Best of 2010
Slide show: John Cameron Mitchell, Alejandro Inarritu and others tell us the cinematic moment they couldn't forget
John Cameron Mitchell
My favorite movie moment of the year is near the end of the wonderfully operatic and affecting “I Am Love.” Tilda Swinton, playing a Russian trophy wife married to a rich Milanese businessman, is having a secret volcanic affair with the family’s chef. When the affair is revealed Tilda abandons the house in a thrilling final sequence with the aid of her loyal housekeeper, played by the amazing Maria Paiato. Once Tilda has fled, the housekeeper breaks down in a dressing room. You can see the woman’s life flashing before her eyes: the missed opportunities, the romantic regrets, and the decades taking care of a family that is not her own.
John Cameron Mitchell is the director of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Shortbus” and this year’s “Rabbit Hole.”
To be honest I’ve been working so hard I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of the films out there, but one I saw that really impressed me was “Enter the Void” by Gaspar Noe. It was so powerful, and as a filmmaker I was really blown away by it and the performances. And then I also really loved this Italian film, “Le Quattro Volte,” which I saw at Telluride this year. It’s a very contemplative film that I found very impressive. And I also really like “Inside Job,” a great documentary by Charles Ferguson. That made a big impression on me.
My favorite memory is a piece of writing, specifically, the opening and closing lines of “Greenberg” (and not just because that movie stars my friend Ben). The movie opens with the female protagonist saying, as she looks into her rearview mirror trying to change lanes: “Are you gonna let me in?” The movie later closes with her scrolling through her cellphone voice mails. She finally arrives at a certain voice mail and says to Greenberg (re: his message): “This is you.” I’ve only seen the movie once, many months ago, and yet the bookends of the film, the way Baumbach wrote such beautifully double-layered lines to open and close his film was, for me, fantastic. In doing so, he appropriated the language of the mundane (i.e., changing lanes and checking voice mails) and allowed it to be expressive of the movie’s deeper themes and yearnings. Because, after all, every person aspires to connection and intimacy, wondering of other human beings, “Are you gonna let me in?” in the hope that someday, in a moment of true intimacy and personal revelation, we can acknowledge, “This is you.” That’s fine screenwriting. That’s my pick.
Shawn Levy is the director of “What Happens in Vegas,” “The Pink Panther,” “Cheaper by the Dozen” and the blockbuster “Night at the Museum” franchise.
I think “The Social Network” is my favorite. Aaron Sorkin’s writing is just
exquisite. He’s a virtual reincarnation of Paddy Chayefsky. The performances are nuanced and Fincher was very understated — I believe, appropriately so. Scott Rudin (and his other producing partners) should be applauded for even dreaming of getting this on the big screen, let alone realizing it at such an extraordinary level.
Jon Avnet is an executive producer of “Black Swan,” and the director of numerous films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes.”
My favorite film of the year is a tie between two films: “The Kids Are All Right” and “Black Swan.” The “Kids Are All Right” is such a brilliant, effortlessly funny movie with a feel-good quality to it. It touched all of my emotional senses and was just so believable and unbelievable all at once! “Black Swan” is out of this world — the performances, the story, the thrill! I absolutely loved it. I also felt such a connection to it because “Swan Lake” was a ballet that my parents would take me to see every year when I was a little girl. I always wanted to be the swan, but after seeing this movie, I’m happy just to be a member of the audience.
Malin Akerman is an actress who starred in this year’s “The Romantics.” She is set to replace Lindsay Lohan as Linda Lovelace in the upcoming “Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story.”
My favorite scene, in one of my favorite films of the year, was the flying scene from “How to Train Your Dragon.” It was just exquisite and the most awe-inspiring flying sequence I’ve ever seen. The animation was so beautiful, and creatively it’s brilliant. The whole film is impressive, but this sequence is a standout.
Bill Plympton is an Oscar-nominated animator and cartoonist. He has directed, among other films, “Idiots and Angels,” and recently collaborated with Kanye West on a book, “Through the Wire.”
