I have a confession to make.
I hate writing. . .
. . . with every fiber of my being. When I’m staring down a deadline and a blank screen, I’m filled with overwhelming anxiety and a terminal case of the IDontWannas. I think about all the other things I could be doing: Watching a movie. Playing a video game. Clipping my toenails. Offshore drilling.
Next, I’ll attempt some genuine article-related research and find myself lost in Facebook and Twitter statuses, obscure Wikipedia entries, and pictures of Olivia Wilde. Take now for example. I just caught myself Googling the lyrics to Part of Your World from THE LITTLE MERMAID. WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH?!
That’s when the doubt sets in. “Why am I putting myself through this?” “Am I a sadist?” “Do I need Ritalin?” “I wonder if Spanky can score me some. . . “ “What if I’m allergic?!” “. . .” “What if I DIE!?!”
– 2 hours later–
“Maybe I should just give up. . .”
And there at the pits of hell, I somehow find the focus to finish the article, coasting on the satisfaction that after it’s finished, I’ll retire from writing and have more time for iPhone games. Just. Finish. This. One!
But a funny thing happens when I click “publish.” Relief. A sense of accomplishment. Brain cobwebs dusted away. Time passes, and I forget the hardship and remember the result. Maybe I’ll write just one more. . .
Jett and Gareth have my undying gratitude for asking me to write these weekly The Film Talk articles. Thank you guys for keeping me sharp and disciplined, forcing me to feel the burn and reap the rewards.
Now, what was this article supposed to be about again?
Oh yeah. My ten favorite films of 2010!
Transcendence through nonsense. Matsumoto’s preceding film BIG MAN JAPAN was a hilarious, idiosyncratic, and downright-baffling experience; but not quite a satisfying one. SYMBOL is every bit of those superlatives and more, but the ending is moving, transcendent, and thoughtful. What does a Mexican wrestler have to do with a Japanese man locked in a room full of cherub penises? Tug the lever and find out.
Check out my original review from the Nashville film festival here.
There’s a scene in THE FIGHTER where Mark Wahlberg takes Amy Adams to an art house theater to see BELLE EPOQUE. A bespectacled art nerd corrects the two’s mispronunciation of the title and raves about the film’s beautiful cinematography. We’re supposed to think he’s a pretentious windbag. I sat there thinking, “That’s me!” I loved the Spanish comedy BELLE EPOQUE, and to make matters worse, I own the film on Laserdisc.
Mark and Amy’s characters found the film boring. Luckily, the characters in THE FIGHTER were anything but. Make no mistake, this is Oscar-bait from head to toe; but the phenomenal performances, most especially Wahlberg and Christian Bale, tear through the gloss. During the fights, I was on the edge of my seat. One brother is struggling to survive in the ring. The other is just struggling to survive. Each brother’s journey is deeply moving for entirely unique reasons.
A wheelchair-bound woman journeys to Lourdes, the Catholic place of mythical healing, to seek a miracle. Sylvie Testud gives one of the year’s best performances, which by all rights would garner an Oscar nomination if this beautiful film got a larger distribution. LOURDES is a multi-layered treatise on hope. Whether the hope is false or justified depends entirely upon how you interpret the film’s final shot. See my original review in my guide to the Nashville Film Festival.
After watching the 5.5 hour cut of CARLOS, I bought a copy of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and read it cover to cover. I wanted to see the idealism that could drive a person to throw a grenade in a crowded room of women and children and feel righteous doing so. In pointing out all the injustices of the world and in the flaws of the current systems of government, the book was delirious in its absolute, unquestionable truth. In the lens of Communism, everything becomes clear. Life, politics, and everything is black and white. If you’re against us, you’re blinded by your bourgeoisie upbringing and are an enemy of the Revolution.
All of the terrorists in CARLOS carry the same righteous zeal in their eyes. Be wary of no one so much as the young and sure.
Édgar Ramírez is brilliant, enigmatic, and positively-searing as world-famous terrorist Carlos Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. He has to carry what amounts to three full films, and he’s in nearly every shot. Director Assayas is one of the world’s true masters and the most versatile director alive. CARLOS, SUMMER HOURS, DEMONLOVER, and IRMA VEP have nothing in common but their quality.
My only real complaint of the film is that all the terrorists are impossibly gorgeous. That tends to romanticize a story that would have been better served by more mundane faces. It’s easy to see why women would fawn over Edgar Ramirez but more fascinating to explore why they fawned over the rather plain-looking Carlos Sanchez.
CARLOS was a three part 5.5 hour epic. So why don’t I award my 6th slot to all three parts of the British neo-noir RED RIDING? Perhaps because CARLOS was billed as one piece with one director. Each film in the RED RIDING trilogy is an independent work with a unique director. I found RED RIDING 1974 to be absolutely gripping and each subsequent film a diminishing return. The conspiranoia of the part one is not so over-the-top as to be distracting. By the time psychic detective shows up in part three, I found myself yelling, “COME ON!” at the screen every few scenes.
As a crime film, RR 1974 is perfect. THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s Andrew Garfield delivers his finest performance to date. Jarrold’s directing gets out of the way so the mystery can consume us. We ARE the young reporter, mired by the weight of the town’s collective dread, lost and paranoid, too close to the truth to just let it go. We wince at every blow of the baton and scream at the injustice that we are powerless to stop. The ending might be deemed dark and cynical if not bolstered by the hope of (slightly) greener pastures in the subsequent films. But RR 1974′s ending is perhaps the most true to the crime noir genre. This film has more bite, atmosphere, and suspense than any other film this year.
The rub (and perk) of not being a full time film critic is that I don’t get to see every film of the year. I desperately wanted to see Lee Chang Dong’s SECRET SUNSHINE as his OASIS is one of my favorite films of all time. But sadly it didn’t play within a 300 mile radius of me. Here are a list of films were disqualified from my list simply because I did not see them. For many, it was not for a lack of trying.
Enter the Void, Somewhere, Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon, Sweetgrass, Dogtooth, The Secret in Their Eyes, Monsters, Never Let Me Go, Rabbit Hole, Inside Job, A Film Unfinished, 45365, Hadewijch, Poetry, The Tillman Story, The King’s Speech, The Kids are Alright, Lebanon, Restrepo, Boxing Gym, Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Cropsey, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
I’m pleased to be seeing John Cameron Mitchell‘s RABBIT HOLE this Saturday at the Belcourt with star and Nashville resident Nicole Kidman in attendance to give an after-film Q&A. 1000 Belcourt members tried to get tickets precisely the moment the 300 tickets went on sale and most wound up empty-handed. I got lucky. :-)
And, yes, I am aware some of these films were originally released in their home countries in 2009. But all as far as I can tell had their first theatrical screening the United States (where I am writing from) in 2010.
Tony Youngblood is a film and music snob and producer of the experimental improv music blog and podcast Theatre Intangible. His favorite films include Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray, Abbass Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician, Lee Chang Dong’s Oasis, and Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap.