The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

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.”
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The Year in Pictures:

In February, Martin Scorsese explored the prison of one’s mind in SHUTTER ISLAND.

In March, Americans finally got to see the stunning images in Marco Bellocchio’s Mussolini inspired fever dream, VINCERE.

In June, Debra Granik put a spotlight on neo-noir with WINTER’S BONE.

In July, audiences gasped waiting for a spinning top to fall at the end of INCEPTION.

In December, audiences gasped waiting for a spinning ballerina to fall at the end of BLACK SWAN.

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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:

  1. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
  2. Inception – Christopher Nolan
  3. Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky
  4. The Ghost Writer – Roman Polanski
  5. Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese
  6. Vincere – Marco Bellocchio
  7. True Grit – The Coen Brothers
  8. Cairo Time – Ruba Nadda
  9. The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper
  10. The Social Network – David Fincher

Honorable Mentions:

  • 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 FilmInside 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 PictureAlice in Wonderland

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Results from past Davies Awards can be found by clicking below:

The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 3rd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 2nd Annual Davies Awards in Film

The 1st Annual Davies Awards in Film

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.

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Tell us what your pick was for Best Film of 2010. 

What movies would make your Top Ten List? 

Speak your mind and join the discussion by leaving a comment!

If you’re a fellow film blogger with your own awards, top ten list or 2010 wrap-up share your links in the comment form. 

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19 comments on “The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

  1. Prakash says:

    Excellent ceremony Dave.

    Your top 10 list is pretty tight. But somehow, I not too sure if The Social Network deserves to be in the top 10, for me personally TSN did more to encourage new IT Czars than bring forth the idea that greed and one-upmanship comes with a ‘price’. The Biggest Disappointment for me was TSN.

    Worst picture: hmmmm…. my vote’s for the Twilight series.

    And how about including a Best Action/Slick Film category? For instance, I found Salt a pretty formulaic yet slick-paced action packed explosive package.

    Prakash, you make an interesting point there about The Social Network, which I do feel to be slightly over-estimated by the masses. I still feel it was impeccably well crafted, though. But backlash seems inevitable given all the unfounded critics’ awards it’s been winning. I had thought about doing Best Action and Best Horror Films (as I have in the past) but I couldn’t think of any ones that would be worthy. Salt I thought was pretty bad. –DHS

    • Prakash says:

      Oh! And you also left out Best Science Fiction this year.

      Good catch…I guess it would’ve been a given with Inception…though I could’ve named Splice for fun…what an entertaining train wreck that movie was! –DHS

      • Prakash says:

        I wouldn’t waste a fantastic movie like Inception into an exclusive slot like “Science Fiction”; it covers way too much ground to be slotted into a specific category.

        My vote’s for Splice too. The ending was a bit bizarre and made me laugh more than making me curious. Yet overall it was a great watch.

  2. DeeDee says:

    Hi! D.H.Schleicher…

    Unfortunately, I have not watched any Of these films *hold head down in shame*…Therefore, I just have to take a “back seat” on commenting and wait and see if the Academy Of Arts and Motion Picture and Science agree with your choices too!

    In the meantime, I read this post…The Neo-Noir Renaissance and all I can say is…What a very interesting analysis or look at the evolution Of Film noir to current day films that are the “progeny” Of Film noir…Known as…Neo-Noir.

    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;) :)

    I thought you might be “on board” for my Neo-Noir Renaissance, DeeDee :) –DHS

  3. DeeDee says:

    Oops!
    Sorry, I have watched Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” but I don’t think mentioning that one film
    will assist me in compiling a top ten film list.

    And I’m pretty sure you saw Alice and Wonderland (and liked it) which, of course, wasn’t in my top ten, but certainly accounted for in my wrap-up in a most dubious fashion. — DHS

  4. Dianne Glave says:

    The little girl avenging her father most reverberated for me. Vengence is a classic trope in literature and film. Winter’s Bone took the trope and made a simple classic powerful film.

    Dianne – yes, a very common but powerful theme that will always be popular. –DHS

  5. Hi David. I’ve been meaning to comment here, and your visit to my site finally got me moving.

    Nice list. It’s always tough to find total agreement on things like this, but our respective top 10 lists share four films. Not a bad percentage.

