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I feel kind of silly compiling my top ten list when I’ve only written about 24 films from this year. There are many films (Martha Marcy May MarleneMargaretHouse of PleasuresShame, Take ShelterA SeparationPoetry13 AssassinsThe Skin I Live In, The DescendantsBeats, Rhymes & LifeInto the Abyss, Film Socialisme,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The FutureThe Girl With The Dragon TattooThe Artist, TyrannosaurHugo, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, A Dangerous Method and Tuesday, After Christmas) which I feel could alter my list drastically but I haven’t had a chance, yet, to see those. Still, I really wanted a way to close out the year for this blog and so I offer my list of favourite films so far:

10. Rango

Gorgeously animated and packed to bursting with pop culture, Rango is a Western for children that is in love with Westerns for adults. Johnny Depp teams up with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski to play a chameleon who gets stranded in a desert town, adopts the name of Rango and ends up beings the towns one and only Sanjuro-like line of defence. Rango is really funny and interesting, and it offers something entirely different from most animated children’s films.

 

 

9. The Tree of Life

This year, master filmmaker Terrence Malick finally offered up The Tree of Life, his long awaited and much anticipated fifth film (fifth in nearly 40 years) . Divisive at Cannes, and gushed over by critics, Malick’s magnum opus is pretentious and long winded but considering its subject is no less than all of existence and the core of human life, he deserves kudos for succeeding with such grace. Visually overwhelming and evocative, The Tree of Life is a stunning experience of raw and impassioned cinema.

 

 

8. X-Men: First Class

While pocked by a few odd character choices and a pitiful performance from January Jones, X-Men: First Class stands as a stunning achievement of  spectacle and  emotion. Director Matthew Vaughn delicately constructs the complex relationship between Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) against the backdrop of stunning action setpieces. Performances from McAvoy and the unstoppable Fassbender maintain the emotional drama that has always separated the X-men from other comic book heroes while Vaughn’s balance of fanboyish detail and thoughtful filmmaking secures X-Men: First Class in the company of the truly great comic book films.

7. Meek’s Cutoff

Long, desolate shots of desert sprawl claustrophobically shorn by a tiny aspect ratio give a subtly surreal quality to Kelly Reichardt’s tale of lost travellers. Three families dragging their few possessions across the High Desert have been misled by their guide Stephen Meek and are certain to die if they can’t soon find water. A sharp, modern Western, Meek’s Cutoff observes the women while the men foolishly continue to make the same desperate mistakes. A searing performance from Michelle Williams and stunning visual composition make this a desolate and lonely tale of poor bastards who have damned themselves to wander forever.

6. The Mill and The Cross

Beyond acknowledging incredible visual ingenuity and smart performances from Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling and Michael York, I feel that I cannot adequately speak for The Mill and The Cross. Polish Director Lech Majewski offers a  thoughtful exploration of human cruelty and the artistic process by way of Bruegel the Elder’s The Way to Calvary. This is a film that requires a little effort and which is massively rewarding.

5. Another Earth

An unlikely sci-fi indie, Another Earth showcases incredible talent from newcomer Brit Marling and tells a crushing story of guilt and penitence. The brilliant and beautiful Rhoda denies herself the success she deserves as punishment for past mistakes and she dreams of starting over on a newly found mirror planet, Earth 2, which has been hanging mysteriously in the sky for 4 years. Evocatively shot and constructed in the true spirit of science fiction, Another Earth is stunningly personal for a film framed around the unfolding secrets of the Universe.

4. Bellflower

Writer/director/producer/star Evan Glodell scorches his own trail with Bellflower, his prodigious film about two buddies who exist in their own shared fantasy of the coming apocalypse. The two spend their time building weapons and supercars for what they fantasize to be the inevitable and impending fall of society where they hope to rule through violence. Georgously shot on a homemade camera, Bellflower is an aggressively original indie that looks and feels as though it was birthed in blood and fire.

3. Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Of all the documentarians in the world, it was the great Werner Herzog who was granted extremely exclusive access to the Cauvet Cave to make a film about the earliest known human cave paintings. Shot with wonder and fascination, and illuminated by interviews with weird (and weirdly charming) talking heads, Herzog finds a deep connection with the primitive artists responsible for the cave paintings. Struck by the notion of “proto-cinema” and obsessed with uncovering the story in each image, Herzog once again finds a truth in his subject more pure than facts alone could ever provide.

2. Certified Copy

With Certified Copy Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami offers up a cinema-lover’s feast. Beautifully shot along the Italian countryside, this film follows a British writer (William Shimell) and a French antique shop owner (Juliette Binoche) as they spend an afternoon toying at being a married couple (or have they being toying, all along, at being strangers?). Twisted up in issues of translation, miscommunication and unspoken desires, this is a bewildering experiment in the relationship between the truth and deception inherent in cinematic language.

1.Drive

Icy and precise, Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive coolly observes Ryan Gosling as an emotionally repressed stunt driver whose minimal and focused existence begins to spin into chaos. A frigid soundtrack, a sly sense of humour, splatters of extreme violence and hard-as-nails performances from Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and a particularly frightening Albert Brooks make Drive a deft and chilling Euro-throwback to a long-dead brand of movie machismo.