Top 10: 2016

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1. Manchester By the Sea

Manchester by the Sea is a masterful character piece that explores the frailties and intricacies of grief and familial tragedy. Writer and director Kenneth Lonnergan expertly weaves his narrative’s past and present through haunting extended flashbacks that manage to convey the minute preciousness of human life. Casey Afleck gives one of the finest male performances of all time, carrying his character’s engulfing pain in every glance, his hunched shoulders, and quiet repose. Michelle Williams matches his caliber (though, no surprise there as she always delivers a fine performance) in an anticipatory and devastating final scene. Manchester by the Sea does not completely wallow in gloom, as there are many humorous moments and traces of the family comedy genre. This is a testament to the film’s power, as Lonnergan and the actors manage to convey life’s ever-flowing and perpetual amalgam of pain and pleasure within seemingly infinitesimal gestures, glances, and moments.

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2. Hacksaw Ridge

“War is hell” they say, and perhaps no other film since Saving Private Ryan expresses this sentiment best as Hacksaw Ridge. The horrific carnage of the gritty and graphic battle sequences convey the psychological devastation of war and provide extraordinary stakes for its lead character, Desmond Doss. Doss is an outcast in his squad for his strong Christian beliefs and refusal to carry a gun in battle. Yet, he miraculously manages to save hundreds of his fellow soldiers. Andrew Garfield gives a powerful performance as Doss, providing the film’s central heart and intensity and a character the audience can truly root for. Doss proves the immense power of committing your convictions. Hacksaw Ridge is a gripping and inspiring story of passion, dedication, and a death-defying heroism like you’ve never seen.  Even if you are not particularly religious, it is hard not to be moved by this incredible story and Gibson’s sweeping vision.

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3. Christine

Christine perhaps the only film to so accurately express the traumas of depression. The minutiae of mental illness is found in director Antonio Campos’ uncomfortable close-ups and lingering shots. Rebecca Hall gives one of the finest female performances I’ve ever seen as Christine Chubbuck, a young news reporter who killed herself on a live broadcast in the 1970s. Hall expertly dives into the bleak waters of her character’s emotional turmoil. Her lack of nominations and awards buzz is absolutely astounding. Christine gets under the skin of its lead character, delving into her private life in ways that may be too close for comfort. Campos eradicates the potentialities of sick voyeurism in his refusal to sensationalize her death. It is simply a devastating outcome of a terrible mental illness and unhappy life. Christine is a raw and powerful viewing experience that will haunt you.

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4. La La Land

La La Land has received an overwhelming amount of praise and Oscar buzz, and I believe rightfully so. It is Damien Chazelle’s innovative and spirited vision that accounts for the film’s success. The visuals, more so than the thin singing voices of its otherwise charismatic leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, or even the story itself, is what makes La La Land so special. Chazelle’s impeccable eye for rhythm established in Whiplash flourishes in the musical medium. What is so intriguing about the film is that it functions as both a homage and reversion of the Old Hollywood musical. The spirits of Singin’ in the Rain or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are readily felt, yet Chazelle foregrounds his story with a modern sensibility. The heart of La La Land’s magic spell is its ability to blend fantasy with reality and 1950s cinematic traditions with contemporary ideals. It stands as a melancholic ode to artists, the “fools who dream,” and is an overall majestic cinematic experience.

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5. The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Brechtian comedy is a strange, surrealist portrait of a dystopian world perhaps not so far from our own. The film’s eccentric sensibilities work to reveal the oddities of modern courtship, our societal rules for the perusal and cultivation of an “adult relationship.” The Lobster suggests that it is not the film itself, but rather our need to build a society terrified of singledom and predicated on the acquirement of a soulmate that is truly absurd. The Lobster manages to expose the ego-centrism, shallowness, and narcissism of online dating, where we hinge equating traits and interests on the entirety of our future with another human. Colin Farrell and Rachel Wesiz lead the film with strong performances that match the film’s offbeat tenor.

