— by ALEXA MILAN —
Most of the likely Oscar contenders haven’t even been released yet, but there have already been several amazing films this year that should continue to resonate with audiences and critics alike as the year goes on.
Here’s a look at some of the best movies of the year so far:
5. “Up” — While not quite the masterpiece “WALL-E” was, Pixar’s “Up” comes very close to that level of excellence. Most of the trailers made it look like more of a kids’ comedy, but it’s so much more. The characters, from distant and heartbroken Carl to wide-eyed Russell to lovable Dug, all feel real even though the film is heavily based in fantasy. The film’s opening montage alone is masterful, with its ability to tell Carl and his wife’s entire love story in a span of mere minutes with no dialogue. Pixar movies have always blended laughter, tears and an incredible amount of heart, and “Up” is no exception.
4. “(500) Days of Summer” — Audiences are told from the beginning that this is not a love story, which is part of the reason “(500) Days of Summer” avoids so many Hollywood romance clichés. The film takes a number of risks, from its non-linear storytelling and animated sequences to its use of split-screen and a musical number. But all of these quirks combine to form a unique approach to the romantic comedy. Indie mainstays Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel turn in brilliant performances as Tom and Summer. The soundtrack is also expertly crafted, serving as an emotional backdrop to the story.
3. “Star Trek” — Rather than making just another action movie, director J.J. Abrams combines well-rounded characters, a very complex plot, eye-popping visuals and intense action sequences to create a film that serves as a crowd-pleasing blockbuster and critically acclaimed cinematic wonder. The revamped “Star Trek” appeals to new fans and hardcore trekkies alike, serving both as an homage to the original while simultaneously creating a new universe full of exciting possibilities. Abrams also made a good choice casting fresh faces Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana rather than bigger names.
2. “District 9” — Perhaps the best reviewed action film of the summer, “District 9” recouped its $30 million budget in its opening weekend. Newcomer director Neill Blomkamp, backed by producer Peter Jackson, delivers perhaps one of the most original spins on a sci-fi film, setting a story of alien invasion in a Johannesburg, South Africa slum. The result is suspenseful action combined with a heavy-hitting apartheid allegory. The film’s faux-documentary style works well, giving it a more realistic tone. Lead actor Sharlto Copley also gives a top-notch performance as unlikely hero Wikus Van De Merwe.
1. “The Hurt Locker” — If this little movie that could fails to secure a best picture nomination at next year’s Oscars, then the Academy’s new 10-nominee system clearly doesn’t work. This Iraq-war drama started making the film festival circuit last fall and came out of nowhere this summer as a critical juggernaut. Masterfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker” paints a vivid picture of the Iraq war without a political agenda. Relative unknowns Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie shine in the lead roles, and the movie’s wide array of emotions will resonate with audiences long after they leave the theater.
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