Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Favorite Films of 2010

I have no right to proclaim which films of any given year are "best", but I can say which films I enjoyed. 2010 was a low key year for me in film. Newport Film Festival did not happen. My annual pilgrimage to Tribeca Film Festival was fun, but friends I was supposed to meet there were held hostage in London by an Icelandic volcano. Thankfully, my daughter's kick-ass NYC wedding distracted me from a summer of minimal releases. My celebrity moment of the year? A Q&A with Susan Sarandon at the Tribeca Grand courtesy of MOFilm at Tribeca Film Festival. She was charming, open, gorgeous and engaging.

So here is where I try to break it down after seeing over 200 films this year.

Early in the year, How to Train Your Dragon, Shutter Island and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo really impressed me. I Am Love was an amazing piece and Get Low just reminded me how much age doesn't matter on the big screen when you have a good script and a ton of talent. Buried was a film with one on screen actor that I saw alone in a theater, which truly increased the impact. The Fighter ("do you really think your family is looking out for you?"), Conviction, Harry Potter and Winter's Bone were all very good as well. I waited to post this until I saw Rabbit Hole, Casino Jack, Blue Valentine and Somewhere, and though all are good, they did not change my Top 10. These are the films I can call my 10 favorites this year.

1. My sentimental favorite of the year is Micmacs. Creative, wacky, outrageous, dramatic, beautiful, everything I love about film.
2. Black Swan is a dramatic dive into psycho-drama. This is a beautifully crafted, well acted film that stuck in my brain for many days.
3. In True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld carries an epic story, with amazing costars, to wonderful places.
4. Scott Pilgrim vs the World reminded me that pop culture is dramatic, creative and funny. So much talent, so much fun.
5. History is compelling and dramatic on it's own, and The Kings' Speech reminds us of how much we should pay attention to history. Great performances and costumes.
6. On a 100 + degree Saturday this summer, I convinced a friend to sit in an air conditioned theater for 2 hours and 45 minutes to watch Inception. It was a great afternoon and we talked about the film for days. This film has generated hours of discussion. Now that's a good movie.
7. At the beginning of the year, I watched Ben Stiller act the heck out of Greenberg.
8. Never have I sobbed so hard at a movie, as in the final scenes of Toy Story 3. Think watching kids play in a yard isn't emotional? I dare you to watch this film without tissues.
9. The Social Network is one of the most well written, well acted, interesting contemporary subject films of the year. Fascinating treatment of a current subject.
10. In 127 Hours the suspense starts when you buy your ticket, we know how this one ends. A fantastic film that relies on it's structure to take the viewer on one heck of a journey.

Other films I enjoyed this year? Kick Ass, Beware the Gonzo, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Nice Guy Johnny, Joan Rivers:A Piece of Work, The American, Catfish, Ironman 2, and Never Let Me Go. This morning the Oscar nominations will be announced, we'll see how many of my favorites are on the list.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Company Men

In The Company Men we see successful men deal with the brutal world of unemployment. The film portrays the result to their family, friends and lifestyle. An outstanding cast brings this contemporary problem a heart.


Somewhere is a quiet look at a man's life as a Hollywood star and the integration of his 11 year old daughter to that life. The viewer must be patient and allow the film inside the actor's head. A poignent film.


Salt is one of the most absurd action spy flicks I have ever seen. That is all.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rabbit Hole

When you learn that the central event in a film is the death of a young child, there is a hesitance to sit through that story. In Rabbit Hole we see a story of coping that is surprisingly real, honest and uplifting. I'll admit that I needed a few tissues, but the tears were not gut-wrenching. There are also light moments that are very effective. This film is well structured, beautifully written and skillfully acted. I liked how the film ended with a simple gesture that defines the future of the family. Powerful and satisfying, I liked this one.

Casino Jack

My brother shakes his head at me when I exclaim on some bit of history I've learned from a movie. I almost flunked history in college, and even when I read of events in the news my brain does not hold on to them long. For some reason, seeing those events in a film, they stick. In Casino Jack I learned of the goings on of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. With Tom DeLay just having been sentenced, it was very relevant and very interesting. Kevin Spacey and Barry pepper put in some dynamic performances, I learned a lot!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blue Valentine

In Blue Valentine we watch two people fall in love, then watch one of them fall out of love. It is sweet, sad, intense and often difficult to watch. The performances are outstanding and the film work is intimate. A tough love story.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hood to Coast

I enjoy listening to internet radio. While listening to a Cort & Fatboy podcast on my 3-4 mile walk several years ago, I heard Mike Russell talk about a running relay in Oregon called Hood to Coast. Listening to the story of this 197 mile race as I ambled down the road, I was impressed. Then, last week, I was listening to a Live Wire! Radio podcast that had an interview with Christoph Baaden talking about a documentary he had made about the race. This film was shown in 360 theaters around the country on 1/11/11 as it's World Premiere. We got a screening right here in RI at my favorite multiplex. Though this race is a challenge to elite runners, it is also run by people who enjoy a personal challenge. The film focuses on four teams with inspiring stories. I'm sure there are hundreds of fabulous stories. These colorful people made for a compelling film. The grueling nature of the relay is depicted well, and the route from Mount Hood, through the Oregon wilderness, to the beach, is breathtaking. A film well worth a look.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

White Material

White Material is the story of a woman fighting to keep the last crop of her coffee plantation, in the midst of political uprising, rebel soldiers and family upheaval in Africa. This film is brutal and honest. She struggles with loyalty, dysfunction and violence. An intense film, well done.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Easy A

Easy A is a comedy with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. A high school girl finds an odd popularity, when it seems she is promiscuous. Though she perpetuates the lies to attain popularity, the stories take an unexpected turn. The girl's parents are the funniest couple I've seen in a comedy in a while. Well done with solid performances, a good comedy.

TRON : Legacy

No amount of shiny lights, special effects or endearing actors can replace a good story.Unfortunately, TRON:Legacy has a weak, sloppy story. A disappointment, but I'll be interested to see if it gets noticed for the special effects.