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The Best Films of 2010

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

With 2010 behind us, it’s time for my list of the ten best films released in the year 2010. All lists are subjective, and you will probably disagree with some of my choices. But who really cares what you think? Kidding. Without further ado, here are the best films of 2010:

1. The Social Network

Honestly, I had a hard time deciding my number one film of 2010. It could have easily been “Shutter Island.” Why “The Social Network” makes my number one slot is simple enough. I put the blu ray of the movie on and was only prepared to watch a bit of it, and suddenly I just couldn’t turn it off. The film is made with such mastery, that I couldn’t resist watching it again. I remember when this project was first announced in the Fall of 2008, many people thought a film about the founding of Facebook couldn’t possibly be good. Those nay sayers were dead wrong. David Fincher’s direction and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay make for a dynamite combination. The actors are all on the top of their game. Jesse Eisenberg, as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, is an enigma of a character who we simultaneously hate and feel sympathy for. Andrew Garfield is also good as the moral center of the film, and Justin Timberlake conveys the right amount of arrogance and charisma as the man who breaks up the Eisenberg Garfield friendship. Armie Hammer delivers a career making role playing the Winklevoss twins who sue Zuckerberg over Facebook. The film moves at a lightning pace; the editing and fast talking dialogue never deliver a false note. If any film this year could be called perfect, this film could be it.

2. Shutter Island

I named Martin Scorsese’s film the best film I had seen so far back in August of 2010, and it only falls down one slot months later. The film, about a U.S. Marshal who searches for an escaped mental patient, divided audiences and critics alike when it came out last February. Many discounted the film because of the false narrative of the story. Others, including myself, may have found the narrative false, but the emotions and truth behind it, to be incredibly moving. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the U.S. Marshal, who is deeply haunted by the death of his wife, while he searches the island for the escape mental patient. When his character finally confronts his haunted past, it felt like an emotional punch to the stomach. I literally left the theatre in a trance like state after the film’ s resolution. There is wonderful filmmaking on display from Scorsese and his regular crew composed of Thelma Schoonmaker, Robert Richardson and Dante Ferretti. This is the kind of picture that you can watch multiple times and find new meanings in each scene.

3. Animal Kingdom

This is a terrific feature film debut from Australian writer-director David Michod. A young seventeen old boy, played by James Frechville, gets caught in the middle of a war between his criminal family of Uncles and a group of corrupt Australian police. The title of the movie is appropriate because Frechville is literally struggling for his own survival between the two. The film features great performances from Ben Mendelsohn as Frechville’s insane Uncle Pope, and Jacki Weaver, as the matriarch of the family. I can’t begin to say too many great things about Weaver. She is terrifying, but she underplays it. She comes across as simply a mother who will do ANYTHING to protect her sons. I was on edge watching this film because just when you thought it was going one place, it goes in another direction. The film doesn’t glorify the criminal lifestyle, but it shows us the terrifying consequences that everyone in this family must pay. I can’t wait to see what Michod has to offer next.

4. Somewhere

Sofia Coppola has been one of my favorite filmmakers ever since her sophomore feature, “Lost In Translation” came out in 2003. What I loved about that film and her new film, “Somewhere,” is how she is completely a visual filmmaker. She uses the image to tell us everything about the characters and the atmosphere of the story. In her latest film, Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood action film star who lives an empty life of excess at the Chateau Marmont. His lifestyle is changed when his eleven year old daughter, played by Elle Fanning, arrives. Both lead actors are pretty damn great here. Dorff easily conveys a real sense of emptiness and loss in just his body behavior. Elle Fanning as Cleo, is a remarkably smart young lady, who managed to grow up normal within the crazy atmosphere of the Hollywood lifestyle. Coppola doesn’t condemn the celebrity lifestyle outright, instead she shows us the ridiculousness and appeal of it. This film is Coppola’s most minimalis to date. There is no real traditional story line present in the picture. Coppola simply uses the visuals to tell the story of a man who is able to find some measure of truth amidst his empty life.

