Seth’s Favorite Movies of 2010

 

I swear, I am not trying to just be “different” with my list this year, although it does look a bit different from most of the year-end lists I’ve seen so far.  It just felt like a year of great movies being overlooked (or, in my opinion, completely mis-read by the critics).  It was a great year for movies, with both a plethora of hidden gems and a healthy dose of well-publicized quality films.  And don’t get me wrong: a lot of the much-talked-about Awards-bait movies really are great, and they made the list, too.  Also make sure to see the “honorable mentions” section after the list for movies that just barely missed the cut.

This year I’ve been able to see just about every movie with major awards buzz (or major indie cred) so I feel as though this is the best year-end movie list I’ve done.  The only movies I wish I could have seen before making the list are: “Blue Valentine”, “Rabbit Hole”, “Another Year”, “I Love You Philip Morris” and I haven’t seen “Toy Story 3”, but I have never cared about the Toy Story movies.

So, here’s the list:

10.  Ondine

Neil Jordan’s mermaid-out-of-water film is absolutely the saddest, most serious mermaid film ever made.  It’s a fantastic show of cinematography meets soundtrack, and is a career best performance for Colin Farrell.  It’s also a pretty good movie about alcoholism!

(“Ondine” is currently available to watch instantly on Netflix)

 

 

9.  Exit Through the Gift Shop

 

 

 

 

This was definitely the year of the “meta-doc”; documentaries wherin you could not tell exactly what was real, how much was fictional, who exactly was making the documentary, and what they were “trying to say”.  “Exit Through the Gift Shop” seperates itself from the pack by being a movie claiming to be made by Banksy (the world’s most famous graffiti artist and also probably the world’s most elusive human being, to the point that one could have a lengthy discussion about whether he actually exists.  But–he does, ok?)  But aside from the intriguing Banksy element, the entire film (without for a moment actually seeming like it) is a long meditation on the nature of art unlike anything on film since Orson Welles’ “F for Fake”.  In the end, the film manages to ask if itself, as a film, is even worth your time; in essence, is the question even worth asking? (and what does it mean if a painting is worth more than a house?)

8.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

 

 

 

 

 

This was a cult classic the moment it was released.  In turns hilarious, action-packed, and heartfelt,  it’s also chock-a-block full of insider cultural references and populist brain candy.  Plus, the best Brandon Routh cameo since “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”

 

7.  Let Me In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been a huge fan of the original version of this film, 2008’s “Let the Right One In”.  That film, a slow-moving, quiet Swedish meditation on childhood, eternal love and–oh yeah, vampires–is certainly an acquired taste and a nearly singular event in the world of movies.  When I heard there was going to be an American remake, I feared the worst.  (American re-makes of recent horror movies tend to make them all look like teenage slasher flicks).  I didn’t even go to see the this year’s remake until it was in the dollar theater (and Mary had harangued me about it enough, insisting it was really good.)  So I wnet, and it was really good.  In fact, some days I think I like it better than the Swedish original.  It maintains the contemplative, dirge-like heart of the original while satisfying what I did not realize was my desire to see just a little bit more vampire ass-kicking.  (and the one-shot interior of a car rolling down a cliff is joltingly energizing.)  And much kudos to the remake for maintaining the subtle yet gut-wrenching end of the first film and not feeling the need to show us more than we needed to see.

6.  127 Hours

 

 

 

 

Danny Boyle’s movie about the real-life hiker who had to cut his own arm off is as mesmerizing as the reviews would have you believe:  visually arresting, sometimes shocking, with the performance of a lifetime by James Franco (who I crown this year’s all-around Most Talented Man); Boyle, Franco and crew explore the very pit of human nature in what could have been a treacly, overcoming the odds story but what is instead a “Trainspotting” for the 2000s.

5.  Black Swan

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not very often that a gothic horror dance drama opens wide in American theaters, and rarer still that one of today’s most exciting filmmakers (Darren Aronofsky) teams up with some of the most under-utilized actresses in the business to make a movie that gradually makes them very unattractive.  (that is praise)  It’s not quite as creepy as the commericials make it look, but it was more “unsettling” than I’d expected.  Points scored for guts alone.  Also, like “Ondine”, a gorgeous pairing of visuals and music, often in hideous juxtaposition.

4.  Jack Goes Boating

 

 

 

 

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut (from a screenplay by Bob Glaudini based on his celebrated play) is certainly the most ignored film of the year.  It’s theme of life never quite being the way we envision it—that relationship that is not perfect, the dinner that didn’t taste right, the car that you allowed to get dirty—is a difficult nut to crack, but Hoffman pulls it off with brio via a series of scenes in which his character, Jack, mimes his visualizations for his ideal life in the hopes that they’ll come to fruituion (including, naturally, boating).  More than any film this year, “Jack Goes Boating” has stuck with me and influenced my worldview (it doesn’t score higher on the list due to a few minor characterization flubs).  Also, thanks go to this movie for breathing renewed life into hipster-favorite band Fleet Foxes’ masterpiece self-titled album.

