Sunday, January 2, 2011

10 Best of 2010 (DuranDurand)

I have not seen Toy Story 3, so let’s just get that out of the way shall we. I hear nothing but the best things about it. I’m sure it’s great. I’m sure it should be on this list. It’s not. I’m not here to claim that the films below are THE best of the year, only that they were my personal favorites and I didn’t see everything out there. I’m ok with that, and I hope so are you. I mean, I don’t need to see The Tooth Fairy to feel rather confident in asserting it does not belong on a best of 2010 list. That being said I did see The Social Network. I liked it. I didn’t think it was all it was cracked up to be. I also couldn’t quite get over Sorkin’s penchant for falling in love with his own voice at the expense of his characters. Any way, it’s not on the list so stop looking for it.
In my opinion it’s been a pretty weak year for film. For the first time in years I found I’ve had an easier time singling out exceptional performances rather than exceptional films. There were some great films though, so here you go. I hope you enjoy (in no particular order).

True Grit, the Coen Brothers: It’s pretty much a guarantee that if the Coen’s release a film during the year it will be included in the best of the year lists. This film is all Cogburn, Mattie Ross and Leboeuf so it is a good thing all three actors, and the chemistry between them, are superb. While not drastically different than the version that garnered Wayne an Oscar, this True Grit is all Coen. Their adapted work usually doesn’t hold up to their original material (with the exception of No Country for Old Men), so while this may not hold a candle to A Serious Man, I’ll still take a good Coen brothers film over most others any day of the week.

The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski: If you are like me you probably forgot that this even came out this year. Polanski’s personal life has had a profoundly polarizing effect on the general public in recent times. Thankfully I’m not writing this to address Polanski as a person; I am writing this to say that hands down The Ghost Writer was the best thriller to come out this year. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy has garnered all the press, but I feel those films are overrated. I saw both films the same week and walked away far more impressed The Ghost Writer. Excellent performances, a taut story and an ending to die for all add up to The Ghost Writer proving Polanski’s still got it.

Inception, Christopher Nolan: Let’s get the elephant out of the way. We are, after all, now three films in. Does the top stop spinning!? It’s so deep! Nolan stole everything from Donald Duck! The film isn’t that deep. There is only one character that isn’t completely flat, and yes, there are some pacing issues in the first third of the film but I absolutely loved Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Two things stood out to me about Inception. In an industry of sequels and remakes, that would sooner spend millions to obtain the rights to do a movie based on Mattel’s Magic 8-ball or the game Battleship, Inception was an original (sorry Donald) idea that engaged audiences with a challenging narrative and ultimately was extremely successful at the box office. Take note Hollywood. Please. The Monday after the film opened all of the interns at where I worked did nothing but discuss the film for their entire lunch break. I can’t remember the last film that caused the average moviegoer to analyze a film that closely and then debate it incessantly. It warms my film student heart.

A Prophet, Jacques Audiard (I count this as a 2010 film as it wasn’t released in the US until this year): I saw this is in February and in order to do it justice I would need to watch it again. The critical praise for this film was beyond overly effusive. This is not better than The Godfather. It is, however, a superb film. I was pissed it didn’t win the Oscar for best foreign film. Then I saw The Secret in Their Eyes.

The Secret in Their Eyes, Juan José Campanella (I count this as a 2010 film as it wasn’t released in the US until this year): I can’t figure out what to say about The Secret in Their Eyes. It won the Oscar for best Foreign Film. It should have won the Oscar for best film. Part suspense, part love story, part comedy, each of these elements is blended beautifully. Other than a minor quibble with the ending there isn’t a bad thing I can say about this film and that’s a rare thing. See it if you haven’t. You’ll thank me.

Get Low, Aaron Schneider: I give this film my official ‘best film of the year that no one saw award’. Robert Duvall plays an elderly man, Felix Bush, who has lived in isolation for 40 years. He comes out of isolation because Felix has decided that he wants to throw funeral party. For himself. While he is still alive. Frank Quinn, played by Bill Murray, is more than happy to oblige. At turns humorous and touching, it’s a simple story of secrets, choices we make and forgiveness. It didn’t necessarily blow me away but it does what it sets out to do damn well and that’s good enough for me.

The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper: Graceful. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of The King’s Speech. It’s a classical Hollywood film through and through, the kind that isn’t ever made any more. It also happens to be impeccably executed. That being said, this film rises up on the perhaps Oscar winning performance by Colin Firth and the less talked about but equally brilliant Geoffrey Rush. The King’s Speech sounded boring to me when I first heard about it. It is anything but.

Exit Through The Gift Shop, Banksy: What is this film? Really. I’m still asking myself that a week after seeing it. There have been some great documentaries this year (Sweetgrass for example) and they are probably more deserving of being on this list, but I can’t stop debating this film. Is it real? Is it skewering the audience? Celebrities? Is it one giant put on? There is more to Banksy’s little film than him just turning the camera on Thierry, it is just a matter of what that may be. Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one big joke. I think.

Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky: Is there really any more to say about this film at this point? Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis get it on in case you haven’t heard. Oh yeah, and somewhere along the way Aronofsky made a tantalizing film about ballet and the all-consuming nature of art. Portman shows she can actually act and Aronofsky’s cinematography during the actual performance of Swan Lake is comparable to what Scorsese did with boxing in Raging Bull. Yeah, it is a bit on the nose at times, but it still one of the best films of the year.

Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu: This has been met with lukewarm reactions from the critical community. What do they know? Actually, their complaints and criticisms are valid. The film lurches like a drunk in the middle of a particular bad bender. It’s a hot, two and a half hour mess. I just happen to think that works in its favor, and I loved it. I want to watch it again. Right now actually. It’s rare for a film to keep me off balance, but Biutiful managed to engage me like no other film did this year. On all fronts. Bardem is masterful. AGI’s imagery is at times beautiful, at times haunting. Often times it is both. And while it appears AGI lets the film spiral out of his control there is a method to his madness. That madness may just have turned out the best film of 2010.

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