Two years ago when making my list of the best films of the year I wrote "what a pathetic, mindless, worthless year 2008 proved to be for cinema". Last year when trying to make my list, I wrote I simply couldn't do it. The year had been so bad I was unable to comprise a list of ten films which I liked. The last two years sucked the joy of cinema right out of me that I even stopped writing on here for a couple of months.
However, I am very happy to say, that is not the case this year. In fact it has been the complete opposite. I had difficulty limiting myself to only ten films, so I am going to have to do something I normally don't do; create a runner's up list. Funny enough though, the majority of movie critics have been complaining that it hasn't been a good year for movies. Why is it that I am always dancing outside of public opinion? I honestly didn't see as many films this year as I had the last two years but because of my extreme selectivity I made plenty of good choices and saw a lot of entertaining films.
Whenever making my list I like to concentrate on a shared common theme and how that theme relates to our society. How do my choices fit into the larger social picture? This year it seems that common theme was "connecting". All of the films on this list are about people trying to connect to one another or their environment. I suppose I could play Freud for a second and say my pleasure from these films comes from my own personal desires to connect with people, maybe. But now is not the time or place for that.
One of the most acclaimed movies of the year, "The Social Network" (2010), is about people "connecting". The highest grossing film of the year "Toy Story 3" (2010) is about the relationship between a boy and his toys and the desire which his toys have to connect to other children so they can be played with. "Inception" (2010) boggled the mind with its special effect and alternate world of dreams, but underneath all of that was a story about a young man trying to get his father to accept him. To connect. The Woody Allen comedy "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" (2010) was about a group of people so desperate they turn to the stars to find love, to find acceptance, to connect with someone. George Clooney in "The American" (2010) is a hit-man of sorts on one last job who wants to call it quits because of love. He has found someone to connect with.
We can take this theme of connecting and apply it to where our society is. Think in terms of politics and the last election. Voters sent Washington a message; listen to us. People decided they couldn't connect with the Democrats or President Obama. So they sent people to Washington whom they felt they connected with. Politicians whom they felt would listen to them and shared their concerns.
In the end this theme of "connecting" I suppose I can be applied to any year of movies but this year, in these economic times, it was the most prevalent issue. People are hurting. They have lost their jobs, unsure of when they will find their next job. It may cause a strain on a relationship, a marriage or one's single life. In that context we are all looking for someone to connect to. To listen to our problems, to share our dreams with.
My feeling has always been movies don't exist on their own. They are a product of their environment. Movies are a reflection of our society. The year 2010 is the year we tried to come together and solve our problems.
Here are my choices for the best films of the year as well as a runner's up list!
1. METROPOLIS (Dir. Fritz Lang; Germany, 1927) - The ultimate movie about connecting and the major movie event of the year!
Some readers may think I'm cheating by putting this Fritz Lang masterpiece, made in 1927, on my list. My reason for including it though is simple. Two years ago, in Buenos Aires, 25 additional minutes of this film was found. They were believed to be lost. Now the film is in its most complete form since its debut in Germany back in '27. Only 5 minutes of the film remain missing.
Kino, which has distributed the film, premiered this version at festivals and gave it a theatrical run in several major cities. Seeing this "complete version" was like seeing the film for the first time. Everything made sense to me. Character motivations and situations had become clear to me.
"Metropolis" takes place in a futuristic world where people are divided into the "workers" and the "wealthy". The workers only purpose in life is to work. They live under the city, out of sight of the wealthy people, who do not have a care in the world. Eventually one man, the son of the creator of Metropolis, discovers the underground world of the workers. He takes pity on them and their harsh life and falls in love with their leader, who tells them one day a mediator will come along to bring these two worlds together. And thus our theme of connecting.
The film has strong Communist rhetoric and religious undertones. Prior to seeing this "complete version" my feelings were "Metropolis" was a very good film. Now my thoughts have changed. "Metropolis" is a masterpiece. One of the greatest films ever made.
It is also a perfect example of how classic films overpower modern cinema. Compare "Metropolis" to any film released this year. To make it a fair fight, lets compare it to the acclaimed movies of the year; "The Social Network", "The King's Speech" (2010) or "The Fighter" (2010). "Metropolis" has images which have lingered in my mind since I saw it in theatres. This is epic filmmaking. It is bold and even to this day feels fresh and relevant. This is cinema.
