Friday, 7 January 2011

The Best of 2010 - Part II: Everything

So here it is, the exciting second part of my look back at that movie year of 2010. This one's for the people that gave us the experiences we had while seeing films this year.

First, let's take a moment to look back on the movie people we lost. If the year was a pretty good one for cinema, it was also a sad one as a lot of legendary filmmakers passed away. I'm sorry I can't do proper justice to write an article about each one, but I hope this text will help their spirts to Rest In Peace.

RIP 2010:

Eric Rohmer 1920-2010. (Director, My Night At Maud's, Autumn Tale)
Corey Haim 1971-2010. (Actor, The Lost Boys, Silver Bullet)
Erich Segal 1937-2010. (Screenwriter, The Yellow Submarine, The Love Story)
Jean Simmons 1929-2010. (Actress, Spartacus, The Big Country, The Egyptian)
Helge Herala 1923-2010. (Actor, Raid, Noin 7 veljestä, Uuno Turhapuro armeijan leivissä)

Peter Graves 1926-2010. (Actor, Airplane!, Mission: Impossible)
John Forsythe 1918-2010. (Actor, Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, The Trouble with Harry)
Dennis Hopper 1936-2010. (Actor, Blue Velvet, Apocalypse Now, Super Mario Bros., Director, Easy Rider, Legend, The Last Movie)
Harvey Pekar 1939-2010. (Actor, American Splendor)
Ronald Neame 1911-2010. (Director, The Poseidon Adventure, Scrooge)

Tom Mankiewicz 1942-2010. (Screenwriter, Dragnet, Live And Let Die)
Patricia Neal, 1926-2010. (Actress, Hud, The Day the Earth Stood Still)
Claude Chabrol 1930-2010. (Director, La cérémonie, Le boucher)
Kevin McCarthy 1914-2010. (Actor, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Innerspace)
Sally Menke 1953-2010. (Editor, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2)

Arthur Penn 1922-2010. (Director, Bonnie & Clyde, Little Big Man)
Tony Curtis 1925-2010. (Actor, Spartacus, Sweet Smell of Success)
Satoshi Kon 1963-2010.
Johnny Sheffield 1931-2010. (Actor, Tarzan Finds A Son!)
Gloria Stuart 1910-2010. (Actress, Titanic, The Invisible Man)

Roy Ward Baker 1916-2010. (Director, Quatermass & the Pit, Asylum)
George Hickenlooper 1963-2010. (Director, Hearts of Darkness, Casino Jack)
Luis García Berlanga 1921-2010. (Director, El verdugo)
Dino De Laurentiis 1919-2010. (Producer, La Strada, Conan the Barbarian, Death Wish)
Ingrid Pitt 1937-2010. (Actress, The Wicker Man, Countess Dracula)

Martti Pennanen 1923-2010. (Actor, Jäniksen vuosi, Vodkaa, komisario Palmu)
Leslie Nielsen 1926-2010.
Irvin Kershner 1923-2010. (Director, The Empire Strikes Back, RoboCop 2)
Jean Rollin 1938-2010. (Director, The Night of the Hunted, Living Dead Girl)
Blake Edwards 1922-2010. (Director, Breakfast at Tiffany's, A Shot In the Dark, The Party)
Grant McCune 1943-2010. (Miniature Effects, Star Wars, Speed, Rambo)

Best Actors of the Year:

I should mention that as these lists are made for movie magazine Episodi, the only people legible for voting were the actors in films released in Finland in 2010. So, especially in the ladies' list, there is a large number of great performances of 2010 missing such as Natalie Portman from Black Swan and Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone. They'll appear on these lists next year for sure.
It seems that in the case of men, 2010 was the year when a number of hunks surprised me by showing that they actually could act.

10. Ben Affleck (The Town)
9. Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
8. Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
7. Pierce Brosnan (The Ghost Writer)
6. Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutanant)
5. Brian Cox (A Good Heart)
4. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
3. Ryan Reynolds (Buried)
2. Colin Firth (A Single Man)
1. Stephen Dorff (Somewhere)

Best Actresses:

The case of women is always the hardest for me to judge. Many pretty great films have barely any females in them (like The Social Network, which basically has only one female character and all the other women are throphies more than people). Those films that do have plenty of female roles, most often tend to be Sex & the City 2 -style schlock I wouldn't touch with a 10-meter pole that was sharpened at the end. So please forgive me if my list of best female actresses is lacking. You can see that the last ones down the top 10-list were a little far-fetched. But at least it seems already that 2011 will be a year for strong female performances and characters both.