3.  Inception

 

I’ve probably blogged more than enough about this movie this year already.  You know how I feel about it.  A nutty head-trip on the level of huge blockbusters like “Star Wars” that is actually about the sanctity of the human mind and the mysteries of memory, filmed like a technicolor Escher painting and sporting the most adventurous film score in decades.  If Hans Zimmer doesn’t win an Oscar for this score, I’m moving to Canada.

2.  Winter’s Bone

 

 

 

 

 

To simply read the plot synopsis of “Winter’s Bone” makes the film sound trite and cliche: a young girl living in the country, taking care of her nearly comatose mother and two young siblings, must find her absentee bail-jumping father or the bank will take the family home.  But the plot itself is nearly forgotten in a maze of bizarre complications, both byzantine and grotesque.  We follow our lead character (a breaking-through Jennifer Lawrence) through a series of back-country set pieces so authentic and abyssmal that you can almost smell the cat piss inside, and the cow shit outside.  Although it is neither set in nor was it filmed in Pennsylvania, it is a world I recognize: backyards alitter with empty chicken coops, car engines and sun-bleached plastic swingsets, and in the houses men and women with rusty shotguns and unwashed flannel shirts and lice infestations.  This is a world filled with angry people who do vicious things, and they do not want to help Jennifer Lawrence’s character on her mission to save her family.  There is very little redemption in “Winter’s Bone” (though there is some) but it is a vivid, disheartening snapshot of a world almost never portrayed.

1.  I’m Still Here

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right.  My #1 movie is the Joaquin Phoenix “documentary” that just about everybody seems to hate.  Well, first, it is not in any way a documentary, and second, it’s totally amazing.

I admit, on first viewing, I was also unsure how much was real and how much was fake.  Either way, I knew immediately that I loved it.  The “character” of Joaquin is a horrible man undergoing an almost comically difficult transformation.  His friends (including Casey Affleck) seem to care very little, and facilitate his destruction to the very end.  The final shot of the film is a cinematic kick to the balls that, quite literally, haunts my dreams.

A viewing of the filmmaker’s commentary on the DVD (which includes tracks by both Affleck and Phoenix) reveals in no uncertain terms that not one moment of the film is “documentary”.  This is a fictional movie, which had a screenplay and everything.  The one major difference between “I’m Still Here” and other fictional films is that, built into the story is a need for the film to be played out in public, with the world at large believing the events to be real.  Rather than a “hoax”, this is just a natural necessity of the plot of the film.  When viewed 20 years from now, after Phoneix’s “public meltdown” is long since forgotten, “I’s Still Here” will be able to be seen context-free and the nature of the masterpiece might then finally become clear.

(on a sidenote, mere weeks ago Entertainment Weekly quizzically wondered why “I’m Still Here” had not submitted itself for consideration in the Documentary category of the Oscars.  Needless to say, this enflamed me. Had nobody at the world’s foremost entertainment magazine watched the film and then the commentary track?  I promise you, world, there is no doubt that this movie is fictional and is intended to be seen as fictional.  For instance, just a few minutes into the film—when watching the commentary track—Joaquin Phoneix’s “assistant” is seen on screen, at which point he says her “real name” and tells us “she’s the actress that played my assistant in ths movie.”  This kind of reveal is repeated over and over again thoughout the commentary.  You know.  Like in a real movie.)

Never have I seen such bold, ballsy, artful filmmaking.  There is, in the end, little “point” to the exercise.  It is not a meditation on the nature of fame, or on the heriditary nature of drug-addled falls-from-grace.  It is a character study, but an intensive one, and like all character studies, in the end analysis it makes us come face to face with our own characters, who we are, and what is right with us and what is wrong with us.

 (“I’m Still Here” is currently available to watch instantly on Netflix)

 

Honorable mentions:

“True Grit”, “The Social Network”, “The Town”, “The Kids Are All Right”, “The Fighter”, “Ghost Writer”, “Greenberg”, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”, “Babies”, “Tron Legacy”, “Fair Game”, “Paranormal Activity 2”, “The Tempest”, “Jackass 3D”, “Secretariat”, “Please Give”, “A Solitary Man”

 

14 Responses to “Seth’s Favorite Movies of 2010”

  1. Definitely an interesting list. :)

  2. Glad to see “Greenberg” at least made the honorable mentions…

  3. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    I purposely skimmed this one. I don’t want to start planning mine too seriously. I have way too many to see before I can really start putting it together. I promise I’ll give it a full read and hearty comment right after I post mine though.