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6. Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann is a bizarre and charming family dramedy sure to elicit plenty of smiles and belly-laughs, one that plays on the inherent embarrassment all children feel of their parents. It tells the story of a practical jokester father who feels he is growing apart from his corporate professional daughter. He disguises himself as her CEO’s “life coach,” a bold, quirky weirdo who is unafraid of any situation, to be a part of her life again, break her out of her shell, and rekindle their former closeness. The film features one of the most memorable scenes of the year, the daughter singing Whitney Houston’s hit “The Greatest Love of All.” Despite its daunting length, it never feels slow. Toni Erdmann is one of the most unique films of the year, one that builds to a side-splitting and poignant climax.

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7. Jackie

Director Pablo Larrain departs from the patterns of a typical biopic to present a subjective experience of Jacqueline Kennedy’s fight to maintain composure and sanity in the aftermath of her prolific husband’s untimely and horrific death. We infiltrate the privacy of the alpine White House walls to view the First Lady’s struggle to uphold her trademark dignity and poise despite the threat of collapse. Jackie is more of a psychological portrait and performance showpiece than a strong film in and of itself. This is anchored by Natalie Portman’s enthralling performance. Portman manages to side-step any clichéd traps that befall an actor playing this iconic American figure. Most importantly, Jackie meditates on the ideas of constructing legacy, and how at many times a woman’s contribution can be overshadowed by their male counterpart.

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8. Indignation

Indignation manages to capture the quiet poeticism of Phillip Roth’s writing, no easy task. Helmed by a talented writer-director James Schamus, Indignation explores a teenager’s sexual awakening and challenge of authority within the stifling conventionalism of 1950s America. Indignation is the kind of film that allows its actors to breathe and Logan Lerman leads the charge with a compelling and curious grace. His drawn-out and agonizing diatribe with the Dean, played by Tracy Letts, is one of the most memorable scenes of the year. Schamus’ strict period details convey the characters’ oppressive world, but the narrative’s subtext of death and darkness, especially with war on the horizon, subverts the presentational beauty of the 1950s. Indignation leaves you with the terrifying and arresting idea that every small decision you make could potentially lead to the utmost doom.

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9. Lion

Lion is one of the most undeniably uplifting films of this year. A sweeping and grand journey across oceans and continents, Lion is based on the incredible true story of a young Indian boy seperated from his family after falling asleep on a train. After several frightening encounters navigating the slums of India, Saroo is adopted by a wealthy white Australian couple. Dev Patel plays Saroo as a conflicted adult torn between his love for his adopted family and yearning to return to his origins. Saroo cannot correctly remember the name of the village he comes from, so he must resort to using Google Earth to find his hometown. This is an arduous and near-impossible task, much like finding a needle in a haystack. Lion’s ending has an emotional punch that will wring a fountainous flow of tears out of you. Lion is about the power of family, both those bound to you by blood and the family you can create with others. Lion is truly one of the must-see films of 2016, and a film that will be remembered for its earnest and passionate spirit.

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10. Green Room 

Once Green Room grabs you, it never lets go. A punk band travels to a last minute booking for a group of Neo-Nazis in a decrepit backwoods hideaway. After witnessing a murder backstage, they bargain with the club’s sadistic owner to escape the sordid confines of the green room alive. This dirty, chaotic environment only exacerbates the film’s grisly terror. Since no character seems to be safe from the Neo-Nazi’s barbaric awfulness, the film maintains nail-biting tension and keeps you guessing throughout the entirety of their great escape. Gorehounds will relish in the film’s brutal violent surprises. Green Room is one of the finest horror thrill-rides in recent years.

Honorable Mentions: MoonlightNocturnal Animals, Loving, The Witch, Hell or High Water 

 

Top 10: 2015 Movies

2015 was one of the best years for film in a long time. It treated us to a diverse set of female stories, smaller films that made big waves, and the long-awaited return to a galaxy far, far away. These are my personal picks for the Top 10 movies of 2015.

