Here is the other half of my “Honorable Mentions” for the year. Numbers Two and Three will be revealed on Monday, and Number One will drop on Tuesday.
Wreck-it Ralph: Being the videogame nerd that I am, of course I was drooling over this film, as it looked to pay tribute to so many things that I hold dear. I’ll admit, it takes a bit to really pick up some steam, but once it does, this turned into one of the more heart-warming and wonderfully put together films of the year. Besides, all the subtle videogame nerd-dom had me giggling for much longer than is probably healthy.
Django Unchained: For whatever reason—I’m guessing simply the timeframe in which I watched them—I never much cared for Taratino’s earlier films. It wasn’t until Kill Bill that I was anticipating the release of his films (this because I knew how much he’d been influenced by samurai flicks, and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do with them). But since then, his films have grown and grown, with Inglorious Basterds being nothing short of amazing. And while Django isn’t quite as good as IB, it managed to keep me entertained, laughing, and cringing for the entirety of its two hours and 45 minutes. This, mostly, worked because of his gift of dialogue and conversation (not many can write a conversation like him). Plus, the performances are too good to ignore, on all fronts, from Jamie Foxx to Christopher Waltz and even Leonard Dicaprio. Each and every actor and actress is spot-on in this film, and I will be more than a little surprised if this film doesn’t garner some heavy Oscar nominations—if not wins—on this front.
When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was a reverse version of Stranger Than Fiction; however, while
watching, that view quickly shifted. Ruby
Sparks is very much its own film with its own ideas and an original
presentation. It navigates from the laugh out loud comedy to the uncomfortable
to the downright dark, yet still manages to stay cohesive as one unit. Really,
this film is all about relationships and what we do for, with, and even how we
manipulate one another to shape them into who we want—or expect—them to be.
That commentary, alone, makes this film worth watching. And, you know, I like
Paul Dano, too. Sparks
Silver Linings Playbook: Like Tarantino and McDonagh, David O. Russell squeezes perfect performances from his actors and actresses—despite his explosive temper. (Google the clip of him and Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees.) This one is no different, as everyone—and I’m including Bradley Cooper in this—is wonderful. It’s a dysfunctional love story where everyone involved is broken in some way or another. So the different levels of redemption and what’s considered “normal” become that much more emotionally engaging, as it makes one question what, in the end, can truly be qualified as “healthy” and “The Norm.” True, it plays out much the way you’d expect and guess, but between the great acting, squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable scenes, and the emotional resonance, this film is just shy of hitting my top three.