Thursday, January 27, 2011

Films I Loved in 2010

I began writing this before the Texas road trip, so the opening paragraph is somewhat out of date. I did notice that: thanks to editing, I've been thinking more visually lately. This is why there hasn't been much writing on the blog, only photos. I haven't written in earnest for a while because of Mule Days, so pardon any shallow insights into the following films. It's been a while.


We're all working our asses off over here at 438 to finish up post-production on "Motor Away." After months and months of working on and off, we're finally about 24 hours away from completion, with the film out of my hands looking and sounding great and in the mail. Very exciting, though I do kind of feel like I'm in the middle of taking a dump and other people are in charge of helping me finish. 

2010 was an uninspiring year in film most of the time, but I think that a flood of films came there at the end. I enjoyed "True Grit," thought it was very funny (my God Matt Damon is on a roll) and "Black Swan" let Aronofsky shine inside a predictable script. I wrote a glowing review of "Toy Story 3," though in the light of "The Illusionist" and "Summer Wars" it seems dimmer. I think I was the only one who liked "Greenberg." "Ghost Writer" was a hilarious comedy masquerading as a thriller, which I liked for its concise beauty and because at times it was thrilling and funny at the same time. We had some good docs, too: "Restrepo," "Sweet Grass," and "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" were all worth watching, some more than once. Dug the hell out of "Social Network" for a slew of reasons, not the least being the tension between Sorkin's writing style and Fincher's direction. "Scott Pilgrim," of my favorite comics ever, got turned into a very funny movie. The list goes on: "Mother," "Life During Wartime," "The American," "Douche Bag," "Never Let Me Go," "The Fighter." For all the crap it ended up being pretty good. 

Here are my favorites, notwithstanding the films I didn't see, which I'll list at the end of the post.

The Illusionist

Who'd have guessed I'd love a new Tati movie, right? This is just a beautiful, hand drawn film -- that is, no rotoscoping, which makes the perfectly expressive animation that much more touching.t's like a 2-fer: we get a new Sylvain Chomet movie and a new Jacques Tati movie, with the strengths and sadness of both. It's hard for me to talk about the movie, really. I felt like crying the whole time and loved the hell out of it. What can I say? I turned to Emma about twenty minutes into the film and quietly said, "It's like he's still alive!" 

Summer Wars

While Illusionist was a huge emotional experience for me, Summer Wars played with what's probably my favorite theme: the facade of order and responsibility. The movie is basically about a huge internet juggernaut -- imagine every major site and game and program all combined into one -- turning on its users. This kind of story has interested me more and more over the past decade as all of the major flaws in our country's infrastructure have been exposed since September 11th. My interest in nation-wide, systematic irresponsibility solidified with Katrina, then with the Gulf oil disaster, and was knocked out of the ballpark with the financial collapse. After the market collapse, I became obsessed with a podcast called "Planet Money," not only because they clearly and rigorously explained the inner workings our economy, but also because it was basically an extended discourse on this idea I fixated on: that everything we base our economy on is in some way false, or at least falsely regulated. There's some kind of massive facade of order and responsibility in place to fool ourselves. I'll never forget hearing Alan Greenspan say that the "once-in-a-century credit tsunami...turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined."

Anyways, all of that is to say: Summer Wars uses probably the biggest theme of the decade to great ends. Like most of my favorite movies, it's like three movies in one: a Japanese family drama, an animated action-adventure, and a simple, funny love story. When the main character is introduced to the 15 + family members at the enormous dinner table, it's hilarious because he, like us, thinks "How the hell am I going to remember all of these people?" But by the end of the movie I could tell you about every single one of them, and that's a huge accomplishment. Lovely film, exciting and breezy.

The Killer Inside Me

I think the Dardenne brothers said that you can find out just as much or more about a person by taking a portrait of the back of their head as you can by taking one of the face. Aronofsky definitely heard that, and I can name a few others, but Winterbottom understands the concept on a different plane. It might be the wide brimmed hat, but even when I'm looking at the face of Affleck's sheriff I still feel like I'm looking at the back of his head. Fucking deadpan creepy, and my favorite Winterbottom since "24 Hour Party People."


Over the course of this blog, I've seen very few movies that I felt I had to write about. The films of Jose Mojica Marins, and Love Exposure are the only two that come to mind. Shawn is doing a good job of writing about Enter the Void, and Dogtooth will definitely have a dedicated post once I see it a couple more times this month at the Academy voter screenings. Two things I think about regularly when I think about Dogtooth: how amazingly fun it will be to watch the film again with the most uptight audience in Los Angeles (If "I Love You Phillip Morris" was received with adverse silence I cannot wait for this one), and something a professor of mine said about the book Maggie: A Girl of the Streets: "I have read this book a dozen times, and for the life of me I can't find a single cliche. That is why this book is great. It is completely without cliches."


... Damn it. I started writing about Catfish, and I realized I opened up a huge can of worms. Two films, then, this year that I feel I have to write about at length. So, the recaps of my favorites ends here unfortunately. Tons more to come soon, but I just have to give these films proper space to write about. 

Here's what I haven't seen.

White Material
Barney's Version
Tall Dark Stranger
The King's Speech
Jackass 3D
Inside Job
The Kids Grow Up
Uncle Bonne Mi Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Animal Kingdom


Ju-osh said...

You're so right about Summer Wars. It takes a sprawling cast and within an hour and a half makes you care about pretty much each and every one of them. That said, I really loved Toy Story 3, too. Both these films explored a theme I've become obsessed with lately: Family. The ones we're born into and those we create for ourselves.

Shawn said...

Personally I think your list should have ended before Catfish!

Shawn said...

Technical problems were interfering with me leaving a comment (were ... because I assume if you are reading this the problems have ceased), which is perhaps a message from the universe I already know. One of the films on your list I disliked so much I don't even want to mention its name, because that helps perpetuate conversation about a movie that's already undeservedly received so much conversation. There were two documentaries I felt this way about in 2010, and one entire trilogy (Girl with Horribly Boring Tattoos, which thankfully received most of its attention from boring people anyway).

But I look forward, perversely, to reading your what you have to say about it. I hope it's not the same as what most other people are saying, because I find the "yeah it's badly made, but what about the cultural implications" argument so, so tiring.

joe said...

Dude, by the way, the real dirt on my neighbor totoro is a hilarious blog. That's so funny.