2014: My Top Ten Favorite Movies of the Year

1 – BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)

Looking back at the films I loved the most this year, I see a wide range of genres: comedy, drama, science-fiction, action, romance, superheroes, eroticism… What do these movies have in common? Energy! Whether through effortless storytelling, dynamic cinematography, brilliant editing, an avalanche of ideas, non-stop gags and stunts (™ LexG), overwhelming emotion, exhilarating music, lively performances or a combination of those things, my favorite movies displayed plenty of energy. Continue reading 2014: My Top Ten Favorite Movies of the Year

2013: The Top Ten Movies of the Year

1 – THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Martin Scorsese)
Cocaine and hookers, my friend! Who knew the life of a stockbroker could be so filthy? Scorsese’s best movie since Casino is all about capitalism gone wild, about white-collar crime and parties that never end. You get the feeling it must have been one of the rowdiest film shoots of all time and thankfully, it’s equally fun to watch for us.

 

2 – SPRING BREAKERS (Harmony Korine)
Until Scorsese showed up at the last minute, this was the film that defined 2013 for me. Interestingly, both films are about a version of the American Dream fuelled by sex and drugs, and both films have been wrongly criticized for celebrating the lifestyle of their protagonists when it’s quite clear to me that they’re denouncing it. Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t wildly entertaining to watch!

3 – BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
At this point, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have got to be one of the most iconic screen couples of all time. We fell in love along with them in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and now that they’re trying to make it last in this third film, we love them even more, flaws and all.

4 – GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuarón)
All films are best experienced on the big screen, but it’s never more true than with a movie like this, an almost purely visual experience that entirely justifies the use of IMAX 3D. It really makes you feel like you’re out there in space, as one damn thing goes wrong after another.

5 – LA VIE D’ADÈLE – CHAPITRES 1 & 2 (Abdellatif Kechiche)
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are my couple of the year and beyond, but that’s partly because they’ve won me over throughout a whole trilogy. Which makes it impressive that with only a single film (a long one, granted), Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux give the Before duo a run for their money, making us feel almost as many emotions.

6 – PRISONERS (Denis Villeneuve)
In his first foray into Hollywood filmmaking, Québécois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve knocks it out of the park with a taut, troubling thriller that has deservedly been compared to the work of David Fincher. Among other things, it features one of Hugh Jackman’s best peformances ever.

7 – DON JON (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite actors and he’s awesome in this film, which we could have seen coming. More surprising is the fact that he also reveals to be a truly talented writer-director, delivering a rich character study with a bright, inventive visual style, dynamic editing and great use of voice-over narration and music.

8 – THE SPECTACULAR NOW (James Ponsoldt)
We got another memorable screen couple this year played by Shailene Woodley and the incredibly charismatic Miles Teller, who reminds of a young John Cusack in a film that has been compared to Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, which happens to be one of my very favorite movies.

9 – AMERICAN HUSTLE (David O. Russell)

Christian Bale. Amy Adams. Bradley Cooper. Jennifer Lawrence. Jeremy Renner. They’re all part of the reason why this picture is so satisfying. But you also have to give props to David O. Russell, who made the best Scorsese movie of the year – beside the actual Scorsese movie, of course!

10 – FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
Two words: Greta Gerwig. Seriously. This whole B&W slice-of-life is a joy to watch, but it really comes down to how much I love Greta Gerwig in it. She’s the reason I picked this film for the #10 spot. Greta Gerwig!

2012 rises: My Top Ten Favorite Movies of the Year

1. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises
There are two kinds of moviegoers: those who get stuck on plot points and insist that everything in a film has to be plausible and logical, and those who are ready to suspend their disbelief for the sake of visceral emotion, symbolism and whatnot. I’m generally in the second category and this explains why a movie like this, flawed as it may seem to some, affected me more than any other this year. Who knew a Batman flick would make me cry this much? It also features some awesome action beats and a touch of humor, much of which has to do with the villainous Bane and Catwoman. But what really got to me was the way it utterly broke the Dark Knight down, stripping everything away from him until he has only his will to force him back on his feet and out of a deep, deep hole… That just inspires the hell out of me, man.

2. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master
The latest masterpiece from PTA is an hypnotic, slightly surreal journey into the human mind, anchored by stunning performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

3. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers
I actually called it “the best goddamn superhero flick ever made” when I saw it, and it’s still kinda true, even though I prefer the latest Batman for psychological, emotional and symbolic reasons. Hulk Smash!

4. David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis
A darkly satirical, ultimately oddly moving character study of a not only functional but spectacularly successful sociopath, played surprisingly effectively by Robert Pattinson.

5. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire
Soderbergh also directed the very enjoyable “Magic Mike” this year, but it’s this slick, sly spy thriller starring the super badass Gina Carano that most thrilled me.

6. Rafaël Ouellet’s Camion
A finely written and directed “hang-out movie” that’s all about spending time with some truly wonderful characters, engagingly played by Julien Poulin, Patrice Dubois and Stéphane Breton.

7. Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild
I adored it for the way it makes the ordinary feels extraordinary, with magic and lyricism and emotion pouring out of every frame… It’s been a while since a movie made me cry this much, in ways I can’t quite put into words.

8. Rian Johnson’s Looper
Here’s a brilliant sci-fi flick that’s at once relatively small-scaled in terms of fireworks, but that’s downright epic when it comes to ideas.

9. Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle
This second Quebec feature on my list feels both scary-real and fantastical, not unlike “Apocalypse Now”, thanks to the hallucinatory, mythical quality of the storytelling and the striking imagery.

10. Simon West’s The Expendables 2
It brings back everything that was good about the first movie and makes it truly great, then it adds a whole bunch of extra awesome on top of it. As a diehard 80s Hollywood action movie fan, I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t include this flick here.

2011: We Need to Talk About This Year’s Movies

TOP 10 FILMS

1. David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
For the captivatingly pulpy mystery plot, the frostbitten visuals, the disquieting score. But most of all, for Rooney Mara’s totally badass performance as the utterly fascinating Lisbeth Salander.

2. Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin
The always amazing Tilda Swinton stars in this impressionistic, hallucinatory, rivetingly visceral arthouse horror film.

3. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive
A brilliantly crafted, whip-smart mood piece, full of instant-classic movie moments that are bound to thrill any cinephile.

4. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life
An impressive and moving tone poem full of signature Malick magic-hour visuals and existential musings.

5. Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation
An intelligently written, subtly directed and affectingly acted ensemble drama that raises profound questions about ethics and causality.

6. Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo
A great family film in the best sense of the term, heartfelt and filled with wonder and whimsy every step of the way.

7. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse
With its many overwhelming visions of beauty and horror, this sentimental epic set during World War I is pure Spielberg through and through.

8. Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion
An incredibly effective paranoid thriller with elements of apocalyptic science-fiction and 1970s disaster movies.

9. Jonathan Levine’s 50/50
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of his very best performances as a cancer patient in this alternately funny and touching indie flick.

10. James Bobin’s The Muppets
A wonderful homage to Jim Henson’s creation, driven by Jason Segel’s boundless enthusiasm, joie de vivre and obvious love for all things Muppets.

SPECIAL MENTIONS:

Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class and Shame
Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michael Parks in Red State
Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page in Super
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior
The ensemble cast of Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris
David Gordon Green‘s Your Highness for making me laugh harder than any other comedy this year (sorry, Bridesmaids)

and

Brad Bird‘s Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol for its absolutely breathtaking set pieces

(NOT SO) GUILTY PLEASURES

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Fast Five
Shark Night 3D

TOP 5 QUEBEC FILMS

1. Deborah Chow’s The High Cost of Living
2. Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar
3. Patrick Demers’ Jaloux
4. Mathieu Denis & Simon Lavoie’s Laurentie
5. Stéphane Lafleur’s En terrains connus

2010 vs. the World

TOP TEN

1 – Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Between its countless hilarious one-liners, its badass fight scenes and its surprisingly insightful and touching look into modern relationships, this is certainly the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. Some of the titles below might be more ambitious, profound or groundbreaking, but this is the flick that I know that I’ll be revisiting the most often over the years.

2 – Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void
A pure dose of visceral, visionary cinema, which will certainly make a lot of folks overdose, but will send others into a hallucinogenic trance they will never forget.

3- Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan
Flirts with the grace and discipline of ballet only to wilfully go off the rails and turn into a riveting mindfuck of a “lezzy wet dream”, in which Natalie Portman amazes absolutely.

4- Christopher Nolan’s Inception
Rarely do we see a picture that so deviously blurs the line between Hollywood blockbuster and art-house film than this utterly unique, unpredictable, mind-blowing visual experience.

5- Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète
A wildly entertaining gangster movie, inhabited by a winning confidence that you don’t need to adopt a solemn tone and an austere style to make a great film.

6- David Fincher’s The Social Network
Full of snappy, rapid-fire dialogue delivered by an awesome young cast, plus extra sharp cinematography and an incredibly effective score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

7- Xavier Beauvois’ Des hommes et des dieux
A remarkable film in every way, solemn and thoughtful but never preachy or excessively dry, deeply spiritual but also firmly grounded into the characters’ humanity.

8- Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful
A visually masterful, immensely affecting film full of humanity, urgency and raw emotion, featuring one of Javier Bardem’s best performances ever, which is saying a lot.

9- John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole
Not the most dazzling, spectacular of pictures, but in a series of small moments and little touches, it gets to you, it really does.

10- David O. Russell’s The Fighter
Not so much a sports drama as a character study, and what great characters they are, as played by Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and others.

2009’s Best & Worst, by Jean-François Tremblay

TOP 10

1. Watchmen: a wondrous film. Take me to the watchtower, so I can listen to the sound of silence, saying Halleluiah. It’s a visual delight for sure, but the moral and philosophical reach of this major work is quite astounding as well – simply consider the haunting question, “Who’s watching the watchmen?” There are heavy themes like one’s calling and the price of a life without compromise, and every character is fascinating – with a special mention for the unforgettable Rorschach, as played by Jackie Earle Haley.

2. Brothers: a tremendously powerful movie about the cost of war and the toll on those fighting it, and how it affects their loved ones. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, imbued with an air of mourning by a fantastic score by Thomas Newman. Natalie Portman deserves an Oscar, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire also give some of their very best performances ever.

3. District 9: what a hypnotizing, thrilling discovery. A deeply layered story makes great use of the faux documentary approach, touching on the man-machine, the man-alien, the fugitive and the beast with a soul, as well as the deceit and cover-up by those in power. It coalesces into a highly resonant, quietly shattering film, worth many viewings.

4. Terminator Salvation: by far the most interesting film in the franchise since the excellent first one, this is science fiction of a high order: it has ideas and it has soul, thanks to a clear story with many evocative touches. Christian Bale is suitably intense, but this is really Sam Worthington’s film. He’s fabulous as Marcus, whose plight is a distant but unmistakable echo of Frankenstein. His character arc with Blair (a superb Moon Bloodgood) is full of tenderness, creating a very poignant relationship.

5. I Love You, Man: there’s a ton of great laughs in this level-headed, intelligent and super-sweet film. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are just brilliant, while the beautiful Rashida Jones is absolutely delightful.

6. Paranormal Activity: if it wasn’t for that awfully disappointing ending, which takes the movie into weak J-horror territory, this would be higher on the list. The slowly rising level of dread and fear is at times unbearable, and some of the stuff we see is profoundly scary and chilling.

7. Love Happens: a lovely, underappreciated film. This quietly romantic movie reminded me of the first few films by Ed Burns, notably She’s the One. The flow and feel resemble those of the best indie films, and there’s excellent work by Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston.

8. Public Enemies: very sharp, very tough and exceptionally well constructed.

9. The Ugly Truth: it’s sexy, spicy, and above all, very, very funny.

10. G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra: completely crazy, but that’s why it’s such a blast. 🙂 The action scenes are super exciting, Rachel Nichols is really hot and Sienna Miller is just stunning as well.

Honourable mentions

The movie coming closest to being on the above list is Adventureland, which has a fabulous soundtrack, great characters and a keen eye for detail. Also: Mes stars et moi, Dragonball: Evolution, Up and Year One.

Worst 5
Revolutionary Road, Obsessed, Martyrs, Pandorum, The Uninvited

2009: To Pandora and Back Again

TOP TEN

1. James Cameron’s Avatar
An instant classic that transports us to a whole new world and introduces us to a fascinating alien people, both of which are brilliantly realized with groundbreaking special effects and most importantly, endless imagination, intelligence and soul. Even if it wasn’t for the breathtakingly exciting and fun action sequences, this would be the best picture of the year.

2. Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Thing Are
From the magic hour cinematography to the equally urgent and sentimental score and the most lovable imaginary creatures ever shown on screen, this simultaneously naturalistic and lyrical ode to childhood is utterly pleasing to the senses.

3. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds
An irreverent World War 2 spaghetti western that doubles as a tribute to the power of cinéma and mise en scène, this taut, hilarious and exhilarating film is filled with unforgettable performances, notably from Christoph Waltz as the villainous Col. Landa.

4. Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer
Two words: Zooey Deschanel. But really, this anti-romantic comedy is also achingly heartfelt and sincere, cleverly written and directed, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazingly convincing and relatable as the guy in love with the Zooey.

5. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker
One of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen, this bomb squad tale features half a dozen nerve-wrecking set pieces and a note perfect, totally badass performance from Jeremy Renner.

6. Neill Blomkamp’s District 9
This was the best sci-fi flick in years until “Avatar” came along, but even though it was overshadowed by Cameron’s film, Neill Blomkamp’s debut remains wildly entertaining, smart and well crafted.

7. Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox
Like Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson didn’t seem like the obvious choice to adapt a beloved children’s book, yet in the process he delivered one of his most personal, idiosyncratic and enjoyable films.

8. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen
Zack Snyder’s detractors say that all he did here was slavishly translate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel masterpiece to the screen. They’re right, and the result is pure comic book geek bliss.

9. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist
A Grand Guignol exercise in excess and provocation that almost dares you to reject it, but even when it goes off the rails, it remains captivating. Chaos reigns.

10. Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man
Through the sheer power of their filmmaking style, the Coen take the miserable life of a mild-mannered Jewish professor and turn it into an offbeat, surreal and affecting experience.

Ralph Arida’s Best & Worst Movies of 2008


1. The Visitor

This movie is so touching in its sincerity and subtle complexity that it definitely stands on a league of its own. Thomas McCarthy is definitely a director to keep an eye on and Richard Jenkins delivers without a doubt the best performance of the year. If you have not seen this movie, please do, it will make you a better person. The Visitor is a fulfilling and enriching movie-watching experience.

2. Slumdog Millionaire
If you are a fan of Danny Boyle, than this movie will not disappoint. From the first visually stunning frame on, Boyle transports you into the colorful Indian slums, and serenades you with an uplifting and truly inspiring narrative. A masterful exercise in style and storytelling, Slumdog Millionaire truly deserves its unanimous critical praise.

3. The Dark Knight
The most efficient comic book movie adaptation of all time has finally arrived. The Dark Knight is a true testament to the Batman mythology, and will finally allow the batman geeks to die knowing that at least one person in Hollywood (Christopher Nolan) understands what this cape crusader is all about. Great writing, epic action, refined performances and stunning music make of this movie an instant classic. Now that this smart and dark action movie was the most financially successful movie of the year, hopefully it will open doors for more to come.

4. The Wrestler
Ever since I was shell-shocked by Requiem For A Dream, Darren Aronofsky has become my movie-directing god. I may be biased, but the critical praise confirms it: no matter what style, no matter what story, this man knows how to deliver memorable movies, and knows how to work with actors. This is the best ensemble cast of the year by far, and one of the most touching stories to have hit the screen in a while. The Wrestler is definitely a must-see.

5. Traitor
One of the smartest movies about terrorism since Syriana, Traitor is, in my opinion, the first North American film to genuinely explore the world and mindset of suicide bombers. Surprisingly devoid of useless political propaganda, and enhanced by mesmerizing performances, this is by far one of the best and most underrated movie of the year.

6. Hamlet 2
Forget Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, this independent comedy is the funniest, rollover on the floor and piss your pants off comedy of 2008 by far! A little of Little Miss Sunshine, mixed in with a pinch of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and a drop of The 40 Year Old Virgin, this zany comedy will definitely become a cult indie-film in no time.

7. Boy A
Technically this British film was made in 2007, but it did not hit our North American screens until July 2008, so I insist on putting it on my list. This story about an 18 year-old murderer fresh out of juvenile detention is stunning and memorable. The movie lingers in your head for weeks as it explores the darker side of the human condition and haunts you with its ominous sense of reality.

8. Zack and Miri Make A Porno
Kevin Smith is finally back with something worthy of his fan base/cult. Zack and Miri is by far the perfect blend between romance and comedy. Crude humor is definitely not an easy feat, and way too many alleged comedies have tanked attempting to master it, but this movie pulls it off seemingly without a sweat. In a nutshell: hilarious, touching, gross… and I’ll be damned if Elizabeth Banks isn’t Parker Posey in a blond wig.

9. Gran Torino
Dirty Harry is back and angrier than ever! Were it not for his arthritis, bad heart and aching back, he’d be beating all the gangsters in his neighborhood to a bloody pulp. Don’t judge this movie by its poster though! As badass as it looks, this is not an action movie, but one about acceptance, tolerance and compassion, and a tale about how it is never too late, no matter how old and senile one seems, to have an epiphany.

10. Revolutionary Road
Sam Mendes proved to us that he knew what suburban life was about with American Beauty. With Revolutionary Road, he confirms to us how much he hates it. Revolutionary Road is a haunting depiction of the monotonous suburban life set in the 60’s starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. The Titanic duo plays a perfect couple that, after moving to the suburbs, goes down the hellish path of self-loathing, self-doubt and ultimately self-destruction. Dicaprio and Winslet play off of each other masterfully and make of this film a very riveting experience.

Worst movies of 2008: While She Was Out, Death Race, Baby Mama, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Seven Pounds, The Happening, 88 minutes, 10,000 BC, An American Carol and Slacker Uprising.