A year from now, most 2010 releases will be forgotten, to be replaced by sequels and flashy remakes. As the first decade of the twenty-first century closes, the NYT’s A.O. Scott explores the themes of 2010 (defining the first year of the new decade, perhaps). He shares thirty examples of films from 2010 that “defy expectations and break patterns.” 2010 will only become the “answer to a trivia question” for films that maintain their relevance over time, he asserts. Was 2010 a good year in film? “Who cares?…The movies — good and bad alike — shed a blinking, blurry light on the times, illuminating our collective fears, fantasies and failures of will.” Below, a sampling of his postulations on the Cinematic State of Things:
1. We are all figments of Leonardo DiCaprio’s imagination. Or Natalie Portman’s. Or Mark Zuckerberg’s. Or Banksy’s. The lines between reality and appearance, reason and madness, truth and fiction have always been blurry, but this was an especially fertile year for dreams, hoaxes and puzzles, many of them playing with fundamental questions of identity.
5. And the kids grow up. Not just Harry Potter. Yes, the general wallowing in male arrested development continued, with the usual comic suspects (Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis) appearing in the usual puerile comedies (one of them called Grown Ups). But at least two films — “Somewhere” and “Greenberg”— took a tough-love attitude toward their immature male protagonists…
9. Only a great director can make a great movie, but a good actor can make a bad or mediocre or not-quite-great movie much better. For instance: Helen Mirren in “The Tempest,” Ms. Mirren in “RED,” Paul Giamatti in “Barney’s Version,” Mr. Spacey in “Casino Jack,” Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in “Love and Other Drugs,” Javier Bardem in “Biutiful,” everyone in “True Grit,” Vanessa Redgrave in “Letters to Juliet,” Liam Neeson in anything he was in, Rachel McAdams in “Morning Glory,” Anthony Mackie in “Night Catches Us.”
10. The discussion of movies is frequently more interesting than the movies themselves. It was more fun to read the impassioned, geeky arguments about “Inception” than to endure a second viewing of that film. Early arguments about the accuracy of “The Social Network” and whether that even mattered gave way to a series of reviews, essays and debates about Facebook, digital entrepreneurship, friendship, business, meritocracy and the Ivy League far richer and more relevant to contemporary life than Aaron Sorkin’s glib script or David Fincher’s elegant atmospherics…
– Colin Firth’s rendition of King George VI’s “In this grave hour” speech– the crescendo of The King’s Speech— has the added visual bonus of Colin Firth — but listening to the recording of the actual King George VI’s speech reveals the power of the film and Firth’s performance — it becomes more palpable, each pause nuanced.
– If you find Brit speeches too plodding, consider Firth’s Oscar competition: James Franco. Never dull, the 127 Hours star is following up his I-can-cut-my-own-arm-off role in 127 Hours with an I-can-also-(maybe)-present-myself-with-an-Oscar role by co-hosting the Oscars. (He also has a Berlin art show.) He told EW that he accepted the gig, in part, because others thought it was a bad idea to mix hosting with a likely Best Actor nomination. His reps said not to worry, so he took the job: “because that reaction that they have is based on conventional wisdom of what makes a good career. And that can be boring — really boring.” And he’s ready for the whole thing to fail: “I’m happy to take the criticism. Even if it’s ‘The Worst Oscars Ever,’ I don’t care. It’s one night of the year.”