Best Repackaging of the Bonnie & Clyde Myth
Ain't Them Bodies Saints
(Rated R for some violence)
I'll admit that this wasn't high on my list when I first saw it (partially because the screening I was in involved a major technical snafu in the middle), but I find that the measure of a good film is often whether I'm still talking and thinking about it months later—and with this one, I am. It's particularly notable for how it treats the Bonnie and Clyde-style story: rather than glorify it or revel in their violence, it shows all the ways that their life of crime led to sorrow, while also focusing on the strength of love between a husband and wife. We ran an in-depth profile of director David Lowery this summer and discovered there are both cinematic and Biblical resonances intentionally planted throughout the visually poetic film. And I'll watch nearly anything that stars Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara.
The Movie I'll Watch Over and Over Again
Inside Llewyn Davis
(Rated R for language, including sexual references)
I love this movie. I love it so much that it was a nightmare to write about it, and I wished I had much more time to think about it. It richly rewards a rewatching, and its soundtrack is superb; even if you don't want to see the film, you'll like the soundtrack if you like folk at all—it's got folk legends on it, including Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, and also some of our best new guys, like Marcus Mumford and Punch Brothers (the band where Nickel Creek's genius mandolinist Chris Thile now plays) and the film's star, Oscar Isaac, who turns in unbelievable performances both as an actor and as a singer.
But really, what Inside Llewyn Davis does for me is remind me first that the work of making things is hard, that we can't predict the future, that the best thing to wish for is to keep good company on our journey. And maybe a cat. (Alissa's review for CT.)
The One Movie I Wish Everyone Would See
Short Term 12
(Rated R for language and brief sexuality)
I really did not expect to like this movie when I went to the screening; all I knew was that it was low budget and about a foster care facility for teens, which didn't sound like something I wanted to see at 10 in the morning on a sunny summer day.
Turns out this is one of the best films I saw all year, starring the prolific Brie Larson (who was also in The Spectacular Now) and John Gallagher Jr. (from The Newsroom). Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton originally wrote this as a short film that was nominated for a Student Academy Award, then won a fellowship from the Academy to develop it into a full-length movie. The result—which can be hard to watch, since it's about kids whose parents utterly failed them—is nothing short of stunning, and I haven't stopped collaring people and telling them to see this movie all year. You'll just have to read my review for the rest.
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She tweets at @alissamarie. Her full top ten list is on Letterboxd.