BERNIE (Director – Richard Linklater): Linklater, the director of DAZED AND CONFUSED, goes back to Texas with this true-life crime story. Off-beat and funny, with great performances from Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey. Linklater uses people that live in the town the story took place in as actors to give it a real, small-town Texas vibe. Works very well.
GOON (Director – Michael Dowse): I am not sure if this movie even got a theatrical release in the USA this year, but it damn well should have. As someone who grew up in the world of hockey, both at Nassau Coliseum to watch my Islanders and at the local rink where I played, I can tell you that this movie nails the culture spot-on. That shouldn’t be surprising, considering it was written by Jay Baruchel, a native Canadian and die-hard Montreal Canadians fan. Definitely one of the better sports movies of the past few years. Seann William Scott gives a fantastic performance as the lead, a player with great fighting skills and not much else. Once you watch him in this, you’ll never think of him as Stifler again.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME (Director – Mike Bribiglia): A comedy master’s take on stand-up, relationships, work, ambition, and sleepwalking. Seems like a grab bag of concepts, but it all works. Bribiglia wrote, directed, and starred in this, based on real experiences he has had while struggling as a stand-up, including violent episodes of sleepwalking. His relationship with Lauren Ambrose’s character seems real and lived in. Possibly my favorite on-screen relationship of the year. If you like stand-up comedy and are intrigued in what goes through the mind of a comic when they’re not on stage, this is a must see.
(The next three movies all involve Mark Duplass in some way. Guy is the king of Indie movies)
THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON (Director – Mark Duplass): Just like the tagline says. 25 events. 2 brothers. 1 champion. Mark Duplass and his brother Jay have cornered the market on small, quirky, indie films (CYRUS, JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME) and this movie continues that tradition. I was born almost exactly two years after my brother, and you can tell the Duplass brothers are probably similar in age as well. The bickering, the teasing, the fighting. It’s all put on display here.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (Director – Colin Trevorrow): This may be my favorite movie of the year. Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson work for a local paper in Seattle. They see an ad in the classifieds about a guy looking for someone to time travel with and seek him out, thinking it would make a good story. Once they meet him (Mark Duplass), the find the story isn’t that simple. I can’t really pinpoint why I loved this movie so much, but I do. It seems like an odd concept for a romantic comedy, but it works on every single level. Funny, poignant and heartfelt, this movie has it all.
YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (Director – Lynn Shelton): Mark Duplass. Emily Blunt. Rosemarie Dewitt. One house. Three people. I loved this movie before I even saw it, and after I did, I loved it even more. Dewitt gives THE performance of the year. You laugh when she laughs and you cry when she cries. Just a tour-de-force. Blunt and Duplass are more than up to the task as well, giving soulful performances as best friends who may just want to be more than that. I have felt that way about a friend before, and this movie portrays the actions and feelings that stem from that predicament better than any mainstream romantic comedy ever could. YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, and PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER are all on the 2012 “made David cry” list, along with the next film.
HEADHUNTERS (Director – Morten Tyldum): Not sure if it’s just a coincidence or if it’s because America sucks at it now, but my two favorite action movies of 2012 were both foreign pics. Headhunters is classic pulp. A art thief steals from the wrong man and is forced to go on the run to save himself. It is a simple premise, but the execution is great. If you’re sick of all the CGI crap in most action movies these days like me, this is a movie you should be watching.
THE RAID (Director – Gareth Evans): This is the best action movie of 2012 and my favorite martial arts movie of all time. The drug kingpin is on the top floor. The police are at the bottom. Every floor is filled with gangsters. Can they get to the top? How? Watch and find out. No camera tricks. No computer generated effects. Just one hour and 30 minutes of real ass kicking. The type of action that needs to be seen to be believed. I think I watched this movie three times since I saw it in theaters, and it gets better on each subsequent viewing.
OSLO, AUGUST 31ST (Director – Joachim Trier): A recovering drug addict gets released for the day to go to his old hometown of Oslo for a job interview. Once there, he proceeds to see family and friends around town, and the way his addiction has affected him and his loved ones becomes more apparent throughout. I don’t really know how to write a small review of this film. As someone who spent a year in a rehab facility, it almost hit too close to home. Everything the main character goes through in this film is something I either did or thought about doing. My heart was in my throat the entire running time, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. This is the movie FLIGHT could/should have been. A realistic take on drug addiction and the pain it can cause. It’s definitely a movie I will watch at least once a year, to remind myself where I have been and the strides I have made since.
That’s it for the independent and foreign films. Tomorrow will be the final group of films: the auteurs, the prestige pics, the best picture candidates.