I know this is going to be a more unpopular choice even than Inception. Just looking at Leo's serious "actor face" to the left gives me the heebie-jeebies, and not in a good way.
But all film Top 10s worth their salt have to make unpopular choices, and I'm willing to make my stand with late-period Martin Scorsese. The Departed, as I've argued before, is still criminally underrated by so-called Scorsese fans, and this movie, while not really in the same realm of quality, was dismissed as a corny genre exercise. Genre exercise! It's a fucking Scorsese movie! His whole career is a genre exercise! (BTW, I'd be interested to know which 2010 movie does not firmly belong in one genre or another).
You could call it a gimmick twist movie, but Shutter Island's "twist" does not revise, in a typically clunky manner, the movie's previous action: it only makes explicit a deepening truth that was very much already present. That sounds a bit cryptic, but I don't think the film itself is meant to be a true "mindfuck" in the style of Inception or Mulholland Drive. What it is, really, is an absorbing, dramatic, and even surprisingly sensitive exploration of mental illness.
Don't listen to 'em, Marty. Keep doing your own thing. Just stay away from the history of aviation, huh?
Ah, childhood. Growing up, I never played with Barbie and Ken -- honest! -- but now I almost wish I had. For all you singles out there, his shrewd Youtube dating tips are highly recommended.
As Katherine pointed out to me in the course of our post-movie roundtable, these are not talking animals. These are talking material goods, things manufactured en masse and sold in stores but that are nonetheless sources of deep emotional attachment. Pixar gets us to tremble for their lives, even as we know that no kids' movie would ever incinerate its entire cast of characters, and then it gets us to hope that Andy will actually take some of them to college, even though we know that no kids' movie can really advocate anything so socially suicidal (come on, a cowboy doll in the dorm?).
These are real achievements, although I wonder if their practical impact is only to make us feel more emotionally secure about our materialism. But let's not worry about that! (Wall-E dealt with that problem, anyway -- I wonder if in all his trash compacting, he ever came across a bent-and-broken Buzz Lightyear doll that nobody bothered to get rid of because it was too painful to let go). The point is, the playing-with-toys-as-a-budding-adult scene near the end practically made me cry. And Ken was damn groovy. Damn you, Pixar, I want to turn against you, but you win again!
Only a hair's breadth separates the films ranked from #4 all the way to #8, or even really #15. It's a narrow space populated by a dense group of movies that range from good to very good. There were only films in 2010 on which I'd consider bestowing the other "g" word. No, not "grundlicious."
This is one of them. It's a gripping Ozarks noir that pushes the boundaries of rural poverty even beyond the formidable marker established by Frozen River. In that movie, the destitute family eats popcorn for dinner. In this one, they eat squirrel.
The entire landscape of Winter's Bone, indeed, is so far removed from American middle class experience that it almost feels like a piece of science fiction. The few brief scenes that do not take place in the trash-strewn yards and cabins and hills -- including one at the main character's high school -- almost feel otherworldy, like out-of-body experiences on another planet.
Yet within this world we meet Brie (UPDATE: Ree. I'm an ass-clown.), the most resourceful film heroine since, I don't know, Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen? Her quest, as epic as it is frightful, is the movie adventure of the year. Jennifer Lawrence, you have officially arrived! I look forward to seeing you in a romantic comedy with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or Andrew Garfield?) sometime next spring.
Like The Fighter, this is another movie that's not quite as good as The Wrestler, unlike The Fighter, it really does belong in the same conversation.
I found Darren Aronofsky's exploration of physical brutality both overwrought and underexplained in Requiem For a Dream. It was, as one critic described it, the equivalent of putting a bucket on your head and letting a neighbor bash it with a baseball bat for two hours. But his last two films have returned to the problem of physical and psychological anguish with a rare combination of power and sensitivity.
Is it a little campy? No, it's a lot campy. But if Aronofsky's vision of the high art of ballet isn't all that different from his take on the low art of professional wrestling, I like it that way. Natalie Portman's frantically huffing ballerina might lack the pathos, the sheer human largeness, of Mickey Rourke's Randy the Ram, and yet the film compensates by making her gradual deterioration such vicious fun. "My Sweet Girl!" The audience, after a while, begins to root for her earnest brittleness to be snapped, for her White Swan to go completely Black. Yes, it's a dream role for Natalie Portman.
I'm not if the sure the film's largest metaphor -- about the achievement of artistic transcendence through physical suffering -- is best served by making itself so explicit in the final scene. But it's a fascinating, powerful idea, regardless, and no one has probed it with with more depth than Aronofsky. What should we hope he takes up in his next film? Avant garde sculpture? Archery? Professional hula hooping? In truth I'd love to see him take on the NFL, although maybe he's said enough on this theme. Either way, I can't wait.
The best film of 2010, and the early contender (well, duh) for the movie of the decade. Where will you be in 2020? I might be eating squirrel for dinner, and continuing to put off my dissertation, but when I'm done with that I know I'll spend some time thinking long and hard about where to slot this masterpiece into my final rankings.
First: can we all step back and give the film industry credit this year for discovering cunnilingus? Blue Valentine, The Kids Are All Right, Black Swan, I Am Love, and even Dogtooth all explored the mysteries of female pleasure. Families are bad, clitoral orgasms are good -- maybe Rush Limbaugh was right to worried about this feminism thing, eh?
Second: Ryan Gosling does great things for the ukulele, doesn't he? I've already ordered my instrument in the mail. Oh, and that "You and Me" song is pretty good, too, huh? (If you can bear it, I have more thoughts on the music of Blue Valentine here).
There are many more serious things to say about Blue Valentine, and Cydney at Material Lives has said some of the most important of them: "I left the theater feeling more moved than hopeless, perhaps because love and death are parts of life that we all have experienced. And in that sense, the film is deeply human."
Yes! I know the film has been advertised as a romantic disaster porn of sorts, but I think we should should resist the temptation to understand it that way. A bleak commentary on love's fleeting magic? Well, that's closer to the mark, but still not quite my experience. The back-and-forth structure of the film, which intercuts clips of Dean and Cindy's joyful coupling with scenes of their current misery, works against such a grim reading. Every time the present knocks the wind out of you, the past fills your lungs with air.
Agreed. Like Cydney, I left the theater feeling more exalted than abused.
UPDATE: Bonus Blue Valentine content! Terri Gross's interview with Ryan Gosling! Hint: it's thoughtful.