Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wilde.Dash's 15 Best of 2010

Better late than never, I suppose.  I'll be perfectly honest, I delayed the publication of this list until I finally got a chance to see Never Let Me Go, a movie I failed to catch in its theatrical run.  As all of the elements continue to conspire against me when it comes to actually getting to see this movie, I've decided to suck it up and just post my best of list for 2010 as is.  Perhaps when my time comes, Never Let Me Go will make the cut, perhaps not.  We'll just have to wait and see.  No matter, these are good anyhow...

15. DogtoothDogtooth ranks because it managed to actually surprise this jaded movie freak and make me squirm a little bit.  It's an absurdly risky film on a number of levels, and is a flat out success in merging pitch black comedy with ick factor discomfort. 

14. True Grit: True Grit is an old school Hollywood western tricked out with a fancy script and top-shelf performances by actors, not cowboys.  It's a compelling revenge adventure for the ages, with a little bit of something for everybody.  Honestly, there's really no way to not like True Grit in one respect or another...

13. Youth in Revolt: I don't get the Michael Cera backlash, personally.  It seems to me that Cera's actually doing great work, and is generally fantastic (Year One aside) at picking and choosing his projects.  He's gotten himself associated with some of the most original comedies around, and Youth in Revolt is a pretty great take on the teen rebellion comedy that manages to be as discerning and elitist as it is completely absurd.  We definitely need a film solely on Michael Cera's id.

12. Animal Kingdom: Damn, it does not feel good to be a gangster.  Even so, Animal Kingdom is one of the best gritty crime dramas around.  Step off, Hollywood overproduced mob flicks, Aussies on a limited budget will swiftly remove you from the picture.

11. How to Train Your Dragon:  After a second viewing of what is undoubtedly Dreamworks' one and only real classic, I have determined two things:  1. This movie really is much better than Toy Story 3 and 2. As such, it's definitely deserving of a place on this list.  Yes, I'm conceding.  Dreamworks is capable of making something beautiful, lasting, and almost completely devoid of piss poor pop cultural references. Well played.

10. Please Give:  When I saw Please Give, I don't think I ever would have guessed that it would have stuck with me.  Yet, some months later, I've found it has.  Maybe it's Catherine Keener, maybe it's just the impeccable construction of what's otherwise a small scale story. 

9. The Kids Are All RightThis smart and savvy film feels like a healthy, well-balanced brunch with good natured relatives.  There’s a heaping dose of humor between the bitter bits of regret and melancholy, and while the characters make mistakes, it’s easy to see past their flaws and forgive them; to believe that ultimately, the kids (and the adults) will indeed be alright. 

8. The Fighter: Boxing is the best sport for translating to film.  That's a statement of fact and not up for debate.  Case studies A and B: Raging Bull and Rocky.  Case study C?  The Fighter.  Fantastically human without succumbing to silly overdramatics, The Fighter doesn't discount story or character for scenes in the ring, and captures the comedic elements in the hardships of the Ward/Eklund clan. 

7. Fish Tank: With Fish Tank, UK director Andrea Arnold gave us a savage coming of age set amongst the stark industrial council flats.  The film makes hip hop dancing seem like the saddest performance in the world, and turns the screwed up technicolor teen world of Skins into an exercise in loneliness and futility. 
6. Blue Valentine: Fractured romance with a sucker punch of cold, hard reality, Blue Valentine delivered the powerhouse goods and found the beauty in a crumbling relationship.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams find the right emotional components for their characters, forever falling back on the memory of what once was with the devastation of the present.  One hell of a tough love story captured in gorgeously saturated colors.

5. Black Swan:  While I certainly don't see Black Swan in quite the light the rest of society seems to (I'm just never going to believe this was built to be a serious drama), I would agree that the film is a jabber worthy trip par excellence and am pretty pumped that Aronofsky somehow managed to make Cronenbergian horror weirdness a must see spectacle for the usually reluctant public.  

4. The King's Speech:  The next stage of Colin Firth's emergence from the cocoon of romantic comedies and so much more.  The King's Speech is a biopic to be reckoned with, a quiet storm of deceptively engaging performances and wry wit.  If anything disrupts The Social Network's chances at Oscar gold, it will be the world rooting for Bertie and his bromance with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldScott Pilgrim is the type of movie that makes me revert back into a 13-year old fangirl.  As soon as it's over, I want to start it again for a whole barrage of new reasons.  It's a sparklingly clever, visually dazzling, sonically bombastic experience that hits all the right notes and does not fail to spirit you away (without argument) into the Canadian hipster bizarro level the graphic novels inhabit.  The funniest (and just straight-up the most fun) movie of 2010.

2. I Am Love:  For the purpose of this list, I have chosen to push I Am Love into the position that might otherwise have been filled by Scott Pilgrim.  The reason being that where one is certain to be an undisputed cult classic, I Am Love will most certainly be canonized as pure classic.  In art house terms, on Criterion Collection levels, Luca Guadagnino's film is flawless.  It's moving in the way that reminds you film can be a poetry, in a way that sneaks up and surprises you with the emotional depth of its otherwise placid surface. Exceptionally beautiful, perfectly executed, and brilliantly acted, I Am Love is a recapturing of mid-20th century Italian cinema that manages to offer something new even as it mimics the masters.

1. The Social Network:  It's very possible that The Social Network will win Best Picture at the Oscars this year.  If that's the case, it will mark the first time my personal tastes and the Academy's have totally linked up in my lifetime (for the record, No Country is great, but it's no There Will Be Blood).  I love this film.  I love the way it completely transcends the trivialities associated with being "the Facebook movie" and makes it possible to forget that Facebook is a real thing, a thing you use every day.  I love the Sorkin script and the way it manages to round out its major and minor characters with single lines.  I love the way director David Fincher and his actors have broken up the flat wit and fanned it out into varying degrees of luminosity.  I love the atmosphere, the darkness lent to the Harvard campus, the way Trent Reznor's score colors every scene with menace.  I love the way The Social Network is so many things at once.  It's a drama, a comedy, a corporate thriller, a teen film, a generational zeitgeist, a legal escapade.  It has as much style as it does substance, and enough attitude (and imagination) to take it from bland reality to compulsively watchable fiction. 

Honorable Mentions:

Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
I was a little conflicted about putting a documentary on this list, so I didn't.  Generally speaking, I tend to separate fiction and non-fiction into two library-style separate houses.  Banksy's effort offers enough speculation of guerrilla fabrication to throw Exit into the (at least) partial fiction category, but ultimately its reality based hunger and the momentum of the argument it posits makes it a separate entity from the features listed above.

Beauty Pageant winner: Tron: Legacy
Tron gets love from me for being a visual marvel.  I want to move into Flynn's house.

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