Monday, January 03, 2011

Best of 2010: Film

I saw a lot of movies this year, thanks to my membership in the WGA and the flood of screeners that arrived at the end of the year. So, I caught almost all the big Oscar movies, and, ironically, few of them actually made it to the list. But, some did in what I'd consider over all a fantastic year for movies.

10. The Fighter

There were a bunch of movies in contention for this tenth spot on the list (and I still haven't seen a couple of big 2010 movies I'd like to have seen [Blue Valentine and Mesrine in particular]), but The Fighter ultimately won out over True Grit, Somewhere and The Runaways. The reason is it was one of the most emotionally engrossing films I'd seen this year. There was some cliché plotting along the way, and it sort of fizzled at the end, but through the Sanchez fight, this was a consistently intense, and emotionally gripping film. I hated Christian Bale's character so much, and Amy Adams really jumped out as a hard edged lady who took no shit from anyone. Her performance totally changed my perception of her as an actress, it's one of the most electric roles of the year, and really made the movie. I just wish it had kept up that momentum and ferocity to the ending.

9. The Kids Are All Right

I've written a lot about how TV is the trend setting, innovative visual storytelling medium now, so consider a huge compliment to say that The Kids Are All Right had the character depth and easygoing realism of a great TV show. Tonally, it recalled Six Feet Under in its depiction of a family that has its issues, but loves each other and is trying to do good in a world full of temptation. The loose narrative leaves plenty of room for character exploration and the uniformly excellent cast makes it all work. Julianne Moore is fantastic here, reminding me why she was once my favorite actress out there. But, Mark Ruffalo really steals the show as the ne'er do well, but charming absent father. He's so charismatic and engaging, it's easy to see why the whole family falls under his spell. A really satisfying adult targeted film. This is one of those movies that people say they don't make any more.

8. Inception

Inception is one of the most visually ambitious films of the year, and features some of the most dazzling action sequences I've ever seen. It's the action movie as crazy videogame, stacking level after level of crazy obstacle on top of each other, and indulging in a mix of intense psychology and pure action movie joy in sequences like the snow attack or zero gravity battle. It's a great looking movie, with a phenomenal score. What holds it back from greatness is the reliance on a dour, tormented hero who can't express himself emotionally (i.e. every single Chris Nolan character ever). It's a film about dreams that feels so utterly controlled and without any random elements sinking in. That stops it from being an all time great movie, but there's so much good in here, I can forgive the flaws.

7. Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance

The second new Evangelion film didn't quite pull all its elements together. But, it was full of very haunting moments, and its finale was exhilarating and points to a bold new direction for the rest of the films in the series. This whole project remains caught between breaking new ground and paying homage to the past series. This one manages to strike a pretty good balance, and presents a nicely distilled version of the original series' psychological troubles. But, I would still point a new viewer to the original series over this version.

6. Toy Story 3

Pixar continues one of the longest hot streaks in film with their most emotionally potent film yet. Toy Story 3 is about 80% really good, fun film. The whole imprisonment at day care is funny and full of well executed set pieces and gags. But, it's the other 20% of the film that just emotionally anhialates viewers. There's hints of this in the opening, particularly during the videotape sequence, but it comes to the fore most notably in the inferno sequence, where the characters confront their own mortality and prepare to face death. Lingering in the fire past the point where it's a cliffhanger and to the moment where everyone accepts death, it's intensely harrowing. After crossing through death, they make it out to a new life in the emotionally overwhelming finale. For what's ostensibly a kid's film to be so emotionally effulgent is a real feat, and a testament to Pixar's skill.

5. Tron: Legacy

In a year of visually stunning films, none could match the production design and overall aesthetic of Tron. Updating the 80s style for the present day, everyone in the film looked intensely stylish as they moved through gorgeous environments, backed by the fantastic Daft Punk score. Beyond the fantastic look, the film offered a solid take on the hero's journey, definitely calling back to Star Wars at times, but delivering a story that satisfied. Its video game based universe might not make any sense objectively, but in the world the story it all hangs together for a visually dazzling, emotionally engaging ride full of really cool moments. I wish everyone dressed like the characters in this movie do.

4. Black Swan

Black Swan is another great Darren Aronofsky film about obsession and a character's desire to be the absolute best, at the cost of their sanity. I love the intensity of the film and the frequent surreal indulgences. Natalie Portman is fantastic, and everything in the film draws you into her mental world, which is less intriguingly ambiguous when everything wraps up in the end. It's a totally engrossing film, and one of the most refreshingly insane movies I've seen in a while.

