STUDIOS TYPICALLY don’t use the early part of the year to release quality product—although the time it takes for “smaller” films to get outside New York and L.A. does mean that, depending on where you are, you might still be able to catch some gems released at the end of last year to qualify for awards. Movies such as the compassionate and warm Le Havre, about immigration and community; the suspenseful and troubling spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which proves that if the truth sets you free, then deceiving people for a living can wreck your life; or the ambiguous end-of-the- world drama Melancholia, a film that warns about the dangers of cynicism and self-deception alike.
Otherwise, it’s a perfect time to catch up on the 10 best Blu-ray releases of the past year. (As a bonus 11th I’d add Reel Injun, an informative look at the portrayal of Native American people in the movies.)
10. AI. Steven Spielberg’s astonishing examination of what makes being human distinctive.
9. West Side Story. Far more serious than its reputation might suggest, a truly great film about love, race, immigration, and the experience of economic marginalization.
8. Broadcast News. A previous generation’s The Social Network in which TV news people actually talk about the ethics of their work.
7. Carlos. The globe-trotting, more-than-five-hour-long treatment of the life of a megalomaniacal terrorist for hire; revelatory about the foundations of contemporary geopolitics and what never should have been called the “war on terror.”
6. The Tree of Life. A poem about our place in the universe—God-imagining, life-affirming, mystery-respecting, and better experienced than argued about.
5. Solaris. Something like the Russian Tree of Life, as Andrei Tarkovsky’s Christian imagination goes into the barrens of space in search of resurrection.
4. Citizen Kane. This has never looked better, nor seemed sadder: the life of a man who has found external power at the expense of a deadened soul.
3. The Killing. Stanley Kubrick’s early heist thriller: vigorous, entertaining, and facing the darkness of greed.
2. Fanny and Alexander. Ingmar Bergman’s affirmation of community contrasted with a coruscating critique of bad religion.
1. Blue. White. Red. A trio of films from Krzysztof Kieslowski, a man who made one movie each about the Ten Commandments and was instrumental in the abolition of the death penalty in his native Poland. Illuminating the qualities believed to be represented by the red, white, and blue of the French flag, “the three colors trilogy” invites the audience to reflect on our own sense and experience of liberty, equality, and community. They are, taken as a whole, among the most spiritually resonant and elevating films ever made.
Gareth Higgins is a Sojourners contributing editor and executive director of the Wild Goose Festival. Originally from Northern Ireland, he lives in Durham, North Carolina