Critics' 10 Best Lists

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Postby Reza » Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:38 am

flipp525 wrote:
Precious Doll wrote:4. “Meek’s Cutoff,” director: Kelly Reichardt

Why wasn't this given an Oscar qualifying release? I heard Michelle Williams' supporting performance was dynamite. Might've even gotten her into two categories this cycle (alongside her lead work in Blue Valentine).

Maybe she can get two shots next year....supporting for this and a lead nod for My Week With Marilyn.

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Postby flipp525 » Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:18 am

Precious Doll wrote:4. “Meek’s Cutoff,” director: Kelly Reichardt

Why wasn't this given an Oscar qualifying release? I heard Michelle Williams' supporting performance was dynamite. Might've even gotten her into two categories this cycle (alongside her lead work in Blue Valentine).
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Postby Okri » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:52 am

Greg wrote:Are "unreleased films" movies that were only shown in festivals in the U.S. during the calendar year and never had a commerical release?

Not necessarily just the US, but yes,

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Postby Greg » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:43 am

Are "unreleased films" movies that were only shown in festivals in the U.S. during the calendar year and never had a commerical release?
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Postby Precious Doll » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:25 am

Film Comments best of the year.

Top 50 Released Films of 2010:

1. “Carlos,” director: Olivier Assayas
2. “The Social Network,” director: David Fincher
3. “White Material,” director: Claire Denis
4. “The Ghost Writer,” director: Roman Polanski
5. “A Prophet,” director: Jacques Audiard
6. “Winter’s Bone,” director: Debra Granik
7. “Inside Job,” director: Charles Ferguson
8. “Wild Grass,” director: Alain Resnais
9. “Everyone Else,” director: Maren Ade
10. “Greenberg,” director: Noah Baumbach

11. “Mother,” director: Bong Joon-ho
12. “Toy Story 3,” director: Lee Unkrich
13. “Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl,” director: Manoel de Oliveira
14. “Another Year,” director: Mike Leigh
15. “The Strange Case of Angelica,” director: Manoel de Oliveira
16. “The Kids Are All Right,” director: Lisa Cholodenko
17. “Shutter Island,” director: Martin Scorsese
18. “Around a Small Mountain,” director: Jacques Rivette
19. “Our Beloved Month of August,” director: Miguel Gomes
20. “Ne change rien,” director: Pedro Costa

21. “Dogtooth,” director: Yorgos Lanthimos
22. “I Am Love,” director: Luca Guadagnino
23. “Sweetgrass,” director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Ilisa Barbash
24. “Black Swan,” director: Darren Aronofsky
25. “The Father of My Children,” director: Mia Hansen-Løve
26. “Boxing Gym,” director: Frederick Wiseman
27. “Secret Sunshine,” director: Lee Chang-dong
28. “Bluebeard,” director: Catherine Breillat
29. “Enter the Void,” director: Gaspar Noé
30. “Inception,” director: Christopher Nolan

31. “Alamar,” director: Pedro González-Rubio
32. “The Oath,” director: Laura Poitras
33. “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” director: Banksy
34. “World on a Wire,” director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
35. “Animal Kingdom,” director: David Michôd
36. “Vincere,” director: Marco Bellocchio
37. “Daddy Longlegs,” directors: Ben & Joshua Safdie
38. “Lourdes,” director: Jessica Hausner
39. “Life During Wartime,” director: Todd Solondz
40. “Fish Tank,” director: Andrea Arnold

41. “Please Give,” director: Nicole Holofcener
42. “True Grit,” directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
43. “Lebanon,” director: Samuel Maoz
44. “The King’s Speech,” director: Tom Hooper
45. “I Love You Phillip Morris,” directors: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
46. “Last Train Home,” director: Lixin Fan
47. “Blue Valentine,” director: Derek Cianfrance
48. “Hadewijch,” director: Bruno Dumont
49. “The Anchorage,” directors: Anders Edström & C.W. Winter
50. “Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno,” directors: Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea


Top 20 Unreleased Films of 2010:

1. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2. “Film Socialisme,” director: Jean-Luc Godard
3. “Poetry,” director: Lee Chang-dong
4. “Meek’s Cutoff,” director: Kelly Reichardt
5. “Aurora,” director: Cristi Puiu
6. “Mysteries of Lisbon,” director: Raúl Ruiz
7. “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu,” director: Andrei Ujica
8. “The Four Times,” director: Michelangelo Frammartino
9. “Certified Copy,” director: Abbas Kiarostami
10. “Tuesday, After Christmas,” director: Radu Muntean

