Monday, June 13, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2010: Re-Issue

1. The Social Network

I can easily say that this is the best film of the year. It is brilliant; it is complete. I've been a staunch supporter of David Fincher for the past ten+ years. He's underrated and was completely screwed over at the Oscars this year - a damn shame. Anyway, I was actually able to appreciate this movie even more after watching A Few Good Men. It began to feel more mature and less "Hollywood." The Social Network is an exploration of life that doesn't dwell within the confines of your typical Hollywood film. There are no clear heroes and villains; there is no clear resolution. There's no cheesy dialogue or unnecessary scenes. Everything about this movie works. Also on display here are some very fine performances - Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, and Justin Timberlake are flawless and real. And I don't mean flawless in the sense that Eisenberg perfectly portrayed Mark Zuckerberg. I think that too many people are getting caught up in the debate of whether the film is one hundred percent accurate or not. No film is one hundred percent accurate. What I love about the script here is that it focuses on different points of view. We're not getting one story here - but several. And hats off to Fincher and Aaron Sorkin because the movie is never confusing or dull. You've also got to love the Trent Reznor score. Great all-around film.

2. Another Year

There's a lot to say about this film, and I watched it just last night. One thing to instantly take away from it is that the performances are all very authentic. Jeff told that the director, Mike Leigh, improvised with the actors to come up with the dialogue. That seems to make a lot of sense now, as the dialogue was very real, yet it never felt improvised. I don't know, it was just seamless. Obviously Mary is a great character, and Lesley Manville plays her flawlessly. There were moments in the film where I was absolutely annoyed by her and then others where I couldn't help but feel massive sympathy toward her. The dynamic between her and Tom & Gerri was something that I think we can all relate to. I think we've all had friends where we get kind of sick of all their drama and unhappiness - yet they're a close friend and you accept them and try to help them out as best you can.  I love the last shot where Mary is sitting at the table and suddenly the audio cuts out - yet the camera stays on her for about thirty more seconds or so. I also just really love the concept of the film: Another Year. Since graduating from high school, the years have gone by exponentially quick, and the years seem to blend together. There's the scene after Ronnie's wife's funeral where everyone is reminiscing and Joe forgets which year an event occurred (something like that) but it just really felt familiar to me.

3. True Grit

It's truly a gift that the Cohen brothers seem to put out a movie each year. True Grit is Joel and Ethan back to their best - both Burn After Reading and A Serious Man were good, but this one comes closer to No Country For Old Men. And speaking of Oscar snubs, Hailee Steinfeld should be the proud owner of one right now. I haven't seen the original John Wayne version, though I've seen some clips on AMC. I don't know that I will ever watch it because I honestly don't care for John Wayne, and my friend Sharon (who's currently reading the Charles Portis novel) has told me that the Cohen's version is pretty much a word for word adaptation. But she also stated that the movie was funnier, which I would expect. And that's really why I love the Cohens. They provide accurate portrayals of the books, and also do a great job of improving on them. And anyone who says that Jeff Bridges' version of Rooster Cogburn can't hold a candle to John Wayne can piss off. Jeff Bridges is the better actor (Wayne is only iconic as this point) and Bridges is so much better in True Grit than he is Crazy Heart - for which he won an Oscar.

4. Inception

Tough call here because I wasn't sure whether or not this movie would be usurped, after having just watched Blue Valentine. I'm going to go with Inception (for now), because of my love for Chris Nolan and because of the originality of this script. I've talked about this movie with Jeff many times. It should be viewed as a heist film - like Ocean's 11 - and that's why the script doesn't take the time to explain the stories of the other characters. In Ocean's 11, we only learn the most about Danny Ocean. In this case, we have Dom Cobb, played brilliantly by Leo. But yeah, there are too many complaints about this film that I feel are unwarranted. I love it for its ambition. I love it for the subject matter of dreams. The Science of Sleep was a fun movie, but Inception is such a better film. Nolan came up with a highly original concept, and I don't think he should be criticized for that, even if you think he ultimately failed. I get that Ellen Page's character is annoying and a fill-in for the audience. It doesn't really bother me, though. I've seen it multiple times and each time I get hung up in the love story between Leo and the beautiful Marion Cotillard. I was consumed by the cool persona of Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's respective characters. And that's without even mentioning the visuals. Gordon-Levitt's zero-gravity fight scenes are always a joy to watch. And that sequence was beautifully executed in Nolan's decision to make the set they shot in rotate. I also love the scenes with Ellen and Page walking through dreams -with her manipulating the architecture and the cafe and street exploding. Great stuff.

