Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 2 – Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise

Moonrise Kingdom is a film directed by Wes Anderson, with a screenplay written by Anderson and Roman Coppola.  The movie is set on the fictional island of New Penzance off the coast of New England in 1965.  Two 12-year-olds, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, become pen pals and eventually fall in love.  They decide to run away together on the island to pursue their love for one another, but an epic storm is brewing up and is due to hit New Penzance very soon.  With the combination of the storm and the runaway, the quiet, serene nature of this small island quickly turns tumultuously chaotic.

Wes Anderson has made quite a name for himself in the Hollywood as the creator and originator of a very eccentric, nonconformist style of filmmaking.  Some of his most popular films include The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited.  For anyone who has seen any of his previous films, Anderson’s distinct method of filmmaking is unmistakable, and in Moonrise Kingdom, he again employs this same scheme.

Anderson collaborated on this uniquely peculiar screenplay with Roman Coppola, a writer he previously worked with on the script for The Darjeeling Limited.  The two have created a brilliantly refreshing tale of young love, and the entertainingly hilarious nature of the film is brought on strongly by the wonderful piece of writing these two men have created.  Their script has resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

After I rented this movie a while back to see it for the first time, I absolutely fell in love with it—I went and purchased it on Blu-ray mere days after watching it.  It quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time, and it made me a fan of Anderson’s unusual style of filmmaking.  One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the score—acclaimed composer Alexandre Desplat creates a specific tone for the movie through his music, and it truly makes the story even more gripping.

The film features some hilariously interesting characters, played by a combination of star-studded actors and Hollywood newbies.  In my opinion, the two younger actors provide the movie’s brightest performances.  Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward portray Sam and Suzy, respectively, and together they provide for some of the funniest and most endearing scenes in the entire film.  Some great supporting performances are also contributed by some of the film industry’s most enduring performers: Bill Murray plays Suzy’s father, Frances McDormand plays Suzy’s mother, Bruce Willis plays the island’s sheriff, Edward Norton plays the local Khaki scout troop leader, Tilda Swinton plays a character known only as Social Services, Jason Schwartzman portrays Cousin Ben, Harvey Keitel plays Commander Pierce, and Bob Balaban provides the role of the narrator.  This ensemble collectively shines on the screen and makes this film the illustrious piece of art it is.

Also, one of the most recognized hallmarks of any Wes Anderson film is the presence of a cast that features many previous Anderson collaborators.  Moonrise Kingdom marks the sixth Anderson film featuring Bill Murray and fourth film featuring Jason Schwartzman.  Moonrise Kingdom is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

Moonrise Kingdom trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N8wkVA4_8s

Academy Award nominations for Moonrise Kingdom:

Best Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 10 – Looper

LooperLooper is a film written and directed by Rian Johnson.  The movie is set in Kansas City during the year 2044, thirty years before time travel is invented.  Time travel is illegal in the future, and it is only used by the mob on the black market.  When the mafia wants someone killed, they send that person back thirty years where trained assassins, called “loopers,” kill them.  The story follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper who encounters his own self when the older version of himself (Bruce Willis) is sent back from the future to be assassinated.  When a looper comes across their older self, an event known as “closing the loop,” they must kill the older version of themselves or face death by the mob.  When Joe’s older self gets away, a series of wild, electrifying events take place.  Ultimately, the deeper reason for the elder Joe’s return is revealed and the fate of human existence consequently hangs in the balance.

Looper is clearly one of the year’s most confusing films; however, in this case, confusing does not necessarily equal an immediate dislike for the movie.  In fact, Looper was one of my personal favorites released in 2012, and I rushed to buy it on Blu-ray the day it came out.  Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) creates a landscape in both the past and future that resembles the darkest of dystopian societies, and his use of short, expeditious scenes plays perfectly along with this theme.  If you are a fan of sci-fi thrillers, you will definitely want to check this one out—it is essentially a mix between The Terminator (1984) and Minority Report (2002).

Since Looper was released in September, it has garnered significant critical acclaim, and it was featured on a variety of important lists of top films of the year.  With that being said, it has not been nominated for any major movie awards.  The only noteworthy nomination is for Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards.  Even without any momentous award nominations, I still view Looper as one of the best movies of 2012.

One strong point of the film that critics across the nation have praised is the cast.  Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Premium Rush) plays young Joe and Bruce Willis (Pulp Fiction, Die Hard) plays the elder Joe, and the two bear a striking resemblance in the film—this is because makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji created various prosthetics for Gordon-Levitt to wear to resemble Willis’ facial features.  In the diner scene when both versions of Joe are sitting across a table from each other, it is blatantly visible how alike they truly look.  Not only does Gordon-Levitt mimic Willis’ physical features, he also engages in the action scenes of the film in the same nature as Willis has been doing for his entire career in movies like the Die Hard and The Expendables franchises.

Solid supporting performances are given by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria) as Sara, the farmhouse owner that young Joe seeks refuge at while hiding from the mafia, and Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, The Newsroom) as Abe, the guy the mob sent back to the past to manage the loopers.  The breakout performance, however, is from Pierce Gagnon as he portrays Sara’s son Cid, a young, innocent-looking boy who ends up being more than meets the eye.  Looper is rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity, and drug content.

Academy Award nominations for Looper:

NONE

Looper trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQuhsmtfHw

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo