A Look Back at 2010:
In 2009, Hollywood went to war and for the most part blew us away if not with the actual quality of their output, with their audacity at least. In 2010 they took a deep breath and dove back into the shadows and dark alleys of the mind. It was the year of the Neo-Noir Renaissance.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (2nd movement) is probably one of the most recognizable and widely used pieces of classical music. Filmmakers have returned to it over and over again – Tom Hooper just did for the excellent closing montage to The King’s Speech. But I feel this piece of music represents clearly what the 2010 year in film was all about: dark, brooding, steady, prone to dramatic swells, often formulaic, but very well crafted. Tell me you don’t see a bit of the same madness in Carlos Kleiber conducting that we saw in Scorsese, Nolan and Aronofsky directing in 2010.
Unlike most years, it started off like gangbusters with two masters delivering wildly entertaining larks that owed as much debt to their own past efforts at they did to Hitchcock: Martin Scorsese’s “in your face” Shutter Island and Roman Polanski’s more subtle and refined The Ghost Writer. The trend towards neo-noir continued and reached its zenith in the summer with two polarizingly opposite films: Debra Granik’s independent and devilishly simple Winter’s Bone and Christopher Nolan’s wickedly complex mega-blockbuster Inception. Even some of the heavy-hitters at the end of the year, like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan or The Coen Brothers’ True Grit owed some debt to noir.
Overall, it was a solid, consistent year for films and a nice way to kick-off a new decade of cinema. There was nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary, but there were plenty of reasons to be entertained in 2010…and you didn’t have to look far and wide as good story-telling was there in equal measure in both the art houses and cineplexes. From the horrors of family bonds in the Ozark mountains, to the dreams within dreams of a con man and the woman he loved, to the damaged psyche of a ballerina spinning out of control to reach perfection, to the grit and gumption of a little girl determined to avenge her father’s murder…story was paramount in 2010, though when it came to dreams…a little spectacle didn’t hurt either.
On the heals of Kathryn Bigelow’s glass-shattering success with The Hurt Locker the year prior, 2010 was a great year for the female auteur. Debra Granik made the most audacious of breakthroughs with her whisper-quiet and chilling Winter’s Bone. Meanwhile, more seasoned independents like the oft-underrated Nicole Holofcener (Please Give), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids are All Right) and Sofia Coppola (Somewhere – a film I was sadly not able to screen prior to this) returned to form, hit their stride, or got lost in their own daydreams to varying degrees of success.
Elsewhere in the art houses, the Italians came to shore blending opera and cinema in styles both fascist (Vincere) and ultra-mod (I Am Love). The Aussies also took a stab at neo-noir (in the hella-good The Square) and the crime epic (in the much ballyhooed but disappointing Animal Kingdom). Meanwhile, a number of documentaries struck a chord (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Waiting for Superman and Inside Job). However, none of these attempts provided a break-out hit.
The cineplexes were no stranger to the usual lowest-common denominator fodder, and poor Alice in Wonderland came to represent everything that is wrong with Hollywood today: It had no valid reason for being remade, contained overblown second-rate CGI, was made in 3D so they could jack-up ticket prices, and freatured lazy direction and sleepwalking movie stars – and it grossed an obscene 1 billion dollars worldwide! Yet somehow I weathered the storm better than usual this year avoiding most of the wreckage.
We were rightly rewarded with the greatest summer blockbuster of a generation courtesy of the 21st Century Fritz Lang. Christopher Nolan’s Inception was not perfection, but it was the real deal and it showed just how big we can dream. Success comes to the willing…and the spoils go to the audience willing to dream along with the dreamer. Nolan is the only mainstream director from this generation to consistently live up to the hype and fulfill the promise of his earlier independent endeavors. To borrow the words of Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, “Mr. Nolan, you truly are who I always did think you were.”
The Year in Pictures:
Take your Golden Globes and shove ‘em. Sit on it, Oscar.
The Schleicher Spin proudly presents:
The 5th Annual Davies:
Awarding Excellence and Idiocy in Film for the Year 2010.
The Top Ten Films of 2010:
- Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
- Inception – Christopher Nolan
- Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky
- The Ghost Writer – Roman Polanski
- Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese
- Vincere – Marco Bellocchio
- True Grit – The Coen Brothers
- Cairo Time – Ruba Nadda
- The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper
- The Social Network – David Fincher
- 127 Hours – Danny Boyle
- Fair Game – Doug Liman
- I Am Love – Luca Guadagnino
- Mother and Child – Rodrigo Garcia
- Please Give – Nicole Holofcener
- The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko
- The Square – Nash Edgerton
- The Town – Ben Affleck
- White Material – Claire Denis
Films I wished I had been able to screen prior to this: Alamar, Another Year, Biutiful, Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole, Somewhere
Best Picture: (TIE) Winter’s Bone and Inception – This may seem like a cop-out, but for me, these two films represent the best of what independent films can achieve and the best of what studio driven films can achieve, and as such, they deserve equal accolades.
Best Director: Christopher Nolan for Inception
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio for Shutter Island and Inception
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams for The Fighter
Breakthrough Performance of the Year: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone
Best Comedic Reading of Dramatic Lines: Christian Bale’s entire performance in The Fighter
Best Comedic Facial Expressions in a Dramatic Role: Melissa Leo (and her misfit daughters) in The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan for Inception
Best Adapted Screenplay: Debra Granik and Anne Rosselini for Winter’s Bone
Best Editing: Lee Smith for Inception
Worst Editing: Jon Harris for the headache inducing opening 15 minutes of 127 Hours - an otherwise good film
Best Original Music Score: Hans Zimmer for Inception
Best Soundtrack (Songs & Lyrics): All of those great traditionals from Marideth Sisco et al. in Winter’s Bone
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for True Grit
Best Special Effects: Inception
Richest Confounding Film: White Material
Most Worthless Confounding Film: Valhalla Rising
Most Underrated Film: Mother and Child
Most Overrated Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – strangely enough, David Fincher’s American remake is due by the end of 2011, which means we have a chance for a doppelgänger repeat in this category!
Best Guilty Pleasure: Machete (too bad Machete don’t blog)
Best Horror Film: Inside Job (trust me, this documentary about the global economic crisis is plenty scary)
Best Comedy: The Other Guys (we don’t want no scrubs)
Movie Trend I Thoroughly Enjoyed: The Neo-Noir Renaissance – need I make this case any more?
Movie Trend I (Mostly) Ignored: The Stieg Larsson Millenium Trilogy — I watched the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, on DVD out of morbid curiosity. It confirmed my suspicion that this series was poorly made, convoluted, vile trash and I didn’t need to see anything more. Gee, I can’t wait for the American remakes.
Biggest Disappointment: Get Low
Worst Picture: Alice in Wonderland
Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:
We encourage feedback and suggestions for categories next year.
Reviews for many of the films mentioned here can be found under the “Movie Reviews” category.
Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2010.
What movies would make your Top Ten List?
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