2010: MY YEAR IN FILM

page 3
christopher funderburg

 

  BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

Jackass 3-D.
It's strange to think that there is a variable level of quality across the three Jackass
movies, but there you have it: Number 2 is a veritable masterpiece of gross-out gags, shock comedy, high concept weirdness and goofy camaraderie. Coming down that from that Peak, 3-D is more or less on the same level of the first installment: it has its moments and lives or dies on the strength of its individual set pieces. It's enjoyable enough, but nothing really sticks like the bull rodeo teeter-totter or riot control test sequence from the previous film - that many of the sketches are minor variations on long-running concepts (dress up like a crazy old person!) or out-and-out recreations of superior bits from Number 2 (another snake prank with Bam!) only serve to make the feel like an extended episode of the t.v. show. It's pleasant enough, just a come-down, is all. While I struggle to remember what happened in 3-D, bits like fat-guy/midget bungee-jump (with Jason Taylor!) and John Water's magic trick from Number 2 pop easily into my mind.

The Green Zone.
I watched this on an airplane coming back from Bogota, so maybe it works better on the not-miniscule screen. It was just too on the nose and simplistic with Kinnear completely stinking up the screen. The action scenes weren't anything to right home about and unavoidably recalled the much more intense, but also not very good Middle East conflict thriller The Kingdom. With some adjustments to dialog and performances, this could have perfectly serviceable thriller, but it would have required a complete overhaul to be a meaningful or sophisticated film.

The Other Guys.
This is why dudes get paid the big bucks to direct action movies: it's tough to make action sequences thrilling while keeping the story moving forward with propulsive energy. Because it all but drops the jokes in the final 45 minutes to concentrate on resolving a convoluted plot via shootouts and showdowns, The Other Guys
requires a director that can do as much while also juggling goofy heavily-improvised comedy and a certain measure of emotional investment in the characters. Adam McKay nails the comedy: the first half of this movie is the funniest nonsense I've seen since, well, Adam McKay's last film, Stepbrothers... but the action fails spectacularly: it's a bunch of tiring, unimaginative, straight-faced gun battles and car chases that seem to be hoping they can coast by on the fact that they are appearing in what is ostensibly another wacky Will Ferrell comedy. Since the action scenes stink, it feels like McKay is hoping to get away with a "hey, it's at least funny that we're not joking about this, right?" but the flopsweat builds up and the flailing film feels like it can't wait to get off stage. Certainly, I was checking my watch once it stopped being funny. Mr. McKay, leave that actioneering to the professionals: even they only get it right a couple times a year.

Iron Man 2.
The first film was a slam-dunk summer movie anchored by an irresistible lead performance. Like The Other Guys, the first half of this film (basically up through the Monaco sequence) lives up the energy and charm of the original before shuttling that irresistable lead off to the side in order to get completely bogged down in stupid, extraneous Avengers tie-in garbage. Samuel Jackson's work as Nick Fury is just so awful and cartoon-ish: really I prefer his turn in his previous Sco-Jo team-up, The Spirit. At least that movie started from a goofy nadir and couldn't be ruined by their ridiculous, flat performances - and there's no arguing they both deliver the exact same kind of performance here as they did there. A true "comic book" sensibility intrudes on the movie and it never recovers, despite magnetic performances from Robert Downey and Mickey Rourke.

True Grit.
Look, I'm just one of the assholes who likes the book too much and is bummed at what the movie got wrong. Which is the character of Mattie. And the glaring omission of General Sterling Price. Get off my back, I know I'm in the wrong and you don't want to hear it. The movie kicks ass, sure, I don't disagree. Leave me alone.

 

 

Biggest Gulf between Reputation and Actual Film Quality:
Winter's Bone.

The "Local Hero Award" for the Overrated "Underrated Movie" of the Year:
Shutter Island.
What the shit? This movie got terrible reviews when it came out. The reason? It is one of the worst movies of the year and if John Turteltaub directed it, it would have been relegated to the same smelly cinematic dumpster as movies like Gothika and Hide and Seek. Now itís turning up on "Best of the Year" lists? America, we can't let this happen. We're better than this. Write your local congressman or woman and urge them to pass a statute banning Shutter Island from "Best of the Year" consideration.
runner-up:
Samson and Delilah
.

Best Title:
Blood Done Sign My Name.

Worst title:
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
runner-up:
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
.

Most Unfortunate Title:
The Yellow Handkerchief.