11. “Oki’s Movie,” director: Hong Sang-soo
12. “Ruhr,” director: James Benning
13. “I Wish I Knew,” director: Jia Zhangke
14. “My Joy,” director: Sergei Loznitsa
15. “Nostalgia for the Light,” director: Patricio Guzmán,
16. “Robinson in Ruins,” director: Patrick Keiller
17. “Black Venus,” director: Abdellatif Kechiche
18. “Of Gods and Men,” director: Xavier Beauvois
19. “Tabloid,” director: Errol Morris
20. “The Robber,” director: Benjamin Heisenberg
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Postby Sabin » Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:43 pm

These are the full indieWire winners. No real surprises.


BEST FILM
1 The Social Network 467/71
2 Carlos 361/50
3 Winter's Bone 264/42
4 Black Swan 261/36
5 Everyone Else 252/40
6 Dogtooth 202/31
7 The Ghost Writer 193/37
8 Mother 188/31
9 I Am Love 162/27
10 Another Year 157/28
AND Wild Grass 157/22
(clearly a wellspring of appreciation for Carlos on two-thirds as many ballots indicates had it been more seen...The Social Network would have won anyway.)



BEST LEAD PERFORMANCE
1 Edgar Ramirez, Carlos 163/46
2 Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network 146/45
3 Natalie Portman, Black Swan 113/35
4 Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone 110/37
5 Kim Hye-ja, Mother 92/27
6 Tilda Swinton, I Am Love 80/27
7 Jeon Do-yeon, Secret Sunshine 74/19
8 Isabelle Huppert, White Material 66/20
9 Lesley Manville, Another Year 54/17
10 Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine 49/15
(50 mentions for Carlos, period; 46 for Best Lead Actor. That was enough to push Ramirez just past Eisenberg.)



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1 John Hawkes, Winter's Bone 113/31
2 Christian Bale, The Fighter 97/27
3 Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank 82/23
4 Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom 81/28
5 Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right 72/24
6 Greta Gerwig, Greenberg 70/19
7 Andrew Garfield, The Social Network 64/18
8 Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech 51/14
AND Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer 51/14
9 Lesley Manville, Another Year 46/12
10 Melissa Leo, The Fighter 35/11
(Leading Lesley Manville nudges ahead of Supporting Lesley Manville. Even indieWire can't decide. Didn't know they could list people twice. But clearly they do for her, and Hailee Steinfeld, Greta Gerwig, and probably a few others. Good for John Hawkes, though.)



BEST DIRECTOR
1 David Fincher, The Social Network 18/18
2 Olivier Assayas, Carlos 16/16
3 Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan 13/13
4 Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer 8/8
5 Gaspar Noe, Enter the Void 5/5
6 Alain Resnais, Wild Grass 4/4
AND Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine 4/4
7 Debra Granik, Winter's Bone 3/3
AND Manoel de Oliveira, The Strange Case of Angelica 3/3
AND Mike Leigh, Another Year 3/3
(Technically, this is the top ten.)



BEST DOCUMENTARY
1 Exit Through the Gift Shop 26/26
2 Sweetgrass 13/13
3 Last Train Home 9/9
4 Inside Job 8/8
AND The Oath 8/8
5 Marwencol 7/7
6 Boxing Gym 4/4
7 Change Nothing 3/3
AND Ghost Town 3/3
AND October Country 3/3
AND Restrepo 3/3
(Who is Banksy sending to pick these up?)



BEST SCREENPLAY
1 Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network 40/40
2 Maren Ade, Everyone Else 9/9
3 Olivier Assayas and Dan Franck, Carlos 7/7
4 Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right 5/5
AND Mike Leigh, Another Year 5/5
5 Bong Joon-ho and Park Eun-kyo, Mother 4/4
AND Lee Chang-dong, Secret Sunshine 4/4
6 Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne, Blue Valentine 3/3
AND Noah Baumbach, Greenberg 3/3
AND Todd Solondz, Life During Wartime 3/3
(Is it an honor to be runner up to The Social Network even if it is by some 31 votes?)



BEST FIRST FEATURE
1 Exit Through the Gift Shop 19/19
2 Animal Kingdom 17/17
3 Tiny Furniture 12/12
4 Night Catches Us 6/6
5 Four Lions 5/5
6 Amer 4/4
AND Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench 4/4
AND Monsters 4/4
AND The Anchorage 4/4
7 Alamar 3/3
AND Last Train Home 3/3
(...again...who will he send?)



BEST UNDISTRIBUTED FILM
1 Film Socialisme 26/26
AND The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu 26/26
2 Mysteries of Lisbon 23/23
3 Oki's Movie 18/18
4 Black Venus 1010
AND Tabloid 10/10
5 On Tour 9/9
6 Attenberg 8/8
AND Hahaha 8/8
AND Ruhr 8/8
AND Vapor Trail 8/8
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Postby Sabin » Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:21 pm

Of all the fucking people to call it the best movie of the year...

(Armond White, from his indieWire poll)


ANNUAL CRITICS SURVEY 2010 »
Best Film »
1) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
2) Vincere
3) Wild Grass
4) Mother and Child
5) Life During Wartime
6) Another Year
7) Inspector Bellamy
8) The Girl on the Train
9) Takers
10) From Paris With Love

Best Lead Performance »
1) Jim Carrey, I Love You Phillip Morris
2) Filippo Timi, Vincere
3) Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Vincere
4) Lesley Manville, Another Year
5) Annette Bening, Mother and Child

Best Supporting Performance »
1) Djimon Hounsou, The Tempest
2) Eugene Byrd, Easier With Practice
3) Kristin Scott Thomas, Nowhere Boy
4) Imelda Staunton, Another Year
5) Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank

Best Director »
1) Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Best Documentary »
1) Smash His Camera

Best Screenplay »
1) Rodrigo Garcia, Mother and Child

Best First Feature »
1) Easier With Practice

Best Undistributed Film »
1) Film Socialisme
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby dws1982 » Sat Dec 18, 2010 9:32 am

I'm kind of glad to see someone with the guts to (rightfully) name Shutter Island one of the worst of the year, even if it is Rex Reed.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 18, 2010 9:26 am

It's funny because Rex never published a review of Winter's Bone. He probably only caught up with it on DVD.

I expected his ten worst to include Black Swan, which he called "overrated, overwrought and overhyped" and Somewhere, which he called "Sophia Coppola's latest calcified bore".

He doesn't explain his choices. The Observer site directs you to original reviews for each of the films mentioned. Several, like Winter's Bone, don't have an actual review.




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Postby Damien » Sat Dec 18, 2010 3:50 am

Big Magilla wrote:Rex Reed

The Best

1. The King’s Speech
2. The Illusionist
3. Never Let Me Go
4. 127 Hours
5. The Kids Are All Right
6. Mao’s Last Dancer
7. The Town
8. Company Men
9. The Fighter
10. The Social Network

The Worst

1. Inception
2. Burlesque
3. Cop-Out
4. I’m Still Here
5. Shutter Island
6. Sex and the City 2
7. Stone
8. Tron: Legacy
9. The Tempest
10. Winter’s Bone

I hate to admit it, but we're in synch with the worst picture of the year. Wonder what he's got against Winter's Bone. He is a southern boy, so maybe it hit too close to home.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 18, 2010 3:32 am

Rex Reed

The Best

1. The King’s Speech
2. The Illusionist
3. Never Let Me Go
4. 127 Hours
5. The Kids Are All Right
6. Mao’s Last Dancer
7. The Town
8. Company Men
9. The Fighter
10. The Social Network

The Worst

1. Inception
2. Burlesque
3. Cop-Out
4. I’m Still Here
5. Shutter Island
6. Sex and the City 2
7. Stone
8. Tron: Legacy
9. The Tempest
10. Winter’s Bone
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Postby Sabin » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:58 pm

I already miss him and Phillips. I liked them more than Siskel or Ebert or Roeper or whomever.


