the paper’s guide to this year’s Oscar picks (Also, Batman)
by Will Speros
It may be an unpopular opinion, but Lincoln and Les Miserables were definitely not anything all that special. In fact, both of them kind of sucked. In light of the Academy Awards rapidly approaching, here are ten movies that didn’t suck, ten movies that are, in actuality, the best of the year.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Bein Zeitlin’s marvelous story is everything one could want a film to be. Directed with a poetic intimacy, Zeitlin offers up entrancing visuals, an outstanding, sweeping score, and a raw portrait of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable strife. Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry give heartbreaking performances as a daughter and father faced with the aftermath of a deadly storm, that will leave their lives forever changed. The film follows one little girl named Hushpuppy’s philosophical examination of her role in the universe and in life. Extraordinary, highly emotional, and ultimately uplifting, Beasts of the Southern Wild is in a league all its own.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
The controversy surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s engrossing take on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has almost overshadowed the film itself, which is a genuine shame. Despite what some have said, it’s not propaganda from the left or from the right, and it is not a tasteless glorification of torture or violence. It is simply about one woman, and her tireless, decade-long mission to restore some sense of order to a world that seems to be coming apart. Jessica Chastain gives an energetic performance that is absolutely flooring to see play out. Spellbinding from start to finish, the film is nothing short of breathtaking.
This simple story of an elderly couple whose love for each other is put to the test by the deteriorating health of the wife ends up being about so much more. Haneke’s claustrophobic directing has an uncomfortably haunting effect that is impossible to take your eyes off of. Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant both give absolutely devastating performances that, when combined with the exquisite directing, have an earth-shattering effect.
4. Moonrise Kingdom
The charm of Wes Anderson’s latest movie was in its simplicity. The story of two young pen pals/lovers on the run unfolded so effortlessly that it was hard not to love. The quirkiness of the beautiful directing and the excellent performances left a long-lasting grin. Moonrise Kingdom was ultimately so appealing because of the way it reminded audiences of childhood fantasies, Anderson’s exquisite ability to tell stories, and the innocent thrills of first love.
5. Silver Linings Playbook
This charming romantic comedy ended up being the most pleasant surprise of the year. Bradley Cooper defied his reputation, and delivered one damn impressive performance as a man determined with every fiber of his being to get his life back on track. Jennifer Lawrence held her own against him, as a highly unstable widow looking for a friend. They were definitely a pair to root for, and an absolute joy to watch. Feel-good movies are rarely pulled off with such zeal.
Without a doubt one of the best Bond films there will ever be, the latest installment is also, quite possibly, one of the best action films ever. From the adrenaline-pumping opening chase sequence, to the explosive final confrontation, director Sam Mendes had the audience on edge the whole time. Javier Bardem also made his mark as easily one of the most memorable villains in the history of the franchise, determined to exact vengeance on Judi Dench’s (better than ever) M. Shot beautifully, the film is simply unforgettable for Bond fanatics and newcomers alike.
7. Django Unchained
Django offered what all good Tarantino movies do: over-the-top storytelling, big laughs, hardcore suspense, and larger than life characters. Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx were a dynamic duo with exceptional chemistry that were nothing but tons of fun to watch. As usual, the music was perfect, setting one badass tone for the whole movie. However, the best part of it all was undoubtedly Leonardo DiCaprio’s outrageous, deliciously evil slave master Calvin J. Candie. No one deserves an Oscar more, but apparently the douchebag voters did not feel the same way. Fuck them. It was Tarantino at his best, and nothing but good old fashioned fun.
8. The Dark Knight Rises
Regardless of whether or not it is better than its predecessor, Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his now legendary franchise was far from boring and left audiences on the edge of their seats. Visually stunning and scored magnificently by Hans, every element in this film complimented another. Not to mention, Anne Hathaway pulled off Catwoman laudably, in a way that has surely won her universal appeal. This final act was not perfect, but it certainly delivered big action, grandiose storytelling, and a heart-pounding conclusion that left audiences breathless.
With this film, Ben Affleck has officially won everyone’s respect, and deservedly so. His meticulous, sharp directing turned this political spy thriller into one of the suspenseful films in recent memory. Without such flawless directing skill, it’s hard to say if this film would have been nearly as entertaining. Academy Awards are ultimately pretty meaningless, and Affleck should shrug off their oversight, because anyone who saw Argo can tell just how much he has raised the bar.
10. The Master
It is not easy to make sense of why exactly our society decides to present actors with golden statues when there are so many more important issues at hand in our world. However, when performances like the one Joaquin Phoenix gave here come along, it all suddenly makes sense. Phoenix, along with everything else in Paul Thomas Anderson’s enigmatic tale, quasi-based on the origins of Scientology, are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Shot magnificently in 70mm, the film is especially jaw-dropping thanks to the performances of its lead actors. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams also deliver some of the best work of their respective careers, as doesJohnny Greenwood with his unsettling score. Even though it is unlikely to win much attention at any awards shows, those involved should take pride in knowing they have created a hypnotic and unique film that demands to be watched again.