I joined in the fun of making lists, even though I still haven't seen Holy Motors.
10. 21 Jump Street
Like Step Up Revolution, also on my list, I'm sure this one won't be on many critic's top ten lists. But god damn if I didn't have a great time in the theater with this movie. This was the moment that defined Channing Tatum as the man of the year, and Johnny Depp's surprise cameo was the best work he's done since Nick of Time. I loved every second I spent watching this movie.
9. The Master
Gah. Just the shots of the ocean off of the back of the ship should be enough to earn this film a slot on every person on earth's top ten. From there, this is a film of "moments" for me more than a full story that's melded together as a whole, but I have no doubt that it will become one cohesive force in my brain as I relive each of those moments over and over again and come to understand each shot in a new way with every repeat viewing. You know, just like with a Michael Bay movie from the '90s.
8. Moonrise Kingdom
I only saw this one out of a debt I felt like I owed my 19 year old self, because back then Wes Anderson meant so much to me. But personally I didn't feel any sort of connection to Darjeeling Limited or Life Aquatic, and I thought maybe Wes Anderson was over. This film proves he's far from it. It's just that while the themes he plays with rarely work when he tries to slap them on adult characters who all act like children, they work perfectly when he applies them to children trying to act like adults. And that's why the adolescent hearts in all of us will always be drawn to his worlds. Being able to visit that world again in Moonrise Kingdom felt like going home.
7. Step Up Revolution
Fuck you, haters! This film is formulaic crap filled with wooden acting and a script that couldn't write itself out of a Star Wars prequel. But it played to its formula perfectly, and the music was great, and the dance numbers were such incredible spectacle that even though my critical mind was scoffing, "Of course these precocious youngsters are going to save the iconic old bar in their neighborhood with the power of dance!", every other part of my brain was saying, "Yes! Fun! OMG! Get him! Get him! Now dance about it! Yeah!!!" And I left the theater with a ridiculous smile on my face. A perfect movie? No fucking way. A perfect night out at the movies? You bet your groove thing that your mamma gave you.
6. Shut Up and Play the Hits
Every year there's a film that makes my list because of the experience I had watching it, and this year that honor undoubtedly goes to this concert documentary about the end of LCD Soundsystem. I'd never even been a particularly large fan of LCD, but I saw this in an old Spaghetti Warehouse turned into Nike's concert space for SXSW with the music turned up waaaaay past 11, and holy fuck. Songs became hymns and Klosterman's interviews with James Murphy were like readings from the Bible (but without all of the lies and justification for genocide). Yes, I'm biased because I had to go to church with my wife's family for Christmas a few days ago, but none of that matters - this was a religious experience.
5. The Cabin in the Woods
This film oozed with Joss Whedon's fingerprints in a way that I didn't know I could still enjoy. Yeah, it felt like another plotline happening somewhere outside of Sunnydale inside the Buffyverse. And that's why it was perfect. It was nice to see the softer side of Sears again.
Fuck me for ever hating Jack Black. Yeah, the Tenacious D schtick became tired after the HBO shorts stopped airing, but holy crap the next six Tenacious D albums would be worth it for that group have been a small part of what brought JB to this role as an East Texas murderer. All of the performances in this film are perfect, especially the actual townsfolk who play themselves in carefully interwoven documentary pieces that feel like part of the narrative whole. This is hands down Richard Linklater's best film ever, and certainly one of the finest depictions of modern Texas life that's ever been on screen. As a Texan, I'm biased and this has to be on my list.
3. Cloud Atlas
I'll say it again - fuck you, haters. Was the make-up distracting at times? Sure. Is the "we are all connected" theme a little bit too romantic? I suppose so. But goddamn it, the world needs more actual romance. And this movie not only had my heart swelling at the beauty of the world in a way that hasn't happened since I used to go hiking around northern California in high school, it also had a depiction of the world beyond tomorrow that fit in perfectly with everything I pictured while reading Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future. I was transfixed, and I was transformed.
2. Django Unchained
Everyone in the world has already said everything that is awesome about this movie, so I'll just reiterate. The cartoonish violence in the action sequences coupled with the hard-to-watch grotesqueness of the dogs on slaves left me constantly aware that I was watching a movie while simultaneously reminding me that I had to take a harder look at the real world around me when I left the theater to avoid being a villain of history. The improbability of the scenario and the hare-brained scheme never entered my mind because I was lock step with the characters every step of the way. The only problem I had with Tarantino's latest was that I can't hear the name Broomhilda without picturing a crappy newspaper comic strip, but that's my own fault and nothing to do with QT.
It isn’t a perfect time travel movie, because no such thing can ever exist (and if it did some scientist would use it to actually invent time travel, and then we’d all be fucked). But Looper had me incredibly invested in the action at a farmhouse, something that The Walking Dead Season Two made me think was impossible, and the questions it asked within the confines of a strong narrative made it the only movie of the year that sent me to a nearby coffee shop so I could have an active conversation about the topics raised, the story, the characters – everything about the film. A win on pretty much every level.