Monday, December 27, 2010

Best Films of 2010

An incredible cinematic year as highlighted by the presence of 68 films from a total of 27 countries. 43 of the 68 films (63%) came courtesy of film festivals with Rotterdam & CIFF providing more than half of the 43 film tally. Only 16 titles (24%) received a theatrical release in my city and 9 were found on DVD (13%).

I have decided to break things up into three categories to reflect a subjective ordering -- Gold (Favourites), Silver (worthy viewing), Bronze (Honorable Mention).

Gold (20 titles) -- in order of preference

1) Kill the Referee (2009, Belgium, Y. Hinant/E. Cardot/L. Delphine)

Carlos and The Social Network worked hard to recreate reality whereas Kill The Referee captures real images viewed by millions of people and manages to turn them on their head. The film provides a fly on the wall perspective to referee committee meetings with UEFA officials and allows us to listen to on-field conversations between referees, linesmen and the players. The effect of this audio is as ground breaking like watching a talkie for the first time after only seeing silent films for decades.

The documentary also provides some of the best acting performances of the year. People who claim soccer players playact on the field will finally have proof with this film but the most surprising aspect is to discover that some referees are aware of cameras and can put on quite a show. Roberto Rosetti and Howard Webb are well knows refs but this film shows they would make worthy film actors as well.

This soccer documentary offers plenty to chew on for non-soccer fans and highlights how in the hands of the right directors/editors, documenting a game can provide plenty of drama, emotion and tension that scripted cinema can sometimes never capture.

2) Liverpool (2008, Argentina, Lisandro Alonso)

Lisandro Alonso’s free moving camera allows us to soak in the beautiful country side while providing a haunting tale. Messi & Argentina may not have won the World Cup this year but this Argentine film won my 2010 Movie World Cup.

3) El Pasante (Argentina, Clara Picasso)

Clara Picasso's sublime film cleverly uses a Buenos Aires hotel setting as a springboard to examine wider issues, such as male-female power games and the thin boundary that exists between private and public life. Not a single minute is wasted in the film's brisk 64 minutes.

4) The American (USA, Anton Corbijn)

5) R (Denmark, Tobias Lindholm/Michael Noer)

One of the most brutal and dark films of the year!! The tag 'dark film' is easily thrown around but in the case of R, the tag is entirely justified. Besides being completely savage, R is intelligent and that is demonstrated by a clever perspective shift two-thirds of the way into the film.

6) Manuel De Ribera (Chile, Pablo Carrera/Christopher Murray)

This visually stunning film is a fascinating mix of Lisandro Alonso and Bela Tarr yet is completely original.

7) The Robber (Austria/Germany, Benjamin Heisenberg)

A highly entertaining yet intelligent film. The two highs of running and robbing give Johann’s life meaning and as a result, the entire film is defined by fast movement, shown by Johann's marathon runs or his perfectly timed car getaways.

8) Carlos (France, Olivier Assayas)

9) Shutter Island (USA, Martin Scorsese)

A riveting throwback to the cinema of the 1950’s/60's when heightened music foreshadowed impending danger awaiting characters. Martin Scorsese has made a perfect Hitchcock tribute.

10) The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009, Serbia, Mladen Djordjevic)

11) Ocean of an Old Man (2008, India, Rajesh Shera)

12) Woman on Fire Looks for Water (2009, Malaysia/South Korea, Woo Ming Jin)

13) Valhalla Rising (Denmark/UK, Nicolas Winding Refn)

14) Incendies (Canada, Denis Villeneuve)

A beautifully crafted film that packs a mighty emotional punch. The film starts and ends in Canada but the rest of the film dives deep into the Middle East and is the kind of cinema that Canada needs more of, films that use second generation Canadian characters as a launching pad to explore their complex cultural background.

15) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand co-production, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Joe latest brew manages to blend dreams, spirits, reality, past and future in a single flowing work. Plus, there are some images that stay long in the memory. Red Eyes. Spirits at dinner table. And that catfish.

16) The Social Network (USA, David Fincher)

All about a girl and a drunken night of coding. Ah the endless possibilities of university life when everything is within reach. Sometimes, those possibilities work out for a select few while others sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

17) Tony Manero (2008, Chile/Brazil, Pablo Larraín)

A chilling film that shows that sanity cannot exist in a brutal dictatorship when individual survival and happiness blinds people.

