Not a lot to say about it. Well done, wrenching, occasionally beautiful amongst the horror.
9. Wolf of Wall Street
I'm a sucker for endings, and the ending shot was masterful. Which made up for it being one of my absolute least favorite Scorsese movies: self-derivative (could any other director have made this movie and not been endlessly criticized for copying Goodfellas?), monotonous, and gimmicky. Still, Hill was brilliant and funny, DiCaprio steady and amazing, and fun had to be had in both excess and comeuppance.
A slight movie, with warts and flaws, but still beautifully rendered. Beyond in love with the playfully and subtly transformed Los Angeles, a counter-example to Blade Runner's New York. Although frequently infuriating with its unearned caprice and length, its simultaneous dark satire and loving embrace of our cyborg future bears it through. (Ed. note: Look for Goldfarb to begin sporting high-waisted tweed slacks well before 2015.)
7. This Is the End
So sue me. Not the best formed movie of the year, but the funniest. Cameos are usually a deathtrap for comedies, but in a movie this rollicking they're merely catnip.
6. Blue Jasmine
Even with an occasionally flimsy framework and inconsistent tone, Cate Blanchett's brilliant turn as Jasmine bears the weight.
Not the Cohen's best, but still witty, heartfelt, cruel, and delightful. With a really great cat (plus a great homage to one of my all-time faves, The Long Goodbye). (Ed. note: Gasp! Goldfarb loves a cat! Redemption is possible.)
4. Drinking Buddies
Oh, how I wish I didn't have to put this movie on here, or this high. A movie with Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson? Who are hipster-brewers, who bike? Could anything more perfectly aim itself at its middle-brow urbanist target audience: AKA Dave Goldfarb? But... all self-affinity aside, this is a delightful funny romantic non-literal-comedy. Proof positive that Swanberg can move beyond mumblecore without losing its soul.
3. American Hustle
I can't defend this movie. But goddamn was it fun. An overflowing fistful of brilliant performances, led by an inhumanely unhinged master turn by Jennifer Lawrence. And Bradley Cooper does the impression of the year (if not more) with his mockery of Louis CK.
2. Gravity Is Lost
What? You haven't heard of the movie that exists solely in my head, in which Gravity and All Is Lost, each essentially the same movie, ditch their flaws and combine their brilliance? Imagine a Gravity with less of Bullock's yammering and no insipid sob/back story. Imagine a masterful Robert Redford, taciturn, stoic, hopeless in Cuarón's infinite blackness. (Ed. note: Goldfarb saw both American Hustle and Gravity with the Iron Listers in New Jersey, which obviously accounts for their high rankings here. Happy times make for happy filmgoers.)
1. The Act of Killing
What to say about this hallucinatory documentary.... Stories We Tell got all the press for thrusting self-reflexive narrative doubt into the documentary process, but it was a mere child's game to The Act of Killing's hunger games. First we watch a perpetrator of Indonesian genocide put on a film-within-a-film both celebrating and doubting their horrific actions. And then we're expected to believe their (performance of?) revelation of their guilt? A whirlwind of self-narrative, the banality of evil, and the self's will to survive its own unforgivable acts. It gets the great part of truth by seeming far too full for it. The only movie I saw this year that left me unmoored, unsure of what I was seeing, unsure of what I wanted to see or was capable of seeing.
Before Midnight: The best of the series. I still can't stand Julie Delpy's delivery.
Francis Ha: Charming, aggravating, twee.
Fruitvale Station: Slight, but continues Michael B. Jordan's growth into of our finest young actors.
Mud: What a year for He Who Wears No Shirt. Except in this movie, it's the shirt above all.
Nebraska: A charming wonderful movie hurt both by the casting of Will Forte and the similarity to A Straight Story, which it has no hope of holding a candle to.
Philomena: Admittedly, not a very good movie, but if you're not into watching Steve Coogan and Judie Dench trade lines, you're beyond hope.
Side Effects: Was this really the best thriller of the year? Even with its drecky second half?
Short Term 12: Wonderful, touching performances that make it easy to forgive its over-earnestness.
The Spectacular Now: I vaguely remember some shoddy plot devices, but I distinctly remember Shailene Woodley's star turn.
Upstream Color: I'd've preferred a bit less a symbolic turn to Primer's head-fuck, but still a great ride.
Not seen (but wanted to):
Blue is the Warmest Color
Dallas Buyer's Club
Much Ado About Nothing
Movie that Should Not be on Any Best Of List: