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From Inception to Worth

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Karine Arlot/IFC Films

Shock horror, a top-10-films-of-2010 list that omits both "Avatar" and "Inception," and I make absolutely no apologies for doing so. Personally speaking, I had to be thoroughly coerced into even going to see "Avatar" in the first place. My instincts were sadly correct and I only resisted walking out because I thought James Cameron couldn't possibly make as much of a hash of the final act as he did the rest of the movie. I was sadly misguided in my assumptions. Now "Inception" was far more successful, and I'm a big fan of both Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio. My main complaint with "Inception" lies in the fact that the premise is far stronger than the execution. While many critics will invariably place these two pictures in their top 10, there's no room for them in mine. So onto my personal favorites from the past 12 months ...

Alex Beattie's Top Movies of 2010 in alphabetical order

ADRIFT (Heitor Dhalia) This stylized 1980s-set drama piece examining a family in the midst of disintegration is an absorbing picture that benefits not only from a simple story but from its visual aesthetics. The beautiful Brazilian beach backdrop is the perfect setting for writer-director Mr. Dhalia's tale of infidelity and sexual awakening. It's a moody, elegant picture that is wonderfully observed and skilfully realized.

A PROPHET (Jacques Audiard) Mr. Audiard's magnificent mafia epic invigorates a genre that had veered toward the shoddy glorification of wannabe gangsters. This is real, gritty, brutal and unbecoming. There's nothing glamorous about Mr. Audiard's prison cells, and he certainly doesn't hold back from exposing the awful reality of prison politics. "A Prophet" is a thrilling, beguiling piece of work that also boasts one of the year's finest acting performances by Tahar Rahim as the titular prophet Malik.

THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN (Mia Hansen-Løve) Ms. Hansen-Løve's touching tale of a family shattered by the consequences of one man's inability to continue to prop up the dual pillars of pride and artistic drive was perhaps the year's most moving and solemn picture. Deeply personal and incredibly emotive, "The Father of My Children" is absorbing and delicate filmmaking by a director with an exceptionally bright future.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Niels Arden Oplev) Mr. Oplev's faithful adaptation of the first novel of Stieg Larsson's phenomenally successful Millennium Trilogy is a timely reminder of how good crime thrillers can be, as an expertly weaved tale of murder and mystery plays out against the stunning backdrop of the Swedish winter. It's full of intrigue, deception and second guessing and is a thoroughly engrossing and superbly executed picture.

THE ROAD (John Hillcoat) Director Mr. Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel is a masterful study into the relationship between a father and son, played out against a post-apocalyptic backdrop. The real success of the picture is in infusing a semblance of hope into a situation where, in reality, none does or can exist. In short, "The Road" is a refreshing take on the age-old tale of the endurance of the human spirit. Add to that some stunning acting from Viggo Mortensen and a terrifically bleak visual style, "The Road" is a powerful and impressive picture.

SHE, A CHINESE (Guo Xiaolu) Ms. Guo's touching tale of a Li Mei's (Huang Lu) personal and fraught quest to find her identity acts as a pertinent metaphor for the emergence of the new China of the 21st century. Although it's a sad and ultimately pessimistic tale, there remains a sliver of hope surrounding Mei's uncertain fate. It's a highly emotive, evocative and grittily "real" piece of filmmaking.

SHED YOUR TEARS AND WALK AWAY (Jez Lewis) This brutally honest insight into the harrowing affects that alcohol and addiction have had on the peaceful Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge is a lesson in the art of documentary filmmaking. Mr. Lewis's ability to humanize the issues and his sympathetic handling of very difficult subject matter are highly commendable; and while it's difficult to watch, this is important and necessary filmmaking of the highest order.

TOY STORY 3 (Lee Unkrich) It's a rare feat for the third act of a trilogy to be the strongest of the set, but the geniuses at Pixar continued to go from strength to strength with the sublime "Toy Story 3." A full decade on from "Toy Story 2," it is a pleasure to be reacquainted with Woody, Buzz et al and to be introduced to the mischievous Lotso and the bizarre Big Baby. At times hilarious, at others moving, this is a fitting finale to a terrific trilogy.

UP IN THE AIR (Jason Reitman) Never more timely a film is there than "Up in the Air." Amid the gloom of a global recession the likes of which hadn't been seen for generations comes the tale of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), whose job it is to travel cross country and lay people off while facing the prospect of being made redundant himself. Drab it may sound, but this is a heart-warming comedic drama that is wistful, considered, intelligent, masterfully scripted, directed and acted and, most importantly, relevant.

WAH DO DEM (Sam Fleischner and Ben Chase) Having bumped into "Wah Do Dem" co-writer-director Mr. Chace quite by chance at the BFI London Film Festival in 2009, it was a dual relief that I'd seen his film and written a glowing review about it and he'd actually read it. A year on, I was delighted to see his guerrilla indie film about a slacker who takes a solo cruise to Jamaica on a journey of self-discovery secure a wider release. "Wah Do Dem" makes my list because it shows what a little initiative, invention and enterprise can achieve and that should be celebrated accordingly.

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