1. Another Year
Leigh’s best movie since Naked. Rich, affecting, profound and hilarious. A formally masterful little piece of art.
2. A Prophet
Somehow took a shopworn plot and made it brand new, bracingly entertaining and relevant. Influences run the gamut from Howard Hawks to New German Expressionism. Just great.
3. Winter’s Bone
I kept waiting for this movie to lose its tone and go off the rails. It never does. Movies like this can be trite in their ‘authentic’ depictions of backwoods Americana. But this felt very real to me. Not that real matters, but for this story it does, and it’s a steady, powerful and moving ride.
I felt a little ambivalent about this movie as I watched it, and I got to see the whole thing screened here in LA, with a chat from Assayas. But it’s grown on me enormously over time. I can’t vouch for the edited version, but the cumulative effect of the full piece is highly resonant. Loses some points for the hipster soundtrack which fits the director’s taste more than any of the characters.
5. The Ghost Writer
I loved this in spite of myself. While I highly respect Polanski, this didn’t appear to be a serious piece of cinema going in, more like bottom-shelf-best-seller. But Polanski treats the material as serious cinema and totally elevates it. Something kept me from putting this at number one, but the truth is I probably enjoyed this the most of any movie I saw this year. It’s certainly one of the best edited movies I’ve seen all decade.
6. How to Train Your Dragon
One of the best all-around kid’s movies I’ve seen in a while. And the best 3D movie I’ve seen yet, hand’s down.
7. True Grit
Not great, but a lot of fun. And any movie that successfully evokes Night of The Hunter wins points.
8. The Way Back
This is a movie we’ve seen before, and these stories can be tedious in the laborious and inevitable unfolding of the redemptive journey, but Weir handles the details with undeniable mastery. Not to spoil the movie, but the climactic scene with Saoirse Ronan is staggeringly well done.
9. Toy Story 3
Enough’s been said about this already. It’s the third act that clinches it.
A lot of critics complained that this was a retread of Lost in Translation and/or a thinly veiled oedipal confession. It’s neither. It’s its own thing. Most of it works, and some of it is actually great. I could have done with a longer third act, but regardless, it’s entertaining and poignant and successfully represents a strange and singular time and place.