    I will defend “The Social Network,” as I think the script was phenomenal and the execution first rate. I don’t think the film’s point was to show that greed comes with a price. Thus I don’t think it’s fair to criticize it for not being that.

    Certainly, that message is worthy, but I’ve always thought you need to critique a work based on its ambitions and not what you want it to be. Looking at the way Facebook turned out — and at corporate America in general — there’s very little to indicate that greed actually does come with a price. And I think films that offer a realistic depiction of the world are just as valuable as those that sermonize.

    Just my two cents. Happy New Year!

    Forrest, thanks for stopping by. Those are all great points, too. Maybe the film was more though-provoking than I had surmised based on your and Prakash’s diverging reactions. Again, to me, regardless of the story or the “point” – it was just a very well made film –DHS

  6. Wow, I knew you liked “Winter’s Bone,” but I’m not sure I knew how much. The best picture of the year? Really? I’m sure you know it will be a strong contender for my most overrated, but I’m still shocked it’s in your top spot.

    I love Geoffrey Rush and Amy Adams in the supporting categories, two who will probably be overlooked in the long run (in favor of Christian Bale and I’m not sure who for the actress).

    Though I also did not like “Alice in Wonderland,” I have to believe the only reason you chose it as the worst movie of 2010 is because you didn’t see stinkers like “The Last Airbender”, “Faster”, and “Little Fockers”, all of which are infinitely worse than the the terribleness of “Alice.”

    Jason, I’ve seen Winter’s Bone three times now, and each time the experience has grown richer. You make a good point about my limited exposure to the worst films, however…I have yet to see a Twilight film as well…and clearly…well…you know. I still think more than any of them, however, Alice in Wonderland is emblematic of all that is wrong with Hollywood these days. –DHS

    • Yes you are right about “Alice” being emblematic of all that is wrong with Hollywood, though Hollywood would disagree. So long as trash like that can take in more than one BILLION dollars worldwide we’ll see a lot more of it. Maybe Hollywood isn’t the problem…

      Jason, hey now, don’t blame THE PEOPLE. The masses flocked to Inception too, mind you. But yeah, I guess there is a bit of the ol’ supply and demand going on there. I do believe Hollywood routinely dupes people into going to see the trash, and sometimes in suburban multiplexes, the only choices are the trash, so what’s a person to do? –DHS

  7. Sam Juliano says:

    This is a wonderful, passionate assessment of the year’s most notable achievements, ushered in by that lovely reference to and Kleiber you tube to Betthoven’s endlessly reference second movement to his towering Seventh.

    As it is, you may make some revisions in the coming weeks, when you attend to BLUE VALENTINE, ANOTHER YEAR and RABBIT HOLE, three films that made my own Top Ten list. And even though I lament the inability to include WINTER’S BONE and VINCERE on my own list, I have championed both all year round. I’d even go as far as to say that Ms. Mezzogiorno is the year’s top actress. Among actors, I’d so with Firth and Edgar Ramirez (CARLOS), but who can argue with Di Caprio? Similarly, SHUTTER ISLAND, which made my own runner-up lot, is one of the season’s most entertaining films. I may not have been a fan of BLACK SWAN, but it’s regard by so many speaks volumes.

    As always, your various awards here allow for a comprehensive overview and ever-engaging read.

    Sam, yup, there are always those insanely limitedly released films around this time that sneak by me…I look forward to all of those films you mentioned. I was surprised Winter’s Bone and Vincere didn’t make your cut…though I know many would argue Vincere was a 2009 release. –DHS

  8. John Greco says:

    Dave,
    Good list! About half on your list would make my list with a couple making the HM list. One (Vincere) I have not seen. Inception gets a bad rap for being too Hollywood and maybe there is a backlash against Nolan (understandably), but it is a technically well done film. Not as ‘deep’ as one is led to believe but compare to so many mindless action films we are forced to endure it is very good.

    My top film would probably be the documentary “Inside Job.” Others for sure on the list would be Shutter Island, The King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, The Ghost Writer, and The Social Network.

