Archive for indie films

10 in ‘10

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 17, 2010 by Will Link

So it’s been about a year since I started this blog…and clearly I have failed. For about seven months I was going strong but then I slowed and stopped. I had a lot to say but maybe not enough time or energy to type it. I certainly yelled it at enough people both at work, Sardo’s and on the street corner. It has been an odd year but that is no excuse. They are all odd years. I have failed.

That said I thought of redoing the whole blog for the new year and just making it about the thing most important to me, and thing I feel I am the closet of anything to being an “expert” on, film. Not sure if I’m going to do it but with that in mind I wanted to post my Top 10 Films of 2010!

As this year went on I mentioned aloud that this wasn’t that great a year. Well maybe it was a weak summer that offered only a few above average films, however looking back over the year as a whole I may have to eat my words. This ended up being a good year, so good in fact that making this list has been kind of a nightmare.  The films I am leaving off my list will be at the top of most people’s: The Social Network, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish, 127 Hours, Inception and the hardest to leave off, the taut and thrilling The Town. All fantastic thought and conversation provoking work.

So what the hell is actually on my list?!?

Well when I was blogging I wrote a lot about my love affair with “smaller” films. I’ve always loved these kinds of films; slice of life, movies about the small moments in life in which everything important happen. Where characters discover who they are, fall in love, triumph, fail and so on.  But as the years have gone on I have embraced them more than ever. Maybe it’s because the longer I am in this business the more I realize what a miracle it is any film actually gets made, let alone something so indie minded. It’s with that I give you my number one film of the year…a film I saw way back in January.

1.       Fish Tank

If you haven’t seen it (and chances are you haven’t) it is a must. Katie Jarvis gives as good a debut performance as you will ever see. She is head strong and hostile and seeing how she lives in a London housing project you can understand why. Director Andrea Arnold does an amazing job of portraying and letting us into her world.  As the film progresses we see her start to drop that emotional shield as she begins what is one of the most complicated relationships I have seen on film. It’s with her mother’s new boyfriend, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender.  He successfully walks the line between charmer and creep – neither of which can fully define him. There is a scene between him and Jarvis, in which the tension between them finally boils over, that is one of the most real and beautifully shots sequences in my recent memory. To me, Fish Tank was the best film of 2010.

2.       Blue Valentine

Staying with the theme of realism in a film, this film featured the truest and most natural relationship I may have ever seen in a film. The realism of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams passion and anger is what probably made the MPAA so scared about the sex scenes – it was so emotional it felt like it had to be real. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking film that asks a question we rarely ask about relationships: How and why is it we can fall out of a love that was so strong?

3.       Toy Story 3

For the third year in a row I find myself about to write how Pixar does everything better. About how they are the pinnacle of modern storytelling and how most live action films can’t come close to capturing the emotion they put on screen. What is so wonderful about Toy Story 3 is how it will play so differently for young and old audiences. For kids it’s a laugh a minute adventure. For adults it’s pure nostalgia, taking us back to the moment when we finally put our toys away, toys that meant as much to us as any possessions we will ever have. How I envy the children of today who watch this film…I can’t wait for them to understand what it is truly about.

4.       Black Swan

One of the most brilliantly maddening and disorienting films I have seen in a long time. Darren Aronofsky is the director of the year. He puts us right in Nina’s (Natalie Portman in by far her best performance) headspace, using amazing cinematography and mirror imagery. As she loses it more and more in her (futile?) search for perfection, we are expertly dragged down into the crazy nightmare with her.

5.       True Grit

There have been some terrific westerns in the last few years but True Grit is the best for sure. It is authentic in look and dialogue but is elevated by the folksy humor that only the Coen Brothers can deliver.  Jeff Bridges is predictably both fantastic and bad-ass but it’s Hailee Steinfeld who steals the show. I was captivated by every line that came out of her mouth. It’s a lead role but I assume she will be campaigned as a supporting Oscar contender. She deserves the statue for sure.

6.       The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Easily the finest procedural/thriller since Zodiac or even Seven. In fact the film’s style very much reminded me of Fincher, which makes him the perfect fit for the American remake (although do we really need a remake of this flawless film).  The film is anchored by what is my favorite performance of the year, Noomi  Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. It is a role powered by strength with just enough vulnerability to make her human and haunted by mystery that is thrilling to see unfold. It also features possible the most satisfying on screen revenge I can remember. Rooney Mara is going to have big shoes to fill.

7.       Tiny Furniture

When I was talking about what a miracle it is that small films get made and find an audience, this was the film I was referring too. It’s a brave film for its star and director Lena Dunham because it truly is her exposing herself. The characters are her and her family, warts and all.  Clearly the film comes from a world, a confusion she understands. Many filmmakers try to aspire to the humor and themes of Woody Allen but Lena Dunham manages to achieve them.

8.       Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I hate to use a cliché like “the most fun I had at the movies this year” but for me Scott Pilgrim was that. This was a film I underestimated going in but left thinking it was easily the funniest and most creative film of the year. Its clever humor and wit don’t just come from its dialogue and performances but from every aspect of the filmmaking. Sound cues, creative cuts and changes in the aspect ratio all make for an amazingly imaginative experience. However, as much as I love it I could only imagine it would be the number one movie of the year for teenage Will, because the film certainly took me back to that time, place and attitude. It’s destine to become a cult classic.  

9.       Greenberg

I have already written extensively on my love and fear of Greenberg in previous posts ( so you should probably check that out for a more detailed view. That said Greenberg is Noah Baumbach’s best film to date and arguably the best Ben Stiller performance. Greta Gerwig also gives a great performance. They are lost people, both lost in different stages of life, who in some weird ways need each other. It’s a film about regret and fear and where life may have gone wrong. Who can’t relate to that?

10.    Life During Wartime

Anyone who knows me should know I could never resist putting a Todd Solondz film on my list…especially if that film is a quasi-sequel to Happiness (one of my favorite films of all time). As always Solondz is able to mix the blackest of humor with an odd poignancy. This film is a meditation on forgiveness and if we are capable of such an act. Like many of the films listed here, Solondz work is true to life…and sometimes life can be a hard thing for us to watch.