Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2010 At The Movies

I went to the movies 53 times this year. That's more than once a week, I'm happy to say. Some highlights, low lights, and reflections:

1. The best experience I had at the movies this year was attending the Orson Welles retrospective at the AFI in Silver Spring, MD. I saw, on the big screen, every film Welles made (with the exception of THE IMMORTAL STORY) from HEARTS OF AGE to F FOR FAKE. I saw CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT twice. It was, without a doubt, the best movie I saw at the theater this year.

2. My favorite new movie of the year was Darren Aronofsky's BLACK SWAN. I'll write more about it in the coming weeks, I'm sure, but for now I want to report my experience. I saw it once and liked it. I saw it a second time and fell in love. That second time, knowing the plot, all the pieces fell into place. It's a dark, passionate, goofy, overblown, ridiculous masterpiece about a ballerina played by Natalie Portman who loses her mind as she prepares for the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. I love movies that love movies, and this movie is alive with style. It's also, my friends, noir to the bone. See it and then watch George Cukor's A DOUBLE LIFE.

3. I'm now in love with Natalie Portman. It's an odd thing. I've been watching her for years now without this happening. It's like being friends with someone for a long time and then suddenly making out at a party.

4. The other wildly stylistic movie I loved this year was Guadagnino's I AM LOVE. No other movie I saw this year was as energized by a sheer passion for filmmaking. Pushed along by the music of John Adams and painted in vibrant color by the cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, this is a cinematic Madam Bovary starring Tilda Swinton as a middle-aged woman falling in love with her son's business partner. See the trailer here.

5. The biggest disappointment of the year was Winterbottom's THE KILLER INSIDE ME. I waited breathlessly for this movie for two years, and I was treated to a confused misogynistic mess.

6. WINTER'S BONE-Southern Gothic by way of Ozark noir. It gets 4 1/2 stars from this Ozark native. It would have gotten 5 stars if they'd set it in Arkansas instead of Missouri.

7. From the "It was okay" files: CYRUS, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, INCEPTION.

8. THE TOWN was a lot of fun until a weak final act. I'm officially in favor of Ben Affleck continuing his career. Especially as a director of crime films.

9. From the "It sucked" files: GET LOW, YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER.

10. Great movies about tough guys that also feature great performances by women: TRUE GRIT and THE FIGHTER. I've written about the former, as for the latter--Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale do a beautiful duet as two brothers, one a promising boxer, the other an ex-promising boxer turned crack addict. Bale's a typhoon of need and self-pity while Wahlberg continues to demonstrate that he's one of our most underrated and misunderstood actors. As good as these boys are, though, the movie is nearly stolen by the fierce tug-of-war between Melissa Leo and Amy Adams as, respectively, Wahlberg's controlling mother and strong-willed girlfriend. Leo keeps adding to her impressive credits, but Adams is the shocker here. I loved her lovely and fragile characterizations in DOUBT and JUNEBUG, but in this film she completely superseded what I thought she was capable of. She's got steel in her spine, and she can throw a punch, too.

11. Finally, one last shout out for THE AMERICAN, the quiet little drama about a hit man (played by George Clooney) trying to retire in Italy. Not everyone's cup of espresso, but I loved it.

Postscript: Went to the movies one last time, on New Year's Eve. Saw Black Swan for a third time. I like seeing movies multiple times in the theater because it allows the viewer to observe the film more as an object. Last night, I was able to look at Black Swan less as a movie that I really love (and I do really love it) and more as a subject of study. I noticed, for instance, the way the color pink is threaded throughout the first half of the film (the grapefruit, the wallpaper, Portman's coat, a painting on the wall of the hospital corridor), but it almost disappears after the nightclub dancing scene (which is bathed in red). I was also able to more fully appreciate the way the film follows the basic structure of the Swan Lake ballet and marries it to a style is equal parts neo-noir and werewolf movie.

The List: What I Saw at the Theater in 2010

1. The Book of Eli
2. Edge of Darkness
3. Crazy Heart
4. The Hurt Locker
5. Shutter Island
6. The White Ribbon
7. What's Up Doc?
8. Only Angels Have Wings
9. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
10. Unforgiven
11. A Foreign Affair
12. The Ghost Writer
13. Red Riding: 1974
14. Red Riding: 1980
15. Red Riding:1983
16. Archival Gotham Short Films: The Hearts of Age/The City/The Tender Game
17. The Third Man
18. Orson Welles: One Man Band
19. The Magnificent Ambersons
20. Citizen Kane
21. The Stranger
22. The Lady From Shanghai
23. Macbeth
24. Othello
25. Mr. Arkardin
26. Touch of Evil
27. The Trial
28. F for Fake
29. Chimes at Midnight
30. Chimes at Midnight (a second time)
31. The Ipcress File
32. Get Carter
33. The Idiot
34. I Am Love
35. Winter's Bone
36. Date Night
37. The Killer Inside Me
38. The Godfather
39. The Kids Are All Right
40. Inception
41. Cyrus
42. The American
43. Get Low
44. The Town
45. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
46. Criss Cross
47. Act of Violence
48. Highway 301
49. The Room
50. Black Swan
51. True Grit
52. The Fighter
53. Black Swan (second time)
54. Black Swan (third time)


David Cranmer said...

Natalie P is in my top ten as well.

Great list and suggestions for my viewing this weekend. (It is movie weekend at the Cranmers.)

Happy New Year, Jake.

Paul D Brazill said...

I'm going to see The American next week and look forward to it. I still don't fancy Black Swan but I do like Nat. I only like the non dancing bits of the Red Shoes, though.

Mark said...

Great post - I'm with you on Black Swan through and through. I'm really hoping Barbara Hershey gets a few nicknacks out of it. She's the most often overlooked part of the movie. I don't think anyone does more to create the film's vibe than she does.

I'm going to try to sneak out to see The Fighter and True Grit before classes resume.

Jake Hinkson said...

Excellent point, Mark. Hershey's frigid stage mother is the key to understanding the Portman character's stunted emotional range.