10. The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli is so epic, in the non-trendy, currently over-used sense of the world. It’s one man’s voyage through a world saturated by evil to bring the book of all that is pure and mighty to the only safe haven on Earth, effortlessly defeating all that stands in his way. Like I said, so epic. With Denzel Washington as it’s title star, you’d probably never expect this film to be as anti-Hollywood as it is (well, it’s also super Hollywood at the same time). Yes, it’s full of gore, but beneath the bloodshed, it’s about fate and determination, which is something, it feels, that Hollywood tries not to take head-on because it’s supposedly cliché (though might dance around it in some attempt to be quirky). Anyway, if you’re looking for something unexpectedly badass and righteous, this is it.
9. Easy A
Comedies rarely make me laugh, especially comedies with rave reviews. Case in point: until this, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan was the last film I would actually call funny, which came out in 2008. It’s “rotten” by Rotten Tomatoes (36%) and 54 out of 100 on Metacritic (yes, totally the most legit method of judging films). On this theory, I shouldn’t have liked Easy A (Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, though 94% from top critics; Metacritic: 72 out of 100), but sometimes I just have to give into the buzz and see for myself. So I did. And I laughed. And I loved it. And I pray that Emma Stone comes back with another heavy hit soon because she is too stellar to let herself plummet from the radar. She’s paired up with Easy A director Will Gluck again for ensemble rom-com Friends with Benefits due out later this year, so by theory, you should mark your calendars. Except that my theories don’t work.
8. Shutter Island
This was the first of a pretty slick, strong (though similar) pair of films of Leo DiCaprio this year (IMO). Shutter Island is a dark, classy, and, as a good friend of mine calls it, Scooby-Doo-esque film. What makes this film so compelling though is it’s moodiness. It’s clouded and bogged (and I mean that in an artistic kind of way) in memories and palpable emotions, not to mention a killer mirroring atmosphere. It’s beautiful, thoughtful escape, that doesn’t force the viewer to much thinking on her own part, wisping her off to some semi-real narrative.
7. Alice in WonderlandI love Alice and I love Wonderland. They’re such beautiful, insane Carroll creations. His potential modern film director incarnate: Tim Burton. Before this film came out, it was kind of unnerving to think about. What would happen when the minds of Carroll and Burton come together? It could be a very close balance between masterpiece and disaster. When the trailer came out, the over-marketing of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter turned out to be a reason in itself not the see the film, and I kind of though it would be the latter. But I saw it anyway. I expected it to be a lot more darker, frightening and bizarre than it actually turned out to be. On top that, I’m also a huge fan of the Disney version of the story, so I worried it would be difficult not the weight the two films against each other. But it was simple: this version turned out to be completely different, and even more compelling and escapist.
6. True Grit
There’s something about modern westerns that I like and I don’t know what it is. They’re slow. They’re testosterone-heavy. They’re predictable. Yet there’s something about all the sound of a horse’s hooves through a dusty, barren land as the cowboy rides in to save the town that keeps pulling me in. The Coen brothers have yet again won me over with a brilliant film. Though aside from a slightly off-beat story (you can’t stray too far with a western), admirable actors and thoughtful cinematography, what really fuels this film is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Yeah, she’s a bit over-the-top, but she’s just perfectly suited to this film and this genre. Who would have expected that in a film with both Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, that the newcomer 14-year-old would be the driving force of it all?
All photos: allmoviephoto.com
TO BE CONTINUED…