2012: The Best Movies of July and August

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Every thirty days, I like to post a list of my favorite films I’ve recently watched. Here are the best films I’ve seen throughout the month of September. This list is based on movies theatrically released here in Canada, and I do not include what I have seen at film festivals.

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1: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Screenplay by Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
2012, USA

Despite relying a little too heavily on an overpowering soundtrack, Beasts of the Southern Wild is nevertheless an emotionally powerful journey anchored by a powerhouse performance from newbie Quvenzhané Wallis. Beasts also marks one of the most promising American directorial debuts in recent times. Benh Zeitlin’s imagination is almost as pure as the ignorance from the perspective of the film’s central character. This strange tone poem about childhood and innocence seen through the eyes of six-year old Hushpuppy, oozes with energy, boldness and sincere passion. In short, Beasts conveys everything we love about movies, by successfully engulfing us into a world we ourselves could never dream.

2: Guilty Of Romance
Directed by Sion Sono
Screenplay by Sion Sono
2011, Japan

From prolific Japanese director Sion Sono comes Guilty of Romance (Koi No Tsumi), the third part of the cult filmmaker’s “Hate” trilogy (Love Exposure, Cold Fish). Provocative and evocative as expected, Guitly of Romance is his overtly erotic finale to the filmmaker’s psychosexual, pseudo-feminist musings on contemporary Japan. This dramatic account of three women entangled in a puzzle as disturbing as the body parts lying at its centre, is wildly entertaining, strangely compelling and all out sleaze. Blending genres of noir with drama and mystery, Guilty of Romance provokes all your senses in the best and worst ways possible.

3: The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

2012, USA

The Dark Knight Rises feels as if it was made up of two equal halves, with the most critical moment of the film breaking the movie in half, almost literally. While the second half may have been a let down, the first half is incredibly ambitious to say the least. The opening sequence, a gravity-defying skyjacking, is a tour de force – wildly choreographed, vivid, visceral, and chock full of suspense. That aerial extraction alone is worth the price of admission. Production-wise, effects-wise, Nolan’s movie (with sequences shot with Imax cameras) is staggering. There was an opportunity here for Nolan to stretch the boundaries of what is possible in the genre, alas, the final act becomes a little too conventional – complete with a doomsday device and a ticking-clock countdown. But for every quibble, The Dark Knight Rises remains an excellent summer blockbuster, but not the best film of the month, much less the year.

4: Compliance

Directed by Craig Zobel

Screenplay by Craig Zobel

2012, USA

In many cases when a movie says it is based on a true story, it’s a marketing ploy and usually so little is true. The same cannot be said for the second film from director Craig Zobel. Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction and in this case it is. Ripped-from-the-headlines, this everyday horror / thriller is a skillful, but ruthless re-enactment of a small-scale atrocity that plays out like a twisted illustration of the 1961 Milgram experiment (one of the most famous psychological experiments ever conducted). The film raises troubling questions about the influence of class and education and our response to authority, and illustrates how people, once relieved of responsibility, will commit acts they would otherwise never do. Compliance quickly goes from uncomfortable to unspeakable becoming a test of audience endurance. At times, extremely difficult to watch, but regardless if you like it or hate it, you’ll quickly find yourself engaging in hour long heated debates over the film’s merits with your friends. And that is always a good thing.

5: The Revenant

Directed by D. Kerry Prior

Screenplay by D. Kerry Prior

2009, USA

Often described as the Re-Animator of a new generation, the film which has slowly found a cult following since its festival run in 2009, was only released last month. Written, produced, directed and edited by D. Kerry Prior (visual effects artist on films such as Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm II – IV, The Lost Boys, The Abyss), The Revenant is a truly remarkable experience – a dark comedy that creeps up not to scare its audience so much as surprise us again and again.

– Ricky D

Best of June

Best of May

Best of April

Best of March

Best of January

Best of February

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