miscellaneous commentary

Favorite films of 2010

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The number of movies I see each year in the cinema fluctuated greatly, from 29 in 2006 to 43 in 2007, down to 21 in 2008, up to 44 in 2009 and way down to 17 last year. This is not to suggest that there were not as many good movies last year as in years past, but that I can quite comfortably watch them at home instead of on the big screen. With movies available to rent only a few months after their theatrical engagements, the smart money is on waiting for the DVD.

I saw several great movies last year, and a lot of good ones. The films listed below are the ones I unequivocally recommend to anyone. Ranking movies is asinine, so I will refrain from a top ten list, and instead list them in the order I saw them. Enjoy…..

The Ghost Writer – Ewan McGregor is a ghost writer hired to finish writing the memoirs of a former British PM (Pierce Brosnan) after the first ghost writer was found dead, washed up on the beach. McGregor discovers scandalous information regarding the PM’s past as well as his involvement in the Iraq War, information that puts his life in danger. Brosnan does great work displaying the effortless charm of a recently resigned PM not unlike Tony Blair. Kim Cattrall plays his scheming assistant and Olivia Williams the bitter wife. The bulk of the story takes place in an isolated house on Martha’s Vineyard. The atmosphere is cold and ominous; it is constantly gray and raining. Fear and suspense are built up calmly, slowly, one perilous scene after another. Once McGregor begins to fear for his life, each new character appears hostile (even the old coot by the seaside — Eli Wallach in a nice cameo). The ending comes fast and leaves us devastated. One of Roman Polanski’s best films, and my favorite of 2010.

Inception – Christopher Nolan’s latest head trip is an action-packed version of “Waking Life”. That film’s star, Wiley Wiggins, once described “The Holy Mountain” as “crazy, ridiculous, scary, amazing witchcraft”, a description I feel befitting for “Inception”. Leonardo DiCaprio and company weave through various layers of dreams and reality, getting themselves (and us) lost in the process. But getting lost in these intertwined rabbit holes is half the fun. The crazy visuals — places and objects created out of thin air, collapsing buildings, entire neighborhoods that curl up onto themselves, and an ever-shifting gravitational field — are the real treat.

The American – George Clooney has had a remarkable string of good roles in recent years. In this film he’s a man holed up in a remote village in Italy, biding his time, buying love from a local prostitute and creating special weapons on assignment. Little is said of his motives, his employer or of the intended target of his creation, until the end. This is a quiet, minimalist thriller with plenty of beautiful scenery and camerawork.

The Social Network – the latest great work by David Fincher, who gave us “Seven”, “Fight Club” and “Zodiac” (a personal favorite of mine), and the consensus of many film critics as the best of 2010. A witty, original, fast-pace tale of young geniuses embracing technology to fundamentally change the way we interact with others at the expense of real human connection. Jesse Eisenberg is great as the fictional Mark Zuckerberg, and Justin Timberlake displays some legitimate acting chops.

Black Swan – Darren Aronosfky’s examination of a woman under intense physical demands that give way to psychosis. Natalie Portman is a ballerina cast as the lead in “Swan Lake”. Her quest for perfection, driven by a domineering mother and a demanding director, threatens her grip on reality and induces hallucinations, each one more fantastic and horrifying than the last. The final scene is the highlight of the film: a breathtaking harmony of music, performance, editing, cinematography and special effects.

True Grit – Jeff Bridges gives another career-high performance (following last year’s “Crazy Heart”) but it is Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross who steals the show. Witty, crafty and determined, Ross hires US Marshal Rooster Cogburn to hunt down the man who killed her father. Their journey through Choctaw territory, joined by Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LeBoeuf, combines the best of old-age Westerns – gunfights and sharpshooting, outlaws, Indians and rattlesnakes – with the Coen brothers’ trademark style. Remaking any John Wayne classic is risky business, but this is one that is better than the original.

The first four movies are available to rent, and the fifth and sixth are currently in theaters.


I also liked:
-"A Prophet”
-"Departures" (2008's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film)
-"The Eclipse"
-“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
-“The Girl Who Played With Fire”
-“The Green Zone”
-“I Am Love”
-“Iron Man 2”
-“The Kids Are All Right”
-“Let Me In”
-"The Messenger"
-“The Secret in Their Eyes” (2009's Oscar winner for Foreign Language film)
-"The Town"
-“Toy Story 3”
-"The White Ribbon"
-“Winter’s Bone”

I have heard good things about, but have not yet seen: “127 Hours”, “Carlos”, "Sweetgrass", “Monsters”, “Buried”, "Blue Valentine", “The King’s Speech” and “Somewhere”. If any of these are playing in your area, go see them and then tell me what you think.

A few older movies that I saw for the first time in 2010 and enjoyed tremendously were "Late Spring", "The Naked Prey", "49th Parallel" and "Fanny and Alexander". I highly recommend all four (the extended 5-hour version for "Fanny and Alexander" over the 3-hour TV version).

I did not like "The Losers", the new "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Last Airbender". "Hot Tub Time Machine" was just plain dumb.

A final note –  I love a good horror movie and I am a junkie for violence. And as long as a gory movie has some semblance of a plot, I’ll give it a chance. This applies even to the Saw and Hostel films (I saw the first ones in each series and I think I’ve seen enough). However, I no longer watch movies for shock value alone. So after watching the trailer for “The Human Centipede”, I can live comfortably without ever watching the entire film. The two minutes I endured was more than enough. This movie makes the video for “2 Girls, 1 Cup” looks like a Disney film. Intrepid web surfers will be able to find the trailer online – I refuse to link to it – but I warn against it. This film is gross.


Written by camcarlson

January 11, 2011 at 7:50 PM

Posted in Cinema

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