overall I feel like I haven’t seen enough of his films to decide whether Midnight in Paris is a typical Woody Allen film or not. What I do know is that I enjoyed it, and related to the central character Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) who travels to Paris with his fiancé, and winds up magically being transported to 1920s Paris each night at midnight. Gil’s time traveling allows for great artists and writers of the 1920s to make appearances in the film, including Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and the Fitzgeralds. The more Gil parties like it’s 1920, the harder he finds it to return to the Paris of 2011, as he remains firmly convinced that things really were better in the old days.

Sadly, I came to the realization while making this list that I didn’t watch many new documentaries this year—although I did take in a few wonderful older ones. Rest assured, I intend to rectify this situation in 2012 and will be checking out these films as soon as I’m able: Bill Cunningham New York, The Interrupters, Into the Abyss, The Last Mountain, Pina, Project Nim, and Resurrect Dead.

What about you? What were your favorite films this year? Am I missing anything good?

-Tara

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Some Favorites

  1. Ian Kinross

    Thanks for the reviews.

    Regarding whether Midnight in Paris is a typical Woody Allen movie…. for something on the darker side, try his Crimes and Misdemeanors, or Match Point.

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