With the Golden Globes in our rear-view mirror, this time of year always makes me reflect on the best movies that I've seen this past year, and how there are more great movies than just those nominated for Hollywood awards. While I whole-heartedly congratulate the winners of the Golden Globes (especially Mr. Jeff Bridges!), I'd like to put forth my favorite movies of the past year.
1. Moon ~ Sam Rockwell plays an astronaut completing a three-year solo mission mining Earth's main energy source, helium, on the moon. Anxious to return home to see his family and to improve his declining health, strange events occur that make him question the integrity of the mining company, his sanity and even his own identity. The beauty of this film is that it embodies the idea of "less is more": allowing the film's subtle touches and retro sets to resonate alongside a fantastic soundtrack by Clint Mansell. Its small cast lends a terrific sense of intimacy with a man struggling with his growing isolation. I couldn't stop talking about this one after I'd seen it.
2. Hunger ~ Steve McQueen (no, another one) dazzles in his directorial debut depicting Irish Republican Army prisoner Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender) in the 66 days of his hunger strike to gain political prisoner status from the British government. While at parts it is difficult to watch, the camera work and frank dialogue provide the film's depth. There is an incredible 17 minute-long dialogue scene shot in one take that clinched the movie for me. Whether you agree with Bobby Sands or not, there are few more intense portrayals of people dedicated to their beliefs.
3. Che: Part One - The Argentine ~ Five years after his trek across South America depicted in The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara is now involved with fellow commandante Fidel Castro in leading the Cuban revolution of 1956-1959. Benicio Del Toro plays the lead perfectly, plumbing the depths of Che's historical persona as well as portraying his humanity. Whether as a proponent of harsh discipline willing to execute deserters from the cause or as a teacher showing his fellow comrades how to read, this film is an excellent and revealing depiction of an iconic figure. By the way, there is a Che: Part Two - The Guerilla, but I've not seen it yet (I'd like to finish Che's biography by Jon Lee Anderson before I do).
4. Drag Me to Hell ~ While the previous three movies have made the festival circuits, this one offers less critical acclaim and more pure fun! Director Sam Raimi proves that the magic he used to create the Evil Dead trilogy is still there; no one can mix horror and humor quite like he can. The premise is simple, a bank lender refuses to extend another loan to an old gypsy, who then curses the lender with a spirit that will drag her to hell in three days. What this movie lacks in complexity, it more than makes up with terrific action (i.e. the young heroine fending off the gypsy woman in the backseat of her car with a stapler). This movie offers up hearty laughter and genuine chills, a unique combination that landed itself on this list.
I'm curious to hear of your top movie nominees of the past year!