Giant, Cloverfield-monster-sized disclaimer: Okay, so I'm basically a Music Writer. I'm hardly a Film Expert, and what's worse, I'm basically a total geek, which means my choices are, well, kind of nerdy. Also, I have an eight-year-old, meaning I see a lot of Non-Adult Films as well. But even though I was kind of tempted to put Stardust on my list (It's Neil Friggin' Gaiman, okay? Its way darker and more cynical than you'd ever think it would be!!!) I held back and tried to just put shit on there that I actually *loved*. Okay?
So let us commence.
1. Juno. Um, so, yeah. Let me just say officially, for the record, that even if I *hadn't* been previously attached to the screenwriter? I would still adore the living shit out of Juno. It's just a god-damned good film, full stop. The script is funny as hell (duh!), Jason Reitman's direction is sharp, clever, and stylish, and there isn't a single performance in there that rings even remotely false. The one I think the awards are missing is J.K. Simmons as Mac McGuff -- he's the absolute heart and soul of the film, and his gruff-but-lovable dad is exactly the kind of father I wanna be -- kind and sweet-hearted but kind of a hardass, like a hipper Red from "That 70s Show," yknow? I mean, and yeah, Reitman throwing in Kinks and Velvets on the soundtrack is so designed to tweak my hipster sensibilities, and it so does. Bravo, all 'round.
2. No Country For Old Men. I can't remember the last time I was this bowled over by a film. You know how shitty critics describe films sometimes as "edge of your seat enjoyment?" I was seriously literally sitting on the very edge of my seat, clutching my armrests until the knuckles turned white and fell asleep, until the credits rolled. I had no idea where it was going, and just when I thought I knew I realized I really didn't. Brutal, terrifying, and just perfectly written and directed in every sense. And Javier Bardem haunts my nightmares -- I had one a few nights ago where he was stalking me in an abandoned amusement park. Fucking crazy performance.
3. Hot Fuzz. I'm sorry -- if there's one comedy film (I guess it's a comedy, though it sort of transcends the genre by also being fucking cool and terrifying as hell) that deserved way the fuck more awards consideration this year than it got, it is this one. Edgar Wright is a director's director -- he's such a dab-hand at scene-framing and pacing, and can you fucking fathom how much footage he shot for all those crazy fast-edit transitions?? Brilliant. The script's a goddamn riot (*possibly* more laughs-per-minute than any other film this year), and if you don't love the Pegg/Frost team you have no fucking soul. The perfect example of how so-called "genre" films get woefully neglected because they're not (ahem ahem) Se-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-rious enough. Hogwash.
4. The Darjeeling Limited. And talk about underrated -- when was it collectively decided that Wes Anderson, like, wasn't cool anymore? Fuck that. This film was beautiful from top to bottom -- not only does it boast the best cinematography of the year (in a year with No Country that's a pretty fucking amazing honor, frankly) but it also boasts, I think, the best ensemble performance as well -- the combination of Messrs. Schwartzman, Wilson and Brody as three contentious, completely insane brothers was magnificent. I was, y'know, moved and shit. And yet, what I've described as the "Yawn-more-brilliance-from-Wes-Anderson-how-boring phenomenon continues apace.
5. and 6. (tie) Planet Terror (Grindhouse) and Death Proof (Grindhouse). Okay, apart from the critically lauded films at the top of the list, I guess I'm all about the underrated films this year, aren't I? Everybody, from your Uncle Ted to Roger Ebert, missed the point of this/these films. Are they deliberately shitty? Tongue-in-cheek or not? Are we supposed to love them or laugh at them? And what the fuck with Tarantino's thing, which is like a bunch of awesome conversations with horrible deaths in between? The point is they're all of the above like all great Grindhouse cinema, and excuse me, Death Proof is fucking too a magnificent film, which is about two things: a) fucking knock-out stunts and killer performances and b) Quentin's foot fetish, which to me makes for an astonishing 1.5 hours of cinema. Extra points for the trailers: my neighbor Danny Trejo is awesome in "Machete," Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving" is hilarious and awesome (I had a dream on Thanksgiving night about watching a Grindhouse-style horror film called "Kill-Sumption") and Edgar's "Don't" is utterly accurate and what-the-fuck. Just a righteous thing top to bottom, this.
7. Superbad. Every year has a Pure Comedy that I love. Last year, it was so Clerks 2, and this year belongs to Superbad. I know everybody loved McLovin', and props to that performance, but for me, it was all about Jonah Hill as Seth, all bluster and false confidence and selfish assholeness. That was everybody I knew in high school. *I*, of course, was more Michael Cera-y, so I totally got his thing too, only if it was my life back then? Not a chance I would have ended up with any manner of hot chick at the end. Note: I am convinced that Judd Apatow, brilliant though he is, is actually advancing the cause of Closeted Gay Men. That glance at the end? Uh huh. See also: the MAIN relationship in Knocked Up, between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd and, er, the MAIN relationship in 40 Year Old Virgin, also, er, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd.
8. Zodiac. The Serious Critic's Sleeper Film of the Year (see: Hollywood Elsewhere for some serious Zodiac drum beating. It's essentially a three-hour procedural, and there's so many false leads and weird turns and twists that you end up a bit confused, but fucking two million points for whipping up a serious atmospheric froth, and Jake Gyllenhaal is, like, note perfect as a nebbishy editorial cartoonist-cum-obsessed amateur detective (god, not to mention Robert Downey Jr. as a crazy-ass drunk reporter). About twenty minutes too long, but weirdly, at the end, I wanted another twenty minutes, I was enjoying myself so much. Fincher = awesome. That equation continues to hold absolutely true.
9. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. An obscure Canadian (I think?) twist on Heathers, I watched this sucker as part of Diablo research for her forthcoming horror film, and kinda fell in love with it, as sick and disturbing and totally warped as it is. Popular girl goes on camping trip with friends, who start getting picked off one by freaking one in the most brutal ways imaginable. It sounds mundane but a witty script, some very dark direction, and some totally clever performances elevate it far above its subject matter. And there's a twist ending you'll see coming a mile off but still stand up and cheer when it actually happens, 'cause it rules. Its soul is black as hell, this one; if yours is too (like mine) you'll love the shit out of it.
10. Transformers. Okay, look. You go into a film expecting something, and so frequently you get something totally else and you come away thinking "man, I kinda wish I had my seven bucks back." I went into Transformers being promised GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER. And what did I get? GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER. So, like, I totally felt like my seven dollars were well spent. Value for money. Exact return on investment. The film sucked fucking balls, but I feel like I need to call it out for that alone. Oh, and the weirdest performance by the actor and actress playing Shia LeBeouf's mom and dad -- they were flown in from fucking 16 Candles or something. Fucking bizarre.