Okay, so this is a writing blog. Technically, I shouldn’t even be mentioning films. Es ist verboten. VERBOTEN!
However, since I don’t really have a dedicated cadre of readers expecting any certain subject, I am allowed the freedom to do whatever the fuck I want (like speak in German). With that said, let me introduce part eins of a two part series concerning films. Specifically, films released in 2010 (a year that seems universally reviled, but which I didn’t really mind).
In the first part, I’m going to lay out my picks for the best movies of the year. Unlike the Academy, I’m going to keep it to five. Ten starts to border on ridiculous, and to be honest, I’m not sure there were 10 films that truly deserve the honor. Look at the Golden Globes. When you have to nominate god damned Burlesque and The motherfucking Tourist, you have too many slots. Note that I’m not a movie buff, per se — there’s still a few big name films from 2010 I haven’t seen yet (127 Hours, The Fighter, and probably most egregious, The Social Network, which I’ll discuss at the bottom). With that said, let’s begin, in no special order.
1 – Black Swan
|Girl on girl action lolz! Nina is not amused.|
Now, I’m a sucker for weird movies, so Black Swan already has a leg up on the competition. My imagination tends to run wild with interpretation, and the director, Darren Aronofsky (who looks kind of like a chubby David Arquette), certainly invites that. If you’re the kind of person who likes a straightforward story (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you’ll hate this. There’s no two ways about it.
But beyond the surreal plot, there is much in the film to objectively enjoy. Black Swan is truly a movie where each aspect hits the mark and contributes to the overall effect. The score is spot-on. It blends Tchaikovsky’s compositions with modern discernment to create a sound setting that is simultaneously chilling and heartbreaking. Portman’s performance as coddled and confused Nina Sayers is magnificent. Not being nominated for Best Actress would be a travesty. I don’t want to say that she can’t top it, because I’m hoping she has a long and illustrious career in front of her, but I truly think she could retire tomorrow and still be counted among history’s great performers solely for her job in this film. It’s that brilliant. The symbolism is layered and complex. I find myself discovering new little motifs just replaying it in my mind, and I’ve only seen it once. For instance, did anyone notice the implication of Nina injuring herself with a mirror, of all things? Very interesting.
There are missteps — Aronofsky relies too heavily on cheesy thriller tropes and unnecessary cheap scares. The characters and plot provide enough tension on their own. And I think it’s fair to say that this is a love-it-or-hate-it film. I can absolutely understand some people not connecting. But in pure impact, Black Swan was without equal this year.
|Long hair is looooooooooong|
2 – Tangled
Okay, if I’m a sucker for weird movies, I’m a god damned fool for musicals. Disney musicals? Forget about it. Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King. Love ’em. The Princess and the Frog wasn’t up to the level of those golden-age classics, but it was a step in the right direction. So I was cautiously optimistic walking in to Tangled. I expected to like it. I didn’t expect to love it.
You know the basics. Rapunzel has really long hair. She’s kept in a high tower by a wicked witch. She’s rescued my a handsome prince. Roll credits. Of course, with John Lasseter in charge, we’re spared that formula. Tangled’s Rapunzel is a bright young girl whose kept in her tower not by any otherworldly power or feminine weakness. She’s kept there by a jealous mother. Mommy dearest preys on her daughter’s self-confidence to bolster her own. It’s probably the best and most relatable theme in any movie I’ve seen this year, and it comes from a fairy tale. Imagine that.
Tangled is simply the best non-Pixar Disney animated film I’ve seen in ages, probably since Mulan (that’s twelve years, if you’re counting). And it’s got probably the best female lead in their entire history. She’s smart (and not just in a inconsequential way like Belle), she’s capable, she’s cute and she shirks the Princess Complex from the beginning. It’s weird to say that, because in the end, Rapunzel is a princess. But unlike Ariel, unlike Jasmine, unlike Snow White, that fact doesn’t really inform her character. She doesn’t find out until the end of the movie, and truthfully, it doesn’t matter. It’s more important that she has a family that loves her and a partner who bolsters her confidence instead of stomping on it. Her royal lineage is beside the point.
Of course, Alan Menken’s songs don’t hurt. The man who composed The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horros, among others, is used to great effect here. The recurring healing incantation (“Flower gleam and glow/Let your power shine”) is as memorable and head-sticking as any Disney tune, and I See The Light joins Can You Feel the Love Tonight and A Whole New World in the list of great musical love themes. I won’t say this is Menken’s best work (that probably belongs to Aladdin), and there are fewer songs than I’d like, but it’s enjoyable nontheless.
