1. Beasts of the Southern Wild– No matter how skilled a filmmaker is, rarely does a movie come along that creates a cinematic world that is seething with a new kind of life, a world or vision that movies haven’t seen before. Director Benh Zeitlin, working with a do-it-yourself low budget commune of filmmaking talent and some extraordinary “non-professional” performers, does that with Beasts of the Southern Wild. The ferocious story of Hushpuppy (the amazingly talented child actress Quvenzhané Wallis) and her small, increasingly hopeless village on the other side of a Louisiana levee is filled with fantastical, visually stunning sequences as well as low budget narrative economy. It is this year’s biggest contradiction, and its biggest success.
2. Amour– Michael Haneke’s second movie in a row to win the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor (the Palme D’or) is the director’s most empathetic and devastating work to date. As the camera lingers in the apartment of Georges and Anne (legendary French performers Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva in devastatingly good form), we become privy to the elderly Parisian couple’s tender, haunting final moments together. It is a slow crawl toward death, absent plot twists or Haneke’s sadism. Watching it yields no pleasure, but everything from the incredible performances to the wonderfully precise camera movement lingers long after the movie ends.
This Is 40 Directed by: Judd Apatow Written by: Judd Apatow (screenplay) Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow
Paul Rudd is the only main character in Judd Apatow’s latest movie who isn’t part of the comedy auteur’s actual nuclear family. The wife (Leslie Mann) and two children (Maude and Iris Apatow) are basically playing out better-written scenarios of their lives with a cuter dad.
This makes everything about This Is 40 feel both a little weirder and a little more alive; it’s like making your family relive an awkward Christmas on camera. Apatow is a keen observer of white upper middle class life, though his considerable success as writer, director and producer over the past few years has made his class standing considerably higher than that. This movie is his best since his other movie with 40 in the title, albeit much more pensive and mature.