End of the year movie polls used to offer consensus; now they preserve film cultures herd-mentality. But anyone who responds to movies for what they meaninstead of the way they are soldmust depart the herd. Thats how to find good, unheralded (often derided) films that dont insult the intelligence. These better-than movies offer subtle, witty art with themes mangled in junk thats praised by the critical confederacy of shills.
The Darjeeling Limited > better than Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead Wes Anderson discards the baggage of the dysfunctional family that Sidney Lumet drags across the screen as dead weight. The unsettling mystery of love is also the theme of Andersons amazing Hotel Chevalier overture-short. Its a no-contest victory of beauty over slovenly ugliness.
Private Fears in Public Places > better than Southland Tales Alain Resnais confirms his Old Master status with dreamlike interplay of Parisians anomie. Richard Kellys futuristic satire feels shoddy and looks crappy.
Hot Fuzz > better than Superbad Edgar Wright borrows American cop movie tropes to update British comedy of manners while frat/fat boy juvenilia finds refuge in unacknowledged soul-brother clichés. Clever vs. Stupid.
The Bubble > better than Juno Israeli director Eytan Fox shames the tweeness of Amerindie formula. Using sex as a metaphor of global relations, he finds the heartbreaking commonality in political/ethnic tensions. It shames privileged, white feminist narcissism.
Lions for Lambs >better than Charlie Wilsons War Robert Redfords brilliant colloquy takes wartime politics sincerely while Mike Nichols snide satire stays above it all.
Diggers > better than Gone Baby Gone Katherine Dieckmann honors the working class while Ben Affleck exploits it. Her charm contrasts his revulsion.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry > better than Knocked Up Homophilia is funnier than heterostupidity. The status-quo audience Judd Apatow panders to is the one Adam Sandler challenges and respects.
The Brave One > better than Eastern Promises Neil Jordan pondered modern revenge and Jodie Foster wrestled with compromised humanity. For David Cronenberg, its all sentimentalized, a true Death Wish sequel.
War > better than The Bourne Ultimatum Philip G. Atwells debut action movie gave momentum to Jet Li and Jason Stathams brotherhood; Matt Damon made Yankee solipsism shakey and nauseating.
Rescue Dawn > better than In the Valley of Elah Werner Herzogs Vietnam movie probes individual patriotism with beautiful hindsight but Paul Haggis condemns Iraq War veterans, reducing their suffering to psychosis with ugly indifference.
No Country for Old Men > better than There Will Be Blood, Zodiac The Coen brothers hauntingly mythologize Americana, while P.T. Anderson and David Fincher make it morbid, sadistic and self-congratulatory.
Amazing Grace > better than Atonement Michael Apted dramatizes Britains 18th century abolitionist movement through splendid imagery and speeches, while Joe Wright revives and trivializes Merchant-Ivory elitism.
Romance & Cigarettes > better than Im Not There John Turturro revealed our pop-music subconscious, while Todd Haynes showed how smartassand unentertaining and non-politicalDylan-worshippers can be.