5. Inception

Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” was the lone standout in the shit storm of big budget, disappointing tent pole films released in summer 2010. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a con man who is able to enter people’s dreams and steals their ideas. The plot at first glance, may seem confusing, but it’s rather quite simply. The film simply demands the audience be an active participant, which is something that most mainstream Hollywood blockbusters never ask of their audience. Nolan raises the stakes of the film as we go deeper and deeper into the layers of dreams that DiCaprio and his crew dwell into. Though structured as a heist film, the film’s emotional core of DiCaprio reeling over his dead wife, played by Marion Cotillard, is what makes the film memorable. The picture’s incredibly level of craftsmanship, the terrific musical score by Hans Zimmer and the boldness of the screenplay’s originality make this one of the most exciting films to come out of a major studio in some time.

6. True Grit

This film is probably Joel and Ethan Coen’s most sincere film to date. This story centers on thirteen year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who searches for the man that killed her father, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Mattie is assisted in her journey by a U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger named La Beouf (Matt Damon). Among the great level of A-list talent in the film, the film is really held together by the performance of Steinfeld. She more than holds her own against Bridges, Damon and Brolin. She isn’t the rambunctious little girl we sometimes see in films, but she is a hardened person who has experienced a lot despite her youth. Bridges perfectly inhabits the role of the drunken, rough Cogburn and Damon is the perfect comic foil to Cogburn. This movie feels like a traditional Western we would have seen from Ford or Hawks. The last fifteen minutes of the film is just bravura filmmaking. The Western imagery captured by cinematographer Roger Deakins is breathtaking. The Coen’s always fill their films with interesting faces, and I love all the character that we meet in this film. A mysterious, strange encounter with a doctor wearing a bear suit comes to mind. I left the theatre wanting to spend a lot more time these characters.

7. A Prophet

I was not going to list this film on my top ten of 2010 because I originally counted it as a 2009 release. But since the film didn’t get a U.S. theatrical release until 2010, I’ve decided to put it on my list. This French film from director Jacques Audiard, is about a half French, half Arab man who is sent to a French prison and slowly rises up the ranks inside to become a mafia kingpin. Tahar Rahim, who plays the young man, Malik, is terrific here. He has a magnetic movie star quality to him. He has the potential to become a big movie star that can actually act. That’s a deadly combination. Audiard does a very good job of showing us the life and death stakes that Rahim encounters inside the prison. I’m specifically thinking of the scene where Rahim has to commit his first murder using a strategically placed razor blade. That scene is so masterfully constructed that it leaves you on the edge of your seat. The film has been compared to “The Godfather” and after watching it, you’re going to understand why people are comparing it to that great film.

8. Black Swan

It took me a second viewing to take in everything that this film had to offer. During my first viewing, I was impressed technically with the picture, but I was a bit turned off by some of the fake scares that occur during the film. On my second viewing, my appreciation of the film grew even more and I was even more impressed with the performance of Natalie Portman. The film is an examination of Portman’s descent into madness as she prepares for the lead role in the ballet production of Swan Lake. This is without a doubt the most intense, fearless performance that Portman has ever given. You feel the pressure literally pounding down on her, it’s all present in her body and face. Director Darren Aronfosky shoots the film with a gritty realism that flies in the face of the psychological fantasy elements present in the story. The climax of the film occurs during the production of the “Swan Lake” ballet and when Portman transforms into the black swan, it’s quite extraordinary to see. I love how the camera glides during the ballet and allows us to see Portman let go of all her inhibitions. The cinematography in the film by Matthew Libatique is quite extraordinary here.

9. Catfish

There was a lot of buzz surrounding this documentary when it premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. People who saw the film at Sundance recommended that people should go into the film knowing as little as possible. I took that advice and was really surprised at the griping story this documentary told. The documentary follows a young New York photographer, Nev Schulman,who develops a romantic relationship with a girl through Facebook. Schulaman begins to develop suspicions that something is not quite right with the young woman. Nev, along the films directors, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, document the journey the three of them take to meet the girl in person. There has been alot of controversy surrounding whether this film is a complete fake. Regardless of that issue, there is no denying that this is a great story. The film builds a lot of suspense building up the Nev’s meeting with the girl. When the story’s truth is revealed, it is sad, uncomfortable and touching at the same time.