10. Louise Bourgeoin (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec)
9. Eva Mendes (Bad Lieutenant)
8. Mo'Nique (Precious)
7. Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass)
6. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
5. Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer)
4. Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
3. Julianne Moore (A Single Man)
2. Elle Fanning (Somewhere)
1. Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)

The Best Soundtrack:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim's soundtrack has been one of my favorite records of 2010 so yeah. The film introduced me to such great indie bands as Plumtree, Blood Red Shoes and Metric and re-ignited my love for Beck. This is one area where the film shines brighter than in the original comics, as Scott's band Sex Bob-Omb was described there to be "pretty sucky". And Beck coudn't do sucky in his sleep. No wonder in the film version they got an actual recording deal, what with songs like Launchpad McQuack (sorry, We Are Sex Bob-Omb), Treshold and Garbage Truck. Oh, and the soundtrack also includes classics from T. rex and The Stones as well as a chiptune version of Treshold. What's not to love? Not Metric of course, because the feeling I have for the song Black Sheep is something greater than mere love.

The Best Score:

Hans Zimmer does too many scores as most of them tend to sound a bit too much alike. But when he gets a project that really gets his creative juices flowing, the result is something great. Last time it was with Sherlock Holmes. I doubt Inception will lose Zimmer the Oscar this time. It's tremendously clever, like for example how it uses also the slowed-down version of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. The score can be exciting, and goes well with the scenes where things keep exploding. It can also be strikingly beautiful to go with those mourning scenes.

Best Scripts:

Judging scripts might also be a little stupid as I haven't actually read any of the texts from which the movies have been filmed. Direction is easier to judge from the film itself. But sometimes a good writer really shines through, such as Aaron Sorkin with The Social Network. No-one can quite write as fast and as snappy dialogue like him. Well, maybe Tarantino, but he didn't make a new film this year. The criteria for choosing the scripts includes how memorable characters the film created, the dialogue and why things keep happening. And of course humour. Mustn't forget that.

10. Juuso & Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports)
9. Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right)
8. Sofia Coppola (Somewhere)
7. William M. Finkelstein (Bad Lieutenant)
6. Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughan (Kick-Ass)
5. Christopher Nolan (Inception)
4. Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audriard (Profeetta)
3. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3)
2. Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain (Four Lions)
1. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

Best Directors:

Some directors might do a tremendous job, but because of a clichéd or otherwise flawed script, they didn't get their films to my top 10. But at least this one helps a lot. Somehow this seems easiest for me to judge. You can always tell a great artist from his/her work. Bonus points for a visionary style or risking life and limb (like Janus Metz) to make a film.

10. Ben Affleck (The Town)
9. Matthew Vaughan (Kick-Ass)
8. Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports)
7. Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer)
6. Janus Metz (Armadillo)
5. Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
4. Chris Morris (Four Lions)
3. Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void)
2. Sofia Coppola (Somewhere)
1. Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon)

Top 10 DVD Premieres in Finland

The meat (hopefully) of this later post is to include a list of films that didn't get a premiere on the big screen at all in 2010, but went straight to DVD. Many british films had this fate, when lesser films like Harry Brown got to the screens. Don't worry, Harry. You'll get yours, pretty soon. Many of the films are popular from film festivals, and some have even been shown at several. If you'll excuse me, I'll write a little less of films I've mentioned before.

10. American Swing (2008)
Director: Jon Hart, Mathew Kaufman

Do you think Americans are sexually repressed? I think that although they might act like that, nothing could be further from the actual truth. A case in point is this groovy documentary about the swingin' 70's, when a popular swingers' joint Plato's Retreat opened. The story of the days of decadence is an exciting, hilarious but also a little sad. A place too free-minded like that is bound to either be destroyed or destroy itself. Which is what did happen. The documentary is well made, with good interviews and just the right amount of authentic footage.

9. Whip It! (2009)
Director: Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore's debut film was a flop at the USA, so no wonder we never got it on our big screens. Shame, because it is an actually good sport film, about a sport not enough used on canvas - roller derby. And at the same time, it's a story about growing up. The teenaged Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) starts doing the derby secretly from her demanding mother. As the sport demands toughness, Bliss starts to develop into a person who is more in charge of herself. The film is funny, it's got attitude, and while it follows pretty worn-out patterns, it doesn't always go where the path is most trampled.

By the way, the Finnish title for this is "Roller-Girl", which makes it seem like a spin-off film from Boogie Nights.

8. Kabuli Kid (2008)
Director: Barmak Akram

We all know Afghanistan from the headlines, but life in Kabul is a lot more than just dodging bombs all the time. The greatness of fictional films as a medium is that they might take you to such a place safely, to see what everyday life is like for the regular inhabitants. We get thrown into the story as an Afghan taxi driver gets stuck with a baby, left by a mysterious woman in a full-body burkha. What follows is a search all through the city. I like how Kabul is actually one of the main characters in this film. It is a wise film, telling a lot about the Afghan attitude to life after years of neverending war and its subtle touches to western ways of life. I love the scene where an old beggar finds a Coca-cola bottle full of milk and takes a drink, for instance. This one was a Love & Anarchy treat from a previous year (2009 I think).