I think I’ve now seen Martin Scorsese’s and Kent Jones’ beautiful “A Letter to Elia” four times. Every time I watch it, I think it’s about something different than I previously thought. Now I realize it’s simply about everything. A tribute from one very great artist to another, it is a personal, profound, deeply moral and almost unbearably human portrait of a dazzling talent who is both a remarkable and deeply flawed man. The triumph of this tremendous film is that you actually feel Kazan reach across time and space to say to another (younger) artist, “You’re OK, what you are is OK, what you feel is what you are as a filmmaker, now go BE that guy.” What better gift is there than that? Scorsese repays this historic debt to Kazan with kindness and empathy and even love, and we are the lucky beneficiaries.
“Animal Kingdom” is a taut crime family drama by a first-time Australian director, full of riveting performances and unexpected plot turns. That this film came and went with such little notice speaks very poorly for the state of film audiences these days. One million at the box office? Are you kidding me? Perhaps the most villainous mother ever brought to the screen. Yikes!
Mark Cousin’s “The First Movie” is a doc I didn’t think I’d like, because it’s incredibly sweet — and I don’t like sweet. And it has a first-person narration, which I also don’t like. Yet it won me over almost instantly, mostly because the way it films the children — in an Iraqi village, emerging tentatively from decades of war — is so respectful and beautiful you can’t help but be touched. It documents the first movie the kids see, but it’s also the first movie they make, and their imaginations are the best window into what it’s like to grow up in a war-torn village I’ve ever seen. Their innocence is combined with a knowledge of real horror that most viewers can’t begin to imagine, and the little they say and show evokes it more than war-porn carnage ever could. The old people in the film are dreadfully sad, as one thinks about the future for these kids if things don’t change … it’s understated and full of quiet humor, well-paced and elegant and incredibly moving.
There’s no film from 2010 I can think of with unreserved adoration (maybe one of the many I haven’t seen yet would have done it) and there were many I liked, but the film that seems to be lodged most clearly in my mind is “Four Lions” — because it’s risky satire. It’s not beautiful and it’s not stylistically inventive. Structurally it’s just an ordinary boy-gang comedy romp, and not all the humor hits the mark, but when it does it is funnier than anything I’ve seen in a very long time — witty and sharp and relevant (though sometimes just incredibly well-executed slapstick). At the same time, it was profoundly unsettling, and the laughter was always uncomfortable — as well it should be in a comedy about terrorism. It offers (well-researched) ideas about the mentality of terrorism as taken up by frustrated boys in the north of England, which isn’t an unimportant subject, but it does so in the same tone that movies send up the mafia or other murderous gangsters. There are plenty of comedies that involve murder, and maybe humor is the best way to deflate the romance of terrorism, or at least to diminish some of the terror we feel. High-handed talk aside, it was a very good British comedy — and the Brits do comedy like no one else.
Liz Mermin is a documentary filmmaker. Her latest film is “Horses.”
What’s going on here? They don’t let people make movies anymore that have a wit of thought, with great ideas expressed articulately by artists … these are movies of another time and place when giants roamed the Earth, and not Middle-earth either. That was the time of the Bonnies and the Clydes and the mean streets and the godfathers and the Kubricks and Leones and Godards and the names that are part literature, part poetry, all youth. So what is this movie that has something to say about the culture, about the way we think about each other and the ways we don’t? What is a movie doing today where the hero is unlikable and nasty and greedy and incredibly smart and lonely and part of a generation that has to announce who they are when they open a door to make sure they are noticed? What kind of a movie is that? Where does that happen in this landscape where Clashes and Crashes and Smashes are king. Where does it happen that a movie can make you talk about it all night, where it makes you remember why you went to the movies in the first place? Where does it happen that people with golden tongues and vision get to tell stories anymore? Where does it happen that a movie has near unanimous praise of critics afraid of their own shadows, and the public decides to give it a shot and it makes you want to be an awful lot younger and start all over again? Did I mention David Fincher’s “Social Network”? We all should be so lucky and so good.
Eric Roth is an Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Forrest Gump,” “The Insider” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
“True Grit” is a movie that takes you in and keeps you, filled with a haunting sadness that is tempered by the unrelenting resolve of the characters. Every frame is beautifully crafted, the performances are fascinating and honest. As the credits roll you sit back, smile and think, “Wow, that’s how it’s done.” “True Grit” is a movie that stays with you like the meat hanging on your bones.
