Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Top 25 Movies of 2010

Not many movie years out there like this one. It started off godawful slow, but once the summer was half over, it felt like we were in the midst of a full-time parade of landmark cinema. Per usual, there were a few crashing disappointments come December, but overall, there were lots of breathtaking pieces sprinkled throughout these past 12 months, and a shocking number of them were about REAL PEOPLE and REAL EVENTS! 2010 gave us a hefty package of comedy, drama, action, horror, news, romance, spectacle, and mystery, and I haven't even seen everything I need to take in (as usual on filmicability, these lists are a work-in-progress, changing as I catch relevant titles). And, is it me, or are a bunch of these films about letting go and accepting reality? Or am I in that point in my life where I'm only reading this into stuff? (Ahh, pshaw...come to consider it, I think it's all there in the movies.)

Anyway, with only a single frame and a 15-word review limit for each title, here are my choices for the best movies of 2010:

1) Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
Doing nothing requires a lot of effort.

2) Another Year (Mike Leigh)
Passage into old age, with a great filmmaker's coterie of MVPs.

3) The Social Network (David Fincher)
Being social while in a bubble all his own.

4) The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)
A leader finds a voice in a brilliant piece of old-time entertainment.

5) The Fighter (David O. Russell)
An old story made anew by a top-flight acting ensemble under inventive direction.

6) Inside Job (Charles Ferguson)
How the mess we're in happened.

7) Inception (Christopher Nolan)
Time, dreams and movement vivisected. The visual experience of 2010.

8) Boxing Gym (Frederick Wiseman)
Punches thrown and footwork nailed in a Texas locale run over with rhythmic soul.

9) Let Me In (Matt Reeves)
No mean feat, this--to take a much loved movie and best it.

10) The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet)
A final script from Jacques Tati, beautifully realized through animation.

11) The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)
We're up against a comedy of errors if we want to get to the truth.

12) Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
NYC upper-class guilt gets a honest workout.

13) The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Chodolenko)
The comedy of the year, the heartfelt sort of which we rarely see.

14) Easy A (Will Gluck)
The OTHER comedy of the year, with a captivating, hilarious lead performance from Emma Stone.

15) Carlos (Oliver Assayas)
Gangster or freedom-fighter? You decide.

16) My Dog Tulip (Paul and Sandra Fierlinger)
The best animated film of 2010 is also the year's greatest love story.

17) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
Put your quarter in and spar to see if you can love again.

18) Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek)
After Tarkovsky's Solaris, the saddest science fiction movie ever made.

19) Frozen (Adam Green)
Real tension, literally, found in icy climbs.

20) A Letter to Elia (Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones)
The fan letter all us movie geeks would like to compose for our filmmaking idols.

21) Mother and Child (Rodrigo Garcia)
Conceptions made in innocence, regret and hope.

22) Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (Dean Flischer-Camp and Jenny Slate)
The most cuteness-laden and addictive film of the year: I've seen it thirty times.

23) Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance)
Romance, born and snuffed out.

24) Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy) 
A great joke, well told.

25) Lebanon (Samuel Maoz) 
Unfair wartime, seen through the lens of a tank's gunsight.

OF NOTE: Buried, Catfish, Cyrus, Day and Night, Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No, Dogtooth, Fish Tank, Four Lions, I Am Love, I'm Still Here, Insidious, Leaves of Grass, Louie CK: Hilarious, Lovely Still, The Oath, Rabbit Hole, Red, Solitary Man, Smash His Camera, Splice, Temple Grandin, The Tillman Story, The Town, White Material, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?, You Don't Know Jack, Youth in Revolt

GUILTY PLEASURES: Death at a Funeral, Hot Tub Time Machine, Monsters, Multiple Sarcasms, Salt, Stone 

My 10 favorite classics I saw for the first time in 2010: A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, 46); Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003); Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 74); Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today (Stuart Schulberg, 48); Nights and Weekends (Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, 2008); Disneyland Dream (Robbins Barstow, 56); Catalog (John Whitney Sr., 61); Our Day (Wallace Kelly, 38); Hausu (Nobuhiko Ohbayashi, 77); Deep End (Jerry Skolimowski, 70) 