7. The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters (2007)
Director: Seth Gordon

It was about time to see this documentary about competitive gaming at our northern home country. It's a true only in America -style situation where grown men train to become the best there is at playing the Donkey Kong Arcade game. Not only is the subject interesting per se, Gordon directs his documentary to be a real American if-you-got-one-shot drama. Never mind how much of this is really true, Gordon truly has his Rocky and Apollo Creed in the story. But I'd imagine the craziest country in the world, Japan, must have some pretty hardcore gamers who'll probably sleep with a joystick in their hands. If we ever get a sequel, that's probably where the story's Ivan Drago will come from.

6. Centurion (2010)
Director: Neil Marshall

I like everything that Marshall has done, and this may be my favorite film of his after The Descent. A really thrilling men-on-a-run story, with scarcely time to catch one's breath. It is also awesomely set in the Roman era, and pretty violent. I wrote a little bit more about it at my Espoo Ciné report.

5. In The Loop (2009)
Armando Iannucci

In the Loop was so good, I retroactively added it to my list of best comedy films of the 2000's. This was the year when I discovered the genius of Iannucci's work, as he has worked with the cream of british comedy, from Chris Morris to Steve Coogan. And today most political satire is too neutered anyway, so it's a true delight to see this spin-off from the TV series The Thick of It work so beautifully on its own. The script moves too fast to be summarized here, but suffice to say the film is mostly about Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the most innovative swearer there has been since Captain Haddock. He's working for the British Prime Minister now and he's plenty of pissed on how the other morons fuck up their work. F * * * Cunts.

4. Lebanon (2009)
Director: Samuel Maoz

Personal war stories often make the best war films, and Samuel Maoz brings us one that has barely no glory at all. War in his world is a claustrophobic nightmare, wherethe only reason is to destroy beauty and to make everyone as miserable as possible. Still, he keeps a tiny thread of hope among all this chaos. I wrote a little bit more about it at my Espoo Ciné report.

3. Fish Tank (2009)
Director: Andrea Arnold

Fish Tank has been one of the most talked-about british films of late, and so it's really strange that it debuted on DVD here. There must be some strong anti-brits in Finnish distribution companies. That, or no-one would see them if they did release them, no matter how good the films are. At least plenty of people have seen this gem at Love & Anarchy. Not me, though. I saw it only recently.

The film in question is about the teenaged Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis), living in a small Essex village. Her mum and sister usually ignore her and she doesn't have many friends. Mia keeps the boredom away by hip-hop dancing and trying to set free starving horses. Her life loses its balance when her mum brings home a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender), who might be a father figure, or a potential first crush.

Mia is an interesting, complex character. A strong female, that does as she wants to, but also has a juvenile way of showing her mind when she doesn't get what she wants. Also her relationship with the other members of her family can change drastically upon what kind of mood she happens to be on. So she's like a real teenager, then. Unlike many other stories that would concern the walls of small-town life crashing on an individual would be a lot darker. Fish Tank isn't a ray of sunshine by any means but it can find a delicate balance between teenaged frustration and good-hearted humour.

2. The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)
Director: J Blakeson

A truly surprising and gripping story about a couple of kidnappers. There's no perfect crime, but in this film there is little I didn't like. Read more at my Night Visions Maximum Halloween 3010 report.

1. Walkabout (1971)
Director: Nicholas Roeg

I was truly surprised that one of the biggest masterpieces in Nicholas Roeg's career has never had a premiere in Finland. This makes me notice that the problem that many notable films slip through the cracks and all we get is schlock on the silver screen, is by no means a new one. If anything, because of the media gives enough buzz we have better chances of seeing great movies. I'm glad that today we at least have good chances of seeing whatever we want by various ways. Not so in 1970's Finland.

Hey, would you believe the film is another teenaged female coming-of-age story? I know, right. This time the girl (Jenny Agutter) is stranded with her little brother (Luc Roeg) in the middle of the Australian outback. They happen to find a Aboriginal boy (David Gupou) doing his rites of manhood by having a Walkabout in the desert. The white-bread children come to depend on the dark boy to get them through alive. But cultural differences as well as the inability to find a common language stop the the children from truly understanding the meaning of a Walkabout. At the same time, the sexual awakenings of different cultures and sexes are contrasted with the surrounding nature.

Visually Walkabout is probably one of the most magnificent motion pictures ever made. So much so, that it comes almost comical of how much this looks like a nature documentary at times. Roeg is willing to shoot every various lizard that lives on the desert and landscapes for minutes at an end. It is truly not a film for the impatient. But the landscapes tell plenty of the story as there actually is very little dialogue. Even character names are never revealed. Viewers are allowed to reflect their own feelings and experiences on Roeg's grandiose canvas. It is a highly symbolistic film and my favorite of all the coming-of-age story the history of cinema has ever seen.
Man, this movie should really be enjoyed in a cinema environment.

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