Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best and Worst Movies of 2010

Bad Lieutenant (The Best)

Dear George,

Katja and I have been inveterate movie-goers since our first date at the Yellow Springs Art Theater in 1957. With our friend Donna, we have a Friday night movie club and try to see the best opening movie each week. Here are my picks for the six best movies we saw in 2010 (and for the six worst). I’ll admit that my companions wouldn’t agree with a lot of my choices, nor do Roger Ebert, Rex Reed, or any other professional critic that I’ve been able to locate. However, this is a pretty good list nonetheless.

The Best Six

#1. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Nicholas Cage. Cage does a magnificent job as a rogue New Orleans detective who is devoted to his job but steadily self-destructs in the course of his complex intermeshing with vicious drug dealers, thugs, and police authorities, many of whom are compelling character studies in their own right.

#2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Noomi Rapace. A powerful Swedish tycoon employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate the disappearance of his 16-year-old niece from a family gathering forty years earlier, only to have unfold a dark and appalling family history involving Nazism, rape, incest, serial murders, and men’s bestiality toward women.

#3. Shutter Island. Leonardo DiCaprio. Two U.S. marshals come to a barren island off Boston harbor to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an insane child murderess from the island’s fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane, and the mysterious, terrifying events in this subtle psychological thriller play havoc with one’s sense of reality.

#4. The Girl Who Played With Fire. A dark, gripping thriller in which Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints are on the gun used in the murder of two reporters and her ghoulish father returns to threaten her life.

#5. The Social Network. Jesse Eisenberg. An excellently paced, amazing true story of how Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg invented a global social network, became the youngest billionaire in history, and experienced numerous personal and legal complications.

#6. Secretariat. Diane Lane. In 1973 owner Penny Chenery Tweedy and trainer Lucien Laurin guide the longshot but precocious stallion in an effort to set the unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown – manages to be filled with suspense even though everybody knows the ending.

I Love You Phillip Morris (Best of 2011 so far)

Also Near the Top

#7. The King’s Speech. Colin Firth.

#8. I Love You Phillip Morris. Jim Carrey.

#7. Please Give. Catherine Keener,

#9. Knight and Day. Tom Cruise.

#10. The Messenger. Ben Foster.

#11. The Most Dangerous Man in America. Daniel Ellsberg.

#12. Exit Through the Gift Shop. Shepard Fairey.

#13. Salt. Angelina Jolie.

#14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Daniel Radcliffe.

#15. Stone. Robert De Niro.

Harry Brown (The Worst)

The Six Worst (of those we saw)

#6. Edge of Darkness. Mel Gibson. Apart from the lead actor whose private life grows sleazier by the day, an often inaudible soundtrack, and a perverted mix of maximum violence with a hyper-religious ending, this movie about a Bostom homicide detective whose daughter is killed does hold the viewer’s attention and manages to kill off just about everybody, bad guys and good.

#5. Winter’s Bone. Jennifer Lawrence. Despite rave reviews from the critics, I found this treatment of a Missouri Ozarks teen’s search for her missing father in order to save the family home to be a disturbing depiction of a hidden part of America – filmed nicely, but too slow, too boring, and relentlessly unpleasant.

#4. Going the Distance. Drew Barrymore. Some amusing touches about a long distance affair between two lovers in NYC and San Francisco, but gross sexual humor and Justin Long’s failure as the romantic lead pretty much doom the effort.

#3. Mother. Kim Hye-Ja. A single mother’s slow-witted 27-year-old son Do-joon follows a young girl down a dark alley, only to be arrested and jailed for her murder, whereupon his devoted mother sets out to find the girl’s killer and prove her son’s innocence, only to lead us along on the most boring and incoherent quest in movie history.

#2. Eat Pray Love. Julia Roberts. While my companions loved newly divorced Liz Gilbert’s world journey in search of self-discovery, nourishment, and love, I found Liz to be self-indulgent and her quest a pain in the neck.

#1. Harry Brown. Michael Caine. This is a dark, mean-spirited vengeance movie in which the problem of youth violence is addressed by a senior citizen blasting teens away with his assault rifle.

I suppose my choices are a little idiosyncratic. I might have rated Bad Lieutenant #1 because I’m a long-time Nicholas Cage fan and it was filmed in the dark in New Orleans. Most critics praised Winter’s Bone, and put it among the top 5 for the year (sometimes #1), but I thought it was dreary and painful. Katja and Donna were thrilled by Eat Pray Love, but I was grumpy. I thoroughly disliked Mother, which our local paper gave an A to (because they try to trick people to going to movies by Korean or Romanian film makers). Probably what this demonstrates is that movie evaluations, like everything else, are pretty subjective. But that’s what it’s all about.



G-Mail Comments

-Donna D (1-8): david, this ended up in my spam! so i just saw it. honestly, i don't think i saw bad lieutenant, so i'm going to rent it soon and see what you loved about it so much.

-David W (1-7-11): i hate nicolas cage and everything he's ever done-he should get a one way ticket to palooka ville- except leaving las vegas---you are a horrible critic--winters bone was one of my favorites for the year---shutter island one of my least fav., horrible script, horrible direction-scorcese should just pack up and host quiz shows--and that second half-have you lost your marbles-granted some are ok like the docs but knight and day, harry potter, salt(which i actually paid money to see because i like brangelina---i may have to report you to rotten i also noticed that you did not see despicable me!!!!! double insult

-David L to David W (1-7-11): That’s the best e-mail comment of the year. I should send you the rest of my movie ratings, and you would get twice as outraged.

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