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Location: New York, New York, United States

Friday, January 28, 2011

Best of 2010

1. The Social Network

2. The Ghost Writer

3. 127 Hours

4. Toy Story 3

5. Shutter Island

6. The Kids Are All Right

7. Inception

8. Winter's Bone

9. The Fighter

10. Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 [part 2 of 3 parts]


Runners-up:

The Last Station

Green Zone

The King's Speech

True Grit

Blue Valentine

A Prophet


Best documentaries

1. Exit Through the Gift Shop

2. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

3. Waiting for Superman

4. Casino Jack and the United States of Money


The Social Network is an amazing piece of work. It’s the first time David Fincher has worked with this kind of script – jazzy, motormouth, dialogue-centric in the patented Sorkin manner – and the results are exhilarating. The only depressing thing is that Fincher, who has made the best movies of three of the last four years, is currently expending his priceless talent on a why-bother remake of one of the worst movies of 2010: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer is nearly as good as The Social Network, but found a much smaller audience and relatively sparse year-end award attention except for Olivia Williams’s excellent performance. Rent it right away if you haven’t seen it.


I wonder if Martin Scorsese finally feels like an auteur now. Like some of the 1950s masterpieces of Sirk and Fuller and even Hitchcock (and juicy non-masterpieces such as Leave Her to Heaven, much admired by Scorsese), Shutter Island is a superlative job of direction applied to an extravagantly trashy and ridiculous script – and the movie is undoubtedly more interesting because of this style/substance tension.


I noted some hostility toward 127 Hours and The Fighter in Film Comment’s year-end critics’ poll, and neither made the top 50. I’d guess that this is backlash to their middlebrow themes of Life Affirmed and Dysfunctional Family Redeemed. But both movies are beautifully directed, in their very different ways, and their craft transcends and lifts their source material. Enjoying these two films along with sold-out crowds in theaters gave me a couple of my favorite filmgoing experiences this year.


I also experienced the two very worst films of the year in sold-out houses: Black Swan, repellent and purposeless, and Alice in Wonderland, an almost complete travesty of the source material and a stupefying waste of mountains of money. Both are the work of talented filmmakers who probably think they are doing great because the movies are boxoffice successes (and in one case, Oscar-nominated). Think again, fellas.


A note about Red Riding: It consists of 3 interrelated films made for British TV, crime thrillers about serial killers and corrupt government. All are entertaining, but part 2 stands out for its direction (by James Marsh, who made the documentary Man on Wire) and the lead performance of Paddy Considine. Andrew Garfield is featured in part 1, which is the next best. The 3rd film has to knit all the interrelated story strands together, but in the process it brings the whole work down to the level of a decent PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Part 2 is considerably more than that.


Other dramatic features worth seeing:

Another Year

Carlos

Easy A

Kick-Ass

Knight and Day

Please Give

The Town

Wild Grass

Red Riding, parts 1 and 3 [1974 and 1983]


Other documentaries worth seeing:

Inside Job

Prodigal Sons

Restrepo

Smash His Camera

Sweetgrass

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?

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