AO Scott’s Top Ten

1. INSIDE JOB (Charles Ferguson) The crisis of finance capitalism as a great crime story.
2. TOY STORY 3 (Lee Unkrich) The triumph of consumer capitalism as an epic love story.
3. CARLOS (Olivier Assayas) The failure of global revolution as farce, melodrama, erotic thriller and music video.
4. SOMEWHERE (Sofia Coppola) An eccentric, perfect poem about fame, loneliness and cross-generational need.
5. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (Lisa Cholodenko) An eccentric, perfect comedy about love, betrayal and cross-generational confusion.
6. GREENBERG (Noah Baumbach) A deliberately imperfect comedy about an eccentric fleeing from love, running from betrayal and wallowing in cross-generational confusion.
7. 127 HOURS (Danny Boyle) It’s all fun until someone loses an arm. And then, strangely enough, it’s even more fun.
8. LAST TRAIN HOME (Lixin Fan) The future of global capitalism, in China and elsewhere: a family tragedy in the form of a documentary, as full of anger, dignity and pathos as a play by Arthur Miller.
9. SECRET SUNSHINE (Lee Chang-dong) A family tragedy from South Korea, in the form of a melodramatic crime story. As dense and gripping as a great novel.
10. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (Banksy) All of the above. None of the above. Everything and nothing. An elaborate art-world stunt in the form of a documentary. Or vice versa.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Sabin » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:16 pm

...take a guess.

The best feature films of 2010
By Roger Ebert on December 17, 2010 8:30 AM | 10 Comments

David Fincher's "The Social Network"is emerging as the consensus choice as best film of 2010. Most of the critics' groups have sanctified it, and after its initial impact it has only grown it stature. I think it is an early observer of a trend in our society, where we have learned new ways of thinking of ourselves: As members of a demographic group, as part of a database, as figures in...a social network.

My best films list also appears on my main site, but I am posting it here on the blog so that you can comment on it. In response to the reader protests of recent years, I've returned to the time-honored tradition of ten films arranged in order from one to ten. After that, it's all alphabetical. The notion of objectively ordering works of art seems bizarre to me.

Here are the year's best feature films:

1. "The Social Network" Here is a film about how people relate to their corporate roles and demographic groups rather than to each other as human beings. That's the fascination for me; not the rise of social networks but the lives of those who are socially networked. Mark Zuckerberg, who made billions from Facebook and plans to give most of it away, isn't driven by greed or the lust for power. He's driven by obsession with an abstract system. He could as well be a chessmaster like Bobby Fischer. He finds satisfaction in manipulating systems.

The tension in the film is between Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins, who may well have invented Facebook for all I know, but are traditional analog humans motivated by pride and possessiveness. If Zuckerberg took their idea and ran with it, it was because he saw it as a logical insight rather than intellectual property. Some films observe fundamental shifts in human nature, and this is one of them.

David Fincher's direction, Aaron Sorkin's screenplay and the acting by Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and the others all harmoniously create not only a story but a world view, showing how Zuckerberg is hopeless at personal relationships but instinctively projects himself into a virtual world and brings 500 million others behind him. "The Social Network" clarifies a process that some believe (and others fear) is creating a new mind-set.

2. "The Kings Speech" Here, in a sense, is a first step in a journey that could lead to the world of "The Social Network." Prince Albert (Colin Firth), who as George VI would lead the British Empire into World War Two, is seen in an opening scene confronting a loud-speaker as he opens the Empire Games. He is humiliated by a paralyzing stutter. The film tells the story of how his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) involves him with a rough-hewn Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), whose unorthodox methods him him to eventually face a BBC microphone and forcefully inform the world that the empire was declaring war.

All of the personalities and values in "The King's Speech" are traditional (and the royal values are too traditional, the therapist believes). Tom Hooper's filmmaking itself is crafted in older style, depending on an assembly of actors, costumes, sets, and a three-act structure. The characters project considered ideas of themselves; "The Social Network," in contrast, intimately lays its characters bare. From one man speaking at a distance through the radio, to another man shepherding hundreds of millions through a software program, the two films show techology shaping human nature.

A difference between them is that we feel genuinely moved by the events in "The King's Speech." We identify. While some people may seek to copy the events in "The Social Network," few, I think, would identify with those characters. Jeff Zuckerberg is as much a technology-created superhero as Iron Man.

3. "Black Swan" And now we leave technology and even reality behind, and enter a world where the cinema has always found an easy match: Fantasy. That movies were dreamlike was understood from the very beginning, and the medium allowed directors to evoke the psychological states of their characters. "Black Swan" uses powerful performances by Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel to represent archetypal attributes: Female/male, young/old, submissive/dominant, perfect/flawed, child/parent, good/evil, real/mythical.

Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" provides a template for a backstage story that seems familiar enough (young ballerina tries to please her perfectionist mother and demanding director). Gradually we realize a psychological undertow is drawing her away from reality, and the frenzy of the ballet's climax is mirrored in her own life. This film depends more than many others on the intensity and presence of the actors, and Portman's ballerina is difficult to imagine coming from another actor.

4. "I Am Love" In this film and "Julia" (2008), Tilda Swinton created masterful performances that were largely unseen because of inadequate distribution. Is it an Academy performance is no one sees it? Here she easily clears a technical hurdle (she is a British actress speaking Italian with what I understand is a Russian accent), playing Emma, a Russian woman who has married into a large, wealthy and guarded Milanese family.

She isn't treated unkindly, at least not in obvious ways, but she doesn't...belong. She is hostess, mother, wife, trophy, but never member. Now her husband and son are taking over the family dynasty, and her life is in flux. When she learns her daughter is a lesbian, she reacts not as an Italian matriarch might, but as the outsider she is, in surprise and curiosity. She has heard of such things.

Now she meets a young chef named Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a friend of her son's. A current passes between them. They become lovers. There are many ways for actors to represent sex on the screen, and Swinton rarely copies herself; here as Emma she is urgent as if a dam has burst, releasing not passion but happiness. She evokes Emma as a woman who for years has met the needs of her family, and discovers in a few days to meet her own needs. She must have been waiting a long time for Antonio, whoever he would be.

5. "Winter's Bone" Another film with its foundation on a strong female performance. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a girl of 17 who acts as the homemaker for her younger brother and sister in the backlands of the Ozarks. Her mother sits useless all day, mentally absent. Her father, who was jailed for cooking meth, is missing. She tries to raise the kids, scraping along on welfare and the kindness of neighbors.

When the family is threatened with homelessness, she must find her father, who skipped bail. She sets out on an odyssey. At its end will be Ree's father, dead or alive. Unless there is a body her family will be torn apart. She treks through a landscape scarcely less ruined than the one in Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Debra Granik, the director and co-author, risks backwoods caricatures and avoids them with performances that are exact and indelible, right down to small supporting roles. Ree is one of the great women of recent movies.

6. "Inception" A movie set within the architecture of dreams. The film's hero (Leonardo DiCaprio) challenges a young architect (Ellen Page) to create such fantasy spaces as part of his raids on the minds of corporate rivals. The movie is all about process, about fighting our way through enveloping sheets of reality and dream, reality within dreams, dreams without reality. It's a breathtaking juggling act by writer-director Christopher Nolan, who spent 10 years devising the labyrinthine script.

Do dreams "have" an architecture? Well, they require one for the purposes of this brilliantly visualized movie. For some time now, I've noticed that every dream I awaken from involves a variation of me urgently trying to return somewhere by taking a half-remembered way through streets and buildings. Sometimes I know my destination (I get off a ship and catch a train but am late for a flight and not packed). Sometimes I'm in a vast hotel. Sometimes crossing the University of Illinois campus, which has greatly changed. In every case, my attempt is to follow an abstract path (turn down here and cut across and come back up) which I could map for you. "Inception" led me to speculate that my mind, at least, generates architectural pathways, and that one reason I responded to "Inception" is that , like all movies, it was a waking dream.

7. "The Secret in their Eyes" This 2009 film from Argentina won the Academy Award for best foreign film of 2010. But it opened in 2010 in the U.S., and so certainly qualifies. It spans the years between 1974 and 2000 in Buenos Aries, as a woman who is a judge and a man who is a retired criminal investigator meet after 26 years. In 1974 they were associated on a case of rape and murder, and the man still believes the wrong men were convicted of the crime. The whole case is bound up in the right wing regime of those days, and the "disappearances" of enemies of the state.

Although the criminal story is given full weight, writer-director Juan Jose Campanella is more involved in the romantic charge between his two characters. No, this isn't a silly movie love story. These are adults--experienced, nuanced, survivors. Love has very high stakes for them, and therefore greater rewards. Soledad Villamil and Ricardo Darin have presence and authority that makes their scenes together emotionally meaningful, as beneath the surface old secrets coil.

8. "The American" George Clooney plays an enigmatic man whose job is creating specialized weapons for specialized murders. He builds them, delivers the, and disappears. Now someone wants him to disappear for good. A standard thriller plot, but this is a far from mainstream thriller. Very little is explained. There is a stark minimalism at work. Much depends on our empathy. The entire drama rests on two words, "Mr. Butterfly." We must be vigilant to realize that once, and only once, are they spoken by the wrong person -- and then the whole plot reality rotates.

