Posts Tagged ‘best films’

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Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity

by Jordan Flaherty

This year’s Oscar’s race is predicted to be a contest of La La Land, a relatively sunny musical that celebrates a timeless and relatively white fantasy of Los Angeles; against Moonlight, a deeply moving and poetic Black gay coming-of-age story set in 1980s Miami. Whoever wins the awards, Moonlight is this year’s best film. Like Beyoncé losing the album of the year Grammy to Adele, the fact that La La Land is even a contender reveals the prejudices of the entertainment industry. It’s not that La La Land is a terrible film. It’s beautifully styled and shot, even if its content is tone deaf. Even compared to the best films of this year, none compare to the transformative power and beauty of Moonlight. But Hollywood loves to celebrate itself, and the industry is wealthy, white and male dominated, so La La Land is seen as a favorite.

This was a great year for cinema, and many releases this year are relevant to this political moment. Director Pablo Larraín and star Gael García Bernal, who previously collaborated on the political drama No, return with Neruda, a poetic film about the importance of poetry in a time of fascism. French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, director of 2010’s underrated Incendies (and 2015’s overrated Sicario) returns with Arrival, a film about the importance of science over nationalism. David Mackenzie’s heist film Hell or High Water is an indictment of the soullessness of banks. Director Ava DuVernay’s 13th, while frustrating for the issues it leaves out, is a powerful introduction to the topic of mass incarceration. Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures, while unfortunately creating white saviors where none existed, is still redeemed by a powerful civil rights movement story and excellent performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Finally, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos brought surrealism mainstream with his original and very funny dystopian satire, The Lobster.

This was also a year of great genre films, like Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe, a tense and original horror film set among the post-industrial landscape of Detroit. Director Jeff Nichols and star Joel Edgerton, who also collaborated on this year’s civil rights drama Loving, also released the surprising and very smart science fiction film Midnight Special. Cheang Pou-soi’s densely plotted Hong Kong action film Kill Zone 2 is much smarter and funnier than you might expect. Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is by no means a great film, but deserves credit as an action series in which every film passes the Bechdel Test and features a corporation as a villain.

As television becomes more experimental and risk-taking, there was some truly great and cinematic TV this year. Especially worth watching is the intricately plotted Mr. Robot, which follows a multiracial group of hackers working to end capitalism. Some of the best documentary work this year came from the show Rise on Viceland, in which a Native American producer and correspondent explore indigenous issues, starting with Standing Rock. And Atlanta and Insecure, while very different from each other, are two of the most creative, original, and funny comedies in years.

This year’s top ten films span categories and countries, but together they explore race, class and gender in new and intelligent ways. Here is my list.

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Political Films of 2012

Posted: December 13, 2012 in -
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Indiewire posted a ‘best of’ list that may interest some.

 

 

These will be in no particular order.

Glory – I think I cry at the end of this film every time I see it. Matthew Broderick is perfect. Morgan Freeman is perfect. The story, the composition, the cast, the incredible action, everything comes together to tell the story of one of the most remarkable battles of the American Civil War, one that seems to legitimize the entire bloody mess. All the films on the list are must-see, but Glory is must-must-see.

Red Cliff – Ancient China, a battle to decide an empire. This is a magnificent achievement that John Woo created in China to honor the legend that all Chinese children learn about in history class. Fantastic characters pulled from the ancient world come to life with epic battles on land and sea. Truly a film to put on a queue.

Kelley’s Heroes – If only Catch 22 was this damned funny and hit the right beats. Clint Eastwood leads a greedy band of jerks behind enemy lines to steal a bank full of gold bullion that the German army left behind. What more do you need to know, really? Cue Donald Sutherland as a free-spirited beatnik tank driver, baby.

No Man’s Land – Harsh twist of fate. War reduced to man vs. man vs. mine. The final shot just leaves a hole in your gut, and wishing for some sanity in the world.

Come and See – Russian experience of World War Two and sick Nazi genocidal atrocities. Possibly the most powerful film on the list, and the kid in the leading role is magnetic and carries the film.

Dr. Strangelove – This is on everyone’s list. I don’t find it as funny as some, but it’s undeniably a thought provoking and important Cold War insanity film that everyone should see.

The Thin Red Line – This one is filmed and lovingly crafted so beautifully that it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end. A poem about life set in the horrors of death and destruction. The terror of war, the morality of mass murder, a flip-switch inside of man, it’s all there.

Devils on the Doorstep – A recent addition. This Chinese film lacks the grandeur of a Thin Red Line, shot in black and white and on a much smaller scale. But the characters are so well performed and pitted against one another that it makes for an unforgettable viewing.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Any opportunity to mention this one — it’s the greatest movie ever shot – and it is set against the backdrop of the Civil War, which keeps intruding into the story time and again. At one point Tuco and Blondie actually join up with the northern army to blow up a bridge. The three characters are essentially at war for most of the movie, and yet they are forced to work together, against their own worst instincts, unhappy allies at each other’s throats when they’re not saving each other’s lives.

Three KingsThree Kings tells its own side of its own story. Worth watching as a bit of modern Kelley’s Heroes, with a humanist story interwoven. I like it for its upside down twisted take on the first Iraq war.

Full Metal Jacket – Icy cold Kubrick at his best. This film freaked me out the first time I saw it. So harsh, so unexpected and twisted, yet plausible throughout.

Platoon – A little over the top in places, but a very gripping take on the US Vietnam experience. Tom Berenger delivers a hell of a performance as does Willem Dafoe. Even Charlie Sheen pulls it off, barely.

The Pianist – Polanski returns to his childhood and to his very real dealings with the Nazis in Poland. Outstanding visuals and recreation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unforgettable, and the performance by Adrien Brody established him as a world-class actor.

Patton – Coppola turns in one of the most epic bio-pics of all time. Amazing shot selection and composition. George C. Scott scares the hell out of the enlisted men, but he taught me everything I know about tank warfare. It’s good to take an unflinching look at these guys.

Valkyrie – A surprise, Tom Cruise trying like hell to kill Hitler and end the war. The attention to accuracy and detail in this historical recreation is impressive.

Downfall – Yes the film they stole all those Hitler gets pissed videos from. Another recreation from World War Two that is just so damned believable that you think you’re in the bunker with Adolf and company.

Das Boot – The most claustrophobic movie I’ve ever seen. Performances that shine, and a perilous situation that can’t end well. Terrifying.

Lord or the Rings: The Two Towers – The best of the trilogy, which probably everyone will watch anyway. The battle at Helm’s Deep, against an army of Orcs no less, is one of the most spectacular and intricate, ever. It took several months to shoot. Not to mention Gollum growing ever more sinister and Frodo being taken over by the ring as they approach Mordor.

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Hacksaw Ridge –  A unique story of an American World War Two hero you’ve probably never heard of. By remaining true to his convictions, an American conscientious objector managed to do the impossible at Iwo Jima.

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