In case you’ve forgotten, or perhaps never knew, I don’t like doing a straightforward list of my ten or twenty favorite movies. Instead, I prefer to do a bunch of lists of my favorite things from films and movies this year, superlatives.
The lists always change from year to year, but two that never fade away are the ones I view as the anchors of the whole shebang: the heroes and the villains. Whether they are straightforward and formulaic, or postmodern and extraordinary, a movie usually has a tussle between the good and the not so good.
All entries contain varying levels of spoilers. Read at your own risk.
As always, the list has no particular order. And my favorite heroes are…..
1. The Driver – Drive
The Driver is a far more violent character than most would expect for me to choose as one of my heroes. Usually, when a guy goes about trying to kill the “bad guys” in order to save the day, they rank outside the hero category in my book because I am tired to death of the myth of redemptive violence.
The reason Driver makes it is because the myth of redemptive violence is turned on its head. This film doesn’t pretend that The Driver isn’t taking darkness onto his own soul to bring an end to the film’s villains. He willingly takes darkness onto himself in order to protect the innocent people he cares about, but loses them in the process. There is a scene in the film I alluded to when I wrote about this film in the past, where The Driver stomps a man to death, and in that scene, without a word, we realize that he will never be with the woman he loves. One kiss, and then he took violence into himself because it was the only way he knew to let the family he cared so much about live in the sunshine. You can agree or disagree with his decisions, but his motives were clear, and in my opinion, heroic.
2. The Boys – Attack the Block
I LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it twice now (along with Hanna, Source Code, and Super 8), and both times I fell in love with a funny, smart, engaging film that deals with serious subtext, while never taking the primary text too seriously. I want to celebrate all of the boys in the film, because when shit gets real, they step up to defend their neighborhood and the people they care about.
However, it’s the narrative focus on Moses, the gang’s leader, which makes the film go. Through him we are able to understand his decisions without ever allowing him to shirk responsibility for them, and he never tries to shirk them. He stands up and does what needs to be done, even when that means it may cost him his life. His dramatic hero sequence from the climax of the film is one of my very favorite scenes of the year.
I would give my left testicle for a sequel, in which it’s a few years later, the monsters have invaded on a larger scale, and Moses is humanity’s best hope of deliverance. It’s too perfect. Come on, folks… make this happen!
3. The Boys – Super 8
I also LOVE this movie. The boys in this are heroes for the same reason as the hilarious gang from Attack the Block. When shit gets real, they stand up and risk life and limb to defend the people they care about.
Sure, it turns out the alien is just misunderstood and mistreated, but they didn’t know that going into it. They just saw said alien taking out soldiers with no remorse. Yet, when someone is in danger, they may not all make it into the lair of the beast, but they are all willing to go there to save their friend’s life.
4. Kermit the Frog
There isn’t much to say. You either get it or you don’t. Kermit has been one of my heroes for my entire remembered life. The message that you can be understated, a little crazy some of the time, a lot melancholy most of the time, and still bring hope and laughter to others, is a message I sure want to believe is true. If not, I’m sort of screwed.
5. Hanna – Hanna
The real hero is Saoirse Ronan for her performance as a brutally well-trained killing machine trying to learn how to be a teenage girl. Watching her face, it’s impossible to believe she isn’t really a sheltered super-soldier seeing the world for the first time.
This girl is the real deal, and her performance is such a giant part of what makes this superb film so beautiful.
6. Cpt. Colter Stevens – Source Code
Even with the Quantum Leap awesomeness set aside, I really did enjoy this movie. In large part this was because I really pulled for Colter Stevens to succeed. I wanted good things to happen to him. A character and performance that reminded me that I actually really like Jake Gyllenhaal is nothing to sneeze at. By the way, what the hell does that phrase mean? Does it mean, I’m not allergic to liking Jake Gyllenhaal? Well, I’m not, I will not sneeze at a hero that saves the day both in the film and in my appreciation of the acting endeavors of Mr. Darko.