3. The Social Network

The so called 'Facebook' movie is actually a rather classical look at the corrupting influence of power and money. But, thanks to David Fincher's ice cold direction and Trent Reznor's alien electronic score, it becomes something more. It's a deconstruction of a world that becomes increasingly separate even as technology brings us together. I don't usually love Fincher, but the really strong Sorkin script proves the perfect anchor, filled with biting humor, keeping him from drifting off into the excess darkness of some of his other works. This is a great example of two auteurs coming together to make one great film.

2. Runaway

This Kanye West film wasn't a feature, but it demonstrates a wonderful understanding of what film can do as a medium, an audacious half hour full of incredible visuals and strange ideas. The film throws back to European art cinema motifs, with a portentious symbolic storyline that recalls Fellini, and a strangely mannered acting style that is at once alienating and intriguing. But, combined with an incredible soundtrack, it becomes a really unique package full of amazing moments, like the opening slo-mo shot of Kanye in front of a fiery explosion, or the final Phoenix ascent. So many films fail to make use of true visual storytelling, this one is a consistently riveting experience, one that lingers with me far more than most traditional features.

1. Enter the Void

Speaking of experiences, Enter the Void is attempting something entirely different from virtually any film made this year, or any other year. Gaspar Noe isn't telling you a story about someone else as he is in making you feel and experience things. The movie's title is a command, you must enter the void, and by the end of the film, you'll have passed through death and rebirth and experienced a dizzying array of images and sounds. At times, it's an assault, at times it's soothing and beautiful, this movie did things that no other film ever has. I think it's less cohesive and emotional than Irreversible, but it's just as technically dazzling and has more moments of abstract transcendence than Irreversible did. Watching the final half hour or so, in which the camera winds its way through Tokyo's sky before settling in a hotel to watch a variety of couples have sex, you reach a total altered state, and what could be vulgar becomes absolutely beautiful. This film is an experience, and I'd love to see more filmmakers approach the medium like Noe does. Film can be a great narrative medium, but it can also be so much more, and this film shows you that.


Anonymous said...

Whats with 127 Hours? Have you not seen it or just didn't like it enough?

Patrick said...

I haven't seen it yet, hence the absence. It's actually the only of the best picture nominees I haven't seen, so I'm hoping to get to it soon.

Bones said...

Check out Kanye West's new video for All of the Lights. He uses Noe's credit sequence from Enter the Void... not sure how I feel about that.

Patrick said...

I did see it, and though it's a pretty direct bite, I feel like the video is electric enough that I don't mind the stealing. Very cool to see that film moving out into the wider culture.

malpractice said...

my top 10:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network
Never Let Me Go
Blue Valentine
Animal Kingdom
The Last Exorcism
The Fighter
The A*Team
I'm Still Here

honorable mentions:
The Runaways
Get Him To The Greek
The Town
Tron: Legacy

Patrick, did you just not see Scott Pilgrim ? shocked it didn't make it on your list at all. nothing topped that film for me this year.

Enter The Void would of been in my top 5 as well but it's technically a 2009 movie.

Patrick said...

I saw Blue Valentine after making the list, and if that was on it, it would be #3 or #4, really fantastic filmmaking.

As for Scott Pilgrim, I did see it, but to me, it lacked the soul and depth of the comic. I liked a lot of the stylistic elements and thought it was a solid adaptation of the series, but similar to the way the Watchmen movie seems just like Watchmen, but is missing some intangible, I didn't feel as wrapped up in Pilgrim as I'd have wanted to.

I did love the sixth book though, a really great capper to the series!

Reimagined Restorations said...

I loved inception. I love movies that make you think.

Anonymous said...

Black Swan, Toy Story 3 and Inception are the best movies. I have seen these movies in theaters. These are the best and famous movies. You can also Watch Movies Online.

taubi15 said...

Love the list but where is 127 hours..
Check out

ZoeBug said...

I have to say I agree with Inception. I thought it was more of a smart summer blockbuster with some stunning visuals. It certianly left something to be desired.

ZoeBug said...

I have to agree with a lot of what you said about Inception. I thought is was more of a smart summer blockbuster with some great visuals. it certainly left more to be desired.

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wmv player said...

I just have seen the black swan, and I can tell that it rweally amazing film. It has not usual but very timely plote. Portman's play was amazing. She really deserved her Oscar. I was really surprised how she can change her expression! I like this movie really much!
I want also add that I'm agree with you! This list really includes the best films 2010.

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I have to agree with a lot of what you said about Inception. I thought is was more of a smart summer blockbuster with some great visuals.
I have a DVD Recorder to record TV shows onto DVD. I want to copy those shows to my computer and then convert them to MP4 so I can watch them on my phone.

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