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1. Brooklyn

I reviewed Brooklyn already for the blog, which you can see here. In short, it is my number one of the year because of its poetic and tender examination of what it means to leave home, led by an incredible performance from Saoirse Ronan. The sweeping, gorgeous film-making evokes classic Hollywood, as if Brooklyn stepped out from the very era it depicts

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2. Ex Machina

Taking my review from ScreenqueensEx Machina is one of the most daring, original and creative films of the year and one of the finest sci-fi films ever made. The film uses incredible practical effects and minimal CGI to craft a haunting realism. The gorgeous mountain exteriors and clinical futuristic interiors swiftly juxtapose the themes of nature vs. technology. The twist and turns of the story will leave you breathless and electrified. Ex Machina is a small film, almost like a play with its four-member cast, with big ideas. Ex Machina deftly explores the questions of ‘what is humanity? Is it merely the confines of our body or does it lie within the mind? Does the mind have a gender? Can societal gender roles extend to intelligent life?’ And, most importantly, it has Oscar Isaac disco dancing.

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3. Son of Saul

Son of Saul is one of the finest achievements in cinema history, a top contender for Best Foreign Film and should be in the running for Best Picture as well. Son of Saul, (similar to, yet with some differences from Steve Buscemi’s fantastic The Grey Zone) journeys literally alongside, filmed from the shoulders or thirty inches near the head, of a concentration camp inmate named Saul. Saul discovers the body of his son and takes the risk of going out to bury his body properly. Director László Nemes makes the brilliant choices to shoot in film and in 35mm (a square). These choices craft a claustrophobic, overwhelming and intense experience and situates the viewer directly alongside the main character’s heart wrenching journey. Son of Saul, like its subject matter, is incredibly grim and intense. Yet it has a harsh beauty that makes for a riveting and personal piece of cinema.

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4. Room

Told from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy, the novel of Room seemed virtually unadaptable. Yet the author Emma Donahuge turns out a brilliant screenplay, led by director Lenny Abrahamson and the incredible performances of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Larson has rightfully been stirring up Oscar buzz for her work, but Tremblay also deserves to be recognized. The talented a young actor to gives a mature and nuanced performance. Room is both harrowing and hopeful, taking a grim subject (too familiar from our own world) and turning it into an uplifting cinematic journey.

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5. Inside Out

I also reviewed this for the blog, which you can read here. Inside Out is a universal story that touches across generations, exploring the painful and beautiful nature of growing up. Inside Out examines not only the often conflicting emotions that you go through, but also what you must leave behind in order to move forward. Inside Out manages to carve a deep and poignant place in your heart, its emotional gravitas buoyed by the infectious humor from the colorful characters. Amy Poehler, Lewis Black and Phyllis Smith give phenomenal voice performance that expertly embody the emotions they portray. And personally, I can’t even watch this movie without crying the entire time. Inside Out is destined to become a childhood Pixar classic for years to come.

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6. Spotlight

Spotlight is this generation’s All the President’s Men, portraying the excitement, pain, fear, anger and elation that is the whirlwind of investigative journalism. Spotlight follows the true-life story of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, journalists who uncover corruption and sexual abuse within the Catholic church. (For more on that subject, I highly recommend the documentary Deliver Us from Evil) The cast is fantastic, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Broadway’s Brian D’Arcy James, and particularly standing out is Mark Ruffalo. He deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Spotlight captures the old-school ethos of investigative writing, journalists who care about exposing the truth, rather than today’s culture of click-baiting, and the integrity of writers will do anything in their power to get it.

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7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It’s true! The hype surrounding Star Wars lives up, and the franchise has been redeemed from sins of prequel past. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is nostalgia negotiating with itself at its best, and in my opinion blows Jurassic World out of the water. (And you can take the fake-looking Mosasaurus with you) The Force Awakens is a joyous thrill-ride from start to finish,  one that dutifully honors its predecessor (even if it’s virtually the same as a A New Hope…) It is also absolutely wonderful to have the cast of newcomers be two POC and a woman and all equally well-written characters. John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac have infectious energies that seem to make you even more excited than you already are to be watching the film. For such a popular franchise to have these achievements and serve a fantastic story (sadly, it is a feat in Hollywood today for them to do this…) makes the return to the beloved galaxy all the more sweeter.

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8. The Walk

The Walk, directed by Robert Zemeckis, was absolutely breathtaking in IMAX 3D, likely the best I’ve ever seen in that format. Based on the real life story and subject of the documentary Man on Wire, Philippe Petit walked across the World Trade Center on a tight rope. The 3D format and Zemeckis’ adventurous camerawork truly puts you on the tightrope alongside him. My palms were sweating the entire time! It’s an effervescent tale, jubilant in energy yet also serving as a beautiful tribute to the towers itself. No doubt the horror of 9/11 is still on one’s mind when viewing, as it always is conjured whenever we see images of the towers.  The Walk, especially in the last few tender lines, celebrates the towers’ beauty. The film manages to bring some light to the darkness that has shadowed that imagery for so long.

