Counting down to our Year in Review issue, we present our picks in a variety of genres, wrapping up on December 27 with the year's worst movies.
This time tomorrow: the year's best political documentary.
In the rush to understand what Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece was all about, few critics took the time to savor how funny it was. Most of Philip Seymour Hoffman's dialogue is utter gibberish, yet he performs it as though he's reading the Bible; the more times I see The Master
the more his performance cracks me up. Then there's the great dark joke at the movie's core: that this phony guru's only unfulfilled wish is to receive the unconditional friendship of a borderline-retarded sociopath whose only talent is making moonshine out of cleaning products. It's a satire of the American success ethic that might have earned Mark Twain's admiration. —Ben Sachs
This is a tough one, because I can't remember the last year I saw so many smart, ambitious comedies: Bernie
, The Fairy
, Silver Linings Playbook
, Sleepwalk With Me
, Your Sister's Sister
. The only real measure of a comedy, though, is how much it makes you laugh, and nothing made me laugh like Ted
, Seth MacFarlane's live-action and computer-animated satire about an overgrown kid (Mark Wahlberg) and his walking, talking, swearing, beer-swilling, bong-sucking teddy bear (MacFarlane in a voice and motion-capture performance). The masterstroke was turning this magical being into a washed-up media personality, sort of a plush-toy Danny Bonaduce. —J.R. Jones
David Wain's latest has some of the most assured performances of the year, comedic or otherwise. The eager cast features many of Wain's old companions from the State—a sketch group he helped form in the late 80s while studying film at New York University—in addition to some promising newcomers, most of whom seem to operate in a manner not unlike the characters they portray in the film. The backwoods commune of Elysium, depicted by Wain as a divine abode populated by hedonistic free spirits, becomes a sort of playground for this gang of improv aesthetes, a place where they live in communal comedic harmony. Veterans like Joe Lo Truglio, Paul Rudd, and Kerri Kenney-Silver have never been funnier. —Drew Hunt