Well, you know the drill, I’ve taken the liberty of listing the best films I had the pleasure of viewing for the first time throughout the month of March, and to honor it being one-quarter of the way through 2012, I’ll also post a link to my revised “Best of 2011” list. Enjoy if you dare, and as always, feel free to comment on anything you wish.
As crass and violent as it is sporadically touching, Michael Dowse’s Goon chronicles the unlikely rise to minor league hockey glory of a small-time bouncer with a below average IQ. Seann William Scott admirably plays against type as the titular enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders, of whom is promptly put in charge of beating the hell out of those posing a physical threat to the team’s top scorers. The film’s overt vulgarity may prove to be off-putting for those self-deemed more conservative, however the dumb-but-lovable central character and the authenticity of his love for the game despite the disdain of his well-to-do parents aids the film in becoming a funny, pleasantly humanistic character study-cum-sports underdog story.
Every once in a while, an R-rated comedy comes along that’s both intelligent enough to earn its laughs from viewers and consistently entertaining without being too over-the-top. This year’s 21 Jump Street just so happens to fit this mold perfectly, borrowing as little as possible from its source material’s roots so as to remain a purposefully farcical, no-holds-barred laugh riot that rarely if at all falters from beginning to side-splitting end. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum shine throughout their characters’ trials and tribulations as a pair of bumbling undercover cops infiltrating the “seedy” underbelly of a lowly high school drug syndicate, amply showcasing their comedic chops as actors of above average caliber as the film quite breezily appeals both to cinephiles and casual filmgoers alike. One of the more pleasant surprises I’ve experienced in years.
Pairing Almodóvar’s singularly surrealistic, noirish flair with a wildly imaginative script does wonders for this underseen genre-bending effort. Centering on renowned plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard as his latest, highly secretive experiment at first appears to be fueled by a recent familial tragedy, it’s easy to see just why he’s decided to follow through with the taxing task at hand. As events both past and present begin to unfold, details surface that throw both the characters and especially viewers for a loop, allowing us to be consumed by the innumerable intricacies Almodóvar’s script possesses, even if the disjointed narrative’s presentation can feel a bit clunky here and there. As an involving, startlingly original triumph for the auteur however, The Skin I Live In is truly something special.
As one of this year’s infinitely more entertaining efforts, the Duplass brothers stupendous follow-up to 2010’s mumblecore-infused dramedy Cyrus is a bit lofty and admirably so in its addressing of the random and not-so-random connections we make throughout our everyday lives. The existentially charged central arc coupled with Segel’s flawless portrayal as the unassuming, naive and infinitely well-intentioned Jeff are a perfect fit, as is the Duplass brothers’ ability to deftly blend their trademark mumblecore sensibilities with the mildly hilarious and often touching. The final act may feel a bit overblown to some, but for most, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a real treat.
Anyone who’s anyone can attest to having a film strike a particular chord with them, if only on an emotional level. It’s something that undeniably affects how you’ll perceive and subsequently laud that film in relation to your potential detractors, however if the entire production is just that good and then some, you have something wholly unique that’s a wonder to behold. Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter is one such wonder, priding itself on its deft examination of the detriments of mental illness and the toll it can take not just on you, but your increasingly worrisome family, friends and neighbors as well.
Total number of films watched (including re-watches): 19
Other first-time viewings (in alphabetical order): ATM (Brooks, ’12), Battle Royale (Fukasaku, ’00), Friends with Kids (Westfeldt, ’11), Gone Baby Gone (Affleck, ’07), The Housemaid (Im, ’10), The Hunger Games (Ross, ’12), The Innkeepers (West, ’11), John Carter (Stanton, ’12), Martha Marcy May Marlene (Durkin, ’11), Project X (Nourizadeh, ’12), Silent House (Kentis & Lau, ’12), Snowtown (Kurzel, ’11)