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9. Meadowland

Meadowland is a searing portrait of the grief after losing a child. Although this subject has been explored time and time again with films such as Rabbit Hole and Cake, Meadowland takes it further. It explores just how far the physical and emotional tolls on someone can go. Meadowland’s structure is a series of vignettes, small and fractured glimpses into the characters’ shattered lives. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson and captivating as the broken parents and Meadowland is as raw and searing as their wounds.

10. Slow West

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The colors of the expanse pale blue skies and bright yellow grass pop and sparkle under John Maclean’s direction. This gorgeous Western manages to deftly balance the tenderness of young love, nuanced characters, splashy violent shootouts and absurdities. Slow West is the typical story of a journey across the wilderness on a quest told in an atypical way. Slow West brings a touch of whimsy that is not often seen in the genre, a refreshing and original western that shows the beauty and allure of days in the Old West.

Honorable Mentions: Carol, Legend, The Martian, Tangerine, Trainwreck

I have not seen The Hateful Eight, Anamolisa, The Revenant, or The Danish Girl.

Top 10: Robert De Niro Performances

 For those who knew of Robert De Niro only from the late 90s on, you know him as the funny old guy from Analyze This, or the father-in-law from Meet the Parents. During the 70s and 80s, De Niro was considered one of the greatest and best actors of his peers. He used the Method for many of his roles, physically and emotionally transforming himself to become some of the greatest characters in film history. From his start in early Brian DePalma comedies to becoming Scorsese’s first protege before Leo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro has a long career spanning the decades, starring in some of the greatest films in movie history. It’s really impossible to choose just 10 great performances, many of them are going to be unmentioned, but here’s what I consider to be his Top 10 performances.

1. Jake LaMotta – Raging Bull

Robert De Niro won the Oscar for his emotionally intense performance as the brutal boxer Jake LaMotta. There is so much that I could say about this performance. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest film performances of all time. This scene below (which I analyzed here) reveals the tenderness inside of LaMotta, revealing his broken humanity for all the outside chaos and destruction he causes.

2. Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver

The isolated and delusional psychopath is one of De Niro’s most famous and memorable roles. . His infamous “You talkin’ to me” scene was completely ad-libbed, which proves just how much De Niro absorbed himself into this role of rage-fueled loner.

3. Leonard Lowe – Awakenings

It’s often looked upon as a cliche that when an actor plays a character with a disability they are baiting for an Oscar. But what many people don’t understand is just how difficult it is for an actor to effectively pull off a physical or vocal disability. When I first saw Awakenings, De Niro’s performance blew me away. Leonard Lowe has a disability, almost a “locked in” syndrome, losing all movement and speech patterns. A drug is developed that nearly cures him, but it slowly starts losing it’s power and Leonard regresses back. De Niro received a well-deserved Oscar nomination (and should’ve won, in my opinion) for his heartbreaking and inspiring performance. It takes a lot of talent to pull something like that off.

4. Michael Vronsky – The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter is an intesnse portrayal of the Vietnam War. The famous Russian Roulette scene shown below shows just what high stakes and tensions De Niro had to portray. (As well as the amazing Christopher Walken) The rest of the performance is a quiet but devestation study of trauma. De Niro described it as the most draining film he ever performed in. Watching it, you can easily see why. De Niro effectively portrays the uneasy act of assimilation after returning back home from seeing such horrors of war.

5. Rupert Pupkin – The King of Comedy

De Niro and Scorsese teamed up in a change of pace from dark gangster pictures with The King of Comedy, a social satire on the obsession with fame and celebrity. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a wannabee comic who goes so far to kidnap and hold his idol hostage to be on his show. De Niro gives Pupkin over the top mannerisms and speech, a performance that perfectly balances the desperation and tenacity of the character. This role can be seen a sister role to Travis Bickle, for Pupkin is just as delusional and unhinged.