    You know what, I think you jumped the gun. If I had to still see as many as you list, I’d hold off. I can say for sure that ‘I Love You Philip Morris’ is making my list and I can see it appealing greatly to you too. Then you gotta do the list all over! The OCD side of me is panicked for you! Plus I have a feeling ‘Blue Valentine’ will be awesome. If not then a ball of shit, but it’s a good gamble.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      haha dude you gotta calm down! “As many as I list”…FOUR??? You think four missed movies is too many?? So I missed a few! It happens every year. It’s just a top ten list on some dude’s blog. I think if you’re expecting me or you to see all awards-consideration movies then you have a false idea of how much free time and money I have. Really, only professional movie reviewers can see all of them in the time alotted. Plus, I’d much rather miss a few and get my list out before any of the major awards ceremonies, so my list can’t be seen as simply adhering to which films get nominations and/ or wins of awards. Heck, I nornally like to get my list out before the critic’s lists! All in all, I saw about 50% MORE awards caliber movies before making my list this year than I have in year’s past, so I’m pretty comfortable with my list.

  4. “I’m still here” is on its way, I should have it waiting for me when I return to Tampa. I loved Inception and Black Swan. Didn’t really think Scott Pilgrim was as great as it should’ve been. I haven’t seen most of the others yet, I usually don’t see movies until the following year which makes me perpetually behind.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah I’ve been told I liked Scott Pilgrm more than most people. I’ve only seen it the once, so maybe I was just in an especially good mood that day, but I was really thrilled by it! Please let me know what you think of “I’m Still Here”!

  5. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    You forgot Sophia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’. If you wanna write up a retraction it’s OK.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Ridiculous.

      • OH MY GOD, IS THE WORD “RIDICULOUS” REALLY SPELLED LIKE THAT??? Have I been spelling it wrong my whole life?? Crazzzzzy!

        I loved “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”! I made Tony get it for me for Christmas so I could watch the special features. The first time I saw it, about half way through, I said “I don’t ever want this movie to end!”

        I can’t wait to see “Black Swan”, the world of dance is all abuzz about it. Most of the girls say it’s not offensive to dancers, which is not typically the case. We’re usually bitches.

        Dammit, one of these days I am seriously going to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop”! For realzies.

      • sethdellinger Says:

        How do you spell it?? haha yes it’s really spelled ridiculous. It comes from “ridicule”.

        Yeah Scott Pilgrim is gonna be a slow burn…just you watch, in about 5 years it’s gonna have a following, like “Office Space”.

        As for Black Swan, I mean, not all the characters are nice…but they’re not your sterotypical dance bitch. Just bitches. :)

  6. Geez, this blog is becoming very educational for me! First I learn that “rediculous” is not the correct spelling, and then the next day I find out that Lake Erie freezes over!

    I’ve heard enough about the plot of Black Swan to know that many of the characters are definitely not nice. I was refering to the fact that dancers IRL are usually insulted by dance movies because of the over-played stereotypes and inacurate details. I mean, we all accept that you’re just not going to have a movie about ballet without including, say, the stage-moms, the eating dissorders, or the obsesive perfectionism. But Black Swan, although it does rely on these for standard ballet-movie fodder, doesn’t seem to have my notoriously hard-to-please dancer friends all ruffled-up in their feathered headpieces like most dance movies do. Which leads me to believe it’s not a dance movie in the purest sense, but more of a dark thriller with a ballet back drop. I hope so!

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I would say that’s correct, although the act of dancing itself makes for some good metaphors and double meanings, etc. But it’s not “Flashdance”. :)

  7. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    This doesn’t count as my official real comment because I’ve still got more to see (I’m getting close. Also I’m back on Netflix if you want to friend me there again…if that feature still exists) and my own list to make. I did just get done watching ‘I’m Still Here’ though and wanted to comment on that.

    I get that it was a social experiment/commentary and there were some genuinely funny and interesting parts, but my response to the ending was probably complete opposite of yours. I thought it was pretentious and completely out of left field in a bad way. I get that it was a reference back to the quote the guy made about the two water drops and starting at the bottom to make it back to the top, but something that serious didn’t belong in a movie where everything else is meant to be about everyone’s real reaction to something that is fake. All of a sudden in the last two minutes the film wants to be taken 100% seriously. It wasn’t the worst way to end it and I can appreciate what they were trying to do, but I thought it was too much of a 180 for me.

    Phoenix had moments where you could just tell he was struggling to make “it” work, and other times where he was brilliant. It was ballsy for sure, and I respect the hell out of him for sticking to it while the whole world was calling him a lunatic.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I just wrote the ten mini memoirs, so I’m not up to replying to this the way I want to…long rebuttal coming tomorrow :)

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