Famous Filmmaker : Forgotten Film | Christopher Nolan : Insomnia

This will be the first in a weekly series of articles aimed at unearthing the often great films of well known directors that are rarely discussed when considering their filmographies. While the goal of this series is to raise awareness and draw attention to these films, it will also serve as an opportunity to recommend some really terrific movies that have sadly been overlooked in recent years.

Insomnia

Fifteen minutes into Nolan’s third feature length film, it seems apparent why this is the least discussed movie in his filmography. Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) and the other guy are two LA detectives called up to the small town of Nightmute, Alaska to investigate the brutal murder of a 17 year old girl. The film has all the markings of a typical slow paced detective thriller, substituting the dim streets of Los Angeles for the well lit backdrop of the rural Northwest in summer, where there is daylight twenty four hours a day. However, while tamer than his later works, Insomnia still reflects Nolan’s penchant for twists within his films, as the film shifts focus as Dormer descends into madness and paranoia. Dormer is under review back in LA for potentially unsavory actions he took while conducting investigations back home, and matters are made worse when he is forced to cover up a murder he commits while pursuing his Alaskan suspect, all while losing night after night of sleep to the harsh, blinding Alaskan sunlight.

Nolan is often lauded for his keen visual style, and though traces of this can be seen in his previous films Memento and The Following, Insomnia is his first aesthetically stunning work. Due in no small part to Nolan’s career long cinematographer Wally Pfister, Insomnia is a spectacular in its visual coherence, as the camera work perfectly captures the mounting psychosis of Dormer as his sleeplessness drives him to the point of delusion. Pfister’s mark on the film is not limited to solidifying thematic ideas, the action scenes within Insomnia are tense, and kinetic, though one chase scene across a port used by Alaskan logging companies seems stand out as a definitive high point.

In addition to Insomnia being Nolan’s most cohesive film, as it avoids the unresolved, lofty ideas that have proved themselves to be an underlying issue in his more recent films, there are myriad reasons to give this film the viewing it deserves. The script is strong and tight, drawing heavily from the Norwegian Insomnia that inspired this fantastic remake. Though Pacino shines in the majority of the film, Insomnia has a stellar auxiliary cast, including Hilary Swank as a naive Alaskan cop, and Robin Williams delivers a terrific performance as a local crime writer who becomes intertwined with Dormer as his sanity and morality slip through his fingers. I am the first to say that I am not a huge Nolan fan, but Insomnia is by far my favorite entry in this generally beloved filmmakers admittedly impressive filmography, and definitely well worth your time.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Andrew’s Top 10 Movies of 2014

I really thought 2014 was going to be a bad year for movies. There were only a few projects I was excited about, and a very disappointing series of spring and summer releases seemed to solidify this initial belief as the year dragged on towards “Award Season”. But boy, did things ever turn around. The past few months have had some really fantastic films, and in my mind easily made up of the lackluster first half of the year. Here are a few of my favorite films from 2014:

10. Calvary | John Michael McDonagh

A sorely overlooked and under-appreciated pitch black comedy from John Michael McDonagh (The Guard), Calvary is a bleak, dark, and perhaps profound look at religion in today’s world. Brendan Gleeson gives an absolutely stellar performance as a priest in a small Irish village who must cope with the fact that a stranger has vowed to kill him at the end of the week. As always, McDonagh is a master of dark comedy, and delivers a very enjoyable, albeit bittersweet film.

9. Edge of Tomorrow | Doug Liman

By far the biggest surprise of the year for me, I never would have expected Edge of Tomorrow to end up on this list after I saw the commercial. But damn, was it good. This Groundhog Day-esque sci-fi film is a nearly-perfect summer blockbuster in my mind, and a perfect environment for leading man Tom Cruise to shine as a charismatic, manipulative member of the military, dragged into the role of unlikely hero. With the exception of a pretty mediocre ending, Edge of Tomorrow far exceeded my expectations for a summer sci-fi flick.