6. David “Noodles” Aaronson Once Upon a Time in America

Noodles is a complicated role in Sergio Leone’s near four-hour epic. It is a mostly somber and quiet performance, Noodles spends most of the film as a sad and heartbroken wanderer, or an introspective outsider of his gang. But Noodles is not entirely likeable. There are two, one especially shocking, rape scenes in the film. Noodles can be equally savage as he is subdued. De Niro manages to brilliantly pull it off. (You can see more of my thoughts on his performance here)

7. Max Cady – Cape Fear

This is a deliciously over-the-top but equally terrifying performance. De Niro is a released convict that terrorizes the family of the lawyer who ineptly defended him. De Niro dons a thick Southern drawl, body builds for tight muscles which are decorated with religious tattoos. His eerily accurate portrayal of a sexual predator is in the scene below. (I analyzed that scene and his performance here)

8. Vito Corleone – The Godfather Part II

De Niro had a difficult job to do when being cast as the young Vito Corleone. Not only did he have to learn and perfect Sicilian dialogue (his lines were mostly in that language, with only sprinkles of English) but he had to fill the shoes of the great Marlon Brando. Brando made his role of Don Vito Corleone infamous in film history. De Niro had to evoke his performance while making it his own. De Niro achieves this and more. He tactfully echos familiar gestures and expressions that Brando used as Vito. He won Best Supporting Actor for this performance.

9. Father Bobby – Sleepers

Sleepers is rather underrated, but De Niro gives a great performance. He plays a priest who is a mentor to a group of boys in the city. The boys end up in prison where they are terrorized and raped by one of the guards. There’s a scene that is just a slow close-up on De Niro, a reaction shot to him hearing what happened to his young friends. De Niro encompasses a huge array of emotions with just one look.

10 Jack Walsh – Midnight Run

De Niro is well-known nowadays for making fun of his tough guy image with Analyze This, Meet the Parents, and the shameful The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But one of his lighter roles in the hilarious Midnight Run is a great performance. De Niro has a clear flair for comedy as the fast-talking curmudgeon Jack Walsh. If you want to see more of his better comedic roles, watch We’re No Angels and Jackie Brown.
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Top 10: 2014 Movies

These are my personal choices for the best movies of 2014. It’s been a wonderful year for film!

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1. Interstellar

Interstellar was my absolute favorite of the year. While I was a bit disappointed with parts of the ending and some lack of character development, that does not overshadow my love for this film. It’s an incredible balance of thrills, visual spectacle, top-notch acting, and thought-provoking ideas. The visuals are a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen, especially one depicting space. Matthew McConaughey is nothing short of outstanding, especially his scene where he watches the videos of his child growing up before his eyes. It shoots through the heart and will leave you aching. As will many other moving moments. The scientific and time-travel elements will blow your mind. (Even if you don’t fully understand them) I consider it to be, and I believe it should be held up as a modern classic. See more of my review here.

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2. Whiplash

 Whiplash is majorly intense, thanks to the squaring off of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as clashing jazz music teacher and student. The film explores how far you are willing to go for your talent, how far you’re willing to go for your art. The drumming in this is insanely amazing, (and looks very painful…) and apparently Miles Teller actually did it. You cannot look away, it is be brutal and horrific yet compelling. J.K. Simmons, who is known as Juno’s loving dad or J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, is chilling and terrifying. It never fails to shock the lengths that student Andrew will go to vie for a starring spot in his teacher’s eye. The finale packs a powerful punch and will leave you on the edge of your seat.

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3. Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler really makes an impression, and that’s all due to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. His Lou Bloom echoes Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. Lou is success-hungry and sociopathic, he will stop at nothing do advance further in his career. He is completely committed to achieving success as a news cameraman, who films crashes, accidents that take place at night. Lou has no qualms about crossing moral lines. Although it is not just Lou who lacks morality, for Nightcrawler also gives a scathing look at the news and modern media. The newscasters who work in tandem with Lou will also stop at nothing to get that perfect shot and story, so who cares about the people it happened to? The more tragic the event, the better the news. Nightcrawler is an incredible thriller that really leaves a stamp in your mind thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s star performance.

