We've got a whole bunch of Top 10s coming your way over the next couple of days, courtesy of the Badass Digest staff. -Meredith
10. This Must be the Place
There were a few contenders for the number ten spot, imperfect films that really stick with me and grow in my mind with time. Part of me wanted to give it to Madea's Witness Protection for its jaw-droppingly optimistic and casually racial stuff. Another part really thought about placing Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning here just for its big brass balls. Instead, I'm going with This Must be the Place.
My initial review of this film was way too even handed, but that's also just how I felt after seeing it. The film is calm and leisurely paced and doesn't bring forth much excitement right out of the theater. Pretty much everything I said in the review still feels true. There are definite problems, and it certainly isn't for everyone. But my enthusiasm for Sean Penn's performance and what Paolo Sorrentino pulls of tonally has grown on me at a rate I could not have predicted. I absolutely love it.
Goon is a small film with minor ambitions, but it hits every note with such accuracy that it dwarfs many other, arguably more important movies. Sometimes, you just want to watch a movie about badasses who fight each other. If you can find a film where both badasses have their own minimally communicated bits of genuine pathos, even better. If one has a bitchin' trucker stache, you're really in for a treat.
I did not find Goon laugh out loud funny, but it's very sincere and very bloody and, more than anything, it just feels right. I always knew Seann William Scott had a movie like this in him. It's great we finally got it. Also great: Everything Liev Schreiber and Kim Coates.
I feel like a lot of comedy slots on other people's top ten lists might go to 21 Jump Street. I also like that film, but it's too long and doesn't earn any of the perfunctory emotional stuff that hinders its third act. I'm sort of sick of filthy comedies that also want to be taken seriously.
And yet I adore Klown, which somehow manages to be far less abrasive than 21 Jump Street while also shocking us in ways Jump Street simply doesn't have the balls to do. It's also shorter and totally earns its emotional stuff by appealing to our natural empathy for those who mean well but are too pathetic or weak to get it quite right. It might be impossible to not fall in love with and worry for Marcuz Jess Petersen as Bo. In the end, Klown is a film about friendship, fatherhood and fingering butt-holes, and I have a weakness for all three.
7. The Avengers
I've seen The Avengers three times now, and I must admit that its cracks begin to show after a while. But that's no reason to underestimate the film's amazing achievement. This is a massive and unprecedented culmination of mainstream hit engineering that somehow manages to make everyone extremely thankful for such a thing. Think about how crazy that is.
We've been blessed with some really fun action films lately (I'm still very partial to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Fast Five, for instance), but this one takes the cake. That first viewing was like finally getting everything I ever wanted from modern filmmaking capabilities. As an adult, you simply stop expecting movies to do that, and yet The Avengers literally made my face hurt from smiling.
In the end, Looper is a far smaller film than you'd expect. In fact, I'd say it takes one whole viewing simply to establish what the film isn't going to be. Speaking personally, I was looking forward to a fun bromance between old and young Bruce Willis, a statement that singlehandedly explains why all fanfic is bullshit. There have been a lot of remarkable time travel conceits to come from this new smart sci-fi renaissance, but few as awful and amazing as Seth's fate. This was Bruce Willis' year.
5. Holy Motors
Few films this year have been as hyped as Holy Motors, but few films have been this impervious to overestimation. While very likable, Holy Motors is not really here to be enjoyed so much as experienced. It's not all fun and games. For all the invigorating sequences (I always knew you were the most badass instrument, Mr. Accordion), there's an emotionally draining one to match. And the way it rejects its own self-defined realities might rub some the wrong way. But it must be seen.
I feel like Holy Motors might be cinema's Hamlet, an example of the medium that both celebrates the medium's artificiality and engages difficult truths in a manner only possible with the medium in question. It is so full, and yet so ambiguous that you can merely admire its surface or spend the rest of your life mining its depths, and it will match you either way.
4. Django Unchained
Django Unchained belongs on this list, but its location is easily the most likely to shift with time. It's a messy film, but it's also an amazing one. Ranking it among these other films after only one viewing feels like a sick joke. I can say that of all this year's big, nearly-three hour long films, this one not only went by the fastest (though The Dark Knight Rises was close), but easily could have been another hour long (that might actually be true of TDKR, too; more Bane is good for everyone). I am very interested in where my future opinion of this film will fall. While certainly top ten material, I'm not sure it's the easy number one I was anticipating. This year was just too good.
3. The Raid: Redemption
A perfect action film. For a guy like me, it really doesn't get much better than this. You remember that Simpsons episode where the Mafia fights the Yakuza and Homer laments being pulled away before he can see what the calm little guy does? This movie is that calm little guy. His name is Mad Dog. You do not want to fuck with him.
2. The Grey
Between Taken 2, Wrath of the Titans, and Battleship, it hasn't been Liam Neeson's year. But at least he can take solace in The Grey, a film that feels infinitely more than the sum of its parts, all of which are awesome on their own. It's sad, it's thrilling, it's scary, it's economic, and it actually has something to say.
Hulk and Django are fun, but there's was no bigger badass this year than Liam Neeson, knuckles bound to broken bottles and knife in hand, prepared to enter the final fight of his life. This is the rare horror film (the lead wolf is unmistakably depicted in monster movie vocabulary) that can punch your gut emotionally, even months after you've seen it last.
1. Moonrise Kingdom
This might end up being one of my favorite films, period. It's certainly among my favorite romances ever. I could watch this film over and over again, and it's doubtful it would ever stop charming me.
What's amazing about Moonrise Kingdom is how much I had written Wes Anderson off after the self parody of The Darjeeling Limited. Moonrise Kingdom is so concentrated Wes Anderson that it flirts with the same fate yet zooms past that early on to be far and away his best film yet (that's from someone who never thought he'd make a film better than Tenenbaums or more aligned to my particular tastes than The Life Aquatic). To go from loving a director, to kind of loathing him, to loving him even more than before is remarkable. This is the most emotionally involved I got with a film this year. And as much as I like Looper, this contains the year's exemplary Bruce Willis performance.