8. The Theory of Everything | James Marsh

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More than just a biopic of one of the world’s greatest scientific minds, Theory of Everything is a tragic and incredible story of triumph and struggle. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones deliver two of the most powerful performances of the year as Steven and Jane Hawking. The storytelling is compelling and extremely well-paced, and Redmayne’s role of Hawking offers a perfect outlet to show off his serious acting chops like never before. For my money, he is a serious contender for Best Actor this year.

7. Whiplash | Damien Chazelle

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An intense and unsettling character study, Whiplash is a film about the cost of excellence. MilesTeller stars as a borderline obsessive jazz drummer striving to surpass his classmates and become the best who ever lived. The films biggest credit is the building conflict between Teller and his professor, played by J.K. Simmons, who abuses his students emotionally and verbally in an attempt to push them to become better musicians. The tension between the two actors is palpable, and their intensity carries the film.

6. Gone Girl | David Fincher

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Yet another excellent dark and psychological film from David Fincher, Gone Girl really tries to do something different with the thriller genre. Despite a few missed beats throughout the film, Gone Girl is airtight, and packed with a few very satisfying twists throughout, including a pretty unconventional and unexpected ending that really made the film for me. Affleck is great as always, and proves yet again that he is fully capable of handling demanding leading roles.

5. The Imitation Game | Morten Tyldum

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As someone who has a strong interest in programming, it’s unsurprising that I would have a soft spot for this film. However, this movie is so much more than a film for those interested in the material. The cracking of the German Enigma machine is a fascinating piece of history, but the film is really more of a look at the life of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing and the man put in charge of the project to crack Enigma. The film focuses heavily on the issue of the treatment of homosexuals during the World War II era, and Benedict Cumberbatch shows some serious acting chops in portraying a socially inept and emotionally conflicted Turing. I would not be surprised in the slightest if this film is awarded best picture this year, and would be entirely satisfied with that verdict.

4. Foxcatcher | Bennett Miller

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Foxcatcher was one of the most talked-about films this year due to Steve Carrel’s transformative star turn as wrestling-lover and obscenely rich guy John Du Ponte, and after seeing the film there is clearly a reason for all the commotion. Carrel is incredible, disturbing and ominous; however it would be a disservice to the film to not also talk about Channing Tatum as Olympic gold medalist Mark Shultz, who gives an equally powerful and unexpected performance. Aside from the acting, Foxcatcher a very slow build to a very satisfying payoff, ratcheting up suspense as all the characters become more and more fragile and spiral towards the eventual climax of the film.

3. Wild | Jean-Marc Vallée

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Yet another “based on true events” movie this year, Wild tells the story of a former heroin addict’s journey hiking the 2000+ mile Pacific Crest Trail alone. I was by no means enticed by this premise, and in addition am not a particularly big fan of Reese Witherspoon. That being said, this film was hugely impressive. Witherspoon absolutely nails it, and director Jean-Marc Vallee’s use of quick cutting and flashbacks are extremely effective at giving emotional weight to the movie as we slowly learn more about Sheryl Strayed’s past. I have now seen the film twice, and the second viewing only solidified this movie’s position on my top 10.

2. Nightcrawler | Dan Gilroy 

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Sinister and charismatic, Jake Gyllenhaal easily delivers the best performance of his career as a free-lance video-journalist in Nightcrawler. The film is methodical, slowly building tension and a profound sense of dread. Throughout the entire movie, it is impossible to shake the feeling that something could go horribly wrong at any moment. Nightcrawler is by far the most gripping film I have seen this year, and I was completely enthralled from start to finish.

1. Birdman | Alejandro González Iñárritu

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Without a doubt, Birdman was my favorite film of the year. I have now seen it multiple times in theaters, and something I fully intend to see several more times. It’s extraordinarily well-acted and written, both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton shine, but it is the cinematography that cinched this as my number one choice, as there is a visual gimmick throughout the film that I was pretty taken with. The film is not just about the desire for fame or redemption, but taps into the most basic human need to find significance and recognition in life. Birdman is a little surreal, and more than a little funny, and while it might not be the film of the year for everyone, it is definitely a must-see.

