This week, indieWIRE published our annual critics poll, where 124 film critics and bloggers weighed in with their picks of the year’s best. David Fincher, whose “Zodiac” was named one of the top ten films of last decade indieWIRE‘s poll of the best of the decade last year, opened the present decade in force with “The Social Network.” Fincher’s latest was named by our participants as the Best Film of the year, along with taking honors for Best Director and a run-away consensus for Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. But many of the critics also included their written thoughts on the year in film, and indieWIRE decided to compile them nicely for you here. From defending their poll votes to arguing for or against the year’s oft-suggested designation as a weak year for cinema, it’s an excellent overview on the great cinematic debates of 2010. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
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“It’s both sad and significant that ‘The Social Network’ is the most accomplished film because the news it brings, well, it ain’t good.”
– Erica Abeel
“What’s frustrating about this year in movies is that so many really good films won’t be seen by the public: distributors have never been so fearful and cautious, no doubt for good economic reasons, alas.”
– David Ansen
“A respectable year, if a little milder than those past.”
– Daniel Carlson
“Once we’ve finished singing the praises of films that hardly anyone will see, I’d like to take a moment to recognize ‘Unstoppable’ — the kind of film at which America excels. Shamelessly entertaining, agenda-free, not-a-wasted-second filmmaking that puts bums on seats and money in the bank.”
– Jeannette Catsoulis
“If one film this year laid the groundwork for Wikileaks, it was the full-length version of ‘Carlos,’ a magnum opus from Olivier Assayas full of insights into the way things are, from the complicity of states in acts of terror to the profound failures of the radical left.”
– Tom Charity
“No year is ever as bad as some people claim. This year was no exception: for most of the year, I wasn’t in the US, but because of the distribution patterns of the major studios, I wound up seeing a lot of studio releases, and the Berlin Film Festival and the Kino Arsenal made up for the rest. Some unexpected cinematic events: the importance of the Portuguese cinema, not just with the oldest active cinematic master, but with exciting new talents with films like ‘To Die Like a Man’ and ‘Our Beloved Month of August’; the emergence of an independent cinema, often documentary, in China, with films such as ‘Last Train Home’ and ‘Ghost Town.’ The Nouvelle Vague lost a number of major artists, such as Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, but Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda, Chris Marker and Jean-Luc Godard have persisted. Dennis Hopper, Arthur Penn and Blake Edwards, three artists who helped to change Hollywood in the 1960s, died, but a whole generation of independent filmmakers emerged as the prime American movers of the year, including David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, Nicole Holofcener, Noah Baumbach, Kelly Reichart, and Doug Liman. And there continue to be new talents emerging, as witness such films as ‘Tiny Furniture,’ ‘Night Catches Us’ and ‘Winter’s Bone.’ With all that, how can any year be bad?”
– Daryl Chin
“My best director vote really goes to Manoel de Oliveira for both the films he had released this year—’Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl’ and ‘The Strange Case of Angelica’—and for being over 100 years old when he made both of them. But also for the fact that the director’s presence feels stronger and surer in each of those films than in almost any other I could name this year.
If there was room for a runner-up best director of the year it would have to be Fred Wiseman, whose ‘La Danse’ blew me away in the dying days of 2009 and whose year-long retrospective at MoMA was one of the great pleasures of the movie-going year in New York. And on top of that there was ‘Boxing Gym,’ as thrilling an action movie as any that came out in 2010.
My guilty pleasure of the year would have to be ‘Catfish,’ a film I enjoyed so much and yet which I feel I really oughtn’t to like at all.
If ‘The Arbor,’ ‘Uncle Boonmee,’ ‘Certified Copy,’ ‘Cold Weather,’ and ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ were not all getting deserved releases next year, all of those would be in my Best Undistributed list. And can someone please release Hitoshi Matsumoto’s ‘Symbol,’ a film that, if only the world were able to see it, would become legendary.
– Adrian Curry
“Has anybody figured out what ‘Inception’ is supposed to be about yet? I keep asking people and the first thing its defenders say is, ‘Well, no, it’s not about dreams.’ OK, then, what are these subconscious architecturally formed experiences the characters themselves keep calling ‘dreams’? ‘Well, they’re more like movies, like Bond movies and heist movies.’ Yes they are, and they are extraordinarily unimaginative and they have nothing to do with dreams or the subconscious, so what’s the point? The best not-dreams are the ones they show the architect at the beginning: the folding Paris, the Escher stairway… But the actual not-dreams are pretty mundane. (And if you’re going to put Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a nifty ‘Royal Wedding’ hallway, why follow it with an elevator shaft sequence, which is just the same thing turned on its side? Run out of ideas already?) Perhaps ‘Inception’ is a movie for people who just like movies that make up their own arcane rules, that have nothing to do with anything outside the movie itself, but give the fleeting illusion of creating an (incoherent) self-contained world. It’s for people who think the reductive Director’s Cut of ‘Donnie Darko’ — the one that removes all the mystery and resonance and wit — to the original.”
