Monday, December 27, 2010

Year End Reviews - Top 10 Movies


y favorite movies of the year might be very different from yours. My taste in movies tends towards the diverse, sometimes the bizarre, often documentaries or foreign films, but I also love to laugh. Basically I love a movie that either 1. makes me think, 2. makes me laugh, 3. makes me feel, 4. is beautiful, 5. introduces something completely new and interesting to the art form or 6. entertains the heck out of me. If I movie manages to do more than one of these things, it's likely to make it onto this list or if it does anyone of them really really well, then that might be enough to make it on the list all by itself.

Before I get to my list, a short note about ratings: I don't pay much attention to them. Why? Well, it's a personal thing. For some people that gives them an idea of whether or not they want to go to a movie in the first place. For me, I find, that a rating very very often gives you absolutely no idea whether or not something is going to be worth my time or not. In fact, to be honest with you, there were several PG13 movies I saw this year which I found absolutely full of things which made me squirm or uncomfortable to watch with my children, whereas I saw several R rated movies that I would have no problem with them attending. For reals. The rating system is seriously messed up and I hate how they are determined, and for that reason, I pay almost zero attention to any of them. There are much better ways to determine the value of content in my opinion. (see my list above as to what I am looking for in a movie...) So having said that I honestly haven't got much idea what any of these movies are rated and so if you care about that aspect of it, you'll have to go digging for that information. This is just my impressions and my top 10. Starting with 10 and working towards my most favorite at 1:

10 - Shutter Island: Coming in at number 10 is this Leonardo Di Caprio film which I thought was an intelligent little thriller. A quite decent twist ending that you might not quite see coming, though you may be guessing at something happening and see the clues, you probably won't have it all figured out prior to the end. Plus I don't know, sometimes I think Leonardo is a little dreamy.

9 - Inception: Another Leonardo film, and he's pretty dreamy in this one too. This film is one that you need to be paying attention to or you really aren't quite sure what is going on. I had no problem following it and most people I know didn't either (nor did my two kids ages 13 and 15) but having said that there were some people in the theatre who seemed to walk out confused. Individual mileage may vary. But I think it was quite a thinking man (or woman's) sci-fi, which doesn't happen all that often and which I don't normally like all that much (sci-fi in general not being my usual choice in moving going genres). Interesting take on concepts of consciousness, dreams, etc, which I always find interesting.

8 - I'm Still Here: I know, the movie almost everyone loved to hate this year, so what am I doing endorsing it? The film blew me away on a number of levels. First of all - even if you sorta thought maybe it might be a hoax, seeing it before the word was out that it actually was a hoax of sorts, was an entirely different thing than seeing it after you knew for sure. There was no way to really know if Phoenix was snowing us or not. Not for abosolute certain. And even when you do know - there some really crazy good acting going on here. So you either think you're watching amazing acting (after you find out) or you think you're watching this really raw performance peice (before you find out) and either way it's very mesmerizing. I always really like Joaquin, I always felt he had this quiet intensity that was just really great and you see it in spades in this movie. Is it disturbing? YES! Very much so. And I will say the subject matter is definitely MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY. But as a student of psychology, it's endlessly fascinating. It's also endlessly fascinating in a whole other sense - in the way that it explores celebrity and media and cultural obsessions and a score of other societal ills. I know I'm one of like 2 people in America who genuinely admired it, so I'm on my own here, but I really think it's a great little peice of art.

7 - Greenberg: A quirky film to be sure, but mining some serious emotional depths. I loved Stiller's performance here and I loved the subject matter explored. What happens when you don't live up to your expectations? What happens when you wake up and find yourself a grown-up except you aren't sure how you got there? There are some moments of intense emotional honesty here that you just don't see in a film all that often. Really great.

6- The American: Don't let the title fool you, this film is anything but a typical american film. Really it's more of a foreign film with the main character being american and in english (mostly) - set in Italy (and a tiny bit in Sweden) this film moves and feels like a foreign film. It's largely quiet for huge swaths of time. But I loved that about it. The tension gets so ramped up at times that I found myself almost getting a pain in my neck from sitting with my muscles so taut. When I left the theatre I felt slightly transformed by it. The ultimate mark of a good movie for me.

