Michel Hazanavicius took a massive risk making such a heavily stylised film but his black and white silent feature was totally deserving of the best picture Oscar. Hazanavicius captured beautifully the look and feel of the silent era to deliver an irresistibly charming and delightfully nostalgic film full of heart which for me was totally flawless. Magnifique.
Joaquin Phoenix was robbed of an Oscar the year he played Johnny Cash. It will be a travesty if he misses out again for his astonishing turn as tortured naval veteran Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson's cinematic masterpiece (pardon the pun). Watching Phoenix' multi-layered Freddie verbally spar with Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of the cult-like The Cause, was the most excruciatingly intense cinematic experience I had all year.
Nikolaj Arcel truly upped the ante when it came to period dramas with this sumptuous, intriguing and suspenseful drama about Denmark's queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander) who was married to the mad king Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) and fell secretly in love with her physician (Mads Mikkelsen) with whom she helped spark a revolution that changed the nation forever. Aside from the incredible true story, the performances from the three leads are first-class while the artful direction and sublime cinematography made this affair truly one to remember.
It was the year when every filmmaker seemed to want to pay tribute to the art of making movies and Martin Scorsese triumphed with his ode, Hugo. Hugo really is quite a lovely film which transports us, through stunning 3-D, back to the dawn of cinema and reminds us all how magical movies can be.
Sideways director Alexander Payne's film about a husband who is forced to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is left in a coma following a boating accident has that perfect balance of humour and tragedy. George Clooney delivers one of the best performances of his career, portraying with brilliant subtlety a man bound by duty and responsibility who is forced to examine the past in an effort to move forward.
Philippe Falardeau's tender film about an Algerian immigrant who is hired at a Montreal school to replace a popular teacher who has committed suicide in her classroom is a tender study in the complexities of grief. Mohamed Fellag is terrific as Monsieur Lazhar, a man trying to come to terms with his own grief. But it's the stellar performances of the young child actors, who behave like kids not mini adults, that give the film its emotional resonance.
It's hard to believe that in the same year he gave us the awfully dreary Dark Shadows Tim Burton can deliver one of my favourite films with this technically brilliant stop-motion animation about a boy who harnesses the power of science to bring his beloved dog back to life. This is a film totally from the heart which lovingly pays homage to Burton's obsession with all things horror. Burton makes superb use of the black and white and injects just the right level of sentimentality into the piece, which features enough quirky references to horror films gone by to ensure laughs from start to finish.
I'd never heard of Stephen Chbosky's best-selling book of the same name - let alone read it - but I was straight away captivated by this coming-of-age story about a boy in his first year at high school. With its beautifully crafted, almost poetic screenplay, heart-warming performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, Perks is the kind of film that restores your faith, not only in the Y Generation but in humanity.
Whether it's the Bourne films we have to thank for raising the bar when it comes to action/thriller spy films or simply a visionary director in Sam Mendes, Skyfall has taken the Bond franchise to a new level. Daniel Craig brings a level of vulnerability to 007 this time around and it's nice to see the women take less of a subservient role. But ultimately it was Javier Bardem who helped push this film into my top 10 with a dynamite villainous performance that is up there with Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter and Heath Ledger's The Joker.
I'd like to tell you I understood what Leos Carax was on about in this French fantasy drama - in fact, most of it went over my head. But if movies are meant to make you think, Carax' film about a man (Denis Lavant) who travels through Paris in his limo, traversing between multiple parallel lives, bent my mind like no other. Carax tackles the whole gamut of human experiences - life, love, sex, death - to deliver a film that's erotic, confronting, violent and as extraordinary as it is arresting.
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