Andrew’s Top Ten Movies of 2013

While at times I did feel like this was a weak year for movies, I found it surprisingly difficult to put this top ten list together, simply because there were so many films I wanted to include. After giving it some thought I was finally able to whittle my list down to ten, but for those of you interested in the movies that didn’t quite make the cut, here are the honorable mentions in no particular order: Stoker, Saving Mr. Banks, Mud, The Bling Ring, Captain Phillips, Kings of Summer, Blue is the Warmest Color and Nebraska.

10. The Wolverine

While this may seem like a somewhat weird way to start off the list, I actually enjoyed this movie immensely. For me, it satisfied everything I was looking for in a nice self-contained action/superhero movie. The Japanese setting actually added a lot of character to the movie, and the film still showed some restraint in not completely drowning the movie in typical Japanese action film clichés. While the climax is, admittedly, somewhat problematic, it was still satisfied with the film as a whole.

9. Much Ado About Nothing

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While this movie does suffer from being a bit too cutesy at times, but I can pretty safely say it is one of, if not the best Shakespeare film ever made. Joss Whedon’s sense of humor matches perfectly with the play, and he is able to make a Shakespeare movie which doesn’t feel forced or clichéd, and is genuinely funny, something that has been tried and failed more than a few times. It is easy to blow this film off as cute and inconsequential, which it is, but it has more than enough charm to earn a spot on the list.

8. Blackfish

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It is rare that I am blown away by a documentary, but I have to give credit to Blackfish for doing just that. While there has been some controversy surrounding this movie, as it clearly takes aim at the beloved and well established company Sea World in a way that does seem very biased, I think the evidence in the movie speaks for itself. More than a film about the mistreatment of Killer Whales kept in captivity, Blackfish is an interesting look at the danger these animals present to their trainers, and the extremely preventable deaths and injuries caused by the animals that until now have been ignored by the public. It is powerful, and sometimes hard to watch, but is a documentary I feel like everyone should see.

7. Rush

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The only reason this movie didn’t end up higher on my list is that nothing about it was particularly unique or interesting. However, giving credit where credit is due, Rush is still a fantastic film.  It captures an intimate conflict between two larger than life figures risking their lives to claim superiority in a way that felt genuine and believable. Rush is an airtight movie, expertly handling climactic beats throughout the film and ending up as perhaps one of the most well rounded films of the year.

6. The Way Way Back

I am usually not one for feel good movies, but I have to say I was quite taken with The Way Way Back. It has a great cast and is a genuinely sweet and funny coming of age story. It is nice to see Steve Carell out of his comfort zone, playing the antagonistic boyfriend of the protagonist’s mother; however the real stand out for me was Sam Rockwell who once again proves he is a force to be reckoned with as a top comedic actor. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar winning duo behind the script for The Descendants, this film was definitely a stand out in a year saturated with coming of age films.

5. American Hustle

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While in a lot of ways I felt like this should be my number one movie this year, there were a few glaring details that kept it lower. The way the film was put together felt awkward in a few places, and some of the scenes in the movie just didn’t seem to work well within the film as a whole, not to mention the ending which I thought was a little weak and very rushed. That being said, the performances in this movie are easily some of the best of the year. With an actor nominated in each of the four major acting categories for the Golden Globes, and likely for the Oscars when those nominations are released, American Hustle definitely has a lot to bring to the table. It’s stylish and fun, but it’s the characters and their relationships that really solidify this movie as one of the best of the year.

4. Wolf of Wall Street

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A manic story of riches, corporate corruption, and missed chances for redemption, Wolf of Wall Street manages to be far from the typical cautionary tale about wealth. It is raunchy, perverse, even sickening at times, but boy is it a fun movie to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic as Jordan Belfort, a man on a drug fueled rampage up the corporate Wall Street ladder. The film has a great sense of humor, and is one of the best “truth is stranger than fiction” movies I have seen in a long time. It’s an unbelievable story, and even manages to keep the viewer engaged throughout the monstrous 3 hour run time.