5 - The Ghost Writer: Also basically of a foreign film (directed by Polanski), I loved this beautiful moody little piece. The story is intriguing and the acting is great (I usually adore Ewan McGregor), but in addition the gorgeous setting of the thing is amazing. From the austere modern home where most of the action takes place to the gray weather and wonderful shots, I could feel the chill in the room emanating off the screen. More or less a thriller, it's a really well done movie.

4- Inside Job: If there's one movie I think everyone should have to see this year it would be this one. Such a well done and thoroughly researched and presented documentary outlining in detail the financial collapse and why we should all be pretty mad about it. Pointing blame exactly where the largest portion of blame lies - which is basically outside of all political lines but shares blame all the way around between anyone with true power in this country - this movie will make you madder than you've ever been and still entertained and intrigued while it's happening. Please go rent this.

3 - Exit Through the Gift Shop: a seriously hilarious little documentary of sorts (well...kind of...there's some question about some aspects of the movie and how much of it is documentary and how much of it is Bansky having us on again). If you don't know all that much about Banksy maybe this won't be as enjoyable as it is for those who have followed his work, but I tend to think even if this was your introduction to Banksy and street art in general, you'd enjoy it. I saw it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times and would love to see it again.

2 - It's Complicated: Okay for so many reasons I loved this. And I almost didn't go because I thought it looked sort of stupid in the previews. It's funny, but also it's really well acted. Meryl is amazing as usual. I love Alex Baldwin and Steve Martin does a good job too. It touches on some themes that you don't see touched on all that often in a movie which were not only funny, but serious as well - actually making light of something that in real life, often isn't that funny at all. Which is part of what you have to love about it. And men going through a mid-life crisis definitely should see it, as a cautionary tale. I can't imagine why every woman over the age of about 35 wouldn't love it.

1 - A Single Man: This film stuck with me all year. I think I saw it around March? And I think about it still very frequently. It was gorgeous. Gorgeous. Did I mention it was absolutely gorgeous? Well it was. Besides that, it gave me so much to think about. There was so much substance to it that I find myself still ruminating on it's message - and how often does a film do that? This is one that I would definitely like to own and watch again on occasion. Films don't slip onto my all time favorite list all that often, but this one defintely did. And not very many people saw it, which is such a shame. Tom Ford blew my socks off. The man knows a visual image that seers. And the acting is superb. Definitely my favorite of the year.

There's my year end list. What would you add? What did you see that you really loved this year?


Kristy said...

So funny, I agree on most of those, but I DETESTED The American. I was so frustrated at the end of it. Brian Finn still owes me a movie because it was his suggestion :)

Sarah said...

We just saw Ghost Writer the other day and both really liked it too, except I am kind of a mystery buff and knew bad guy/girl as soon as I met the character. But I wasn't expecting the ending. It was fun to see you and your kids at Inception - we do not get out much to the theater for movies anymore... That one was the best one I've seen this year for sure. I would love to see the rest, but that is one thing that is a little embarrassingly molly mormon about me... I did see Babies and I really liked it. Sufjan Stevens, my fellow Michiganian, did the music so it is a must see just for that :)

Bandanamom said...

Kristy - I know a lot of people who did not like The American. I totally get why - especially because I think it was so different from what people expected (I think they expected more action in general or they expected the sort of typical Clooney character which is usually much more...gregarious?). I felt like _I_ was an assassin when I left the theatre, which was a weird thing to feel! Seriously, I was suspicious of everyone for several hours. :)

Sarah - I loved Babies, I thought that was a really cool movie. It didn't make my top 10, but it was in my top 20.

I get the whole 'R' rating thing too. I think some people, when I say that I don't pay much attention to the ratings and when I complain about pg13 movies think I should probably bag both the pg13's and the R's altogether.

Some of the R rated movies are admittedly totally inappropriate. (I'm Still Here falls into that category) But I do feel like some of my favorite films which are R could be shown to a room full of mormon women and if they didn't know before hand that it was rated R, they wouldn't assume that it was. Case in point would be Slumdog Millionaire. I let my kids watch that one. But I totally get why people generally don't want to take the risk. I hate watching something that I find ruined by stuff that seems totally uncalled for in terms of plot, etc.


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