David Koechner is an actor on NBC’s “The Office.” His films include “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” and he will be appearing in the upcoming “Paul,” about a renegade space alien.
I miss “True Grit.” There is a section in the second act of the Coen Brothers new movie where US Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) drinks whiskey and drinks whiskey and then drinks a little whiskey while leading 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) and the lawman La Boeuf (Matt Damon) across the prairie in search of the man who robbed and murdered Mattie’s father. I saw the movie with my friend Paul and the next day he casually complimented (among other things) how well Bridges played drunk. I was confused for a second. Until Paul’s comment I had forgotten to think about Jeff Bridges work in “True Grit” as a performance. I had simply been thinking/marveling/worrying about Rooster’s drinking. How he survived it? Could he still do his job? Were we going to bring Chaney to justice?
Then I thought about how much I missed Rooster, how much I missed the adventure I’d gone on all that time ago when I didn’t know what adventure was and also didn’t know to be scared (I learned) and also didn’t know the adventure was likely to dry up as life went on and the world got more settled. That missions of right and wrong became unclear, that learning how suddenly s**t gets real (dug-out scene) and can never get unreal again was a lesson you’d really start avoiding. I had actually had a pure, childlike, unguarded experience at a movie. “True Grit” did everything I wanted it to do to me (even though I didn’t know I wanted it). I felt like I was watching a movie in the 1970s before I thought about how well someone played drunk, or was the movie truer to the book or the first film version, was that or this choice the right or wrong one. It just was. Everything was inevitable because the movie was the whole world. My experience watching “True Grit” was a child’s adventure (innocent, absolute, pure, guided by an impulse towards fairness) in an adult world (brutal, unmerciful, violent) before they started separating the kid’s movies from the grown-up movies. So for a lot of reasons I miss “True Grit.”
David Cromer is the director of New York’s current acclaimed off-Broadway revival of “Our Town.”
While I am an enormous admirer of “Dogtooth,” “Toy Story 3″ (in 2-D), “Never Let Me Go,” “The Social Network,” “Client 9,” “City Island” and the performances of Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Carey Mulligan, Armie Hammer, Chloe Moretz (in “Kick-Ass,” not “Let Me In”), and Naomi Watts (in every film she appeared in this year, good and bad), in terms of the best film of 2010 there’s no contest — “Winter’s Bone” is unforgettable and its star Jennifer Lawrence deserves the best actress Oscar. What is infuriating about these sorts of December accolade lists, though, is that everyone writing them seems to be forgetting the only brilliant release of January, Andrea Arnold’s indelible “Fish Tank.”
Jeff Lipsky is the co-founder of October Films, and the director of “Flannel Pajamas” and, most recently, “Once More With Feeling.”
This year, as the state of our world became less predictable, so did our taste in movies. The movie of the year, “The Social Network,” sucked us into its first three minutes without any explosions (other than the verbal kind). Thirteen-year-old Chloe Moretz gave the most fearless and profane performance of the year in the most unlikely of places (“Kick-Ass”). “Exit Through the Gift Shop” and “Catfish” found big audiences, in part because they were perceived to be fake documentaries. Soberingly real documentaries, like “Gasland,” had trouble even finding a distributor. And the controversial subject of my film, “All Good Things,” told the New York Times Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of the wife he is alleged to have murdered was so real it made him cry. As I said … unpredictable.
Andrew Jarecki is the director of “Capturing the Friedmans,” and this year’s “All Good Things.” He is also the producer of “Catfish.”
The most inspiring film I saw this year was the fan-sourced “Star Wars Uncut,” an exuberant display of love, innovation, inspiration, creativity and fun — all the things that both make movies great and define the upside of the human spirit. Best of all, every time I watch it (eight or nine and counting), it’s different. The film also speaks of the need for a broader definition of “fair use” law. George Lucas and Co. so far have approved 10 or so minutes for public non-commercial consumption, but all artists should be honored to have others want to share and celebrate work in this way. Google it now and tell me that to be “sweded” is not the highest honor there is.