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4. Gone Girl

Based on the bestselling book, Gone Girl was a highly-anticipated adaptation. Helmed by the brilliant David Fincher and a screenplay penned by the illustrious author herself, Gillian Flynn. Together, they create a fantastic adaptation that lives up to the book’s twisted tale. Gone Girl will go down in history as one of the smarter thrillers that depict a heated battle of the sexes.(i.e. the 90s hits Basic Instinct, Body Heat) With sleek visuals and a chilling performance by Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl is an intelligent and engrossing thriller that will be talked about for a very long time. To see my full review, go here.

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5. The Immigrant

The Immigrant is an elegant and haunting gem, telling the story of early 1920s America. The visuals are outstanding, shot with a gorgeous sepia tone or muted colors that perfectly capture the period. Marion Cotillard shines, as she so often does, as the Polish immigrant. Her performance is powerful, quietly yet deftly capturing Eva’s emotional turmoil. Joaquin Phoenix is on equal footing as the flawed hustler. Together, they craft engrossing characters that are intertwined for better or worse. The Immigrant is a somber piece but exiusite film. Marion Cotillard enraptures the audience, making you completely engrossed in Ewa’s long and hard journey. I wrote more about The Immigrant here.

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6. Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood obviously achieves a technological feat with it’s innovative use of telling a story over 12 years, you watch the cast grow up before your very eyes. And it is a marvel. But what could have been a gimmick ends up being a resounding realistic portrait of life. What’s so beautiful about Boyhood is it’s simplicity. It’s not just a story that hits all the typical beats of adolescence, like “here’s the PROM scene” or “here’s the FIRST KISS scene.” Instead it is compromised of the little things. How life’s little moments, heartbreaking and joyful, can so quickly accumulate, and before we know it it’s years later. Boyhood comes as close to life as a documentary, it is an experimental film that more than paid off, one that redefined cinema.

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7. The Babadook

The Babadook is a game-changing horror film that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, twisting familiar horror film elements to create something completely original. The Babadook is filled with artful visuals, long shadows and an elegant grayscale wash. It makes the house they live in look exactly like the charcoal Babadook book. There’s strange camera angles and an astounding and eerie silent film montage. The relationship and story of mother and son is genuinely moving, and Essie Davis gives a phenomenal performance. You never know quite where the story is going. Is it another story of a possessed mother? Is it truly a monster? Or is it just psychological, all in their heads? The Babadook is a blur between reality and metaphor, one that never quite gives you all the answers but takes you on a heart-wrenching and terrifying ride.

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8. Wild

Reese Witherspoon gives the best performance of her career in Wild. She is a flawed and complicated heroine, one who must go on a 1,000 mile walk to cleanse her soul from demons past. Several powerfully moving scenes have been stuck in my head long after seeing it. Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously helmed Dallas Buyers Club, does stunning work here. The flashbacks brilliantly intertwine with her present-day scenes. Wild is both painful and uplifting. It enraptures the audience in the complicated her conquest every step of the way.

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9. The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins is a rare family drama that deftly navigates both the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It’s a rare film that can effectively mine both laughter and tears. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the perfect pair, demonstrating their well-known comedic chops but also bringing fantastic dramatic performances as well. The Skeleton Twins is an emotionally engaging dramedy. It also gives us a hilarious “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” lip-synching scene.

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10. Pride

Pride is pure uplifting fun. Set in the 1980s England coal miner’s strike and the LGBT community that helps support them. It’s an earnest story of overcoming prejudice without being too schmaltzy. The combination of being emotionally resonant while remaining fairly light-hearted keeps it from being preachy. Pride is a joyous and heartfelt crow-pleaser with a great 80s soundtrack. Also, the ending scene (pictured above) has some really beautiful London visuals, with a great score too!

Top 10: Feel-Good Movies

If you’re having a bad day, or are sick beyond belief, nothing feels better than snuggling up with a feel-good movie. A movie that never fails to make you smile or lift your spirits. Everyone has those certain special ones, and here’s a few of mine.

