January 17, 2011

Best Films of 2010

Well, the Golden Globes were on last night, but I didn't watch.  It was just absurd to me that a) True Grit wasn't nominated for best drama, and b) Toy Story 3 wasn't nominated for Best Comedy.  Back when the Oscars created a "Best Animated Film" (and the Globes followed suit), many critics worried that all animated features, no matter how worthy, would never make it into the Best Picture category again.  It seems to be true--since there is no question that Toy Story 3 was vastly superior to (well, I think almost anything this year but certainly & obviously) Burlesque.

Can we just state, for the record, 2010 was a bad year for movies.  Look, Inception was fun, and Toy Story was clearly brilliant, but those were the only two movies worth mentioning until the very very end of the year.

Why do I keep talking about Toy Story?  Here are two quotes that say why this is such a worthy film much better than I ever could:
Toy Story 3 completes what is arguably the finest American trilogy ever made. Can you think of another one that doesn’t have a weak link? It’s a surprisingly harrowing conclusion. 
...For all of its memorable thrills (including an Indiana Jones-style runaway train caper), its inspired humor (Mr. Potato Head momentarily becomes the Picasso-like Mr. Tortilla Head), and its hilarious tangents (Ken's fashion show may be the year's most inspired montage), director Lee Unkrich's film has one remarkable distinction: it is, shot for shot, scene for scene, the year's most beautiful movie, alive with colors and shadows and textures that move critics to use words like painterly and sumptuous.  --Jeffrey Overstreet

[Speaking of their terrifying approach to the furnace at the climax] I knew they were going to survive, but it didn’t matter-- they thought they were goners. It’s a mark of just how masterful a piece of storytelling the movie is that such powerful emotion could override our own subliminal certitude that, nah, Woody and Buzz and company could never come to such a brutal end. And then we discover, after their narrow escape, that the truest tears were yet to come. --Dennis Cozzalio
The truest tears were yet to come.
True Grit was a masterpiece of storytelling and acting as well.  I am glad to see that True Grit is faring very well at the box office, and I really cannot imagine why it was snubbed at the Golden Globes.  I haven't sorted out all the philosophical disputes about the film and part of me thinks I don't have to. For one thing, Westerns never have the same standard by which we measure our own ordinary lives. For another: it was a damn fine film, and a whole lot of fun to watch.  Oh, check out this great interview of the Cohens from NPR.  Also a less interesting but still fun Matt Damon interview.

And speaking of fun, I wish someone would talk about the humor of the Cohen Brothers--even in their serious films. I laughed--a lot--in True Grit. Man is a funny little thing, and the Cohen Brothers always seem to want to affirm that.  It saves their work from really being nihilistic. (Cue spaceship at the end of The Man Who Wasn't There. What?!)

It should also be noted that Matt Damon ends up talking with a mouthful of marbles half the film (because his tongue is split in half when he is dragged along the ground by a horse)--and still ends up being the most affecting character.  Which is not to knock Bridges or Hallie Stienfield--who are brilliant.  But Matt Damon really took my breath away.

(If you are interested in the philosophic debates about the film, see Peter Lawler's review, and Stanley Fish's review.)

 As RCA and her family and I, squished into a tiny car, were driving to the theater, I said: "I've already written my blog post about the best movies of 2010.  The King's Speech is already on it." I was prepared to love it based on what everyone near and dear to me had already said--but I was not prepared to love love love love LOVE it as much as I did.  It was nearly flawless.

It had a cast that was grabbed from (as my Dad said) the club where all the English Actors the Perry's Like (EAPL...that does rather sound like a union).  Besides Colin Firth (King George VI) and Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), there was a warm, lovely performance by Helena Bonham Cater (the Queen Mum), Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon is the dying King George V, and Guy Pierce is a surprising King Edward VIII.  Plus the fellow we know as Peter Pettigrew, Tim Small, was a funny, spot-on Churchill, and (my dear!) Derek Jacobi as the patronizing Archbishop. So the cast was great (and the acting, yes.)

It looked great too: from Logue's dingy, run down office (above), to his elegant and humble apartment (with, lets face it, awesome wallpaper), to the lovely, but not ostentatious royal homes. Everything looked perfect.

But what I loved best of all (besides the fact that this is a remarkable story), was that it was a film about male friendship. Most movies we see about male friendship are war films, and one of them dies at the end. This was set at the beginning of WWII, and these men have that particular brand of courage in spades. But that isn't the focus.  Instead we see their determined work together, their gentle ribbing of each other, their big arguments and stumbling (but sincere) apologies. It's really marvelous.

I didn't think it was possible for me to like a movie this year more than I liked Toy Story 3.  And, really, I cannot compare the two--they are so vastly different--but I was thoroughly delighted, and moved by them both.  And both, now that I think of it, have at the center the real virtues we see so rarely in films: sacrifices, hard work, humility, love, a lack of nostalgia for the way things were--and a firm attention to the joy of doing one's duty.


  1. The Golden Globes are kind of a farce when it comes to cinema. I believe Madonna won Best Actress for Evita? But good choices on your part. I'd throw in a mention for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which was a insane nerdfest that was deceptively well-made.

  2. MP--great post. really thoughtful and well put.