When was the last time you met someone or heard a joke that you would describe as “folksy”? In these cold, modern times it seems “folksiness” is becoming increasingly rare. What do we even mean when we use the term “folksy” to describe someone or something? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as the following: “1. Sociable, friendly. 2. Informal, casual, or familiar in manner or style (i.e. folksy humor).” In other words, there is a certain “innocence” to all things“folksy.” Certainly one conjures memories of everything from Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and his tales of Lake Woebegone to “old-fashioned” sitcoms such as The Andy Griffith Show and distant spiritual descendant Newhart. Continue reading
Michel Hazanavicius’ film is an “old” movie in love with old movies, a faithful homage to the silent film era, and something more – something oddly touching and surprisingly involving. Jean Dujardin, a big handsome matinee idol-looking Frenchman, plays George Valentin, a silent film star in late 20s Hollywood who unintentionally helps herald in the “talkie” era by giving a career boost to a young would-be starlet named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Their love-resent relationship has its ups and downs, with Peppy’s star on the rise and George headed for a big fall, aided and abetted both by a gruff old studio head (John Goodman) possessing great foresight, and by the unforeseen stock market crash of 1930. With a plot that is one part A Star is Born and one part Singin’ in the Rain, and with allusions to everything from Lassie to Fred & Ginger to Citizen Kane, to say nothing of the vague air of James Bond, Errol Flynn and Zorro that permeates the action movies Valentin stars in, this film is for true film lovers only. There’s also some fine supporting work from an ingenious little dog named Uggie.
Every year, it is any critic’s “duty” to put together a list of the “ten best” films of the year. I find year after year that this is a time-consuming and difficult task. How is one who truly loves film supposed to narrow down a list to a mere “top 10″? I’ve tried every way I know how to list, number, and/or categorize my favorite films of the year – a lengthy list, indeed – and it never feels as though I’m doing true justice to those films that don’t fit in a list of ten.
So: I have listed my “top 10″ alphabetically below, preceded only by my two favorite films of the year, then an “Alternative Top 10″ (all the great films that won’t fit in a list of 10). There is then a Best Documentaries list followed by the “Eleventh Place” tie (Honorable Mentions; very good films which didn’t quite reach full “greatness” but were worthy nonetheless). Still, this is all pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. However, as a top ten is some kind of sacred thing for critics, here goes…