Two standout moments: Bradley Cooper doing Louis C.K., which is every bit as great as Goldfarb says it is; and Jennifer Lawrence, somehow making a Paul McCartney song both sexy and terrifying.
As a portrait of the crisis of ‘70s, with the old midcentury boom dying, and the new neoliberal era yet to be born, it’s pretty dead on. And is there a better metaphor for the false magic of the market than a government official dressed as a sheik with a briefcase full of illegal cash?
13. Much Ado About Nothing. This film had so much refreshing light-hearted energy, and the Whedon crew really brought their A-game to Shakespeare's best comedic prose. Would've been higher but for Alexis Denisof's Benedick, who was too loafy for my taste. Come on, Joss, Benedick's a lothario! Wither the iron chest and square jaw? (K.H.)
11. Enough Said. This movie knows exactly how difficult it is to talk to people we've only just met -- a difficulty that, paradoxically, only seems to increase with age. Shouldn't we be getting better at this? Shouldn't people get easier to read? But no, they get harder; and so do we. I'm probably overly enchanted with the image of a mellower Elaine Benes and Tony Soprano strolling the archives of the television history museum, but I miss both those characters so much, and I miss Gandolfini even more. (K.H.)
9. Blue Jasmine. Tennessee Williams in the age of the 1%: wealth, says Woody Allen, is just a socially acceptable form of psychosis. Cate Blanchett emits pure energy, and the Diceman cometh. But it’s sadly characteristic of era that this is another film about the crimes of finance whose chief victim is a society wife. (M.K.)
7. Inside Llewyn Davis. Llewyn is the cat, and he is also every artist. He can't succeed and he can't quit: the cold monochrome world won't let them. As usual, the Coens sing the song of misanthropy, and as usual John Goodman shows up, but it was nice to see the Coens return to form with a truly lovable new schmuck. Oscar Isaac can do no wrong. (K.H.)
But the arguments about the fifteen minutes of sex in this three hour film are overwrought. What's most interesting here is the uncommon combination of the erotic and the everyday, the refusal to obey decades of film convention that insists on a rigid boundary between the bed sheets and the bus ride, the dinner table, or the classroom (even Lorrie Moore's review itself stiffly succumbs to the cliche that sex in a serious film can only be suggested and never shown). As a daring expedition across that worn-out frontier -- and a rich portrait of one young woman making her way into the cruel world of adulthood -- this movie deserves all the acclaim it's received, and more. (M.K.)
5. 12 Years a Slave. Solomon Northup's narrative is unusual as slave narratives go. It's the story, not of a dramatic escape, but of an unreal kidnapping, a journey from freedom to slavery to freedom again, thanks to the serendipitous intervention of the law. In Steve McQueen's hands, it's also a story of individuals abused within a system of twisted but inescapable logic. No shot embodies this more fully than the agonizingly sustained one of Solomon struggling for his footing with a noose around his neck while plantation activity grinds on in the background. And no figure bears the brunt of slavery's cruel contradictions more painfully than Patsy, who, unlike Solomon, is not saved. (For thoughts from the historian, here's Matt's take.) (K.H.)
Is Ryan Coogler an American Dardenne? He could be. This film is that real, that raw, and that tenderly unsentimental. Happy to agree with Iron Uncle Bill K. here.
Also, I won't link to this, but if you want to get your blood up on a Friday afternoon, read the Forbes review: "Fruitvale Station is Loose With the Facts about Oscar Grant." (M.K.)
But you shouldn’t see The Selfish Giant to learn what you already know about the barbarism of modern economic life. You should see it because it captures, in a rare and precious way, the beauty and the agony of human relationships in this impossible world. (The comparison for me is not to Ken Loach or even Andrea Arnold, but one of my favorite movies of all time, Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return.)
Here’s Thomson: “Time and again, one has the depressing feeling that directors in America nowadays are making movies about old movies and behavior known from the screen. It’s as if the film-makers have never had life experience, or are no longer taught to trust it. Nothing is more threatening to the vitality of the cinema. The Selfish Giant has an austere spiritual certainty that to evade or avoid life is sacrilegious.” (M.K.)