Best Picture: Greenberg
Best Director: David Fincher -- The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth -- The King's Speech
Best Actress: Lesley Manville - Another Year
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale -- The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Greta Gerwig -- Greenberg
Best Original Screenplay: Noah Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh -- Greenberg
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin -- The Social Network
Best Cinematography: Grieg Fraser -- Let Me In
Best Production Design: Eve Stewart -- The King's Speech
Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan -- The King's Speech
Best Editing: Lee Smith -- Inception
Best Sound: Black Swan
Best Special Effects: Inception and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Best Music Score: Alexander Desplat -- The King's Speech
Best Thriller: Frozen
Best Comedy: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (special mention to Black Swan)
Best Documentary: Inside Job
Best Animation: The Illusionist
Best Action Film: Inception 
Best Entertainment: The Social Network
Most Promising Director: Matt Reeves -- Let Me In
Most Promising Actor: Andrew Garfield -- The Social Network and Never Let Me Go
Most Promising Actress: Greta Gerwig -- Greenberg
Most Underrated Films: My Dog Tulip and Easy A
Most Neglected Films: Greenberg, Let Me In, and Never Let Me Go
Most Imaginative Film: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Best Re-Discovery: The Outsiders (director's cut)

MOST OVERRATED MOVIES OF THE YEAR: 127 Hours, Toy Story 3, Animal Kingdom, Get Low, Gasland, Winter's Bone
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS: Shutter Island and Nowhere Boy
WORST MOVIES I SAW THIS YEAR: Kick-AssUnstoppable, and Macgruber
WORST STUDIO FILMS I DIDN'T SEE IN 2010: Alice in Wonderland, The Last Airbender, and Sex and the City 2
WORST INDIE FILMS I DIDN'T SEE IN 2010: The Human Centipede and Babies

PERSONAL HIGHS THIS YEAR: Getting to meet my favorite filmmaker in the world, Mike Leigh, after watching his newest, Another Year, at the New York Film Festival (and meeting a lot of my film blogging colleagues there, to boot). Also, getting to sit a couple hours with Player Hating: A Love Story and War Zone filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh West. Having my 150 Best Movie Endings article twittered about by Roger Ebert in May. Being given, as a token of friendship, my first personal film print of a movie I love, Thanksgiving, by its writer/director Alex R. Johnson. And last but not least, participating in the Movie Geeks United podcast and hitting more than 160,000 hits on filmicability!

BEST MOVIE-WATCHING EVENT OF THE YEAR: Seeing some amazing experimental Super 8mm, 16mm, and video work at the Millenium Film Workshop's monthly first come, first serve "show your own movie" show, along with my friend, celebrated documentarian Richard Sandler (who did The Gods of Times Square and, most recently, the 8mm footage for Winter's Bone; he was unspooling for the first time his newest experimental work, Forever and Sunsmell, based on the piece by John Cage and the poem by e.e. cummings). Saw some incredible work: a piece on food modification by Lily White and an absolutely astounding piece of 70s-era NYC pixilation by a man who introduced himself only as "Mr. E". Seeing all of this in the East Village's historic Millenium, where Stan Brakhage attended many a premiere, was overwhelming!

ASSHOLE OF THE YEAR: The award should go to Mel Gibson, but Armond White squeaks in ahead of the shithead actor, just because I was a witness to his assholery. I like to think of Armond White as an all-around performance artist. There's his goofy, pointlessly argumentative writing, yes, but there's also that way he let a hapless fellow attendee at the New York Film Festival royally fucking have it for deigning to sit in "his chair." I'm sorry, but what an bald-faced fuck. "Your chair?" Gimme a goddamn break. And his notorious hosting of the New York Film Critics award ceremony in January 2011, capped with an insult against my favorite movie of the year ("And thank you to the members of the critics circle for not giving anything to Greenberg") makes me dislike him even more. He's nothing but a rabblerouser, which would be cool if his stuff was fun to read. But his reviews, while literate, are paradoxically rather indecipherable as well as incurably bitter.