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Best of 2010

Parallax View’s Best of 2010

Welcome 2011 with one last look back at the best releases of 2010, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View.

Sean Axmaker

1. Carlos
2. Let Me In
3. The Social Network
4. White Material
5. Winter’s Bone
6. The Ghost Writer
7. Wild Grass
8. Eccentricities Of A Blond Haired Girl
9. Sweetgrass
10. Our Beloved Month of August

Runners up: Amer, The American, Alamar, Black Swan, Inception, Red Riding Trilogy, Somewhere, Vengeance

Best festival films I saw in 2010 without a 2010 theatrical release: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Poetry, Mysteries Of Lisbon

Best Unreleased film of 2007 finally getting an American release in 2010 (but still feels like a film from another era): Secret Sunshine

Most Impressive Resurrection/Restoration/Real Director’s Cut: Metropolis

Also see lists at MSN here and the Village Voice / LA Weekly poll. And the Best of DVD / Blu-ray 2010 is on Parallax View here.

David Coursen

A splendid year, in both quality and quantity.   These were all shown for the first time in the Washington, DC area in 2010.

The best film is a tie:
Certified Copy-Kiarostami
Carlos-Assayas

The next seven, in roughly descending order:
A Prophet-Jacques Audiard
Somewhere-Coppola
The Social Network-Fincher
The Ghost Writer-Polanski
The Strange Case of Angelica-Oliviera
Red Riding Trilogy-in total, with James Marsh’s 1980 segment putting it on the list
The Kids are Alright-Cholodenko

And for the final entry, a pairing I couldn’t resist:
Police, Adjective-Poromboiu
Winter’s Bone-Debra Granik

John Hartl

Truth proved far stranger than fiction in many of 2010’s best films. My favorite was Craig Ferguson’s devastating documentary, Inside Job, which painstakingly demonstrates just how our economy was hijacked by greed and ideology. In Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer, Pierce Brosnan gives a career-best performance as a politician clearly based on Tony Blair. In Doug Liman’s Fair Game, Naomi Watts is equally persuasive as Valerie Plame Wilson, a vulnerable spy whose marriage is nearly demolished in a political feud. James Franco wins this year’s versatility award for convincingly reincarnating two exceptionally different people: Allen Ginsberg in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s underrated Howl and a carefree rock climber in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Jesse Eisenberg deftly captures the drive and insecurities of Facebook’s billionaire chief, Mark Zuckerberg, in David Fincher’s The Social Network. The shameless wartime exploitation of the late Pat Tillman’s heroism is the focus of Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story, an excellent documentary that goes behind the headlines to suggest the personal extent of that loss. Jim Carrey’s excesses are tapped and artfully used in I Love You Phillip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s mostly true comedy about a con artist who is locked away in prison, but for how long? More fictional, but still quite strange, are Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, a brave portrait of a mid-life washout played by Ben Stiller, and Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling daring to play the walking wounded in an impossible marriage.

A second 10: The King’s Speech, Animal Kingdom, Cairo Time, Life During Wartime, Toy Story 3, Never Let Me Go, Shutter Island, Restrepo, Cell 211, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

Robert Horton

1. A Prophet
2. Winter’s Bone
3. Four Lions
4. Sweetgrass
5. The Ghost Writer
6. Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl
7. Mid-August Lunch
8. True Grit
9. The Kids Are All Right
10. Greenberg

See also indieWIRE here and Best and Worst lists at The Everett Herald.

Richard T. Jameson

In chronological order seen, but the first two have landed in the right place and there’s a non-chronological tie at 10.

The Ghost Writer
Winter’s Bone
Please Give
The Kids Are All Right
Un Prophète
The Social Network
Hereafter
Let Me In
Sweetgrass
The American / White Material / True Grit

See also lists at MSN and Queen Anne News.

Jay Kuehner

(as compiled for indieWIRE, originally published here)

1. Sweetgrass
2. White Material
3. Carlos
4. Everyone Else
5. The Strange Case of Angelica
6. Alamar
7. Change Nothing
8. Restrepo
9. The Anchorage
10. Daddy Longlegs

Kathleen Murphy

(as originally presented at the Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap)

1. The Ghost Writer
2. Winter’s Bone
3. Let Me In
4. Sweetgrass
5. A Prophet
6. The Social Network
7. Please Give
8. The Kids Are All Right
9. White Material
10. Black Swan

See also MSN here.