    Alice in Wonderland was bad but my pick for the worst film of the year is Grown Ups! Oh the horror, the horror.

    John, I have no doubt in the awfulness of Grown Ups, but to me the worst films are those that had potential to be good and went horribly awry. I don’t think anyone thought Grown Ups would be good, not even the people making it and staring in it. –DHS

  9. ccyager says:

    Interesting list, David. I plan to use it for my DVD viewing this year!

    Sorry to hear your opinion about “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I’ve read all the books and have seen all the movies, all with a critical eye, and while they are not perfect (what is?), like “Inception” was not perfect, they offer insight into a side of humanity that people keep wanting to sweep under the rug and call trash. Read the novels, David! Keep an open mind…..

    As for the madness of Carlos Kleiber, his directing of music is not the same as the directing done by Scorcese, et.al. Conductors direct musicians and conduct music. A film director then would need to direct actors and conduct scripts/words(?). I get what you were reaching for, though. As for Beethoven having a formulaic bar of music anywhere in his output, much less in the 7th’s second movement which is considered by musicians to be perfect, I vigorously and adamantly disagree. Before he composed the 7th’s second movement, nobody had heard the likes of that music before….(smile) Beethoven was a pioneer, breaking all the rules of music composition that had stood firmly before he came along.

    Cinda

    Cinda, thanks for stopping by as always!

    I recall that you were a fan of the Larsson books, and I have heard nothing but good things about them. You make a good point about keeping an open mind when comparing books to their film adaptations. If I were to read them, I would judge them separately from the film adaptations. My opinion was purely based on the first film. With it, I saw enough, and care to see no more of the film series…but that doesn’t mean I am dismissing the novels as well.

    I feel you may have taken my Kleiber comment too literally. I was merely trying to find an appropriate “score” for the piece and trying to tie together the themes I saw this year in film. As for the Beethoven piece, of course, it is a masterpiece and was revolutionary…I only meant to imply that it is familiar to all current listeners due to its immense popularity and constant use by filmmakers. I was attempting to link its repeated usage by movie directors to the trends in film this year and was in no way passing judgment on its inherent quality. No defense of a genius like Beethoven is needed here! –DHS

  10. DeeDee says:

    DHS said,”And I’m pretty sure you saw Alice and Wonderland (and liked it) which, of course, wasn’t in my top ten, but certainly accounted for in my wrap-up in a most dubious fashion…”

    Hi! DHS—Point Of Clarification…
    To be quite honest with you, I have never watched Alice in Wonderland…even though Sam Juliano, send me a copy Of the film. (I passed the DVD to my niece…even though she is quite young she showed an interest in the film.)

    I must also admit that even though I like director Tim Burton,(Especially, his animation) my interest is more so in actor Johnny Depp’s work on film.(Tim Burton, just happen to be along for the ride too!)

    DeeDee ;) :)

    DeeDee – WOW! Color me shocked! –DHS

  11. Joseph says:

    I haven’t seen the same films, but REALLY want to.

  12. I really enjoyed reading this list and am glad that you feel the way you do about Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Alice and Wonderland! You are right in that GWTDT has been overrated. I am curious as to what Fincher and Rooney Mara have in store for us.

    I had a very similar list on my site and saw some similar taste between you and I.

    great list indeed, sir!!

  13. UPDATE FOR READERS: Having now seen Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, I need to amend the list, as it was a film so powerful only Inception and Winter’s Bone topped it. That placement would knock The Social Network out of my Top Ten and into the group of Honorable Mentions.

    The Top Ten Films of 2010:

    1.Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
    2.Inception – Christopher Nolan
    3.Biutiful – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
    4.Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky
    5.The Ghost Writer – Roman Polanski
    6.Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese
    7.Vincere – Marco Bellocchio
    8.True Grit – The Coen Brothers
    9.Cairo Time – Ruba Nadda
    10.The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper

    Honorable Mentions:

    **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

    I would also like to add Jessica Hausner’s film, Lourdes, to my Honorable Mentions.

    My full review of Biutiful:

    http://theschleicherspin.com/2011/02/07/its-not-a-grave-its-a-niche/

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