One for the cinema: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
For those of you who haven’t yet, it’s time to give this strange franchise a chance. In a breathtaking blockbuster that straddles the fence between social commentary and surprisingly heart-wrenching emotion. Andy Serkis stars as Cesar, a genetically altered simian. He is lovingly raised by scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) until he grows up and is forced to live in a shelter where he is abused and unhappy. Rise will have viewers questioning the differences between humans and our evolutionary counterparts.
One for the kids (but not really): Hugo
Writing off Hugo as another kid’s movie is veritable cinematic blasphemy. Hugo is an ode to the cinematic arts in its purest form. Director Martin Scorsese has the heart-shaped key to viewers’ emotions, and he uses it to unlock a place of innocence that hasn’t been visited in years. Simply put: watch this film.
One for your inner critic: The Artist
This probably isn’t the first time you have heard about The Artist, and it definitely won’t be the last. A clear favorite for the Oscars this year, The Artist has reeled in 11 nominations. So what makes a black and white silent movie one of the most acclaimed films of the year? Joyful imagination, visual style, and a clever cast. The Artist brings back the simple magic of movies stripped of all spectacles and reminds us that the past sometimes must be revisited in order to be perfected.
One to make you smile: Crazy, Stupid, Love
One part crazy, two parts stupid, and three parts love, this is feel-good film at its finest. Crazy, Stupid, Love will leave you with the satisfaction of two hours well spent. A congenial cast and clever comedy make this a film worth seeing, even though it probably won’t be gleaning critical acclaim in the coming months.
One that you might have to watch twice: Tree of Life
Epic in its proportions and brimming with ancient symbolism, this film pushes the boundaries of what cinema can do. The first 17 minutes portray the creation of earth, and not a single word is uttered until 40 minutes in. Needless to say, the film had some viewers walking out of the theater before it even really began. If you’re anything like us, however, that will only make you want to see it more, and you should, if only for the cinematography alone. Tree of Life tells the story of a family in Waco, Texas, complete with an archetypically graceful mother and disciplinarian father. While it is a beautiful portrait of one family, it truly is a portrait of every family since the beginning of time. At parts, you will have tears welling up in your eyes. The catch? You might have to re-watch it to figure out why.
One from abroad: A Separation (Iran)
No film list would be complete without a tip-of-the-hat to the fast growing genre of foreign film. Famous critic Roger Ebert was so taken by this movie that he put it at the top of his film list for 2011, saying that it combines a “plot worthy of a great novel with the emotional impact of a great melodrama.” A Separation involves a deep moral tangle, self-discovery, and a life-draining disease. It is a film that will floor you from a part of the world that is not fully understood.
One to inspire you: Midnight in Paris
It’s hard not to fall in love watching this film, either with Paris or with Gil (Owen Wilson), a lost poet who finds himself wandering the streets of the City of Light at midnight, only to discover that he has been whisked back in time. This may sound like the plot of a French sci-fi movie, but it actually is a romantic comedy written and directed by Woody Allen. This film is a must-see for literature and art history majors, who will experience the joy of seeing heroes like Hemingway and Dali brought to life on the silver screen.
One for the fans: Moneyball
A sports movie that isn’t a sports movie, Moneyball is Jonah Hill’s breakthrough and Brad Pitt’s masterpiece. Offering a new angle on the sport that has long fascinated the nation, Moneyball makes viewers question what goes on behind the scenes of baseball. Billy Bean (Brad Pitt) is an all-too-common sports figure: an ex-player who fell just short of the big leagues and now manages a sub-par team. However, this season is different, as Yale graduate and prodigy Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) helps him reinterpret the game he thought he couldn’t know any better.
One for aspiring badasses: Drive
Extremely stylized and set to an 80’s synth soundtrack, Drive tells the story of a nameless stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) and his beautiful neighbor (Carey Mulligan) as he chivalrously attempts to fight off underworld crime from her doorstep. Gosling takes badass to a new level with art-house violence masked behind a flawless poker face, reminding us, “There are no clean getaways.”