So it's time to close the books on 2010 and, like Johnny
Hallyday in this still from Johnnie To's "Vengeance" (number 9 in A.S. Hamrah's
Ten Best list), and raise a toast to "Another Year" (Number 1 in A.S. Hamrah's
Ten Best list). Brett Michel also offers
his thoughts and judgments on the past year in film.
Ten Best of 2010 [in alphabetical order]
1. Another Year (Mike Leigh)
2. Around a Small
3. Bluebeard (Catherine Breillat)
4. Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos)
5. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)
6. Inspector Bellamy (Claude Chabrol)
7. Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham)
8. Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine)
9. Vengeance (Johnnie To)
10. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Woody Allen)
It was difficult to narrow down a list of 10 films to
represent the very best of what 2010 had to offer. Not that there wasn't a
wealth of good films (there were), but there were few great ones. Surprisingly,
not even a gorgeously rendered movie from Pixar, that staple of my year-end
lists, made the cut. (Indeed, not a single animated film appears in my top 10 -
a rare occurrence.) Sure, "Toy Story 3" was miles above "Cars," but its first
hour couldn't do anything to alleviate my feeling that the film was
unnecessary, "Toy Story 2" having concluded on such a perfect note. Still,
while few of 2010's films achieved perfection, there were quite a few that did
many things right. Before I dive in to the numerical list, I'd like to
acknowledge some of the year's other highlights, any number of which could have
ended up in my formal top 10:
[see bottom of post for huge chunk of also-rans]
those worthy candidates out of the way, I now present you with my picks for the
10 BEST FILMS OF 2010, somewhat arbitrarily numbered, in descending order:
10. "Jackass 3D" (Jeff Tremaine, US) Wait, what's the third
big-screen spinoff of the decade-old MTV series doing on this list? Simply put,
it's the movie the third-dimension was made for (Sorry, "Avatar"), a homoerotic
fever-dream that entertains and mocks its core audience in equal measure.
and his band of merry Jackasses may be noticeably aging (Knoxville is
distressingly gaunt; Steve-O is distressingly sober), but the winning formula
they've come up with for this final(?) installment makes any deficiencies worth
it. To wit: slow-motion + 3-D x Jackass = win.
9. "Somewhere" (Sofia Coppola,
US) Far more
European in flavor, and thus far less accessible than Coppola's companion
piece, "Lost in Translation," some have criticized this portrait of a celebrity
(Stephen Dorff) sleepwalking through his life as lacking a personality like
Bill Murray to anchor the film. I'd argue that such a presence would sink the
simple, perpetual pleasures of experiencing a father/daughter relationship
where the parent/child roles are ill-defined.
8. "Sweetgrass" (Ilisa
Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France/UK/US) A colleague claims that he
can't tell the difference between security-camera footage and this
beautifully-shot eulogy for a dying way of life, a film documenting the herding
of sheep toward the pastural mountains of Montana. If security cameras can
capture these superbly edited moments, then I quit.
7. "Like You Know It All (Jal
aljido mothamyeonseo)" (Hong Sang-soo, South
Korea) The latest of Hong's split-narrative explorations of
introspection-challenged men features a pseudo-autobiographical stand-in for
the filmmaker, a director who fumbles his way from a film festival jury to an
island town and an adulterous reunion with his past. As
always, Hong views his lead through an accepting lens, while exposing every
6. "Last Train Home (Gui Tu
Jie Che)" (Lixin
Fan, Canada/China/UK) China's
"economic miracle" is placed under a microscope in a documentary that explores
the human cost on a very personal level. Fan follows a married middle-aged
couple of garment workers as they make an annual 1,300-mile trek from their
factory to the village where their teenaged children live. Heartbreaking.
5. "A Brand New Life
(Yeo-haeng-ja)" (Ounie Lecomte, South Korea/France)
Inspired by her own life, Korean-born French filmmaker Lecomte recreates the
childhood trauma of a little girl abandoned at an orphanage by her newly-remarried
father. Kim Sae-ron gives a perfectly natural performance of the willful girl,
whose emotional rebirth is literally embodied in a powerful scene that must
first find her burying herself under mounds of earth, emerging soiled, yet
4. "Exit Through the Gift
Shop" (Banksy?, US/UK) A documentary (I'm going on
faith here) that's either a record of guerilla graffiti pioneers like Shepard
Fairey or a thought provoking look at the bankruptcy of modern art. "Art is a
bit of a joke," Banksy concludes, appearing hooded and shrouded in silhouette,
his voice altered electronically. Is the film itself an elaborate hoax? I'm
happy not to be sure.
3. "Mother (Madeo)" (Bong Joon-ho, South
Korea) No working filmmaker exhilarates my
senses in the way that Martin Scorsese used to than Bong Joon-ho, and this,
after only four features. A master of tonal shifts that would cripple most
directors, Bong has fashioned a mystery of matriarchal love and obsession that
leaves you guessing until its final revelations, ending with my favorite moment
of the year, a masterful long-shot that Bong holds for minutes.
2. "The Social Network" (David
Fincher, US) So much has been written about this film, that I hesitated about
including it in my top 10, yet there's no denying the near-perfect fusion of
the contributions of everyone involved in crafting a document that captures the
zeitgeist better than any movie of the past few years. And never again will I
jokingly refer to actor Jesse Eisenberg as the poor man's Michael Cera. (I'll
come back to this below.)
