It’s that time of the year. Hollywood is releasing all of their biggest blockbusters and front runners for February’s Academy Awards ceremony, and critics everywhere are compiling their “best of” and “worst of” the year lists. While December looks like it’s going to be a month full of good films, including the drama Brothers, the musical Nine, the animated The Princess And The Frog, and the action packed Sherlock Holmes, I’ve decided to make a list of my top 5 must-see films of the year thus far. Who knows: maybe by the time Christmas rolls around that list will have changed. But for now, add the following to your Netflix queue. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
4. Away We Go
It is very rare that a film comes along that manages to evoke hysterical laughter and a tear-jerking response all within its allotted time frame. In Away We Go, John Krasinski (yes, that lanky guy from “The Office”) and Maya Rudolph (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) star as Burt and
3. Sunshine Cleaning
This phenomenal indie dram-edy tells the story of two sisters (played by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt), who go into business together cleaning up after crime scenes. The film centers on the struggles which these two women face and their personal journeys, including dealing with single parenthood, sexuality, suicide, nostalgia, and self- discovery, all while trying to remain a happy, functioning family. Supported by a terrific ensemble including Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, and Cliflton Collins Jr., Sunshine Cleaning exemplifies all the qualities that so much of contemporary cinema lacks, particularly a sense of realism. Everything from the character development to the plot to the dialogue is more than relatable, creating a story that I guarantee you will remember for a long time.
While it should come as no surprise that
2. An Education
Written by Nick Hornby--the genius behind High Fidelity, About A Boy, and the gorgeously written page-turning new novel Juliet, Naked-- this quirky little British film is one Hollywood should be very afraid of come time for the Academy Awards. Newcomer Carey Mulligan stars as Jenny, a properly raised bookworm in 1960s suburban
1. 500 Days of Summer
In 500 Days Of Summer, we know right off the bat that the film’s main couple, Tom and Summer, don’t have a happy ending. In fact, the film circles around Tom’s obsession with the breakup and how he retraces his steps to see what went wrong in the relationship. Tom, the hopeless romantic, believes that Summer, the non-commitment oriented loner with emotional baggage, is the one. The use of flashbacks between “then” and “now,” from when he and Summer were a happy couple to how the breakup effects his life, is a brilliant technique that not only keeps the audience interested and invested, but allows us to fairly see both sides of the story. There is not a single person who can walk out of the movie theater and not strongly relate to either Summer or Tom (or sometimes, due to given circumstances, both). Despite the fact that I’m a gay man, I haven’t had a bigger crush on anyone than Zooey Deschanel in this film in God knows how long. Her sultry voice, intoxicating smile, stunning eyes, hair as dark as Snow White’s, cute hipster-y dresses, and nonchalant attitude about life make it impossible for the audience not to see her through Tom’s eyes and fall completely head over heels for her. And just like it was the ultimate selling point for Tom, when Zooey sings The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” in that already famous elevator scene, my heart skipped a beat and I was ready to propose. Overall, this film is one of the rawest and most honest films about love that has ever come out of
Films that almost made the Top 5:
Where The Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze, this big screen adaptation of the beloved children’s book is one of the most beautifully written and shot films of the year. By no means is it your traditional children’s film because it goes for realism rather than a happy ending. The movie shows that creating scenarios to avoid one’s problems doesn’t in fact solve anything, and instead can often times be harder than dealing with things head on. It’s a message not often depicted on screen for children - which initially turned many critics off to the film. However, it truly is a gorgeous film that is sure to become an instant classic.
I’ve always been a sucker for movies consisting of various slightly interwoven stories about groups of unrelated characters going through similar experiences. When
Julie And Julia
Anyone who walked out of the theater saying they didn’t like this movie was a dirty, rotten liar. There is no way that the combination of Meryl Streep’s elegance and determination as Julia Child and Amy Adams’ charm as the humble Queens inhabitant looking to pursuing her passion—actually, her obsession-- for cooking can leave someone unmoved. And anyone who says they felt nothing after this movie is certainly not telling the truth, even if it’s only for the reason that there’s no possibly human way anyone can watch this movie and not get hungry. I know that I went out to Whole Foods the next day and got all the ingredients I needed to attempt to make my own beef bourguignon. If anything, this film is a guaranteed feel-good, fun film that will make both your hearts and your stomachs hungry for more.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Finally, Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book hits the big screen. Directed and adapted to screen by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums), this stop motion film is a clear work of genius. Featuring the vocal talents of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe, this film version of the adored novel brings the story into the twenty-first century with a perfect ratio of humor and emotion. Just as in Where The Wild Things Are, the movie takes the structure of its short book, and expands on it to create a fantastical world that both stays true to and gives new life to the original text. Because it’s an