I have mixed feelings about this year. There was a giant gaping hole where the summer movie season was supposed to be. It felt like a lot longer of a drought, but when I looked back at my notes, journals, facebook updates and whatnot over the year I do feel like it was a good year… or at least that the films that stood out to me were not just good, but all very different. In retrospect, I do feel like it was a special year in film, even though it wasn’t a full one.
my top ten in no particular order:
Incredible film. I have yet to post a review, in part, because I’m being told by various sources in the media that I’m a terrible feminist if I liked it and I plan to write some kind of defense and argument against those assertions. I haven’t had time to deliver this, so I’m holding out a little longer. In short, I feel that this really works as a companion film to The Wrestler and that both films (especially taken together) say a lot about gender and issues surrounding control and manipulation of the body.
The Social Network
Fincher really hit the mark with this one, talk about being timely and on top of your game. I would go as far as saying that he and Jesse Eisenberg deserve a little bit of the credit for Zuckerberg getting the Time Person of the Year honor. Mostly because they did something amazing in the public eye, they reminded everyone that Zuckerberg is a person not the sum of his Facebook empire and some soundbytes and scandals. And with what style! The movie was visually beautiful, Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield were completely compelling and the soundtrack ALONE was worth the ticket price. Bonus points for that really amazing use of tilt-shift and Justin Timberlake tearing up an appropriately cocky portrayal of Sean Parker.
I think even my dog was tired of hearing me talk about this movie. I blogged about it here and here if you want to read more. Needless to say, I really loved it and plan to watch it a few 100 more times on dvd. (and will still be picking it apart mentally)
Basquiat: The Radiant Child
By far the best documentary I’ve seen in years. I would have watched anything to do with Basquiat anyway, but the film that Tamra Davis made captured something really beautiful. This is a film that shows real context to his story. It pieces together a really full portrait of him from the angles of the people close to him, discussion of the downtown creative scene on the streets and in the clubs of the dirty village and the flip side into the big business art world of soho. It goes deep. Really deep. If I write more about it, I’m going to get emo, so I will leave it there.
This is streaming on Netflix right now and I highly, highly recommend you see it if you have access to that.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
One of Banksy’s gifts to us all, along with notable artists Shepard Fairey and Invader. Is it a documentary or a mockumentary? That’s one question still being debated here, as the film will likely be in the running for a Best Documentary Oscar. Next question: does it even matter? It’s such a delightful, funny and intelligent film bringing both amazing footage of world-class street artists and biting commentary about hype, hysteria and what get’s to be called art.
This one is ALSO streaming on Netflix right now. In fact, if you are interested in art docs, Netflix is a treasure trove of instantly watchable goodness that you should know about. And if you aren’t on Netflix, you should really get on that.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
For my thoughts on this one, there is a blog post that I wrote right after I saw it called “Is Dealthy Hallows: Part 1 the best Potter film yet?”. The answer to that question is yes. Very well executed.
The King’s Speech
Going to see this movie was a very similar experience to seeing Stephen Frears’ The Queen years ago. There is really no reason that I should be interested or entertained by a movie about British Royalty, unless it’s an exceptional film. And just ike The Queen, this was an exceptional film. Directing, Cinematography, and particularly acting performances and chemistry of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were really all top-notch. I think that Oscar already has Firth’s name on it and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Geoffrey Rush took home best supporting.
Oh man. I said this after seeing Gone Baby Gone, as well, but let me say it again – Ben Affleck should really be focusing all his energy on directing and screenwriting (he co-wrote both films in addition to directing them). John Hamm who turned in a great performance of a Boston cop, stated in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air that Ben took a screenplay that was an entirely mediocre crime film and made a Greek Tragedy out of it. Indeed he did… this film was masterfully BLEAK. He distilled so many complex issues of deception, loyalty, sense of place, family and pipe dreams into a really tight film that still delivered enough tension and action, but also managed to have emotional depth and characters that were not caricatures. His performance in the movie matched the overall bleak, steady tone of the whole thing. So I guess he’s still allowed to act sometimes, but only if he’s also directing. Jeremy Renner was also excellent in this.
I have no love for Mark Millar comics (which this film was adapted from), but it turns out I really enjoy what Matthew Vaughn can take from them and turn into a movie. This was an extraordinarily brash and brutal film. A lot of people felt it went too far, but I thought it made it’s point and intentions very clear and accomplished all it set out to do. It was creative, fun, funny and disturbing. Chloe Moretz striaght up stole the movie, but Nicholas Cage surprisingly turned out one of his better performances in years. (I think he’s secretly only good at comic roles). Aaron Johnson did very well with the lead role and while this didn’t really accomplish making a name for him in American film, I look forward to seeing him again.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I have much love for the comic series by Bryan Lee O’Malley that this film was based on. In fact, they made my favorite books of the year list. Let’s start with what I did not like about this movie – I felt it was a bit long and felt sluggish in parts… even though it was taking the task of turning 6 books into one film and had to get in everything it did. I kind of wish they had broken it up into a trilogy (2 books to one film would have worked well given the length of the books). I also felt some of the casting was a little weird (example: the Envy Adams part did not work AT ALL for me). Other than that, I thought it was tons of fun. Great soundtrack. Great campy videogame maneuvers and references. Great performances by Michael Cera (who people love to hate on for NO reason in my opinion), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (pitch-perfect Ramona) and Kieran Culkin (who somehow doesn’t get enough work even though he’s always brilliant). Alison Pill and Anna Kendrick really should have been given more to do with their roles, alas because of timing, they roles were larger cut short. They were both great (as always). I really loved watching it, but still feel like it could have truly epic if split and given proper time to address a lot of the plot in the books that didn’t make it in. Instead it was a really fun, but long mega-film that felt long and mega.
* note: I have not yet seen True Grit. I have no doubt it would likely take a top ten spot, but I can’t include it at this time. I also missed out on seeing Never Let Me Go.