Film Reviews

Film Reviews
Quvenzhane Wallis sparkles in Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the year’s very best.

Those movie lists everybody makes, what do they mean?

Film Reviews / What follows immediately is a list of those movies, studio and independent, that this writer thinks comprise the “best” of the year. The Best? Yep, in terms of execution, story, originality, structure (theme and pacing), and coherence. Well, that’s a critic for you. But before you turn to more important matters, peruse the list, please, and then hear me out. Most of these are out on DVD or will be in a few weeks. Feel encouraged to take a look.

Here they are, deliberately in no particular order:

The Master: a superb, if not particularly likeable, story of a cult leader and his greatest mentee with wonderful performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: the most original movie of the year, starring an amazing five-year-old girl as a member of a deteriorating family in the deep back of a Louisiana bayou.

Life of Pi: Ang Lee’s superb version of an “unfilmmable” novel about a l4-year-old Indian boy, a wild Bengal tiger and a shipwreck at sea. The best-made film of the year, in near-perfect 3-D.

Lincoln: Steven Spielberg on target all the way, guiding an impeccable ensemble cast.

Argo: Ben Affleck continues his ascendancy to the top rank of American directors in this adventure.

Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper nails a dramatic role in this drama/comedy co-starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro.

Robot and Frank: Frank Langella gives a career-highlight performance about an ailing elder, featuring a remarkable script with a true surprise ending.

Zero Dark Thirty: the hunt for bin Laden as directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) with Jessica Chastain in a terrific performance in this intricate action drama.

Moonrise Kingdom: Director Wes Anderson is in top form in this ensemble piece about runaway kids on an island off the coast of New England.

The Deep Blue Sea: Rachel Weisz gives a career-best performance in director Terence Davies’s version of the Terrence Rattigan play.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: a wonderfully charming tale with impeccable performances by Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. The title explains the terrific story. Lasse Hallstrom directed.

Django Unchained: a well-done historical blood-fest by Quentin Tarantino.

Skyfall: the best of the 23 James Bond films. Kudos to Judi Dench.

The Minus Two: This writer has yet to see Les Misérables and feels (not thinks) ambivalent about the Last Batman/Christopher Nolan collaboration.

No room here to discuss the year’s best performances, which include Bill Murray (Hyde Park on the Hudson), Denzel Washington (Flight), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts) Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Richard Gere (Arbritrage).