3. 12 Years a Slave

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My bet for Best Picture this year, 12 Years a Slave is nothing short of an incredible movie. What really makes this movie stand out is that it’s not just the movie about the horrors of slavery that seems to get made every few years, but also an incredible character driven story. All of the acting in the film is fantastic, the conflict between Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofer was extremely tense, and every single character in the film was well fleshed out and distinct, which is a nice change from the typical flat slave owner characters in similar movies. Expertly directed by Steve McQueen, I look forward to seeing his work in the future now that he is gaining mainstream recognition and success.

2. Place Beyond the Pines

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I knew this movie would end up high on my top ten list immediately after I walked out of the theater. Place Beyond the Pine comes in a close second for my favorite films this year, as I loved nearly everything about this movie. The setting, powerful performances and distinct three part narrative gives a profound amount of weight and importance to an intimate tale about family, father-son relationships, and consequences. The movie shifts effortlessly between protagonists and still manages to make the viewer care about all of them, as the film almost feels like three shorter films tied together by themes and shared characters. The third act of this film received some criticism as it is a bit bizarre, but I thought it fit perfectly and Dane DeHaan’s performance is in many ways what made the movie for me.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis

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Calling this movie a dark comedy would be an understatement, as it would be one of the most cynical movies I have seen if it wasn’t so damn funny. It is an interesting character study of Llewyn, a fledgling folk musician and a bit of a jerk, whose life starts out bad and gets progressively worse as the film goes on through a serious of misfortunes that befall Llewyn.  Despite its melancholy outlook, Inside Llewyn Davis offers a lot in terms of personality, style, and memorable moments and is my favorite film of 2013.

Joe’s Top 5 Films of the 21st Century

These films were selected because of their cinematic significance, watchability, skill of production/direction, and strength of the cast. We’d love to hear your opinions as well!

5. The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s unquestionable skill as a director shines in 2012’s The Master. From its compelling visual style, to its remarkable performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to the enigmatic yet fascinating storytelling, every moment of this film brings something new to the table. It’s most certainly the type of film that requires multiple watches: and I’ll be more than happy to do so.

4. No Country For Old Men (2007)

2007’s No Country For Old Men presents the viewer with something few have been able to achieve in cinema: true suspense. Tension is, for most of these films, the reason they’ve earned their places on this list, and no film is a better example of it than this. Arguably one of the greatest villain performances in recent cinema comes from Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Anton Chigurh, the relentless assassin who often embodies Death itself. Themes of fate, absurdity, and greed are all explored in what will surely become an American landmark in cinema.

3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)

While all of the credit for the creation of Lord of the Rings goes deservedly to legendary fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s no doubt that Peter Jackson’s film adaptation set the standard for the modern epic film. In many ways, Lord of the Rings became to mainstream audiences in the 2000’s what Star Wars did for the 1980’s: defining the hero epic for a whole generation of people, young and old. And Jackson’s unwavering faith to canon will leave even the most hardcore of Hobbits satisfied. The cast is overall excellent and Jackson’s three year struggle to adapt the classic novels resulted in smashing success, both in the box office and in cinematic quality.

2. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Few war movies have broken new ground in terms of storytelling since the landmark Saving Private Ryan. But in 2006, Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima brought Americans a new perspective: that of the enemy. The heart wrenching tale of several Japanese soldiers and their struggles between their strict code of honor and their desire to survive the horrors of Iwo Jima and return to their homes, the exceptional acting and fantastic direction by Eastwood make this, together with its companion film Flags of Our Fathers, the must-see war movie of the modern century.

1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

What can I say about 2007’s There Will Be Blood that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over? It’s little surprise that Paul Thomas Anderson makes this list twice, and that he’s achieved my utmost respect as the director of what I firmly believe to be the most fully realized film in twenty years. There Will Be Blood is one of the few films I’ve seen that I would call a masterpiece without hesitation. Daniel Day Lewis’ greatest performance of his utterly remarkable career comes as Daniel Plainview, one of the most compelling and definitively human characters in recent film. So much is told in the film’s opening sequence without dialogue that the first time we hear Plainview speak, it’s almost shocking. Every second is calculated, planned, and executed in utmost style; there are moments of directorial brilliance that still bring me something new with every watch. Truly, There Will Be Blood is a landmark in modern filmmaking, and for that, it has earned its place as my top film of this century.