5. Blue Valentine

Maybe someday this movie will overtake Inception. I have to see how it sits with me, having just watched it. I've felt for a while now that both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were some of the best actors currently working. This film is a great showcase of that. The scene near the end of the film when Gosling confronts Williams at work is obviously very intense and real. It was interesting to see Gosling completely lose control in that way. He was scary and intimidating. He pulled it off perfectly. I also got a strong sense of Michelle Williams' character early on that I was able to understand why she felt the way she felt. That isn't to say that Gosling's character was such a terrible person who deserved to be divorced. But I could understand why she was just tired with him and why she couldn't do it anymore. Another interesting thing about the film is the use of flashback intermittently. I wonder if the audience is supposed to say to themselves, "Aw, they were once in love. They just need to realize it again" as if there is some hope for them. If you like someone, you want things to work out for them. You also have to consider their daughter in the relationship. But honestly, I never had the impression that the relationship could be salvaged. I don't know. Just a thought.

6. Biutiful

Javier Bardem gives another powerful performance here. The film is very sad and can be tough to watch at times, especially what happens to the sweat-shop workers. But despite how depressing and messed up most of it seems, I love the ending - the way he dies and what he sees as a result. When he's standing in the snow with his father, it's a beautiful scene. I really like the dynamic between the family. Because Marambra is so complex and kinda fucked up, it makes it that suck that much more that Uxbal would die. And with Uxbal, he has a lot of people depending on him, not just his children, so his death really brings about a huge loss. His line of work is also something that's debatable. While it's nothing that should be promoted in any country, he does what he can to find work for people. I don't know, it's a very gray issue and I like that about it.

7. 127 Hours

James Franco is the shit! Sorry, I was watching Freaks and Geeks recently, and I felt that that needed to be said. He carries this film. I was never bored by it, and Franco and Danny Boyle both deserve a great deal of credit for that. Danny Boyle is one of those directors that if you watch any of his stuff, you instantly realize how talented he is. I don't know - it just seems obvious to me...and especially with this film. Think of the shot where the water travels up Aron's hydration pack or the shots of Aron's internal system. He's a very clever director. I haven't read Aron Ralston's story, but I think this film is a great tribute to what happened to him. The scene where he begins to see everyone from his life is very emotional and interesting. And yes, the end with the Sigur Ros track is definitely one of those scenes where you get chills down your back.

8. Black Swan

I feel like Natalie Portman's performance was a real transformation in this film. Obviously I'm not alone in that opinion, seeing as how she won every award this year, but I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that. She was good in Closer, horrible in Revenge of the Sith, and fantastic here. And obviously Portman's character in the film undergoes a transformation as well. But I feel like she really embodied Nina Sayers. She is that sweet, innocent girl who has the potential to do very dark and mature things. Great stuff. Also, I really got the sense that Vincent Cassel character allowed for Darren Aronofsky to be a character in the film. And there I'm referring to the fact that Aronofsky played a lot of mind games with Portman and Mila Kunis. I love the ending - it's very dark and fitting...or, "perfect," as Nina says. And my favorite shot is when Portman is spinning on stage, and with each turn she turns more and more into a black swan.  Visually stunning.  Beautiful. But yeah, I'm not big on thrillers that make you jump in your seat - this film is the exception. 

9. Winter's Bone

The best part about this film is the acting. John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence are perfect and deserving of acclaim (too bad I didn't feel the same way about Hawkes while he was on Lost). Everyone in the film is authentic. Teardrop is a great character because he's both frighteningly intimidating and a caring, supportive Uncle to Ree. I really like the scene where Ree is talking to the Army recruiter. Your heart just goes out to here. Her life story is a tough one to watch, but Lawrence does a hell of a job in portraying it.

10. Shutter Island

When I saw this movie in theaters, I really loved it. Since then, my admiration for it is kind of on the decline. I'm not sure why, but it is. Once again, Leo is great. I'm glad Mark Ruffalo got the role as his partner Chuck - he's phenomenal. The script is captivating. It's a mystery that you never feel bored. And then there's Scorsese...a man who needs no introduction. And so, the cinematography is great and beautiful...even when the images are most disturbing. But I love the shot of when Michelle Williams dissolves into ash. The Concentration Camp scenes are also very haunting. But with that background for Teddy, you see that this film is really hitting on larger themes. The theme here being the idea that people can be absolute monsters. The scene were Teddy comes home to find his children in the lake is also very painful to watch. But yes, I wouldn't call this a perfect movie probably due to the extent that Ben Kingsley explains Leo's condition. I just feel it could have been done better, I suppose.

Honorable Mention: Catfish, The American, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Never Let Me Go, Inside Job, I'm Still Here

Shite Films: Alice In Wonderland, Prince of Persia, Date Night, Hot Tub Time Machine

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