1. "True Grit" (Ethan and Joel
Coen, US) Sure, this isn't quite the masterpiece that "A Serious Man" was, but
I think that says more about the overall quality of 2010's films compared to
those of '09 than it does about the Coens' latest, the best western to come
along since "Unforgiven." Simply a good story exceptionally well acted and
told, until the final reel hits an unexpected emotional target that Henry
Hathaway's 1969 Duke-starring adaptation of the Charles Portis novel didn't
even bother to aim for.
as tough a time as I had coming up with the very best titles of 2010, it was
all too easy to determine the year's worst. Of course, there are far too many
to list, so I've limited myself to naming only a handful of the worst
offenders. Keep in mind, with the hundreds of movies I sat through, even I had
the good sense to skip "Furry Vengeance" (my colleague Alicia Potter took that
bullet), which is why it won't appear here. With that out of the way, I leave
you with my list of the 5 WORST FILMS OF 2010:
5. "For Colored Girls"
US) Can a mid-seventies play made up of twenty monologues delivered by seven
women survive the transition to movie screens in 2010? The short answer: not if
it's adapted by Tyler Perry. Consolidating the diverse stories of Ntozake
Shange's Obie-winning "choreopoem" into a Harlem
walk-up more suited to an episode of "227," Perry's fashioned a melodramatic,
tone-deaf musical of women's hardships, one where stereotypes soliloquize
rather than sing.
4. "Cop Out"
(Kevin Smith, US) Smith
was a hired gun on this misfire, but directing has never been his strong suit;
it's his writing that's earned him a small but loyal following. Alas, he didn't
even write this film.
Considering the semi-improvised mess onscreen, I'm not convinced anyone did.
Bruce Willis barely earns his paycheck and Tracy Morgan overacts enough to earn
two as they play "a couple of dicks" - the film's original title.
3. "Remember Me" (Allen Coulter,
US) Robert Pattinson
trades his fangs for James Dean's cool detachment, but he scotches the finer
details, like smoking a cigarette convincingly. The jaw-dropping nature of the
film's importance (which helps explain the unwise participation of Chris
Cooper, Pierce Brosnan and Lena Olin) is tastelessly revealed in the film's
finale, which some of Pattinson's partisans mistook for profundity.
"The Last Airbender" (M. Knight Shyamalan, US) The man Newsweek
anointed "The Next Spielberg" (um...) has compressed the entire first season of
Nickelodeon's beloved anime-influenced cartoon series into an unwatchable, 3-D
puree of mysticism and spiritualism, old themes for Shyamalan. As the titular
"last Airbender," newcomer Noah Ringer emotes as though in a school play, but
could anyone make lines like "We need to show them that we believe in
our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs" sound, well, believable?
1. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the
World" (Edgar Wright, US/UK/Canada) The new tolerance test, baldly exposing the critic/fanboy
divide. In theory, I should have loved Wright's third feature, unabashed fan of
"Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" that I am. Add in my youth spent reading
comic books, and a still-quite-active passion for video games, and you've got
my number, no? No. Plus, between this, "Year One" and "Youth in Revolt," I
think I'm officially done with twee li'l Michael Cera. And for those who claim
Wright's re-written the rules of cinema, Welles-like, I offer my own
observation: you're illiterate.
[Brett's second guesses:]
Amenábar, Spain), "Airdoll" (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan), "The American" (Anton
Corbijn, US), "Another Year" (Mike Leigh, UK), "Biutiful" (Alejandro González
Iñárritu, Spain/Mexico), "Black Swan" (Darren Aronofsky, US), "Boxing Gym"
(Frederick Wiseman, US), "Cairo Time" (Ruba Nadda, Canada), "Carlos" (Olivier
Assayas, France/Germany), "Children of Invention" (Tze Chun, US) "The Crazies"
(Breck Eisner, US), "Cyrus" (Jay and Mark Duplass, US), "Easy A" (Will Gluck,
US), "The Eclipse" (Conor McPherson, Ireland) "The Fighter" (David O. Russell,
US), "Fish Tank" (Andrea Arnold, UK/Netherlands), "Four Lions" (Christopher
Morris, UK), "The Ghost Writer" (Roman Polanski, France/Germany/UK), "Greenberg"
(Noah Baumbach, US), "How to Train Your Dragon" (Dean DeBlois and Chris
Sanders, US), "I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)" (Luca Guadagnino, Italy) "I'm Still
Here" (Casey Affleck, US), "The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)" (Sylvain Chomet,
UK/France) "The Karate Kid" (Harald Zwart, US/China), "Let Me In" (Matt Reeves,
US) "Mademoiselle Chambon" (Stéphane Brizé, France) "Marwencol" (Jeff Malmberg,
US), "Ondine" (Neil Jordan, Ireland/US), "127 Hours" (Danny Boyle, US/UK)
"Piranha 3D" (Alexandre Aja, US), "Please Give" (Nicole Holofcener, US), "Predators"
(Nimród Antal, US), "A Prophet (Un prophète)" (Jacques Audiard, France/Italy),
"Rabbit Hole" (John Cameron Mitchell, US), "Secret Sunshine (Milyang)" (Lee
Chang-dong), "Tiny Furniture" (Lena Dunham, US), "The Town" (Ben Affleck, US)
and "A Town Called Panic (Panique au village)" (Stéphane Aubier and Vincent