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 ground—there 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. Nobody’s drinking anybody’s milkshake this year, that’s 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. There’s a haunting sense of mystery that retroactively enriches everything that’s 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. I’m 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 nephew—it’s 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 year’s best didn’t even earn a Philadelphia theatrical release, often belatedly becoming available via cable after playing larger markets. Steven Soderbergh’s 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, it’s 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 I’ve had watching any movie in ages. This Sundance smash, which ran as part of ESPN’s excellent 30 FOR 30 documentary series, zeroes in on the heated mid-’90s rivalry between the Big Apple’s big shots and the upstart Indiana Pacers. With a cheeky touch that’s 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. It’s the best sports doc since When We Were Kings, and just as much fun.
We’re still waiting on a local date for Derek Cianfrance’s 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 isn’t 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 Prigge’s Top 10
Matt Damon delivers in "The Martian"