Andrew Wright

(as originally presented at the Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap)

1. A Prophet
2. Inception
3. True Grit
4. Red Riding Trilogy
5. Winter’s Bone
6. Hausu
7. The Ghost Writer
8. Four Lions
9. Greenberg
10. Let Me In

More lists:

Village Voice / LA Weekly Poll (and individual lists here)
indieWIRE Critics Survey
Movie City News list compilations (individual lists are here)
BFI 2010 Critics Poll

And the year in review from select publications in print and on the web

New York Times Year in Review
Los Angeles Times Year in Review
SF360 Top Ten Lists and Year in Film
The Onion AV Club
Slant Magazine
MSN Movies

Best DVD / Blu-ray of 2010

Best-of lists are by their nature subjective things, and even more so when it comes to DVD/Blu-ray. What makes a DVD release the “best”? The movie itself? The video and audio quality of the mastering and presentation? The supplements? Rarity of the title? Scope of the collection? Critical acclaim? Cult demand? Some inexplicable balance of some or all of these?

Well, I guess the latter is the closest we’ll come to quantifying the mysterious process, which is why rather than the usual Top Ten list, I’ve broken my picks into categories, so I can celebrate a box set achievement separately from a brilliant home video debut separately from a landmark restoration. Which is not to say this list is not run through with my own subjective judgments, simply that I have found my own way to spread the love around (including naming runners-up as my whims take me). I reviewed most (though not all) of these on various websites (including Parallax View) and have linked to these longer pieces wherever possible. And one last note: The picks are limited to American home video releases, simply because that’s my bailiwick and I haven’t the time or resources to explore the wealth of foreign releases that come out every year.

And for the 2010 release that I love most, allow me to present my…

DVD Release of the Year

Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg (Criterion)

Josef von Sternberg is the great stylist of the thirties, a Hollywood maverick with a taste for visual exoticism and baroque flourishes (which prompted David Thomson to dub him “the first poet of underground cinema”), but step back into his silent work and you’ll find a storyteller of unparalleled talent and one of the great directors of silent cinema.

Keep Reading

Moments Out of Time 2010

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the year’s films

• The wall that is, and isn’t, there: The Ghost Writer

• In the hills at night, car lights on a distant curve of road—The American and Let Me In

• Gold-brown chicks cupped in Teardrop’s (John Hawkes) palms; memento mori in Winter’s Bone

• The nub of a dark quill growing out of Nina’s (Natalie Portman) shoulder blade: Black Swan

• “You’d do that for me?”—a line spoken to, and later by, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network; the addressee not getting it in either case…

• Nic (Annette Bening) getting lost in singing Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” during a dinner party—The Kids Are All Right

• Catherine Keener’s cheekbones, Please Give

Hereafter: Three blocks away, down the street, trees are falling: Marie’s (Cécile De France) first awareness of the tsunami….

• Mattie’s (Hailee Steinfeld) bucket floating away downstream after she sees Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), True Grit

• Stretching away from his dead arm to dabble his toes in a spill of sunlight … Aron Ralston (James Franco), sometime during 127 Hours

• At the beginning of Sweetgrass, a sheep viewed in profile for a long time suddenly turns, stops chewing its cud, and looks directly and intensely into our eyes….

• Jews in the Warsaw street apprehensively eying the camera, A Film Unfinished

• The Escher-like folding over of Parisian skyline, Inception

• A man the height of a lighthouse, Ondine

Monsters: Lovemaking all over the sky…

Winter’s Bone: The ghastly blue twilight in which Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and the weird sisters search for Jessup Dolly…

• Pink glow on a ferry dock empty of cars and everyone except The Ghost Writer

• During an assassins’ picnic, a butterfly trembles for a moment on the woman’s sweater—harbinger of hope and death in The American

• The Saudi oil minister, terror-struck yet self-possessed, while Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez) explains the agenda: “I’m going to kill you. Not yet.”—Carlos

• In The Fighter, Dicky (Christian Bale) enticing Mom (Melissa Leo) into a duet of “I started the joke / That started the whole world / Crying”…

• Street scene in Blue Valentine: Backed by shop-window light and a heart-shaped wreath, the girl (Michelle Williams) in a bright-red sweater soft-shoes while her lover (Ryan Gosling) warbles, “You always break the heart of the one you love”…

Black Swan: Nina, in a moment of especial distraction, freezes backstage as her monstrous dreamtime tormentor appears; he says “Hey…,” and walks on by….

• Bus interior, Let Me In: happy schoolkids on an outing, their bus moving into the countryside, reflections from the snow streaming overhead…

• Dad (Adrien Brody) teaching bird-legged Dren (Delphine Chanéac) to dance, Splice

• Algorithm upon a windowpane, The Social Network

• Shades of The 39 Steps in The Ghost Writer: Ewan McGregor and Tom Wilkinson as avatars of Richard Hannay and Professor Jordan in the study…

• In The King’s Speech, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) beginning his audition for the role of Richard III, and cheerfully making a sound like “aardvark”…

• “Goodbye, sweet hat”—the Cheshire Cat as read by Stephen Fry, Alice in Wonderland

• In unobtrusive reprise of contact between Black Stallion castaways, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) averts his eyes and extends a hand to be nosed by an ebony dragon—How to Train Your Dragon“…

• Joni (Mia Wasikowska) says goodbye to her feckless father (Mark Ruffalo) in The Kids Are All Right: “I just wish you had been … better.”…

• Beating a woman (Jessica Alba) in close quarters, for what seems forever and to the death—The Killer Inside Me

• On a makeshift stage, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) unravels his tale of original sin and lifelong penance, painting the one truly cinematic picture in Get Low; the manic fluttering of fingers and sibilant whispers shooting up like flames….

• A bear rides out of the brush in True Grit: “Do either of you need medical attention?”…

• A ghostly white hart—star of Arthurian myth and Miyazaki’s sublime Princess Mononoke—drifting through a frozen forest, leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to the Sword of Gryffindor; arguably the lone moment of magic in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
• That improbable white American Colonial box set down like a child’s playhouse in a green, dripping forest; just another trick-the-eye-and-mind stage set haunted by The Ghost Writer

• “You have part of my attention. You have the minimal amount.” Mark Zuckerberg to the chairman (David Selby) at his hearing, The Social Network

• An act of extreme faith in 127 Hours: free-falling down a narrow cleft between walls of rock, to plunge into an enchanted pool…

Sweetgrass: Grainy, dying-light photography of rider, who turns silhouette head to camera as he passes: “Watch your step”…

• Smudged colors and texture of Irish nightfall, rendered as never before, in Ondine, by Christopher Doyle…

• The road to the beach in unrelenting rain, The Ghost Writer

• The tenderness of casting Nathalie Richard as Madame, Never Let Me Go

• Flat-out decency of the Army recruiting officer (nonprofessional actor Russell Schalk) whom Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) visits in Winter’s Bone: “Buckle up … stay home.”…

• In passing, the grace of Richard Jenkins … Let Me In: the aging vampire-lover tries to postpone his replacement—”Please don’t see that boy again”; his death off-screen in Dear John, while his son monologues; another broken father looking for absolution, the only genuine quester in Eat Pray Love

I Love You, Phillip Morris: Oblivious to mayhem around them, two lovers (Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor) slow dance in a prison cell, blissed out by Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are” (thank you, Cleavon!)…

The Kids Are All Right: Jules (Julianne Moore), having unzipped Paul’s (Mark Ruffalo) trou, sizes up the situation and says, “Oh — well — hell-o!”…

• The uncanny resemblance between Christian Bale’s Dicky Eklund in The Fighter and John Sayles in dumb mode….

A Prophet: the moment when godfather César Luciani (Niels Arestrup) becomes just another schmuck…

• Sign of our times: huge decal of wannabe street artist Thierry Guetta’s face plastered over the side of a building in the City of Angels, a nobody’s “I exist!” writ large, signifying nothing. Exit Through the Gift Shop

A Film Unfinished: Grief and joy of an elderly survivor as she watches footage of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walking dead, indifferent to emaciated bodies lying in the street: “I am happy to be human again!”…

• Early in The Ghost Writer, the contained 3D infinity of airport lights behind the Ghost (Ewan McGregor) as he expresses his first doubts about the job he’s accepted…

• Courtship by blind taste test: Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, Hereafter

• “I don’t think of them as breasts—just tubes of potential danger”; Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), provider of mammograms in Please Give