Gabriel’s Top 10 Movies of 2012

10. End of Watch

This was hands down the best buddy cop movie of the year. That being said it was also one of the only buddy cop movies of the year, but don’t let that diminish it’s accomplishments. Sure, it has some flaws, like the villain’s lacking performances, but that doesn’t stop this from being an all around hilarious, heart breaking, and magnetic film. It was just a blast to watch, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves film.

9. Lincoln

This film really surpassed all my expectations. Sure, I had heard that Daniel Day Louis was spectacular in the title role, but that didn’t stop me from prematurely judging this as the typical Spielbergian sentimental dreck. Luckily, the truly fascinating nature of the civil war era and Lincoln himself were there to help the film transcend the typical. Also, [insert obligatory Daniel Day Louis was amazing comment].

8. I Wish

Hirokazu Koreeda must be the single most underrated Japanese filmmaker of all time. Ever since his first masterpiece, Maborosi, in 1995, he’s been putting out some of the most interesting work in film, period. His most recent movie, I Wish, ranks among his best work, giving us a naturalistic look at two brothers struggle to stay together after their parents’ divorce. Koreeda was able to marvelously sums up many of the wonders of childhood and in a manner that is worthy of the many Japanese masters before him.

7. Flight

This and End of Watch where hands down my biggest surprises of 2012. Going in I expected an ok film that would probably just end up turning into more of the standard Robert Zemekes fair. I’m happy to say I was quite wrong. It turned out to be a rather stirring look at the detrimental effects of alcoholism with the added bonus of probably one of the greatest, most chilling plain crashes in all of cinema. Not to mention the incredible and quite unique performance from Denzel Washington.

6. The Cabin in the Woods

There are few films I can say just fill me with absolute joy. They reduce me to a state of unadulterated glee from which nothing can take me. Cabin in the Woods is one of these such films. It may at first seem like a generic slasher flick, but in reality, it’s one of the most imaginative, creative, and brilliant horror film I’ve seen in years. There’s little more I can say other than that I left the theater with a smile plastered to my face and in utter awe.

5. Holy Motors

This movie really through me for a loop. It’s really quite different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Unlike a conventional film narrative, it’s a more akin to a journey through life and cinema. The film admittedly presents the audience with a real challenge, but amazingly it’s always fascinating to watch, primarily for the enlightening central performance by Denis Lavant. Just in the course of this 115 minute film he takes us so many different places, while still remaining the center that holds this film together.

4. Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar is a film about death and the ways we cope with it. It shows us a fourth grade class dealing with the cryptic suicide of their homeroom teacher, and Bachir Lazhar, who takes it upon himself to replace that said teacher. At first glance this may seem like the typical teacher-saves-troubled-kids film, but it’s much more than that. There is an irrefutable emotional reality here that gives it a profundity found in very few films, and I just couldn’t help but be drawn into this touching and beautiful portrait of grief.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

With Wes Anderson’s most recent film, Moonrise Kingdom, he creates the sort of storybook tale we would read before bedtime as youths. He takes that whimsical and colorful time in our lives and puts it on the screen to a magnificent effect. Sure, some people might be a bit turned of by his idiosyncratic style, but I think he uses it to perfect effect here to create something I can’t wait to show to my kids someday.

PS. Check out my review here: https://simplyfilm.org/2012/07/14/moonrise-kingdom-review/

2. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino will always have a very special place in my heart. He was in a lot of ways the first director I really got to know. In my film nerd infancy, many years ago, the first thing I ever did was marathon through Tarantino entire filmography. It was from that moment that I always knew I would love movies. He was just a master. You could see it in every frame. He just draws you into his spell of movie magic and taking you along on a euphoric ride through cinema. Sure, he’s a bit overindulgent and I don’t think he’s usually very ambitious thematically,  but he just fills me to the brim with everything I love about film, and Django is just another fantastic example of that.

