Sunday, March 27, 2011

(My) Best of 2010: Picture.

10. Somewhere

Like Lost in Translation before it, Somewhere is a non-story that evokes beautiful nostalgia. Once again set in the world of Hollywood (stick to what you know, right?) Sofia Coppola delivers a delicate portrait of a movie star (Stephen Dorff) and his down to earth relationship with his young daughter (Elle Fanning).
Dialogs are limited, "actions" are sparse and yet, coming out of it, you can't help but feel that the world has been shown to you for the first time. Coppola's ability to find beauty in the quotidian has made her a true master.

9. Undertow

The year's best love story (sorry Never Let Me Go), had fishermen, photographers and ghosts. As delivered by Javier Fuentes León though, the film is able to avoid extreme quirkiness and/or melodrama, instead becoming a remarkable exercise of how to transport Latin American magical realism, into seamless visual narrative.
Manolo Cardona and Cristian Mercado will break your heart as the star crossed lovers, who must cope with denial, secrecy and death.
Kudos for being a love story between men that doesn't scream "gay movie". Love after all should transcend sexual orientation.

8. The Ghost Writer

Done with gleeful mischief by Roman Polanski, this was the year's most entertaining political thriller. Its layers and secrets more fun, not because of their real life parallels (Tony Blair mostly) but because they transport us to a time and place where movies could be entertaining and smart.
Ewan McGregor and a remarkable Pierce Brosnan take their game to splendid levels but it's Olivia Williams' role, straight out of The Manchurian Candidate, that gives this film its final laugh.

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Icy, distant and furiously feminist, this adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel was a stunning throwback to suspense thrillers at their best. Noomi Rapace gives an iconic performance as goth hacker Lisbeth Salander but the movie's best asset is its straightforward approach to its genre.
It's not reinventing the wheel but it never pretends to, instead it throws us sepia flashbacks, newspapers clippings and gasp worthy moments, with full understanding that it's main purpose is to entertain and seduce its audience. Action flicks are rarely this sincere.

6. I Am Love

If Luchino Visconti and Sergei Eisenstein had a baby, it would be I Am Love. Luca Guadagnino's epic work is a breathtakingly beautiful portrait of a collapsing world.
Tilda Swinton plays a Russian immigrant married to an Italian heir. The way in which love falls with violent aplomb onto their lives makes for a subtle political statement that leads us to ask questions cinema hasn't made us since the 1960s.
Is capitalism a force that opposes love? Can personal history be adapted in lieu of social class upgrades? Is there anything Tilda Swinton can't do?

5. Carlos

Olivier Assayas and Edgar Ramírez deliver one of the few biopics that can be called complete. This encompassing study of Carlos "The Jackal" forgoes ridiculous mentions of childhood traumas, facile Freudian diagnosis or unnecessary romanticism to tell the story of the world's most notorious terrorist. Assayas himself begins the film with a disclaimer saying that parts of the film are complete fiction, yet his assured direction and Ramírez's star making performance make us disbelief this. If this isn't the real Jackal, they could've fooled us.

4. Toy Story 3

People who attribute the success of this installment to nostalgia for the first two chapters, might run into a dead end when they bump into my Toy Story experience.
I'm most definitely not a fan of the first two and never held any high regards for Woody, Buzz or company. However nothing prepared me for the emotional punch of this film.
Who would've thought that Ingmar Bergman's explorations of mortality would live, not through Eastern European art cinema, but through computer animated toys?

3. Dogtooth

One of the year's funniest comedies and also one of the best horror films, Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth is a remarkable work of originality that thrives in spite of its tendency to push the level with every minute of its running time.
A morality play, a modern interpretation of Plato, a sexual comedy and much more, this film roots its perverse power in the best and worst of human nature; in our need to protect the ones we love and the fear of never living up to satisfy the universe that created us.

2. The Social Network

The Facebook movie proved to be much more than what anyone expected and delivered the thrills in more than one way.
As a comedy, it recalls some of the bitterest satires put on the stage. As a drama, it's a heartbreaking story of how money and power are never enough when it comes to eradicating loneliness. As a court movie, it's an exemplary work of how to push genres into fresh directions, as auteur work it's an unmistakable masterpiece made only better by David Fincher's ability to turn a great screenplay into an intimate, personal work.
Jesse Eisenberg delivered the best male performance of the year as Mark Zuckerberg and the film's stunt casting made a case for how its characters' values are the sad faces of an entire generation. Those who have compared it to Citizen Kane, are not using hyperbole.