A few of my colleagues admired this film by Anton Corbijn very much. Most of them admired it very little. I received demands from readers that I refund their money, and messages agreeing that there was greatness here. "The American" reminded me of "Le Samourai" (1967) by Jean-Pierre Melville, which starred another handsome man (Alain Delon) in the role of an enigmatic murder professional. The film sees dispassionately, guards its secrets, and ends like a clockwork mechanism arriving at its final, clarifying tick.

9. "Kids Are All Right" There are ways to read that title: Kids in general are all right, thee particular kids are all right, and it is all right for lesbians to form a family and raise them. Each mother bore one of the children, and because the same anonymous sperm donor was used, they're half-siblings. The mothers and long-time partners are played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, and like many couples, they're going through a little mid-life crisis.

Their children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) unexpectedly contact their birth father (Mark Ruffalo), and the women are startled to find him back in their lives. It was all supposed to be a one-time pragmatic relationship. Ruffalo plays him as a hippie-ish organic gardener for whom "laid back" is a moral choice. He thinks it's cool to meet his kids, it's cool their moms are married, it's cool they invite him for dinner. I mean...sure, yes, of course...I mean, why not? Sure. In a comedy with some deeper colors, the film is an affirmation of--family values.

10. "The Ghost Writer" In Roman Polanski's best film in years, a man without a past rattles around in the life of a man with too much of one. A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired to write the autobiography of a former British Prime Minister so inspired by Tony Blair that he might as well be wearing a name tag. He comes to stay at an isolated country house like those in the Agatha Christie mysteries, in which everyone is a potential suspect. His wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), smart and bitter, met Lang a Cambridge. His assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall), smart and devious, is having an affair with him. The writer comes across information that suggests much of what he sees is a lie, and his life may be in danger.

This movie is the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller. Smooth, calm, confident, it builds suspense instead of depending on shock and action. The actors create characters who suggest intriguing secrets. The atmosphere -- a rain-swept Martha's Vineyard in winter -- has an ominous, gray chill, and the main interior looks just as cold. The key performances are measured for effect, not ramped up for effect. In an age of dumbed-down thrillers, this one evokes a classic tradition.

Special Jury Award. Film festivals like to give Special Jury Prizes for films which they have a special admiration for, outside the usual parameters of winners. My Award this year goes to:

127 Hours. The harrowing true story of James Franco, a rock climber whose arm was pinned to a Utah canyon wall by a boulder. In desperation he amputated his own arm to free himself. James Franco stars in Danny Boyle's film, which is gruesome but not quite too gruesome to watch. It's rather awesome what an entertaining and absorbing film Danny Boyle has made here.

Now for the second ten best films. These are alphabetical, because ranking films in order is pointless after a certain point. They're all worthy of your time.

"All Good Things." In 1982 the wife of a New York real estate investor disappeared without a trace. In 2000, his best friend was found murdered. In 2001, he admitted he killed a neighbor neighbor and chopped her up, throwing the pieces away in trash bags. He said it was self-defense. The wire is still missing. No one was ever charged in the death of the friend. He is in jail for the admitted crime, with a sentence adjusted because the jury believed some self defense may have been involved. "All Good Things" is based on fact.

The facts include the deep involvement of the man's father in operating real estate in the sleazy underbelly of 42nd Street. The father is played here by Frank Langella, smooth and dangerous, and the son by Ryan Gosling, whose marriage to Kirsten Dunst becomes a cois father country idyll before his father all but orders him back to the city. Andrew Jarecki's film clearly insinuates what really happened, and reminded me of Barbet Schroeder's "Reversal of Fortune," about the Sunny von Bulow murder. In both cases, what seems to be obvious pathology is impervious to logic.

"Carlos" came in two versions: One over five hours long, which I saw, and one closer to ordinary feature length, which most people will see in wider release or on cable. Written and directed by Oliver Assayas, a French filmmaker whose projects are usually more tightly focused, this is the epic story of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackyl (Edgar Ramirez), who operated in the years between 1975, when he led a raid on OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, until 1994, when he was betrayed by former comrades, arrested in Sudan, and returned to France for trial.