– Jim Emerson
“I hope everyone reading this understands that a top 10 list is a snapshot of the films that were available – in New York, by the rules of many organizations and polls – for at least a week in 2010. A lot gets left out of that equation: many of the films on my list were actually made in 2009. As critic Dan Sallitt wrote, ‘It’s comforting to think that the critical community sorts through the world’s art and brings the really good stuff to international attention, but that process looks more authoritative than it is.’ One particularly striking example was Jean Eustache’s 1971 ‘Numero Zero,’ which received its New York premiere this fall. To be fair, the director himself disliked the film; during his lifetime, it was shown only in an edited version. A starkly minimalist interview with his grandmother, it showcases Eustache’s ability to make fascinating cinema out of little more than conversation. It also takes in a good portion of 20th-century French history. I wonder if there are any films this good being made now, only to premiere here in 39 years. Casey Affleck’s ‘I’m Still Here’ doesn’t seem to have been taken seriously by anyone – possibly including its director and cast. I would never make any great claims for its vision of stardom as hell. Yet the emotions behind its rejection of celebrity ring true, even if they’re badly expressed. The film was revealed as a fraud a few days into its release, but close attention to the end credits makes that obvious. It represents a synthesis of fiction and documentary that powered some of the year’s best films. Many people think that ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ directed (with much use of other people’s material) by the mysterious British artist Banksy, is a hoax. Clio Barnard’s ‘The Arbor,’ which played Tribeca in April and will be released next spring at Film Forum, places the words of real interview subjects into the mouths of actors, reinventing the British tradition of kitchen-sink realism in the process. Vincenzo Natali’s ‘Splice’ was one of the year’s queerest films, in every sense of the word. Few people noticed, although academic blogger Steven Shaviro wrote about it at length, but I think it’s bound for cult fandom. A Canadian-French co-production designed to pass as a Hollywood extravaganza, it bombed in the U.S., possibly because it’s as much about ‘weird sex and snow shoes,’ to lift the name of one book on Canadian cinema, as any Guy Maddin film. Offering a bisexual, transgender half-human mutant named Dren, briliantly played by Delphine Chaneac and a ton of CGI, as an anti-hero, it’s not exactly LGBT-positive; like much of David Cronenberg’s work, it often seems both radical and conservative simultaneously. Yet it’s not homo- or transphobic either. Dren commits some awful acts but emerges more sympathetic than his human parents, a pair of arrested-adolescent hipsters who have no business raising a child of any kind, much less creating medical history.”
– Steve Erickson
“Although some critics have complained that 2010 was a terrible year for movies, I thought there were actually quite a few strong offerings.”
– Stephen Farber
“Another great year for film, but as an experience, the cinematic calendar gets more and more confusing; with VOD, DVD, film festival screenings and collapsing release windows, it is so hard for me remember which films I saw when. so, I encourage your feedback and reminders about which great films I surely forgot. On to 2011…”
– Tom Hall
“Because I have missed many of this year’s best films; because watching movies on DVD remains inferior to watching films in a theater; because one’s preference for movies is entirely subjective and privy to the whims of circumstance and mood; this list is almost meaningless.”
– Anthony Kaufman
“The most engaging movie story of the year got to the heart of the movie-viewing process: From ‘Catfish’ to ‘I’m Still Here’ and ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ we were constantly forced to wonder if and when someone was fucking with us. The less reliable the narrator, the more provocative the picture. Cinematic ambiguity rocks. But I also regret that a finite number of slots in a critics poll conveys a less preferable sort of ambiguity about a critic’s preferences. As a result, I ran out of room to give shout-outs to a pair of completely unrelated movies that both stuck with me after I saw them at Sundance in January: ‘Please Give’ and ‘Gasland.’ The former is a delicate character study probing the guilt complex of wealthy urbanites, reaffirming writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s insight into human behavior; meanwhile, Josh Fox’s alarming first-person documentary about fracking problems in the U.S. is a compelling example of activist filmmaking that avoids being preachy. And in this case, you know it’s real.
– Eric Kohn
“To the editors and critics who continue to dutifully cover the mediocre landscape of U.S. film distribution (and with apologies to valiant distributors like IFC, Strand, etc.): why, pray tell, are you still clinging on to the tired vestiges of a system that seems designed to obliterate diversity and bury artistic achievement, humiliates filmmakers and shortens their careers by assigning unrealistic market value to their work, and relies on idiotic marketing founded on the premise that audiences must be lied to? The concept of investing in the development of a cultured filmgoer is not evidenced in any aspect of commercial distribution. So why do we continue to validate this flawed institution by making a theatrical run the primary requisite for coverage? Media outlets that don’t challenge such distinctions as ‘distributed’ and ‘undistributed’ are slowing down a paradigm shift that’s already happening. The best, most challenging films left the art house long ago and occupied the sphere of film festivals and the internet. More importantly, the dissemination of these films has been left in the hands of savvy curators rather than soulless marketeers. These alternative systems are making exciting work readily available and deepening the cultural value of films by attaching a meaningful context to them (in a nutshell, this is the main purpose of a film festival). Going to the multiplex is a numbing enterprise. Long live film festivals, film clubs, and alternative screening spaces, both in their physical and cyber incarnations, for as long as they don’t have to serve but, rather, be an exception to the perfunctory hands of the film market…”
– Gabe Klinger
Best Lead Performance: The honor goes to Diego Forlan, Uruguayan striker!