18) Waste Land (Brazil/USA, Lucy Walker)

19) Scott Pilgrim vs the World (USA/UK/Canada, Edgar Wright)

A living breathing video game that humorously depicts the baggage a new relationship can sometimes bring. Ofcourse, not all relationships require killing 7 ex’s but strange things can take place in the Canadian snow.

20) Road, Movie (2009, India, Dev Benegal)

Dev Benegal’s film may feel heavily inspired by the wonderful Brazilian film Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures but Road, Movie manages to adapt perfectly to the Indian landscape. Plus, the added love for Indian cinema certainly makes this a wonderful treat.
Silver (27 titles) -- in no particular order

Avenida Brasilia Formosa (2009, Brazil, Gabriel Mascaro)

A vibrant documentary that gives an insightful look at a Recife arrival city and the subsequent relocation of its residents to a squeaky clean yet isolated apartment complex. The film shares some ground with Pedro Costa's In Vanda’s Room and Colossal Youth with the one difference being that Gabriel Mascaro pulls his camera back to give us overhead shots of the arrival city thereby putting the plight of the residents into perspective.

Black Swan (USA, Darren Aronoksy)

A complex physiological battle is rendered in a simple accessible visual manner where reality and nightmares occupy the same frame.

The Japanese Wife (India, Aparna Sen)

Aparna Sen’s most accomplished visual film is also a tribute to a time when hand written love letters provided people with hope and sense of purpose.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (USA/UK, Banksy)

A humorous hoax that raises some valid points about the true price of art. Interestingly, this film is also the first time where the identity of the director is a mystery. Yes, the director is Banksy but good luck at seeing his face.

Curling (Canada, Denis Côté)

Denis Côté has gone with the bold choice to give Curling a cold chilly look. As a result, it takes a while to warm up to the material but once one gets past the cold exterior, then one can admire the tale of a father's resolve to raise his daughter away from society. In a way, Curling is a cousin of the Greek film Dogtooth in showing how incorrect parental decisions can alter a child’s life.

Winter’s Bone (USA, Debra Granik)

A powerful film that shows if one’s own blood is willing to kill their kin, then one has no need for enemies.

A Useful Life (Uruguay, Federico Veiroj)

This Uruguayan feature does not feel like fiction at all but instead feels like a documentary reflecting the sad state of our times when independent/art-house theaters and cinematheques are on the verge of extinction. The beautiful ending sequence clearly evokes the French New Wave. A must see film for cinephiles.

Ishqiya (India, Abhishek Chaubey)

Wonderfully acted and has the bonus of having the single best song of any Indian film in 2010.

Certified Copy (France/Iran/Italy, Abbas Kiarostami)
Burma VJ (2009, Denmark co-production, Anders Østergaard)
Woman without a Piano (2009, Spain, Javier Rebollo)
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009, Argentina/Spain, Juan José Campanella)
Inception (USA/UK, Christopher Nolan)
The Fighter (USA, David O. Russell)
Like you know it All (2009, South Korea, Hong Sang-Soo)
Sebbe (Sweden, Babak Najafi)
Crab Trap (2009, Colombia/France, Oscar Ruiz Navia)
Band Baaja Baaraat (India, Maneesh Sharma)
Win/Win (Holland, Jaap van Heusden)
Inside Job (USA, Charles Ferguson)
Kinatay (2009, Philippines, Brillante Ma. Mendoza)
Hunting & Zn (Holland, Sander Burger)
Lucky Life (USA, Lee Isaac Chung)

Steam of Life (Finland, Joonas Berghäll/Mika Hotakainen)
The Maid (2009, Chile/Mexico, Sebastián Silva)
The Illusionist (UK/France, Sylvain Chomet)
Mesrine 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008, France/Canada, Jean-François Richet)

Bronze (21 titles) -- in no particular order

Heartbeats (Canada, Xavier Dolan)

Xavier Dolan's second feature is playful, funny and manages to neatly tuck in cute cinematic homages especially to the French New Wave.

Despicable Me (USA, Pierre Coffin/Chris Renaud)

It is difficult to raise kids but that task is made harder when one has ambitions to shrink the moon and conquer the world!