The film suggests that much of his behavior wasn't ideological in origin, but grew from megalomanic. He kills for many causes, but the primary motive seems to be his own twisted ego, his need to dominate and enforce his will. Assayas uses an enormous canvas and many period locations to portray an elusive man who seemed for a long time to be immune to the law. Recentluy, from prison, he complained that this film is inaccurate.

"Chloe" Atom Egoyan's film centers on Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, as a Toronto married couple, and Amanda Seyfried as the young call girl who enters their lives. The wife, concerned her husband may be cheating, hires the prostitute to "test" him, and listens avidly to the girl's accounts of her life. Seyfried plays the title character as a powerfully erotic young woman with personal motives that are hidden -- from Moore, and from us.

"Chloe" begins as a film involving eroticism, take the form of thriller, and then undergoes a sinister transformation into the story of hidden motives that seem to flow counter to the apparent direction of the story. Egoyan is a master of the psychosexual, and here his sensuous character reproduces the feelings and doubts all three characters inspire. Click here for video of Ebert's Conversation with Atom Egoyan.


"Greenberg" The hero of Noah Baumbach's film was years ago, part of a rock band on the brink of a breakthrough. Greenberg (Ben Stiller) walked away from it and never explained why. He fled Los Angeles and became a carpenter in New York. Now he's back in LA, house-sitting his brother's house. His life isn't on Hold, it's on Stall.

His life is upended when he meets Florence (Greta Gerwig, in a career-making performance). She is on Hold: Just out of college, and no job. She has health and abundant energy. She's happy with a purpose. On the other hand, we can't stand Greenberg. But we begin to care about him. Without ever overtly evoking sympathy, Stiller inspires identification. You don't have to like the hero of a movie. But you have to understand him -- better than he does himself, in some cases.


"Hereafter" Clint Eastwood's film was the sort of inward, spiritual film he doesn't make; it considers the idea of an afterlife with tenderness, beauty and a gentle tact. It deals with a few characters who all have issues that involve an afterlife. Matt Damon plays a man who sincerely believes he communicates with the dead, but has fled that ability and taken a low profile job. Cecile de France plays, a newsreader on French television. Bryce Dallas Howard is a young cooking student with a fearful dark place inside. Richard Kind is a man mourning his wife. Frankie and George McLaren play twin brothers, one who is struck by a truck and killed.

The Damon character becomes the link between all of them. He seems to have an authentic power, though what it proves is hard to say. Nothing he says need come from the other side. There is a moment handled with love and delicacy in which he says something that is either true or isn't, but is a kindness either way. In that moment perhaps Eastwood is hinting that whether or not there is an afterlife, what we do in this one is what counts.

"Monsters" Gareth Edwards' film is one where the aliens are truly alien. It is so effective precisely because it doesn't showcase them endlessly savaging the earth. It makes them mysterious, sensed but rarely seen, their motives and even their forms incompletely glimpsed. Involving a journey from Mexico to the U.S. through an "Infected Zone," where 50-foot high spidery floaters pulse with an inner glow. It demonstrates that by making aliens too literal, it robs them of their menace and reduces them to special effects.

The film stars Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able as a photographer and the daughter of his publisher. Not by nature compatible, they share a journey that itself becomes the film. It is through wastelands of desolation like those in "The Road." "Monsters" are glimpsed but not understood. Then there's a breathtaking final sequence combining uncommon suspense and uncanny poetry, where their motives are made clear. Edwards evokes the awe and beauty he's has been building toward, and we fully realize the film's ambitious arc.

"Never Let Me Go. Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel imagining a society within the larger one consisting of children who were created in a laboratory to be Donors of body parts. They know this and accept it. They live within a closed world whose value system takes pride in how often and successfully they have Donated. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley star as three Doners now in their 20s.

This is a meditative, delicate film, directed sensitively, with actors who find the balancing point between their understanding of realigy and ours. These poor characters are innocent. They have the same hopes everyone has. It is so touching that they gladly give their organs to us. Greater love hath no man, than he who gives me his kidney, especially his second one.

"Rabbit Hole." Eight months after the death of their child, a couple remains frozen in sadness and uncertainty. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are no longer sleeping together or, actually, feeling married. They try grief counseling, and join an encounter group which she rejects but he returns to. Sandra Oh provides an insightful performance of a woman who seems to have embraced recovery as a lifestyle.