Title that doesn't even make any sense because it's not even a pun:
Just Wright.
alternate:
Knight and Day
.

I Defy You to Remember These Movies:
These films starred famous people and got real theatrical releases in hundreds of theaters and the chances are you have no idea what they are. I had the honor of seeing each of them in a nearly empty theater.
Conviction
.
Everything Must Go
.
The Romantics
.
Twelve
.

I should also mention that I'm genuinely stunned that Predators somehow ended up being worse than Aliens vs. Predators.

The "Vera Farmiga in Orphan Award" for a genuinely great performance in a genuinely ridiculous film:
Benecio del Toro in Wolfman.

The "Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons Award" for giving it your all, even though you probably shouldn't have:
Paul Bettany in Legion.

The "Wish they had gotten the Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line treatment Award" for the actor who did the most to ruin their movie:
tie: Greg Kinnear in Green Zone and Barbara Hershey in Black Swan.

The "Monica Potter Award" for a bland, charmless actress Hollywood insists on forcing on a demonstrably indifferent public:
Zoe Saldana (The Losers, Death at a Funeral, Takers.)

The "Robert Redford Award" for coasting on an over-inflated reputation developed decades ago:
Oliver Stone for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
.

Yeah, I saw them. What of it?:
The Social Network.
Black Swan.
Winter's Bone.
Everyone Else.
Catfish.
Tiny Furniture.
Film Socialisme.
A quick note about The Social Network. A colleague of mine at work, like many folks, thinks this is one of the best films of the year. Before I saw it, he warned me that the film was flawless except for one nagging detail. He wouldn't tell me what it was, but assured me I would know it when I saw and that his whole group of pals (other film-savvy sophisticates) had been driven crazy by it. I urged him to just tell what was up; but, no, apparently I would find out on my own soon enough. When I came out of the theater, I wondered what had drawn his ire: Aaron Sorkin's atrocious dialog? The typical oppressive Fincher over-direction? Its much-discussed, verifiable divorce from factual veracity? The stupid "smart" script that threw up a bunch of "meaty" and "important" signifiers but had absolutely nothing to say about them, while entirely (hilariously) missing the obvious irony that Facebook's success was built around the website's carefully cultivated air of exclusivity and elitism? That it is, at its heart, nothing beyond another snobs versus slobs college comedy? Nope. What bothered him was that Fincher had CGI'd some freezing breath into a couple scenes. At that moment, I realized I have no real relationship to anyone else in this world and that we will all die alone, cold and silent.

Star for whom it most easy to root for their failure:
Jay Baruchel
(The Sorcerer's Apprentice, She's Out of My League, How to Train Your Dragon.)
runner-up:
Natalie Portman (Brothers, Black Swan, The Other Woman,
the upcoming Asthon Kutcher romantic comedy No Strings Attached.)

For the museum of AmerIndie Style:
Happy Tears.
alternate:
The Extra Man
.

The "Van Helsing Award" for wonderful, beautiful awfulness:
Legion.
runner-up:
Nutcracker 3-D.

Worst case of futro in a movie:
The latex onesies worn by the gaggle of Jovovich clones in Resident Evil: Afterlife.
Or, the camera/scanner-guns in Repo Men that already look five years out of date.

Your backlash is too late! He already had an Academy Award!:
127 Hours
.

The "I Think I Love My Wife Award" for a film just good enough to make you disappointed that it actually isn't good enough:
Splice.

  MOVIE I WANT TO BE RELEASED SO
  I CAN TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT

CONFESSIONS.

This film is insane. And you can't talk about it without spoiling it. From the director of the completely-unlike-it Kamikazee Girls Tetsuya Nakashima, this is really one of the craziest viewing experiences I have ever had - Brian DePalma (I'm 99% certain it was him - fat guy in a military-style vest who looks a good bit like Mike Leigh) was sitting next to me at the Toronto International Film Festival during the screening and stormed out of it in a huff. I am not sure I would call the film "good" even, but man... it is really fucking something.

 

  BEST RE-RELEASES

METROPLIS

POISON

THE RED SHOES

 

  MY FAVORITE MOMENTS IN LE CINEMA 2010

A cat came in through the window and hit his knee with a hammer, I swear! The father believes his daughter's explanation for her brother's injury. Dogtooth.

She's a maniac, maniac on the floor. Dogtooth.

Catching airplanes. Dogtooth.

Re-enacting Jaws in the swimming pool. Dogtooth.

I'll give you the sparkly head-band if you lick my shoulder. Dogtooth.

