Was 2010 a vintage year for film? Compared to 2009, from which basically only Avatar is still talked about, I guess it was. In the long run, only time will tell of course, but here are the ten films that made the biggest impression on me in all the vintageness.
Note: This list goes by German cinematic release dates. Note 2: Even though I made it into the cinema a lot this year, I still missed some titles, i.e. Enter the Void and Exit through the Gift Shop.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
There are two reasons, why I chose to make this film my film of the year. One is that is truly a revolutionary and daring piece of filmmaking for reasons that The Film Doctor has pointed out. The second is that it really stuck with me emotionally in ways that Inception or The Social Network did not.
You can say almost nothing against this excellent film, except maybe that it’s a bit too cerebral and a bit convoluted. But, well, that’s what happens when you are making a big budget action blockbuster which at the same time serves as an intelligent investigation of the nature of dreams and our ability to delude ourselves. And right now there is only one director able to pull this off: Christopher Nolan.
3. The Social Network
It’s not the story of Facebook, I believe, but it is a very good story. As usual, Fincher succeeds in making the viewer forget just how perfectionist his filmmaking is by enveloping him in a well-told story brought across by excellent performers. That’s what makes the film so strong. It is not however, a testament of our times, I reject this reading.
4. El Secretu de sus ojos
I won’t say it was a worthy Oscar winner (because it was up against Das weiße Band), but it was a worthy nominee. I just liked this film. It was tense and gripping, it was beautifully lit and shot and it was so melodramatic in a good way, about love that transcends time and brings people to do cruel things. It just got me.
5. The Kids are all right
If I was a different kind of person I would probably have all sorts of reservations against this film, but I am not. So I liked the extremely powerful betrayal of a couple going through marriage problems – stripped of all gender prejudices you could have because both partners are women. Around the performances, however, which are easily the biggest asset of the film, there is also some well-composed pictures to look at, which rounds the film off nicely.
6. Crazy Heart
The landscapes and the dreams that surround this tale open up the canvas, the intimate performances and the music close it again. This mixture generates a film that lasts, even more because it’s a fictional story that might just be true.
7. A Single Man
Another performance-driven film that profits from the fact that it is also clothed in beautiful images. I liked the bitterness of it, combined with the technique of using shifting colour saturations to convey emotion, which is something that I hadn’t seen done in quite this way before.
8. Toy Story 3
Ignore the fact that there is a bit too much of everything in the second act of this film as it channels prison break movies of the last five decades. Toy Story 3 more than makes up for it with the emotional climax of the third act and an ending that had me shedding a few lonely tears in the cinema. A very different coming-of-age-story which brillantly finishes a trilogy fifteen years in the making.
9. The Road
It’s a film about a failed civilisation that manages to tell its story without drifting off into the romanticized apocalypse. There is no hint here of a “paradise regained” Adam-and-Eve-notion, just a harrowing sense of survival of the well-adapted. That’s what made the film for me.
I like innovative approaches to biopics and Gainsbourg is excellent in mixing legend and history. Once M. Gainsbourg is famous, it gets a little tedious watching his seemingly endless decay, but in the end even that felt worthwhile in order to learn how one of France’s most infamous 20th-century-figures might see himself in a movie.
Honorable Mention: Die kommenden Tage
This is not in the Top 10 because it tries to cram a little too much character drama into one film in a way that makes some of the characters unbelievable in the end. But a near-future dystopia from Germany that successfully taps into a lot of the fears which haunt our times, combined with some of the best colour photography I have seen in a German film for years, nevertheless made for a film that I often think back to. Can we please have more films with this scope in Germany?
Let’s see how 2011 will play out. Until then, I wish all my blog readers a good sense of closure for 2010 and a Happy New Year!