1. “Room 237” — This documentary about some people’s unusual interpretations behind the true meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is like having a schizophrenic gently whisper their paranoid gibberish in your ear for 90 minutes. In other words, heaven.
2. “The Counselor” — It’s hard to tell if this ridiculous movie is pure genius or pure garbage, but whatever the case may be, I loved every second of “The Counselor,” from the oddly verbose dialogue to the weird fact that everybody simply refers to Michael Fassbender’s unnamed lawyer as “The Counselor.” This is “Exhibit A” in why talented people (in this case, Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy) should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want.
3. “Pacific Rim” — A summer movie so good it made other summer movies look boring in comparison. Once you’ve seen giant robots reach into the gaping maws of razor-headed Cthulhu-esque beasts, tearing their luminescent, lotus tongues out of their mouths, and eventually stabbing them with immense wrist-mounted swords, every other movie looks like grainy Super 8 footage of finger puppets being tossed against a screen door.
4. “Gravity” — Apart from being one of the best IMAX experiences in recent memory (when Sandra Bullock cries you can practically taste her grief), Gravity is one of those rare films about the triumph of the human spirit that doesn’t make me vomit in protest. I hate the human spirit. What has it ever done for me besides make me eat too many chicken wings and cause me to fall asleep at the mall?
5. “Anchorman 2” — Where else are you going to see Harrison Ford turn into a werewolf? Or a floating John C. Reilly suck the souls out of people’s bodies as he promises that a “mint julep is waiting for them on the other side?” If not for “The Counselor,” “Anchorman 2” would easily be the weirdest wide-release film released this year.
6. “Blue Jasmine” — I didn’t like this film for the various sundry reasons that other critics liked this film. I liked “Blue Jasmine” because it managed to do something I never thought I’d see; it forced critics to say something nice about Andrew Dice Clay.
7. “Elysium” — As you watch “Elysium,” you know you’re being manipulated. You know the villains are one-dimensional cartoons, you know this film is oversimplifying complicated issues, but you’re too busy being entertained to care. “Elysium” is a true modern era grindhouse movie. It’s exploitive, violent, and completely sincere. It’s perfect.
8. “You’re Next” — Characterized by an oppressive sense of dread and combined with a pitch black sense of humor that asks the question, “What would happen if the dysfunctional family from ‘The Celebration’ crossed paths with the sack-headed psychos from ‘The Strangers?’” “You’re Next” was an unjustly overlooked entry in the home invasion genre that deserved a wider audience.
9. “Wrong Cops” — Much like Harmony Korine (see “Spring Breakers”), Quentin Dupieux’s films are frequently affected and annoying, but “Wrong Cops” works surprisingly well. Partly because the premise is ripe with potential (a group of crooked cops spend their day doing everything but standard police work) but mostly because the cast is made up comedic ringers like Eric Wareheim, Steve Little, Ray Wise, the criminally underused Arden Myrin, and a surprisingly funny Marilyn Manson. Sharp, surreal, and frequently hilarious.
10. “Spring Breakers” — Much like Quentin Dupieux (see “Wrong Cops”), Harmony Korine’s films are frequently affected and annoying but “Spring Breakers” works surprisingly well. Partly because of the film’s subversive stunt-casting, but mostly because “Spring Breakers” resembles “Scarface” by way of a particularly frantic after school special. Granted, you can practically see the quote marks behind every line of dialogue in “Spring Breakers,” but it’s also the kind of electrifying garbage that is impossible to resist.