Hidden in the backdrop, will the bull see through Johnny Knoxville's painted disguise? Jackass 3-D.

The taser guantlet. Jackass 3-D.

Pulling a tooth in style and pin the tail on the donkey: Danger Ehren really doesn't seem to enjoy this. Jackass 3-D.

The street vendor will give them free hot dogs for life. But not sodas. Sorry, he can't do it. The Other Guys.

The Rock and Samuel Jackson: there goes my heroes. The Other Guys.

"Don't go chasing waterfalls." Michael Keaton, still a comedic genius. The Other Guys.

Whiplash stops the race cold. Mickey Rourke, as the vengeful scientist, is genuinely threatening and wonderfully unstable in his first show of force. Iron Man 2.

After the flaming oxen, the trap walls, the hail of arrows: "Well, that should have gotten about 70 of them." 13 Assassins.

"Sounds like a fair deal." The low-key negotiation of a new membership to the Boxing Gym. Seriously, how does Wiseman make scenes like this riveting?

Ronnie's son Carl shows up late to the funereal and is a bolt of unfocused anger and generalized volatility. The ol' "Mike Leigh Special" in full effect. Another Year.

In turn every bit deserving of its Oscar buzz (bzzzz!), Lesley Manville's tragic Mary has a passive-aggressive showdown with Oliver Maltman's (as Joe) new girlfriend. "You work with old people? It must be really boring." Another Year.

Peter Wight as Ken. Oh... Ken. Drunk on the golf course and sweating while he eats. Another Year. "Well, what are we going to do with you?"

"What would make you happy?" "A different life." Imelda Staunton's devastating cameo. Another Year.

Antonio Banderas plays it exactly right as the fully committed, noncommittal art dealer. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

That guy cut in line. I wish somebody would do something about it. SUPER.

The finger of God touches his brain. SUPER.

"You don't cut in line. You don't sell drugs. You don't hurt people. You don't get to be a bad person!" Rainn's Wilson climatic voice-over is a brilliant subversion of all of the fake-complexity we've come to expect from "gritty" super-hero films. SUPER.

Nathan Fillion's excellent cameo as the Christian t.v. superhero. SUPER.

"C.S.I., C.S.I.: Miami, Bones. All that shit." I don't care about the popular consensus: Ben Affleck is a charming dude. The Town.

The job goes awry: didn't I warn you this guy tucks his pants into his boots? The Town. Getting away is going to require shooting up a couple engine blocks.

You have to give credit where credit is due and the heist at Fenway rules. The Town.

Listen, I know it's puerile and there's a good chance hearing me talk about it will be equal parts gross/creepy, but I think Don't Look Back director Marina de Van would be proud that I consider Sophie Marceau's ass in the opening bathroom scene one of the highlights of the year.

It's ok, Teo/Gianni, no one would be able to resist Monica Bellucci throwing herself at them. Even if you did think she was your sister. Don't Look Back.

"My mom gave a handjob to a mystic." The hero of Submarine's feeble explanation for his obnoxious behavior.

We see Jordanna's homelife, everything suddenly makes sense. And breaks your heart. Submarine.

The plan to kill the dog. Submarine.

MINI-BAR. Tabloid.

Also: SPREAD-EAGLE. Tabloid.

I haven't exactly been on your side thus far, Joyce, but I'm genuinely interested to hear more about why you think the veterinarian intentionally gave your dog the wrong prescription as a "joke." Tabloid.

Inspector Bellamy confesses to a childhood crime.

After the acquittal, now Inspector Bellamy is willing to entertain the notion that he got played. Oh, well. What's done is done.

Overnight shift at the garage. The Illusionist.

An old lady and kid loudly snapping bubble-gum. The Illusionist is used to small audiences.

The adolescent heroine meets Bluebeard for the first time in the woods and towers over his slovenly figure.

Head on a platter. But strangely loving. Bluebeard.

"Someday, I'm going to live in that castle and the head-mistress is going to hang from a tree." Bluebeard.

"I hadn't even thought about A.I.D.'s" And the look on Anthony Hopkins face. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

The instantly iconic moment of Bad-Ass cinema of the year:
Koji Yakusho unfurls the scroll. "Total massacre." 13 Assassins
.

The most heart-breaking moment of the year:
Only the most hard-hearted of men won't want to cry when The Illusionist
simply gives the girl a coin for cab fare. There is no such thing as magic.

- christopher funderburg, january 2011

 

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