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1. My Neighbor Totoro

If this movie doesn’t make you smile, you’re basically not human. Hayao Miyazaki is a master storyteller, and Totoro is no different from his other woks that capture the simple magic of childhood. Totoro is a playful mystical creature that brightens the lives of two little girls, taking them on a magical adventure while also teaching them about the realities of life. It can’t get any cuter than this. With gorgeous animation and adorable magical creatures, My Neighbor Totoro is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

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2. When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally are pretty much my #relationshipgoals. Sure, they didn’t really like each other at first and it took 10 years for them to finally get together… but they end up fitting together perfectly. These are smartly written and all around great characters. Sharply played by the actors, Billy Crystal’s cynical Harry and Meg Ryan’s cheery Sally have fantastic interplay with an infectious wit. And that monologue at the end always gets me. “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Don’t we all want to hear that? When Harry Met Sally set the standard for romantic comedies that very few have ever reached.

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3. Clue 

Clue is a zany physical comedy that will leave you in stitches from side-splitting laughter. Tim Curry is a huge standout, leading the wacky gang in pratfalls and mishaps throughout the sprawling mansion. Madeline Khan is also deviously funny as Mrs. White, particularly her hilarious monologue on her loathing of Yvette “Flames…on the side of my face!” It is frantic and silly, and feels more like a stage farce than anything. I’ve always thought it would be an excellent play. If I ever need a laugh, all I have to do is pop Clue in the DVD player.

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4. Adventures in Babysitting

Adventures in Babysitting starts out with a fun bang in a magnetic opening. (which I wrote about here) Is it silly and unbelievable at times? Yes. But it’s a lot of fun. The kids singing ‘The Babysitting Blues’ at a downtown Chicago blues club, encountering a Thor-esque mechanic, running into the mob, and so on. Also, the 80s was a time where kids and family movies could get away with a lot more, such as a sub plot where the babysitter looks strikingly similar and keeps getting mistaken for a Playboy model. Adventures in Babysitting is fun and absolutely lovable.

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5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is a John Hughes classic, sold by Matthew Broderick as the charming lead character. It’s about being young and having fun, with a touch of serious moments as well. Jennifer Grey is hilarious as Ferris’ jealous younger sister. Jeffery Jones nearly steals the show as Ed Rooney, determined to catch Ferris Bueller in the act of skipping school. From the sing-along at the parade, to crashing a fancy restaurant, to a joyride in the Ferrari, there are so many memorable moments. Ferris and his friends have the best day of skipping school ever. And as Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Why not have fun while you can? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes you feel like you are a part of that ride.

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6. The Emperor’s New Groove

This is Disney’s funniest film, hands down. An all-star hilarious voice cast, David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman and Patrick Warburton bring to life the colorful characters. Kronk’s spy song and when he olds the one note leaves me in stitches EVERY time. There are too many knee-slapping moments in this. The Emperor’s New Groove is a whimsical and funky Disney feature that warms your heart and never lets you stop laughing.

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7. Back to the Future

How can you not love Back to the Future? It’s one of film’s most inventive, rousing, and all around entertaining adventures. Michael J. Fox is beyond charming as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd will always be remembered as the zany time-travel inventor Doc Brown. One particular moment that will always leave you smiling is Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” solo.  Despite being set in the 80s, it really is a timeless classic.

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8. About A Boy

About A Boy is not only wickedly funny, but also very touching. Hugh Grant stars as the jaded Will silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency. He loves living life with no strings attached. He manages to get involved with a young boy and his depressed mom. Along the way, he learns that you shouldn’t seal yourself off from the world, or as he says in his mantra, be an island. One of the best parts is when he plays with Will at his school concert, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. About A Boy is a tender and charming British comedy that reminds you the importance of human connection and relationships,

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9. Frankie and Johnny

I just love this movie so much, it’s vastly underrated. It’s emotional and all-around delightful romantic comedy. Frankie and Johnny has fantastic performances by the two leads, played by Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. They have incredible chemistry and really sell the intricacies of the two characters. Frankie and Johnny deals with the complications of life, how it can beat you down, yet there is still the hope of connecting with truly good people. It’s a simple but beautiful little story.

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10. Down With Love

Down With Love is a stylish romp that homages 1960s classics such as Pillow Talk. It’s basically like a chocolate bar, (pretty much like the one Ewan McGregor seductively unwraps in one scene) deliciously light and sweet and guaranteed to make you feel good. It’s unabashedly silly, cute and charming movie fluff.