I’ve been avoiding making this list for a while now. I still haven’t seen all the major contenders of 2010. Some major films I’ve missed include, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Fighter, Blue Valentine, Biutiful, and The Secret in Their Eyes. But I’m not sure when I’ll be catching up with these. So, I’m throwing caution to the wind, and am listing my favorites of the year, those that I couldn’t, and still haven’t, stopped thinking about after the final credits started rolling. Here they are:
1. Black Swan
If anyone had any doubt in their mind, that Darren Aronofsky is a masterful director, it will be completely erased upon viewing his latest film, one that’s nothing short of masterpiece, Black Swan. It’s an erotic thriller; a combination of head-spinning madness and paranoia. While this madness is unpredictable, it’s never random. There’s a cunning in the film that we haven’t seen in anything else released in 2010. And it’s never anything short of breathtaking.
Noé provides his shocks and provocations. There’s no shortage of them. But every now and then, all of the wildly unrestrained facets of the film converge and the cacophony of it all gets quite. Then there are, quite literally, revelatory moments that make Enter the Void exhaustively interesting, and completely unforgettable.
3. I Am Love
Guadagnino has a career of directing films and operas about the Italian aristocracy. And like Claude Chabrol of France, he seems to have found himself a genre where no one could ever replace him. John Adams’ particularly beautiful and soaring score provides a rather perfect soundtrack to this strange and beautiful life lead by Emma and her family. A satisfying metaphor of all the emotion just beneath the surface, aching to be set free.
True profundity is a rare trait of films these days. But after walking out Lebanon, that’s what I felt. I knew I had experienced something outstandingly discerning. This feeling was reinforced by the remarkably forceful, and wordless final scene. This particular moment in the film is carried out with such subtlety, the disgust it invokes is directly juxtaposed with the beauty of the filmmaking and the empathy it calls for.
5. Fair Game
Even though the subject matter is bound to polarize, Liman did an excellent job of keeping the film somewhat even. You could see the joy in Sean Penn’s face as he spouts monologues and tirades against Bush, and his cabinet. But he did the part proud. Ms. Watts was called upon for a much less flamboyant performance. And while it may seem muted next to Penn, the composure and emotion she brought to the role was actually quite moving. This is a film that deserves to be seen.
Coppola’s direction is paired beautifully with Harris Savides’ cinematography, and we are often treated to stunning images that seem to come from Hollywood’s golden age. It’s easy to see borrowed influences from Michelangelo Antonioni films (particularly L’avventura, and La Notte), perhaps inspired by a short trip Cleo and Johnny take to Italy for a ridiculous awards show.
I’m reluctant to say that this film is ‘anchored’ by anything. It’s strong in every aspect of its filmmaking. But after the brilliance of the script by Aaron Sorkin (who I’m sure relished the opportunity to write scenes involving doing lines of coke off young coed stomachs), the central performances of Eisenberg and Garfield are surely two of the greatest showcases to be seen.
As Kathryn Bigelow managed to do so seemlessly with The Hurt Locker, the filmmakers managed to keep any anti, or pro-war opinions out of the film. And rightly so. Any sort of preaching would have been vastly inappropriate. Neither the cause, nor the result of the war is examined or discussed. The only subjects that matter here, are the soldiers. It may be too early to use superlatives, but this will almost certainly turn out to be one of the year’s greatest films.
9. The American
With such a lack of plot, and even a lack of words, you have to wonder what is actually offered to make the film worth watching. Well, there’s plenty to be taken advantage of. Every scene is remarkably beautiful. Mr. Corbijn is a photographer turned filmmaker, and it shows in his remarkable ability to compose every shot with such skill and decidedly relaxed confidence. His prodigious knowledge of how to capture landscape and architecture on film is outstanding. This cinematography is matched by original music by Herbert Grönemeyer, who assists in keeping up tension.
10. 127 Hours
While the majority of focus on 127 Hours will be on this one single act, it’s not difficult to remember that what Danny Boyle, and probably Ralston himself, wanted to do with the film, is to celebrate human life, the drive to stay alive, and more idioms about overcoming adversity. The film is anything but a tired cliche, though. It’s brutal and honest. It’s difficult to watch, but at the same time, it’s inspirational without couching the message with soft, and flabby platitudes.
It was very diffcult to narrow it down to these ten. While Black Swan and Enter the Void absolutely stand out in my mind as the cream of the crop, the other eight are all on par with each other. The following films receive very honorable mentions.
What were your favorites of the year? Any glaring omissions here?