Alright - it's a Wednesday morning, and I'm watching Married...With Children. That seems appropriate when writing about the best movies I've seen so far this year. Let's jump right in (and this is in the order I've seen them in).
Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine's surreal masterpiece is one of the most subversive movies to ever have been given a wide release. The fact that it had Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens toting guns in bikinis was only to bring the audiences in the theaters. James Franco's gonzo performance was what kept them there. It's not a perfect movie (it does meander at times), but when it hits, it's a home run.
Mud - Matthew McConaughey is just pumping out solid movies one after another. And he isn't even really the star of this film. It's Tye Sheridan as the young kid, who, with his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), stumble upon Mud (McConaughey) and try to help him out as he's hiding from people who want him dead. And all that's almost incidental to the coming-of-age story that plays out. A compelling look at families in disarray, what the truth is, and where one's loyalties really lie.
Before Midnight - Richard Linklater's (and Ethan Hawke's and Julie Delpy's) third film in the series takes place 9 years after the last one, and the two characters are hitting a rough patch in their relationship. As with the previous two films, this one is massively dialogue heavy. But the ideas expressed and the emotions that are portrayed are some of the most honest in just about any film. And from a movie nerd standpoint, one of the opening scenes, with its long, unbroken take is just fabulous. So far, my favorite film of the year.
From Up on Poppy Hill - Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son) directed this highly melodramatic animated film. It's yet another coming-of-age film on this list, and it reminded me of a 1950's Douglas Sirk film, but with more lightheartedness and not as much tragedy.
The Hunt - Mads Mikkelsen plays a kindergarten teacher accused of sexually molesting a child. Really inspiring, right? It's simply a powerful film, made all the more gripping because of what we, the audience, know. Never boring, never preachy. Just a tough, suspenseful film that tests its characters, and lets you know, sometimes there isn't a bad guy, and that can be more heartbreaking.
The Way,Way Back - Oh, Sam Rockwell will you finally be Oscar-nominated for your role as water park manager in this film? I hope so. And as inspiring as he is, Steve Carell plays the most loathsome character he's ever portrayed on film, and does a great job at it. Deftly mixing humor and pathos, it was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it didn't disappoint one bit.
You're Next - Probably the lowest on my favorites list, it's still one of the most fun horror films I've seen in a long time, although that's probably because I don't seek them out that often. Plenty of fist pumping, yelling at the screen in encouragement moments, and a heroine who kicks major, major butt - that's what I wanted. And explanations for the bad things that happened was icing on the cake.
The Family - Luc Besson's newest film is still sticking with me. Tonal shifts aplenty. Funny at times (but never really hilarious), suspenseful when I wasn't expecting it to be, and shockingly brutal towards the end. I didn't know what I was getting into, and I'm still not sure even now. But it was nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro play a loving couple (even if they were mobsters in witness relocation).
The Spectacular Now - A high school kid in a small town is an alcoholic, and on the rebound falls for a smart girl. An absolutely no-holds-barred look at young love, young heartache, and second (and third) chances. Sometimes circumstances say we can't see ourselves the way others see us, and that's what this movie is telling us. The performances are uniformly amazing, and with a touch of hope at the end, it's so, so satisfying.
And now it's time to go to work.