The director is John Cameron Mitchell, adapting David Lindsay-Abaire's play. He treats this situation with respect, but with a certain redeeming humor -- not, comedy, but the kind of deep good humor that can finally creep in late in a period of mourning as life begins to stir again. Kidman and Eckhart are well-suited; good-looking, confident people who suddenly are at a loss about how to live their lives.

"Secretariat" was one of the most thrilling and moving entertainments of the year, the story of the greatest race horse of all time. Walking into the theater, everyone knew it would win with the Triple crown and the historic victory at Belmont. Yet the audience cheered anyway -- not in surprise, I think, but in exhilaration. "Secretariat" is a movie that allows us to understand what it really meant.

This isn't a cornball formula film. It doesn't have a contrived romance. It's certainly not about an underdog. It is a great film about greatness, the story of the horse and the no less brave woman who had faith in him. Penny Chenery is played by Diane Lane, and John Malkovich and Nelsan Ellis provide counterpoint as Secretariat's trainer and groom. The best general film of the year.

"Solitary Man" Michael Douglas in the kind of role he plays best, a sinner. His character was once a regional celebrity as "New York's Honest Car Dealer." That went wrong, but he's still as persuasive as--well, as a good car dealer. In business he can sense what car to put you in. In sex he cans sense what mood to put you on. He closes a lot of deals.

He cheated on his wife (Susan Sarandon). He disappointed their daughter (Jenna Fischer). He cheats on his companion, (Mary-Louise Parker). He uses the offer of his experience in life to charm a college student (Jesse Eisenberg), and then betrays him. Eventually he is back where he began in college, behind the same counter of a greasy spoon run by an old pal (Danny Devito). Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, this is one of his best performances.

Overall, 2010 was not a great movie year, but it has many great movies. In days to come on my blog I'll write in more detail about the best in the categories of Documentaries, Foreign, Thrillers, Indies and Animation. Why categories? They provide a way to list more good films. If a "best film" list serves any purpose, it's to give you ideas.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Bog » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:06 pm

Here's a couple more I pulled from awards daily:

Absolutely useless "worst" list if it only contains the movies we knew would be the worst an entire year ago...


Peter Rainer at The Christian Science Monitor

1. Another Year (“Beneath its deceptively casual surface is an entire world of feeling.”)
2. I Am Love (“One of the rare movies that makes your eyes swim without also clouding your mind.”)
3. Inside Job (“the most lucid and straightforward cinematic rendering to date of the 2008 financial collapse”)
4. The Last Train Home (“An epic portrait, intimately told.”)
5. The Ghost Writer (“simultaneously scabrous and comedic… The Ghost Writer finally sounds a note of pervasive dread.)
6. The Illusionist (“ineffably sweet and melancholy”)
7. The King’s Speech (“Two better performances together you won’t find all year.”)
8. Toy Story 3 (“A triumphant conclusion to a series that just kept getting better and better.”)
9. Vincere (“in many ways the most jolting experience I had in the movies all year.”)
10. Winter’s Bone (“Jennifer Lawrence is probably the most gifted actress of her generation”)



Michael Phillips- Chicago Tribune titling his list "The Top 10 Ways to Start an Argument"

1. The Kids Are All Right
2. The Secret in Their Eyes
3. Boxing Gym
4. Last Train Home
5. Greenberg
6. Carlos
7. The Social Network
8. The King’s Speech
9. The Ghost Writer
10. The Fighter

11 through 20, alphabetically:

“Black Swan”; “The Crazies”; “Daddy Longlegs,” “The Duel”; “Exit Through the Gift Shop”; “Get Low”; “Inside Job”; “Lebanon”; “The Tillman Story”: “Tiny Furniture.”

The Worst:

“”Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”; “Charlie St. Cloud”; “Cop Out”; “Dinner for Schmucks”; “I’m Still Here”; “Kick-Ass”; “Killers”; “Knight and Day”; “The Last Airbender”; “Yogi Bear.”

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Eric
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Postby Eric » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:28 pm

Full EW lists.

Lisa
The Social Network
The Kids are All Right
Winter’s Bone
Toy Story 3
Last Train Home
Animal Kingdom
The Ghost Writer
A Prophet
Another Year
127 Hours

Owen
The Social Network
The Kids are All Right
Toy Story 3
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Ghost Writer
Another Year
Blue Valentine
The Town
Ajami
127 Hours

Can't remember the last time I've seen so much overlap between their lists. (Speaking of consensus.)


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