1. Black Swan

In Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky explores the nature of creation while exploiting his very own creative sense. He creates an imperfect world within our own, where high camp, terror, psychological drama and insanity coexist with such balance that they make us wonder about the elements that conform our existence.
Natalie Portman gives the year's greatest performance as ballerina Nina Sayers: a fragile beauty trying to find perfection within chaos. Like the actual black swans, which remained a myth until they were discovered by explorers a few centuries ago, she undergoes a Kafka-esque process in which she discovers that she's becoming that which she once feared and thought impossible.
Her quest for perfection mirrors the film's own search for artistic sublimity, yet as an organism, the film seems to "learn" just in time that in order to achieve perfection, it must compromise with itself.
As Nina surrenders to insanity worthy of the most tragic Catholic saint, the movie takes an alternate path and observes Nina's quest, while it develops its own route. There's a moment in the film, where it stops being Nina (after following her path through most of the running time) and decides that perfection is perhaps too much to aim for.
That the film ends up being perfect in its own sense, makes for an interesting dichotomy between artistic expectations and actual aesthetic realities.
Black Swan was a reminder of why people go to the movies: to be transported to different worlds, to know people they could never meet in real life, to see the world from a different perspective, to bask in the face of the incomprehensible and metaphysical, and sometimes to be shaken to our core so all we are left to say is just "what the fuck?".

8 comments:

El pillo said...

Somewhere -Hasnt watched it (but is from Ms Coppola so prob Ill love it)
Undertow -Reminded me of "La teta asustada" prob cuz of the accent. You feel weird watching it. And yes the story is awesome.
The ghost writer -Havent seen it
The girl with .. -Either
I am love -I think the subtelty of the film got lost on most critics. Its a very delicate and beautiful film .. and theres an old school vibe on it. LOVED it.
Carlos + TS3 Havent watched it :S
Dogtooth -DYING to watch it
The social network -It is a veeery very polished and carefully edited work. It is superb but its as boring as the Kane .. YES IM MESSING WITH THE KANE!
Black swan -A friend compared it to the heroine of one of Garcia Lorca's plays ... touche! Entrancing!

Robert said...

Wow, your top 10 is amazing. I love your number one and two, but I'm glad to see the "Dragon Tattoo" mention (read the book, loved it, still haven't seen the movie though!) and, of course, "I Am Love" which consistently grows on me.

504aldo said...

I have seen 4 out of the 10 movies you've put on the list. Agree almost entirely. Did you miss or not like: 127 hours? inception?
The originality of Inception makes it worthwhile for ALMOST any top10 list.
127 hours. the whole idea of a movie who makes you wonder "what if I was in his position? would I...?.. makes it a great movie.

Jose said...

M: Dogtooth is a must!
And don't mess with the Kane...

Robert: glad you liked it! I have to insist you watch "Dragon Tattoo" before the remake...

Aldo: I saw them both and didn't like them much. Inception's originality is rather muddled and its execution is so-so. 127 Hours was OK, I only liked Franco though.

Luke said...

Hooray! We had three of the five the same in our Top 5s! (And the same #1.) I must say, I'm sort of afraid to see Dogtooth, though. You bloggers keep raving about it, but I've heard it's almost unwatchably demented... And I've heard its bizarre creepiness compared to Antichrist, a movie I HATED. Give me your advice on the matter - should I subject myself to Dogtooth???

El pillo said...

Lol .. George Clooney's ARSE!

About "Dogtooth" ...Luke's comment (and his comparison to "Antichrist") sold it to me.

Will watch it tonight!

Yahoooo!

Jose said...

Luke: yay for the overlaps!
Now regarding Dogtooth I'm not sure how to sell it to you. It's certainly not as violent as Antichrist (which I do love), this one's a bit funnier. It's actually hilarious, although very demented in its own way. It's bizarre but unlike some who felt Antichrist was a torture, this one's more "relaxed". There's just one scene that might result gross but it's off-screen...

M: they're quite different, you'll see. Both are unfuckingbelievable though!

Runs Like A Gay said...

Great list. Superbly written up. I'll definitely be catching up on Undertow after you've been so positive about it.