10. The American

This film, directed by Anton Corbijn, stars George Clooney as a professional assassin that specializes in building weapons intended for death. He lives a solitary, empty life in the shadows and Clooney soon finds his own life threatened by a mysterious figure. I really enjoyed the hell out of this picture. I was immensely impressed with what is essentially an art film that could have come out of the 1970’s. The crowd I saw the film with seemed very unimpressed. It wasn’t the movie they were expecting. This probably has to do with the film’s marketing that emphasized the action. The film is very minimalist and not every story detail is neatly explained to the audience. There are long stretches of silence that do an excellent job of building suspense. Give the film a fair chance and you might come out being totally impressed at the level of craft and expertise that went into this film.

Rounding out my top 25:

11) The Kids Are Alright 12) 127 Hours 13) Exit Through The Gift Shop 14) I Am Love 15) Rabbit Hole 16) The Tillman Story 17) The King’s Speech 18) Restrepo 19) Cyrus 20) Blue Valentine 21) Toy Story 3 22) The Fighter 23) Winter’s Bone 24) Inside Job 25) Never Let Me Go

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True Grit Trailer

September 28, 2010 1 comment

In my post about the most anticipated movies of Fall 2010, I listed Joen and Ethan Coen’s True Grit as the 3rd film I was most looking forward to seeing this fall. There wasn’t a trailer available when I put up that post, but on Monday, the trailer for True Grit was released. Simply put, the trailer looks terrific. We are finally going to see the Coen’s tackle the Western genre head on. The imagery, by the Coen’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, look beautiful and definitely captures the Western feel. Personally, I’m going to blow off the family on Christmas Day, and head to a theatre to catch True Grit.

The Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2010

September 19, 2010 1 comment

We are just in the start of the fall 2010 movie season. This is the time of year when we start to see the mainstream, award bait films. There are a lot of interesting films coming out over the next four months that could help make up for the lackluster 2010 film year we’ve experienced so far. Here are 5 films that I am most looking forward to this fall.

1. The Social Network  (Oct. 1)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the trailer to this film. It gives a great sense of the mood and the style of the story, all without giving away major plot points. The film’s trailer is better than some feature-length films I’ve seen this year. No joke. The founding of Facebook doesn’t seem like it would make for an interesting film, but throw in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay and David Fincher directing, and you get my most anticipated film of fall 2010.

2. Somewhere (Dec. 22)

Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film, Lost In Translation, is one of my favorite films of all time. So of course any film by her is going to make this list. She has a perfect way of using the image to create a sense of mood and place. The trailer for her new film, “Somewhere,” continues that same trend. The film recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and the buzz is that if you’re a fan of her past work, you won’t be disappointed.

3. True Grit (Dec. 25)


Sadly, there is no trailer yet for the new Coen Brothers film coming out this December. So your appetite will have to be thirsted by the incredible talent of the directors, and the very impressive cast the Coen’s have assembled for this picture. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and newcomer Hailee Stanfield, round out the cast of this updated version of the 1969 True Grit, the film that won John Wayne an Oscar. The Coen’s have stated that the film isn’t a remake of the 1969 film, but a more closer telling of the book, which both versions are based on. The Coen Brothers are master storytellers and any film they make is one you should be on the look out for.

4. Black Swan (Dec. 1)

This film has already played at numerous film festivals this month, and the buzz around it has been great. From director Darren Aronofsky, Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who starts to lose it mentally, when she competes with a rival dancer for the part in Black Sawn. Word is that Portman gives a great performance that should totally wipe away the bad taste she left in the Star Wars prequels. The trailer promises some crazy, psychological terror and I trust Aronofsky to deliver just that.

5. 127 Hours (Nov. 5)

Danny Boyle’s new film chronicles the true life story of Aron Ralson, a mountain climber whose arm gets trapped and resorts to cutting off his own arm. The film has been well received at this year’s Toronto Film Festival and I’m anticipating how Boyle will hold our attention on-screen. I’m also excited to get a look at James Franco’s performance as Ralson. He’s one of the most interesting, young actors we have working today. Franco has come along way since starring in crappy, sub-par films, in which, there are too many to name.

Honorable Mentions (In Order of Release Date):

Never Let Me Go (Sep. 15), Let Me In (Oct. 1), Inside Job (Oct), Hereafter (Oct. 22), Due Date (Nov. 5), The King’s Speech (Nov. 26), The Fighter (Dec. 10), The Tourist (Dec. 10), Blue Valentine (Dec. 31)