• The slow relaxation of Karen’s (Annette Bening) pinched, angry features into maternal love as she gazes at her housekeeper’s sleeping daughter, in Mother and Child; the shock that flash-freezes Nic’s (Bening) face after she finds her wife’s hair where it ought not to be, The Kids Are All Right

• The way Melissa Leo’s devouring mom lips a cigarette in The Fighter

• The tender concavity between Nina’s (Natalie Portman) hips, as one of her projected selves (Mila Kunis) makes love to her racked flesh—Black Swan

• Island hottie or zombie girl, she still rides her horse—George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead

• Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech, his face a-droop with houndlike hurt, stands transfixed in the park, watching his friend and king walk away….

• “Oo, hermit money. That’s good.” Bill Murray, Get Low

• “Machete don’t text!” Well of course not. Danny Trejo, Machete

• In 44 Inch Chest, the entrance of Ian McShane, resplendent though not at the moment rampant: “What’s clickin’, kittens?”…

Exit Through the Gift Shop: The assessment of a passerby after she’s seen Banksy’s phonebooth installation: “Someone is annoyed with BT Telephone.”…

• The reflection of a Nazi cinematographer in a Warsaw shop window: death’s scavenger, devouring images and stealing souls in A Film Unfinished

• The metallic whine of a windmill turning: the sound life makes in Winter’s Bone

• “I know you,” insists the transplanted Frenchwoman (Isabelle Huppert) in Africa, menaced by gun-brandishing black villagers turned rebels, their gazes as empty as lions surveying prey: the ethnic abyss in White Material

A Prophet: Malik’s (Tahar Rahim) brief conversation with a civilized man—”You must learn to read and write”—cut short by razor blade…

True Grit: The death of Little Blackie on a moonlit plain, under a frame-filling sky full of stars…

Never Let Me Go: The dreadful understanding that suffuses Carey Mulligan’s face, long before the boy she loves (Andrew Garfield) catches on: “There are no deferrals.”…

• The mutual, horrific homicide of Fred and Ginger, the lab-created heaps of gray, eyeless flesh whose extended pink-petal “tongues” once intertwined in lovely and loving dance—Splice

• A woman who may be dead, eyed underwater by a teddybear—Hereafter

Let Me In: Car sitting on country road after train has passed; the red lights stop flashing, the barrier arms rise; the distant mountains abiding…

• In Sweetgrass, an endlessly receding zoom downslope at the herd, till cloud shadows sweep the whole valley; the sound level holding meanwhile as, phoning home from the high country, a sheep wrangler (Pat Connolly) at the end of his tether vents: “I don’t want to learn to hate these mountains.”…

• In A Film Unfinished, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto bemused at the sixty-year-old faked scene she is watching projected: “Who ever had a flower in their apartment? We would have eaten the flower!”…

• As wife (Michelle Williams) and child disappear from the frame, a man (Ryan Gosling) walks slowly out of focus, toward the color and pop of fireworks at the end of the street: Independence Day in Blue Valentine

• In The Kids Are All Right Jules (Julianne Moore), penitent, nails it: “Bottom line, marriage is hard … f**kin’ hard … just two people slogging through the s**t year after year … getting older … changing … it’s a f**kin’ marathon.”…

Winter’s Bone: Framed in his truck’s rearview mirror, gun barrel showing, Teardrop (John Hawkes) stares dead-eyed at the cop (Garret Dillahunt) who’s just pulled him over: “Is this gonna be our time?”…

• “I fired mounted and I fired wide.” LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) wistful about the closest he ever got to Chaney, in True Grit

Please Give: Kate (Catherine Keener) offering boxed leftovers—”Are you hungry?”—to an elderly black man … who’s just waiting in line for a table at his favorite restaurant…

• Dicky, in The Fighter, walking away from the crack house; noticing cake icing on his fingers, he absentmindedly licks it….

Ondine: As the lad (Colin Farrell) who may have fallen for a silkie exits the confessional, his wry priest (Stephen Rea) calls after him: “Keep me informed of developments.”…

Let Me In: The man looking pleadingly as he’s drained, his beseeching hand seemingly to be answered by that of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) … which takes the handle of the door and pulls it closed…

• The servant sweeping sand from the patio, surrounded by beach and dunes—The Ghost Writer

Previous Moments Out of Time are collected on Parallax View here.