You Are All captains (Spain, Oliver Laxe)
Between Two Worlds (2009, Sri Lanka, Vimukthi Jayasundara)
Mundane History (2009, Thailand, Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Monogamy (USA, Dana Adam Shapiro)
Pelada (USA co-production, L. Boughen/R. Fergusson/G. Oxenham/R. White)
Taylor’s Way (2009, Canada, Rene Barr)
Oki’s Movie ( South Korea, Hong Sang-soo)
Harishchandrachi Factory (2009, India, Paresh Mokashi)
Love, Sex Aur Dhoka (India, Dibakar Banerjee)
Scheherazade Tell Me a Story (2009, Egypt, Yousry Nasrallah)
The Light Thief (Kyrgyzstan co-production, Aktan Abdykalykov)
Nora's Will (2008, Mexico, Mariana Chenillo)
Lola (2009, Philippines, Brillante Ma. Mendoza)
The Tiger Factory (Malaysia/Japan, Woo Ming Jin)
Bioscope (2008, India, K.M. Madhusudhanan)
Striker (India, Chandan Arora)
Guest (Spain, José Luis Guerín)
Peepli Live (India, Anusha Rizvi)
The Ghost Writer (France/Germany/UK,Roman Polanski)

If I were to remove film festival & foreign DVD titles from the equation and only depended on local theaters to see movies, then I would be left with only a handful of worthy titles every year. So viva film festivals!

Note: I am including 9 DVD titles, most of them being 2008/09, because these films never received a theatrical release in my city.


Sam Juliano said...

Hello Sir!

Many thanks for your comment today at Wonders in the Dark on the Phillipine film "Lola," which I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival. Looks like you have put together an absolutely stupendous list, and have seen an unGodly number of films to accomplish this. I've seen most of these myself as well, but my rules remain consistent every year where I must only include films released during the USA during the calendar year. Anyway, I will be presenting my own Top Ten (actually 11 as I always have a tie for 10th place) on Monday at the site, and a Runner Up list of 11 as well.

1. Lourdes
2. Blue Valentine
3 Carlos
4 Another Year
5 Rabbit Hole
6 Un Prophete
7 Toy Story 3
8 The King's Speech
9 My Dog Tulip
10 Waste Land / Strange Case of Angelika


White Material
Shutter Island
Never Let Me Go
Winter's Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Jean-Michele Basquiat
How to Train Your Dragon
Inside Job
Mademoiselle Chambon
Fish Tank

Anyway, I will add your site to our sidebar momentarily. Thanks again!

Sachin said...

Thanks so much Sam. Yes I was lucky to see soooo many films last year and remarkably most of them were new releases in a theater. But despite seeing 400+ films, there are many more that I missed out on. For example, I could have seen Never Let me Go but I opted to take a brief break from films for a week and when I was ready to see it, it left the theater :)

From your list, I am aching to see Blue Valentine, Another Year, Lourdes and Strange Case of Angelika. Blue Valentine finally opened in Toronto today so it will be a few more weeks before it opens wider in Canada, which is when I will see it.

A few years ago, I decided to stop matching a film's release with my end of the year list because of the delayed theatrical releases in Canada. So my lists are often catch-up of previous years and in some cases, looking ahead to the next year :)

Sam Juliano said...

Sachin, I saw about 200 new releases in the theatres and maybe another 80 at classic retrospectives, plus 15 operas, maybe 8 concerts and 30 stage plays.

Your 400 total beats all of those combined (easily!)and I tip my cap to you repeatedly for your spectacular performance!! You will be an invaluable reference throughout the year, and your taste is first-rate of course. I would love to know what you do wind up thinking of Blue Valentine, Another Year and Lourdes!

Sachin said...

Unfortunately I did not see a single play last year and that was a conscious decision because I opted to make film viewing a higher priority. This year, I intend to get back to watching some live theater and more reading :)

Thanks for your kind words Sam. I am humbled and honored. After discovering your wonderful site, I feel as if I have come out of the dark (yes, an intended attempt at a pun :)

I will let you know what I think of those titles.

Sam Juliano said...

Sachin: I live only minutes from Manhattan in northern New Jersey, so the opportunities are too tempting to pass up. But you made a commitment to film, so you went with it down the line.

The honor is mine, thank you so much! I'd love to hear what you come up!

Many thanks!