By WGBH News
Dec. 22, 2011
BOSTON — Need to escape from the family this month? Finally have time to catch up on all the movies you missed? WGBH News has recommendations for your vacation viewing from critics Jared Bowen, Ty Burr and Joyce Kulhawik and host Emily Rooney.
Topping their list are two films about films.
Must-see: The Artist (Ty, Jared, Joyce)
Who knew a silent film could capture our attention in the era of… well… “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”? And it’s a crowd-pleaser, not arty. As a silent movie star wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with a young dancer set for a big break. Serious Oscar buzz. Opens in Boston on Dec. 23.
Runner-up: Hugo (Jared, Ty)
Martin Scorcese’s first film sort-of-for-kids (not at all just for kids), set in 1930s Paris. An orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. Ty: The first 3D movie I've ever seen where the gimmick really works.
The rest of the best, in alphabetical order:
Bill Cunningham New York (Ty)
A documentary profile of the noted veteran New York City fashion photographer.
Jared: “I definitely did not see a funnier movie this year.” Laughed so hard he actually cried. And how about something revolutionary: Give Melissa McCarthy the Oscar. Boston Society of Film Critics named her best supporting actress of the year, so maybe….
The Clock (Ty, Emily)
A 24-hour film installation made of clips from the history of cinema, all built around the moment when you see a timepiece… that’s synchronized with real life. Extended at the Museum of Fine Arts through Dec. 31.
The Debt (Jared)
Most people missed this, despite stars Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain. Jared: Intense and riveting — it’s great when the film ends and you can finally catch your breath (which you’d been holding forever).
The Descendants (Joyce, Ty)
Joyce: Two thumbs up. Captured the reality of a person’s life. Ty: Not the greatest of Alexander Payne’s films, but still loved it — so many small human truths. Jared begs to differ: zero emotional resonance.
A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong. Badly marketed to the public, it’s actually a moody, existential action film, Ty says.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Emily)
The American film adaptation arrives. Violent, Emily says — but she liked it anyway. Jared admired the director’s refusal to sugarcoat the books.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Jared) (kids’ pick)
Brought the magic back to a set of films that had gone off the rails. An exceptional end to the series.
The Help (Jared)
Glossy, slick and somewhat pat — but that doesn’t matter with an extraordinary cast led by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone.
Jane Eyre (Jared, Emily)
Michael Fassbender explodes off the screen (and into a year of prominence) in an exquisitely rendered film. Jared: “My heart was pounding — and I’m not one of those rom-com guys.” Emily loved it too.
Midnight in Paris (Jared)
Woody Allen. A quirky, sweet film with a most novel concept. Ty: Everybody likes that film. Allen’s biggest money-maker ever.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Emily)
Joyce: It’s a popcorn film, it’s about effects and it gives you your money’s worth. Ty: This is what Tom Cruise does best. Our serious host Emily admits she likes “all that kind of stuff.”
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
My Week With Marilyn (Jared)
Jared: A "Vanity Fair" film — completely over-stylized — and for all that he loved it. Eddie Redmayne is utterly charming (even though he only ever smiles) and Michelle Williams absolutely captivating. Plus there’s a decadent supporting cast including Branagh, Ormond and Dench. Joyce: For me, the film is Michele Williams. Tried to resist Williams but couldn’t. Ty agrees: Extraordinary performance.
Le Quattro Volte (Ty)
Italian film: An old shepherd lives his last days in a quiet medieval village perched high on the hills of Calabria in northern Italy.
A Separation (Ty)
Iranian film: A married couple are faced with a difficult decision: to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent.
War Horse (Jared)
Horse-lover Jared says: The actual war crux of the film slips into Spielbergian rhythm and just gallops brilliantly. Joyce, however, was seriously disappointed in the last third. Ty: Ends up more cliché than it should.
Win Win (Ty, Jared)
The way we’re living now: A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of a client he's double-crossed enters his life. Stars the incomparable Paul Giamatti. Jared: Life made exquisitely funny.