1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

I will not deny the fact that this is a difficult film. At a goliath two and a half hours, it’s hard to imagine how this movie could be worth it. But, I assure you that this will be hands down the greatest experience you will have all year. Under the guise of a conventional police procedural this is actually a remarkable exploration of truth and perception in the face of a morally gray world. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the director, gives us a film that, on a purely visual level, may even surpass Prometheus. Sure it’s challenging, it’s slow, it’s long, it’s obtuse, but I do not doubt for a moment that the reward is worth the challenge. So if you feel up to it, you won’t be disappointed, and if you don’t, well, you’re missing something truly amazing.

Honorable Mentions

Zero Dark Thirty, Elena, The Dark Knight Rises, Safety Not Guaranteed, Silver Linings Playbook, This Is Not a Film, Oslo, August 31st, The Kid with a Bike, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Bernie, Looper, Prometheus, Borne Legacy, Sleepwalk With Me, Raid: The Redemption, The Impostor, 21 Jump Street, and Chronicle.

Andrew’s Top 10 Movies of 2012

10. Safety Not Guaranteed

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The sweetest movie about time travel you will ever see, Safety Not Guaranteed is quirky comedy full of cynicism and sharp wit. While not necessarily a deep film, Safety Not Guaranteed might be this year’s perfect date movie, right next to Moonrise Kingdom.

9. Cloud Atlas

I’ll admit it this movie has a lot of problems.  However it is hard to not praise this movie for its ambition and epic scope.  Spanning hundreds of years and telling six different stories of six different genres, all three directors do an admirable job of trying to connect these stories through a theme of repetition and change.  While it does not always come together perfectly, and although some of the segments of this movie are just not very good, as a whole this movie really works for it, and its strengths overcome its faults.

8. Looper

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This movie is just cool, and without a doubt my favorite action movie this year. It is exactly the kind of slick and stylish action I wanted from director Rian Johnson’s sci-fi time travel flick.  This movie also featured what was likely my favorite scene of the year, and without spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it, it was the scene involving Paul Dano’s character that was absolutely terrifying to watch. It is a great movie for Rian Johnson’s entry into mainstream film making, and I look forward to seeing what he will go onto do with big budget movies.

7. Cabin in the Woods

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Both a love letter to and criticism of horror as a genre, Cabin in the Woods is a film made for horror fans. While paying homage to the great horror films like Evil Dead, this movie is a smart and very funny way to poke fun at some of the worse troupes of the horror genre.  However, it is the sheer carnage of the third act that really makes this movie great for me, as it offers so much for both the die-hard horror fan and casual movie goer to love.

6. Silver Linings Playbook

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This is just a movie that makes me happy to watch.  Full of wonderful awkward humor and plenty of lovably dysfunctional characters, Silver Linings Playbook would be a hard movie to hate. While this movie by no means reinvents the wheel as far as the romantic comedy is concerned, it is an exceptional example of how good writing is what really makes the movie.  In addition, this is a movie full of excellent acting by the entire ensemble, although I was particularly impressed with Bradley Cooper in this film.

5. End of Watch

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Both a buddy cop movie and a solid action movie in its own right, End of Watch is very personal look at what it is like to be a police officer in one of the most dangerous parts of the country.  What makes this movie special, and one of my favorites this year, is the relationship between the two lead actors that they were able to build in this film.  It is one of the most believable and realistic partnerships I have ever seen in this kind of movie, and it’s because of this fact that film is so effective.

4. Seven Psychopaths

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This is my kind of movie, combining genre deconstruction with Martin McDonagh’s trademark dark humor, making this one of my favorite movies of the year.  Wickedly funny even after multiple viewings (as I have seen this movie quite a few times in theaters), this movie brings great comedic performances out of both Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, who is amazing in this movie. This movie has a truly all-star cast and plenty of the violence you would expect from the director of In Bruges, and yet it still manages to have something to say, about both this genre of film and the way filmmakers tend to approach it.

