Sean Burns Top 10
1. True Grit
2. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
3. The Social Network
4. Black Swan
5. And Everything Is Going Fine
6. Blue Valentine
7. Exit Through The Gift Shop
8. Rabbit Hole
10. Toy Story 3
The Movie Year of Our Lord 2010 seemed to unspool in a muted middle groundthere were a great deal of pictures to enjoy with reservations. You can hear a lot of murmured respect and admiration for plenty of worthy projects, but notably absent is that elusive, lightning-bolt title (like There Will Be Blood, for example) that sets the zeitgeist buzzing. Even the very best films felt slightly less urgent and vital to the national conversation than in recent memory. Nobodys drinking anybodys milkshake this year, thats for sure, and few catchphrases have been generated.
The Coen brothers True Grit, my personal favorite and perhaps the most emblematic movie of 2010, cruises along for 90 or so minutes in wonderfully efficient, crowd-pleasing form. But then that final midnight-ride reel leads somewhere much deeper and stranger than expected. Theres a haunting sense of mystery that retroactively enriches everything thats come before, and I look forward to delving deeper in repeat viewings.
Sometimes these third acts make all the difference. Take Toy Story 3, which begins as a wobbly rehash before veering into startlingly adult, allegorical waters. Im still not sure if these are appropriate points to be making via a beloved franchise about animate toys, but I still bought the DVD for my 2-year-old nephewits never too early to teach children how to nobly accept the inevitability of obsolescence and death.
The dire state of film distribution made sure that several of this years best didnt even earn a Philadelphia theatrical release, often belatedly becoming available via cable after playing larger markets. Steven Soderberghs And Everything is Going Fine is a remarkable tribute to his friend, the late monologist Spalding Gray. Culled from hundreds of hours of performance footage and television interviews, the movie lets Gray tell his life story entirely in his own words one last time. Currently available via IFC On Demand, its a fitting farewell and a bittersweet reminder of how much we lost when Gray committed suicide in 2004.
Dan Klores Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks provided more pure enjoyment than Ive had watching any movie in ages. This Sundance smash, which ran as part of ESPNs excellent 30 FOR 30 documentary series, zeroes in on the heated mid-90s rivalry between the Big Apples big shots and the upstart Indiana Pacers. With a cheeky touch thats lighter than air, Klores hits on race relations, sibling rivalry, strategic trash talk, fading dynasties and just how vital such mountain-out-of-molehill sports competitions can be in the forging of community identity. Also, the game footage is thrillingly edited, and Spike Lee has never been so hilarious. Its the best sports doc since When We Were Kings, and just as much fun.
Were still waiting on a local date for Derek Cianfrances remarkable Blue Valentine, which charts the gorgeous beginning and bitter end of a relationship between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams on parallel tracks in such heartbreaking fashion that it might be most miserable fucking date movie ever made. Cianfrance wears his Cassavetes influences on his sleeve, which in my book isnt such a bad thing at all. The movie is grueling, and the structure is sometimes too schematic. But it feels honest, and so firmly rooted in sloppy, inarticulate emotion that at times Blue Valentine is almost unbearable to watch. Yes, this counts as a recommendation.
And finally, is there really anything left to say about The Social Network or Black Swan at this point?
Matt Prigges Top 10
2. Four Lions
3. Everyone Else
4. Wild Grass
5. Audrey The Trainwreck
7. Black Swan
8. Winters Bone
9. Red, White & Blue
10. Enter The Void
Forgive my list. Many of the films I enjoyed the most in 2010 barely played Philadelphia, if they came at all. Three of them (Dogtooth; Carlos; Red, White & Blue) screened only once as part of a film festival. One (Audrey The Trainwreck) never made it past a weeks run in New York. Only two (Winters Bone, Black Swan) netted respectable grosses and AMPAS consideration. I dont mean to be esoteric. But every year, being shackled to the narrow limits of the mainstream gets more and more uncomfortableand jumping outside it becomes easier and easier.
You didnt even have to be tech-savvy in 2010. This was the year that Netflix Instant, the video behemoths streaming service, became even bigger and more technologically competent; a study showed that on average, Netflix ate up more than 20 percent of downstream American Internet bandwidth on weeknights during primetime. Studios are increasingly throwing their wares up there, including the indies. Everyone Else, Maren Ades searing and often comical portrait of a young couple en route to a messy breakup, played here only briefly, but its small distributor, the excellent Cinema Guild, wisely made it available on Instant. (Watch it now.)
Meanwhile, Carlos, Olivier Assayas addictive and amusingly Wire-heavy survey of the career of sexy 70s terrorist Carlos the Jackal (dgar Ramirez), thought outside the box. The original three-part, five-and-a-half-hour version hit New York, festivals and the Sundance Channel simultaneously. Its shorter cut was available to anyone with Comcast.
Those not hip to alternative programming may have missed this summers week-long Danger After Dark series, which ran parallel with QFest and brought us some of the years besttwo of which (Dogtooth and Red, White & Blue) had painfully limited theatrical runs.
Dogtooth introduced cinemas probable worst-ever parents, who have imprisoned their now-grown children on their massive estate by feeding them bizarre lies about the evils of the outside worldmost memorably, that dangerous words really have banal definitions. (Pussy means lamp. Example: The pussy went out, and now the room is dark.) Its a blood-freezing assault on the idea that living a cloistered existence and pointedly pretending that anything you disagree with doesnt exist or is evilthink of the parents as two Glenn Becksbut its also a darkly comic premise thats often hilariously exploited.
Not at all hilarious is Simon Rumleys Red, White & Blue, which pulled the most intense genre switch-up since Takashi Miikes Audition, turning from a hesitant, platonic romance between two damaged people (prostitute Amanda Fuller and mysterious redneck Noah Taylor) into an ugly-in-every-way vengeance saga that punishes both the wicked and the innocent.
Youll be able to catch up with Dogtooth when it hits DVD in late January, but the fates of Red, White & Blue and Audrey The Trainwreck are uncertain. About the latter: Director Frank V. Ross may be the secret true genius of the on-the-wane mumblecore movement, and Audrey, like his other no-budget opuses, takes a fast-paced, inventive, funny look at working-class lethargy. Many Amerindies aim to be real, but Audrey does it while remaining playfultheres no one named Audrey, for example, nor any trainwrecksand thrillingly assembled. It even finds room for Ron Swanson.
Likewise, hopefully there will be a second life for the bizarrely noncontroversial Four Lions, satirist Chris Morris gut-busting comedy about bumbling Sheffield suicide bombers in which the heartiest laugh involved an innocent civilian being shot in the back. Luckily, you can already catch up with Debra Graniks (mostly) deservedly acclaimed Jim Thompson-in-the-Ozarks noir Winters Bone and 88-year-old Alain Resnais Wild Grass, a candy-colored, batshit comedy of mutable personalities, stalking and WTF endings.
Ideally, wed be able to see every film on the big screen with at least adequate projection and respectful audiences. But, Gaspar Nos trance mindfuck Enter The Void makes a better case for leaving the comfort zones of our TVs and computer screens to sit in a darkened room with strangers than Avatar ever did. The future should be about optionsand not just in regards to what streams through our computer or Wii.