TC Top Ten: Movies

10. Wuthering Heights

In this visceral Bronte adaptation, the tortured young lovers groan under physical and emotional abuse, and creation groans along with them. Director Andrea Arnold’s camera is intimately attuned to the surrounding moors, a distinctly post-Eden wilderness in which brutality and beauty mesmerizingly coexist.

9. The Hunger Games

This science-fiction tale, about a televised game show in which kids hunt each other, worked best as dystopian warping of our current, reality-show culture, in which an insidious combination of obsessive voyeurism and televised exhibitionism has resulted in imago dei-sapping shows such as Big Brother, Wipeout and The Bachelor.

8. The Queen of Versailles

Pundits and preachers love to rail on and on about the supposed sins of America, but we rarely hear about the sin that’s staring many of us in the face: that we’re a country sick with consumption. This documentary, about a timeshare mogul and his trophy wife who comically try to tighten their belts after his business goes under, shoves that reality right in our face.

7. The Master

A kaleidoscopic movie – it can mean something different each time you look at it – this latest drama from American auteur Paul Thomas Anderson struck me as a parable about the agony of belief. Joaquin Phoenix plays a troubled World War II vet who falls in with a Scientology-like cult, and his journey reminds us how believers often live with the tension that exists between assurance and hope.

6. Moonrise Kingdom

Community – a crucial Christian value – has always been a big part of the movies of Wes Anderson, and that’s certainly the case here. Moonrise Kingdom, set on an island of precocious kids and melancholy adults, recognizes community not as some sort of utopia, but as a place where broken individuals can stumble together as they seek their proper place in the kingdom of God.

5. Casa de mi Padre

If the wrongly acclaimed Argo shied away from subtitles precisely to create distance between “us” and its scary, bearded Iranians, this Will Ferrell flick does the opposite. On the surface an affectionate spoof of Mexican telenovelas, it’s actually a slyly subversive political statement. By putting the loveliness of the Spanish language in the mouth of one of America’s biggest comedy stars, Casa de mi Padre emphasizes oneness rather than otherness.

4. Amour

Austrian director Michael Haneke brings uncommon mercy to this unblinking tale of an aging French couple whose contented life is torn asunder by her failing health. The movie is a testament to lifelong marriage and also, in its final moments, a challenge for Christians seeking a fully formed, pro-life ethos.

3. The Secret World of Arrietty

When we think of the beauty of creation on screen, we think of pastoral landscape dramas or nature documentaries. A Japanese adaptation of The Borrowers, in which a family of tiny people lives beneath a house, Arrietty is a reminder that we should include animated films as well. Much of the action takes place in a lush garden, and the soft-focus animation has a painterly, impressionistic quality. It’s if a gentle breeze is wafting across a Monet canvas.

2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Must we always pursue the truth? As a police crew conducts an all-night search for the body of a murder victim in the Turkish countryside, the truth in Anatolia is revealed to have consequences. The closer they get to the facts, the further the pain inflicted by the crime reverberates. This is a challenging film in many ways – it runs 150 minutes – so thankfully it has some of the cinema’s most gorgeous landscape cinematography to also keep you riveted.

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild

A small movie, but one you’ll likely not forget, Beasts is a reality-rooted fairy tale about a brave little girl (stunning newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives with her ailing, alcoholic father in a feral, lowland community. Like Wuthering Heights, this movie’s beauty comes flecked with dirt. It’s an exhilarating metaphor for our current world, one scarred by sin yet on the brink of the glorious kingdom to come.

TC's 2012 Top Ten series also includes John J. Thompson on music, Drew Dixon on video games and Matthew Pittman on television.

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