- “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye”
Marie Losier’s fascinating collage of footage forms this intimate documentary. It’s a final love letter from the pandrogynous artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge to his deceased partner, Lady Jaye. You can read my interview with Marie Losier and producer Steven Holmgren or my review from SXSW.
“Bellflower” is director Evan Glodell’s stylistic debut of tragedy with a pyrotechnic twist. Classic cars jacked up with customized booze dispensers, homemade flamethrowers, saturated visuals, and an explosively operatic narrative. By far the freshest cinema to emerge this year and while seeing it a second time didn’t quite hold up, the first viewing is a bombardment of boyish bliss.
Easily labeled as the funniest film about cancer you will ever see, Will Reiser’s intimate screen adaptation of his own battle with cancer deserves more. Seth Rogen gives his most honest role yet, due to the fact that he partly plays himself as Reiser’s real-life BFF. Joseph Gordon-Levitt extends his abilities into the lead role showing he can carry terminal weight with finesse.
Michael Dowse’s “Goon” is a hilariously gladiatorial man-poem to semi-pro hockey, adeptly cast and executed. “Goon” is everything a film about a bumbling Hockey enforcer, or Goon with a heart of gold should be. It’s a blood quencher and a crowd pleaser.
If Brian Selznick’s Caldecott winning novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” is an illustrated love letter to the dream of cinema, then Scorsese’s “Hugo” adaptation seals it with an imaginative kiss. It was one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had and my cinematic sentimentality welled up with tears.
- “I Saw the Devil”
While “I Saw the Devil” is categorically a psychological thriller, its horror elements adorn a film that feels like a throwback to gritty 1970s crime thrillers. The film is born from that visual fascination of vengeance so potent in Korean cinema. Kim Ji-woon left me in awe by capturing the fine line walked in vengeance.
- “Kill List”
Ben Wheatly’s “Kill List” was like Stanley Kubrick giving an alternate take on the “Boondock Saints.” It follows a solider returning home who takes a gig as a contract killer with his buddy. The two relentlessly exercise jobs on less than desirable targets, but the solider begins to take assignments at vicious crusading levels. As he spins out of control, things get deeper, creepier, and down right twisted with an ending that will leave you speechless.
- “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Sean Durkin’s brilliantly edited film, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” deals with the inner world of someone wandering between memory, dream and paranoia. A debut film, for both writer/director Durkin and actress Elisabeth Olsen, that is surprisingly refined in both emotional context and style.
It’s so utterly pretentious and nihilistic, but the beauty of Lars von Tier’s filmmaking is captivating. The film grabbed me by the throat for a long strangle, but the cathartic release of its climatic cataclysm left deep impressions.
- “Midnight in Paris”
When I first saw Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” I settled on it being fun, but somewhat silly. At its philosophical center is a cautionary tale of nostalgia as a mental disorder. In searching for a “Golden Age,” we learn that the grass is not greener in the past: it’s dead. The more I talked to people about how much they liked it, the more I liked it. It’s no fluke that the film played at Denver’ Mayan Theater for nearly 6 months straight.
- “The Skin I Live In”
Pedro Almodóvar film’s have never made me squirm in my seat, but his reunion with Antonio Banderas in “The Skin I Live In” certainly did a mindjob on me. Gorgeously composed, tastefully tense, and ultimately a twisted medical thriller that will leave you with a few WTFs.
- “Take Shelter”
Jeff Nichols’ film provides one of the best payoffs after sitting through an hour and a half of slow churning character development. Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain are a marvel to watch, but it’s the last 20 minutes of the film that will shatter everything you thought this movie was.
- “The Tree of Life”
I had to mention Terrence Malick’s film, if only to give special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull his due. It is a hauntingly affective experience, and once again Jessica Chastain is a marvel to watch, but it’s the visual drama of “The Tree of Life” that left me emotionally spent.
- “The Woman”
Lucky McKee got some buzz for upsetting the unsuspecting crowds at Sundance this year with “The Woman.” That’s what got my butt in the seat for its screening at the Mile High Horror Festival. Turns out it was one hell of a movie, with justifiable brutality that is triumphant in its unraveling of the nuclear patriarch by a feral feminist. It’s the badass American version of “Dogtooth” with a way better story.