Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Favorite Films of 2010

1. The Social Network
"I don't hate anybody. The 'Winklevii' aren't suing me for intellectual property theft. They're suing me because for the first time in their lives, things didn't go exactly the way they were supposed to for them."

Sorkin rips up myths of status and advantage, happiness, masculine measuring sticks, and general braggadocio, while Fincher may be a bit on autopilot, but his control of tone and pacing remains sharp.
Highlights: Crisp structure ~ Four character arcs weaved together: Zuckerberg, Saverin, Parker, Winklevoss twins ~ Rooney Mara's Erica Albright appears all but three times, and all three times she's ready to kiss off immediately from this story fueled by male egos ~ the finality of her final scene and non-recurrence soak deeply through the film.

2. Wild Grass
The most idiosyncratic story of just-some-people you can think to come from a radical Lefty art savant's head, filtered through a sense of public illumination that comes with a narrator/storyteller who knows characters are characters to represent all of us. A film that renders personal lives as monumental to our story as a species so far as any political tectonics and shifts of epoch - the multitudes of lives like wild grass, the ones it chooses for its narrative (one with a frizzy head of neon-red crabgrass, another perennially withering with a face full of age-lines) particularly notable weeds, but weeds nonetheless. Behaviors and personalities of all sorts pervade - invasive and ruderal, benign and toxic - but with no agenda for or against any of them. The film only encourages the limitlessness and possibilities of their commingling.
Highlights: "After the cinema, nothing surprises you. Everything is possible." Perhaps not the cinema worship many have read it as being, this quote follows the moment when the narrator explicates the entire plot of an American war film, in all its formula and obvious sentiment, all in a breathless spiel while Resnais executes a by-all-accounts shabby zoom-in to the movie theater's flickering neon sign reading "CINEMA." It's not that cinema's as wondrous as life, it's that, if everything is possible, why aren't things more surprising?

3. Everyone Else

If I were to attribute a running motif that seems to pervade through the films of 2010, it would be the rise of the truly liberal film. In Wild Grass, The Social Network, Black Swan, Greenberg, I Am Love, we get a handful of films centered around validating the modern liberal sensibility, encouraging us to identify with an array of alternative-living, outsider protagonists: keenly sensitive neurotics, vulnerable aesthetes, deniers of patriarchy, the alienatingly high-functioning and high-comprehending, and even the jerkishly high-functioning and high-comprehending. The ostensible critiques served on some of these characters do not disguise the identification and siding we are expected to have with these transgressors of the competent and powerful and dull, and the spiritual advantage (effectual or not) of their specialness. [Greenberg has the most surprises to offer, actually asserting its asshole protagonist's odd sensitivity, and even the idea that he has been right all along.]
Everyone Else looks at the special relationship, between two people attempting to salvage their unique union in the face of all its burdens - outwardly battling souring conventionalities like their respective masculine and feminine inadequacy, maddening socialization with the "regular," always-nagging career pressures, etcetera.
Highlights: A knife pulled on a perfectly unoffending, fully poised and understandably baffled woman becomes the clearest, most cathartic action to take for a character who isn't retaliating against anything but the toxic everyday.
4. I Am Love
Altman's A Wedding inverted, a global message film a la Tokyo Sonata, with all its vistas of symbolic cityscapes. Moneyed Italian veneration is now the oppressor (the exact flip of Altman's American-set film) of enlightened feelings, and archetypal imagery of the corporate world's skyscraping glass towers lends it its social angst. It gets ragged on for being artsy; I kind of agree, its artfulness is a bit overly chic and flashy, but most of the time its roaming camera, particularly when exploring the recesses of the film's wealthy manse (inhabited by the family dynasty, the humble employees, and always a gaggle of guests, mostly haute society, sometimes a lowly friend invited in... to cook for them), is infused with a true aesthete's inquisitiveness and sensitivity. Love scene in the grass is a bit of a misstep, though, as many make the point of singling out.

And the rest:

5. Vincere
6. The Ghost Writer

7. A Prophet


The Oath

10. Alamar

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