Here's the thing… if my top ten list for the year ended up with a single one of the next five titles on the list as I count down from fifty to the top spot, I'd be perfectly happy with that.
A dude e-mailed me this morning and asked me why I would bother ranking 50 films. “There are never more four or five great movies in any year, and you're a cheap date.”
The truth is that I like more movies than I dislike. That's exactly why I do this for a living. I'm always baffled by someone who writes about movies for a living who seems to like very little of what they watch. I'm not saying that you have to be indiscriminate in terms of what you watch. The difference in attitude is that I look at even terrible movies with an eye for what works or what's interesting about them, even in failure, while there are many critics who seem to start from the position of “prove it,” only begrudgingly giving praise.
One of my favorite moments this year was at Fantastic Fest, when I got to introduce three simultaneous screenings of Sion Sono's “Tokyo Tribe.” I saw the film for the first time at Toronto, where Colin Geddes programmed it as part of the Midnight Madness slate. As a result, I had a pretty good idea what would happen when the movie was unleashed on a Fantastic Fest crowd.
The movie, adapted from a manga series, is a lunatic rap musical about one long night in which an evil gangster orchestrates a city-wide assault on all of the different gangs that each control one small part of Tokyo. The soundtrack is a true delight, and the movie is relentlessly entertaining. I love that the film is probably the first time since “The Warriors” that we've seen this many different gangs in one movie, and there's an exuberance to the film's POV, even at its nastiest, that has to do with the strength that comes from finding your tribe in this world. I've found mine. My tribe is made up of all of the people I see at film festivals each year as well as all of you who take the time to read my work every day. I am enormously fortunate to have found my tribe, and I can honestly say I wouldn't have made it through this difficult year if I didn't have this larger community that I get to be part of every day.
“The Guest” is another film that seemed to follow me from festival to festival this year, starting at Sundance, and I'm a big fan of the way this one feels like a film you would have stumbled across at 2:30 in the morning on Cinemax in 1987. That is a compliment. Dan Stevens went from “who?” to “what else is he doing?” for me with this one film, and it feels like Adam Wingard is getting more and more confident with each new film. This is the most entertaining thing he's made so far with his writer/creative partner Simon Barrett, and I have a feeling this one's going to pick up a fairly enthusiastic cult in the next few years.
I'll have a review for you this week of the new Julianne Moore film “Still Alice,” and while I can tell you that I think Moore's work is very good, the film really isn't. If you want to see a truly beautiful and bruising film about Alzheimers, then “Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me” is the film you want to track down. I had no idea Campbell was suffering from the disease, and watching his last tour before he lost the ability to perform in front of an audience is incredibly emotional. There are moments in the film that are gorgeous and inspirational, and there are moments in the film that break my heart completely. This is one of the most punishing emotional experiences I had this year, but it is worth it for the intimate glimpse into what this disease does to families and to the people who suffer with it.
Asia Argento's “Misunderstood” is not much of a narrative, but that's not the point. It tells the story of a girl on the cusp of adolescence who is constantly shuttled between her two divorced parents, both of them awful, self-absorbed people who have no business raising anyone. It is a film that carries the audience along on the same sort of pure emotional rush that I remember as being part of my own teenage years. This is the film where Argento comes into focus as a filmmaker in her own right, and her voice is raw and real, punk rock filmmaking, angry and unapologetic. It doesn't offer up any answers, and it doesn't paint a picture of a happy ending for every kid, but it feels genuine in a way that many movies about kids do not.
That's also true of “We Are The Best!”, which I mentioned here the other day. That one's on Netflix Instant right now, and it's an incredibly joyous movie about that moment when you find other people who understand you the first time, when you find your own voice, and when you find something that makes you feel alive. Three young girls in Sweden in the early '80s get together to start a punk band, and the experience they have is so beautiful, so rich, so human.
That, more than anything, is what I look for in films, especially this year. I'm trying to figure out my own place in this big strange world, and watching other people grappling with the same frailties and foibles that I am makes me feel connected to this world in a tangible way.
My full list so far:
36. “We Are The Best!”
38. “Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me”
39. “The Guest”
40. “Tokyo Tribe”
41. “Edge Of Tomorrow”
42. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
43. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
44. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
45. “The Overnighters”
46. “The Theory Of Everything”
47. “Goodnight Mommy”
48. “Shrew's Nest”
49. “St Vincent”
50. “The Imitation Game”