3. Django Unchained

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Though it is a little too long for its own good, Django Unchained was likely my best movie going experience of the year. Tarantino delivers yet another wonderful pulpy movie, full of hugely satisfying bloodshed, as well as some really fantastic moments of humor, due in large part to world’s greatest German, Christoph Waltz.  While it is hard to say I wholeheartedly enjoyed this movie, due to a few extremely brutal depictions of slavery related horrors, it is still a very fun movie and one I will surely watch again.

2. The Master

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Perhaps the most perplexing movie of the year, I left the theater completely baffled after my first viewing of this film.  I am a huge P.T. Anderson fan, and while I will not pretend to understand everything going on in this movie, Anderson does succeed at crafting a visually dynamic and engrossing movie. It is a hard movie to explain, or even recommend, but worth seeing at the very least for the Oscar worthy performances from both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

1. Oslo August 31st

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The story of a recovering drug addict as he wanders through the city of Oslo, Oslo August 31st is a personal and unique account of what it is like to deal with the lasting effects of addiction.  I’ve always been interested in addiction as a subject for film, and for me, this movie is an exceptionally example of how well film as a medium can deal with this subject material.  Overall a wonderful foreign film, however it would by no means be considered an uplifting movie.  It is now available on Netflix and I would highly encourage you to watch it if you are at all intrigued.

Honorable Mentions

I would like to use this space to give credit to a few movies that didn’t quite make the cut, but are worth mentioning.  While I personally didn’t add the movie to my list, Life of Pi is certainly one of the most memorable and captivating movies I saw all year and definitely deserves praise for its visual style, as this may be the most visually appealing movie this year.  I would also like to mention the film Klown, for being one of the most humorous and profoundly inappropriate films of the year.  Other honorable mentions include Bernie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Dredd 3D, Monsieur Lazhar, Chronicle and Sleepwalk with Me.

Gabriel’s Favorite Films of 2012 (So Far)

As the third illustrious member of our merry crew, I’m expected to give you lovely people my three favorite movies of the year, and being the responsible man that I am I’m going to do exactly that. So prepare your minds for some genuine cinematic excellence, and remember to leave all of your comments below.

3. The Cabin in the Woods

There are few films I can say just fill me with pure joy. They reduce me to a state of unadulterated glee from which nothing can take me. Cabin in the Woods is one of these films. It may at first seem like a generic slasher flick, but in reality, it’s one of the most imaginative, creative, and brilliant horror film I’ve seen in years. There’s little more I can say other than that I left the theatre with a smile plastered to my face and in utter awe.

2. Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar is a film about death and the ways we deal with it. It shows us a fourth grade class dealing with the cryptic suicide of their homeroom teacher, and Bachir Lazhar, who takes it upon himself to replace that said teacher. At first glance this may seem like the typical teacher-saves-troubled-kids movie, but it’s much more than that. There is an irrefutable emotional reality here that gives it a profundity found in very few films. I just couldn’t help but be drawn into this touching and beautiful portrait of grief.

1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

I will not deny the fact that this is a difficult film. At a goliath two and a half hours, it’s hard to imagine how this movie could be worth it. But, I assure you that this will be hands down the greatest experience you will have all year. Under the guise of a conventional police procedural this is actually a remarkable exploration of truth and perception in the face of a morally gray world. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the director, gives us a film that, on a purely visual level, may even surpass Prometheus. Sure it’s challenging, it’s slow, it’s long, it’s obtuse, but I do not doubt for a moment that the reward is worth the challenge. So if you feel up to it you won’t be disappointed, and if you don’t, well, you’re missing something truly amazing.

Most Anticipated: The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson ranks among my favorite directors of all time. For a reason look no further than his incredible filmography. He’s responsible for masterpieces such as There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love, and Boogie Nights, and now he wants to make a film about Scientology. Not to mention that he’s casting Philip Seymour Hoffman as a pseudo-L. Ron Hubbard. So, in summation, P. T. Anderson: please take my money now.