The actors work great. I’m not a huge Chuck fan, but Zachary Levi is charming as fuck, if you’ll excuse my French. And of course, Mandy Moore is as cute as cute can be. She’s one of those actresses who doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but generally gives a great performance in whatever she chooses to do. At the end of the movie, I asked myself “Who voiced Rapunzel? She was really good. Oh … oh wow! I didn’t even realize!” That’s just the kind of actress she is. But yeah, the two have chemistry. It just works.
Criticisms? A few. The movie felt short, was is probably a necessity for it to work as a family film, but it leads to the pace being a little too rushed. Specifically, the love story between the male and female lead kind of pops up out of nowhere, as if the writers realized “Crap, we need them to be in love now. Aaaaand BE IN LOVE!” And, as I said, I wished we got a bit more music (thought that’s a criticism I can levy at other Disney films as well — they seem to be afraid to go full musical). But all in all, this is one of those movies that makes me want to have a kid, just so I can show them that there are strong positive messages in this world.
3 – Toy Story 3
The darkest movie about small plastic
objects you’ll see this year
Seriously? Another animated movie?
|It has this man.|
Okay, enough fanboy gushing. Why does another animated film deserve to be counted among the best of the year? Because it’s a masterful end (likely the end — it should be) to a wonderful series. Because it tears at your heart without using cheap shots like Toy Story 2 or even, it could be argued, Up. The melancholy in Toy Story 3 is directly relevant to the journey of the characters. Not just the journey in this movie, though it certainly stands on its own, but the journey from the beginning of the series.
Criticisms? Not really. The central conflict (toys shipped off to a kindergarten and have to escape) isn’t the most memorable or original, I guess. But who cares?
4 – The Town
“And why do you think you deserve to
join The League of Handsome Men?”
Huh? No. Stop. Just stop. The Fucking Town? You’re nominating A Ben Affleck Joint? No Inception, no Blue Valentine, no King’s Speech, but you put a Bostonian heist film on here? That’s retahdid, you fuckin’ queeah.
Yeah, yeah, so it’s Ben Affleck. Yeah, he’s can be kind of silly. He was in Daredevil. He was in Gigli. GIGLI.
You know who else has been in some terrible movies and is kind of silly? Marky Mark Wahlberg. Oh, excuse me. ACADEMY AWARD WINNER Marky Mark Wahlberg.
So I try not to discount an actor solely because of some missteps, or some personal weirdness. If Robert Pattinson made a movie as entertaining as The Town, I’d get on my knees and receive his greasy glittering man-juice.
5 – True Grit
|Aw, do we have to bring Matt Damon with us?|
You’ll notice in the Black Swan entry that I didn’t quite say that Natalie Portman should win Best Actress. Why? 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. She’s so talented that she shared this year with Annette Benning, Marion Cotillard, and the best performance Natalie Portman has ever given, and I’m not really sure who should win the oscar. My biggest achievement at 14 was deciphering Metal Gear Solid 2.
|Yeah, let’s see Little Miss Thing fit THIS into canon!|
Ms. Steinfeld’s acting, and the handling of her character, the headstrong ahead-of-her-time Mattie Ross, is the sole reason True Grit is on the list. It might be the reason it’s on everybody’s list. Seriously. I struggled. It barely made the cut. True Grit is a pretty good movie. It’s not out of this world amazing. Jeff Bridges is funny. Matt Damon is good. The pace is perfect. It’s a Coen movie. Like Pixar, that name brings with it a certain quality of expectation. But, it must be said, it sometimes carries a nagging “So What?” True Grit brought the “So What?” It brought it, it unwrapped it, and it took a picture with it wearing a fake smile for grandma. It simply wasn’t that memorable. A cool adolescent girl tags along with a loose cannon US Marshal and a by-the-book Texas Ranger. She’s looking for the man who killed her father. She finds him. Thirty or so years later, she’s still smart, she doesn’t need a man and she never really saw either of the two men again. Roll credits.
|Seriously, aren’t there any other
actresses in that country?
The King’s Speech breaks the mold of a traditional period piece. Colin Firth is fantastic, and is probably a shoe-in for best actor. The chemistry between Firth and Geoffry Rush is among the best I’ve seen in a long while. I particularly enjoyed the subtle focus on how technology changed both the world at large, and the lives of a royal family straddling two distinct periods. The story, untraditional as it may be, is pure charm. It’s not quite lifechanging enough to make the top five but I’m certain it’ll make the Academy’s top ten, and rightff …. rightffffuuu …. deservedly so.
|Is she the third Wasikowska Brother?|
All right. Moving on.
But wait, what about …
I’ll be writing up Part II in the next few days, after the nods are announced. It’ll be the traditional rundown, selecting my favorites (note that word — it won’t be who I think will win, rather who I think should win). See you soon!