10. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Rock and Roll dreams come through! The band of Canadian knuckleheads had the chops to make it in the 80s hair metal scene, but never managed to make it click. They sunk further and further into obscurity while they watched their fellow cohorts go multi-platinum. After 20 years of wondering what happened, and struggling to hold down regular jobs while still putting on shows that only a handful of people even attend, the spotlight is finally shown on them. The film stands as an emblem of the power of redemption and shows that sometimes karma smiles.
9. State of Play
A rare thing: excellent entertainment for adults. Hollywood continues to dumb us down by either sensory overload or trite formulaic story lines. The interesting stories usually have to be found in the indie films. Not this time. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for movies about journalism and politics. Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck are so good they may cause you to like them again. Granted, the movie indulges one twist ending too many, wish they would have stopped when they were ahead, but I’ll forgive it since the rest was so satisfying. It’s the perfect thing to watch when the kids have gone to bed and you’re dying for some grown up time.
8. I Love You, Man
The funniest movie of the year (hear that, Hangover?). Paul Rudd has ascended to that rarefied air where you’ll line up for just about anything he’s in. And Jason Segal is proving himself to have a similar cache. Today’s man is sensitive. He’s in touch with his feelings and his needs. This evolution calls for a bro-mantic comedy and I Love You, Man fits the bill perfectly. Easily the best odd couple since Oscar and Felix.
7. Funny People
This one took me by surprise. Judd Apatow was beginning to reach that perch in his career where you’d prefer to see him fail rather than continue to succeed (Coldplay is another good example). Just when you’re ready to write him off and think it’s safe to condemn his new “dramedy” (speaking of men “evolving”) before even seeing it, something unexpected happens. He throws something at you that’s half Apatow, half Ingmar Bergman. Funny People feels more like a foreign film for the leisurely pace and high dramatic content, and, yet, it’s OK. In fact, it’s better than OK. I’m sure it was exactly this mix that doomed it at the box office, which is a shame. Just hook up to it and let it take you on a journey. It’s a surprisingly good one.
Speaking of being surprised, wait til you see Sugar. It’s the story of a minor league baseball player from the Dominican Republic and the culture clashes he’s forced to acclimate to while playing ball in small-town America. A sports movie, but not really, it’s one of the rare films that tells a story you didn’t know, but assumed you did, and then learn you had no idea about. The hidden gem of the year.
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s films had begun to rub the wrong way. They were like one big pregnant pause without a payoff. Who would have thought that his best film by a mile would be an animated one. But, it actually makes sense. Go back and watch his other films and they’re practically animated as they are. It was a stroke of genius to go old school with Rankin-Bass looking puppets. Never having read Roald Dahl’s original book, I have no idea how close it is to the original story, but I wouldn’t call this a “kid’s movie” by any stretch. They’ll probably think it looks really cool, but not understand the subtext of the little guy fighting off the boss man. I can’t wait to show it to my kids when they’re old enough to sit through an entire movie.
4. Up In The Air
Michael Jordan was born to play basketball. Michael Jackson was born to entertain. And George Clooney was born to be a movie star. These people couldn’t possibly be anything but exactly what they are and we’re lucky to have them enrich our lives (even if we are blind with jealousy). No movie has captured George at the top of his natural powers until this one. It’s the Network or Wall Street or All The President’s Men of its time. In 50 years people will want to know what life was like at the turn of the millennium and that curiosity should lead them right here.
3. Food Inc.
The documentary of the year and, hopefully, the film that changes the way you live and think about life. Not only is it dispiriting to learn about the ugly politics behind the food and goods we buy from our local grocery story, it’s a sobering reminder of how difficult it always seems to be to do the right thing in this country. The system’s corrupt, from how the food we eat is made, to who gets to provide it and who doesn’t (tip: the money makes the rules). Food is a hot topic now in this country and deservedly so. Inform yourself and start here. It’s essential.
2. The Informant!
I’ve heard a lot of gripes about this film because it doesn’t stack up to the book. Well, I never read the book so I have no problem saying it’s one of the best movies of the year. Matt Damon is hilarious (who knew?) as an unstable corporate whistleblower who’s really in it for himself. Another excellent film for adults with brains. Both horrifying and hilarious, the tone keeps you slightly off guard, never really knowing exactly whose side to take or how you should feel. After an hour or so of laughing with tears in your eyes, you’ll know where it’s all going.
1. (500) Days of Summer
Simply, the best time I had at the movies last year. If you’re in the right demographic, this is probably the story to a half-dozen of your own love stories. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s insightful, and it’s a different spin on the traditional rom-com. By the end you realize it isn’t so much a love story, as the story of the person you fall in love with just before the person you end up with.