Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top Ten of 2010: A Cheerful Prologue

My Top Ten list of U.S. releases for 2010 encompasses five film-festival hits from 2009 that took the customary year to arrive on a rarefied number of American commercial screens; one documentary that premiered at festivals in 2008 before finally landing a micro-budgeted distribution deal last winter; a feature that bowed at Cannes in 2008 and, despite finally debuting to Chicago audiences for a week-long public run at Facets, shows no clear signs of having played New York or Los Angeles at all; and three U.S.-made releases about which no "release date" enigma exists. Even at that, though, one of those last three films, a Sundance discovery last January, and another, released in March, feel like they, too, have been out forever.

The main lesson to be drawn, however, is not that 2010 had a hard time generating its own, ready-made Top Ten material. Granted, I wouldn't be entirely strenuous in disputing that sentiment, especially given the memory of a summer that had little to furnish into anyone's time capsule beyond Toy Story 3 (which I loved), Inception (which I didn't), and the indelibly vicious take-downs of Sex and the City 2 (which I avoided). The year wasn't great, and minus the triage performed by all those slow-trickle international gems, it would clearly look much worse. But, as few "A"-level movies as I found, I gave more "B+"s to more movies I more or less cherished and would avidly watch again—and, in many cases, already have watched again—than I can remember doing in any recent year. And as I was finally moved to explain this summer, a B+ or even a B– on this site generally implies a film that I'd urge you to have a crack at. The number of movies that made a strong, wholly defensible run for the #9 or #10 spot on this list is greater than the list itself. Even though this runner-up echelon includes more Cannes-vetted entrees (Mother, Carlos, The Father of My Children, A Prophet, Secret Sunshine), pulpy humdingers imported from abroad (Animal Kingdom), and micro-mini releases (My Neighbor, My Killer), it is also impressively fat with homegrown, medium-rare, commercial entertainments that invigorated at least as much as they impressed. Inside Job, The Fighter, Let Me In, The Town, The Social Network, Green Zone, and How to Train Your Dragon, basically in that order, would be proud entrants in a year-end Best list, with October Country, The Ghost Writer, Winter's Bone, The American, and Catfish not too far behind.

Solid if highly qualified successes like Mike Leigh's Another Year, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love, and the deceptively tough-minded sheep-herding documentary Sweetgrass all demand a second look and imply possible gains in my estimation as I keep mulling. The best stuff in inconsistent dramas like Fair Game (great start and middle, vaporous ending), Conviction (grippingly acted, mystifyingly scripted), The Last Exorcism (blazing middle trumps the intro and the finale), and For Colored Girls (an entire gamut of the dazzling and the risible, often within the same scenes) is as good as the best stuff in a lot of better movies. Meanwhile, amongst Emma Stone and her abler abettors in Easy A, Drew Barrymore and her comic accomplices in Going the Distance, prankish documentaries Exit Through the Gift Shop and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and the Hope Diamond of unabashed costume jewelry that is Burlesque, I had some hearty laughs and joys at the movies this year, which mean more to me as time goes by.

Very little in the way of unpolluted greatness, then, but an exhilarating lot in the way of rich, savory outings, of which my at-last stabilized Top Ten had the most fiber and flavor. Look for those in the next blog entry, over the next few days. I'll follow that post, once it's done, with a Top Ten list by world premiere, since the abundance of top-flight holdovers on the one you're about to read means the lists have very little intersection... and to assure you, as well, that 2011 is likely to hit several high-points that festival mavens have already spotted over the last 12 months. Hooray, and stay tuned!



Blogger Amir said...

i can't wait.
the list of "just missed" films is so delicious in itself.

3:19 PM, January 22, 2011  
Blogger Tim said...

What Amir said. I'm sure of 3 of the films on your 10, but beyond that I honestly can't guess; but it's going to be good, of that I am certain.

6:09 PM, January 22, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

So you're not holding your breath for Biutiful to make the top ten?

12:43 AM, January 23, 2011  

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