Read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/06/film-review-metropolis-2010-restoration.html
2. A WOMAN, A GUN & A NOODLE SHOP (Dir. Zhang Yimou; China) - Several American critics bashed master filmmaker Zhang Yimou's adaptation of the Coen Brothers film "Blood Simple" (1984). My guess is because the Coen Brothers are considered a national treasure and "Blood Simple" is considered one of their best films. Naturally American critics would get a little defensive if a Chinese filmmaker comes along and changes it. But that kind of logic doesn't go over well with me. "A Woman, A Gun & A Noodle Shop" is a tightly constructed movie and has wonderful visuals. I was engaged from beginning to end.
3. ANOTHER YEAR (Dir. Mike Leigh; U.K.) - Director Mike Leigh usually makes the kind of films about people we know. In "Another Year", which I think is the best film he's ever made, Leigh makes a movie about a woman looking for love. Someone with whom she can connect with and make her feel special. Leigh is a kind of genius with these semi-improv films. No filmmaker makes "these" type of movies better!
4. HEREAFTER (Dir. Clint Eastwood; U.S.) - Here is a movie about people trying to figure out what happens after we die. This is a movie about people who are alone and search for life's impossible answers in the wrong places. A little more sentimental than I'm use to from Eastwood. But the film won me over.
Read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/11/film-review-hereafter.html
5. YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Dir. Woody Allen; U.S.) - It is nothing new to say audiences and critics turned their back on Woody Allen, but, I'm not one to follow the crowd. Here is a movie about people searching for love. Allen is having a little cosmic fun with us. The film is also about how we choose to interpret what life throws our way. Happiness is in the eyes of the beholder.
Read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/10/film-review-you-will-meet-tall-dark.html
6. INCEPTION (Dir. Christopher Nolan; U.S.) - One of the biggest brain teasers of the year. Left lots of audience members scratching their heads in confusion but I was able to follow it pretty closely. What is so great about this film is I bought everything the film was selling. The film takes us into its world and makes us believe this all seems possible. It follows its own logic.
7. WILD GRASS (Dir. Alain Resnais; France) - French master filmmaker Alain Resnais gave us this charming little film about a man finding a woman's wallet in a parking garage, finding the woman attractive and hoping by returning the wallet to her they can connect on some level.
8. TANGLED (Dir. Nathan Greno, Byron Howard; U.S.) - It was a pretty good year for animated films but Disney's 50th feature film, a modern retelling of Rapunzel, was my favorite. Of course it is a story of a young girl who dreams of experiencing the world around her, which she has been denied, in other words she wants to connect with her environment. Good songs, lots of humor, and a story good enough to hold an adult's attention and silly enough to entertain the younger audiences.
Read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/12/film-review-tangled.html
9. SHUTTER ISLAND (Dir. Martin Scorsese; U.S.) - How strange that when a Martin Scorsese film comes out, no one pays attention. The film seems to have been forgotten by the critics and audiences. Very, very few critics (less than 10) have placed this film on their "top ten" list according to http://www.moviecitynews.com/.
The film was Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio's fourth collaboration together and in my opinion their weakest but it is still a strong film and more then mere genre storytelling. Scorsese is having some fun with this one.
It also is a story, much like "Inception" of a man longing for the woman that got away. A story of two souls trying to connect
10. THE SUN (Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov; Russia) - Actually made in 2005 it has taken five years for this film to finally reach us in America. It is the story of Emperor Hirohito, who was regarded as a God to the Japanese, and the last days of WW2. The Emperor soon admits that he is not a God, only a man, and a man with flaws.
The film had amazing cinematography which put us in a claustrophobic, chilling mood. In some ways it reminded me of "The Shining" (1980).
1. BLACK SWAN (Dir. Darren Aronofsky; U.S.) read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/12/film-review-black-swan.html
2. THE KING'S SPEECH (Dir. Tom Hooper; U.K.)
3. MEGAMIND (Dir. Tom McGrath; U.S.) read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/11/film-review-megamind.html
4. YOU DON'T KNOW JACK (Dir. Barry Levinson; U.S.)
5. MILLENNIUM TRILOGY (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Dir. Niels Arden Opiev, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, Dir. Daniel Alfredson, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, Dir. Daniel Alfredson; Sweden)
6. RED RIDING TRILOGY (Dir. Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker; U.K.)
7. WHITE MATERIAL (Dir. Claire Denis; France)
8. MORNING GLORY (Dir. Roger Michell; U.S.) read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/12/film-review-morning-glory.html
9. RABBIT HOLE (Dir. John Cameron Mitchell; U.S.) read my review here: http://alex-udvary.blogspot.com/2010/12/film-review-rabbit-hole.html
10. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (Dir. Edgar Wright; U.S.)