– Jay Kuehner
“BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Yves Cape, ‘White Material’; Thimios Bakatatakis, Dogtooth Pedro Costa, ‘Ne Change Rien.’ BEST EDITING: (at first glance, it looks more like a list of ‘Most Editing’ – but the cutting in these films demonstrate an elegant transparency that’s the opposite of, say, ‘127 Hours’) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, ‘The Social Network’; Tom Fulford and Chris King, ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’; Lee Smith, ‘Inception.’
– Kevin B. Lee
“Sticking as I did to the U.S. release calendar, I wound up with a list where three of my top four are films I saw in 2009 — and which occupied the top spots on my personal Top 10 over a year ago. Either that means I’m getting spoiled with my increasingly regular festival jaunts, or 2010 wasn’t much of a year — or, probably, both. Indeed, on my list, only ‘The Fighter’ — an exemplary piece of witty, formula-jiggering studio moviemaking — is something I saw outside the confines of the festival environment: I wish that weren’t the case, but joy, danger and insight have been in even shorter supply than usual at the multiplex this year. If anything, the Best Undistributed Film category was more competitive — I’d particularly like to single out ‘Post Mortem,’ Pablo Larrain’s gasp-inducing follow-up to ‘Tony Manero,’ which marries ingenious political allegory and black-hearted comedy with startling formal control. And ‘Au Revoir Taipei’ is a note-perfect romantic comedy caper that should be screened to every Hollywood studio as a refresher course in souffle-making.
– Guy Lodge
“Most of my favorite films this year came from American independent filmmakers, and from overseas–yet these are the very films that continue to struggle to find an audience and make themselves known.”
– Leonard Maltin
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“2010 got off to a slow start… unless you were at festivals, in which case you got a look at some of the year’s very best fare right up front, including ‘Exit To The Gift Shop,’ ‘Blue Valentine,’ ‘Cyrus,’ and ‘Four Lions.’ It was really at the end of the year when things started getting great on a regular basis, more so than in most years. Even once the great films started hitting more often, they were almost all divisive. Most of 2010’s best films are films that people argue about, disagree wildly about, and that is a sign that they are built to last, very special, and that 2010 is an excellent overall year of cinema both high and low.”
– Drew McWeeny
“These lists reflect a life lived in the stix, where many of the big year-end films haven’t opened yet and the smaller ones never will. Jealous? Also missing are films I was fortunate to see at fests in 2009, like ‘Sweetgrass,’ ‘Modern Love Is Automatic,’ ‘Wild Grass,’ and ‘Children of Invention.’
– Amy Monagahn
“2010 was supposed to be the Year That We Made Contact, but for the most part, the movies left us with precious little to hold onto. With this in mind, the most resonant cinematic images of the year (for me, at least) were the ones where something was slipping away, whether it was from the characters onscreen (the egret eluding Natan’s reach in ‘Alamar’),the audience (Ryan Reynolds’ lighter flickering out in ‘Buried’) or both (the brilliant final shot of Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ghost Writer,’ describing a manuscript lost to the wind and sealing the director’s finest movie in years with a gargoyle grin). Polanski’s virtuoso exercise in technique — that set design! — shamed Martin Scorsese’s attempt at same in ‘Shutter Island,’ one of two lousy meta-thrillers predicated on Leonardo DiCaprio’s tetchy anguish (at this point, the guy’s so haunted he should just call the Ghostbusters). Inception’s talky operatives were far less interesting than the stranded blue-collar pros of ‘Unstoppable,’ a film with a sense of colour, scale, and movement to shame Christopher Nolan, who failed to produce a single frame as dreamlike as Tony Scott’s frieze of a horse rearing up in front of a speeding train. Unstoppable’s massive, endlessly encroaching locomotive was the year’s second best visual metaphor, narrowly trailing the vaguely sci-fi visages of the Winklevi (Armie Hammer) in ‘The Social Network’: beta-male insecurity personified, Nautilized, and then cruelly doubled (“I’m 6’5, 220 pounds and there’s two of me”). If David Fincher’s elegantly made neo-period piece strained slightly to diagnose the Way We Live Now (forever clicking “Refresh” to fill the void), Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s sublime ‘Alamar’ contented itself with being out of time, as well as in-between. Neither fiction nor documentary, it’s unclassifiable, except as a masterpiece.
– Adam Nayman
“Jean-Claude Rousseau evidently had three new movies this year, including an 80 min. feature, but these things are hard enough to track down that not only will nobody see them publicly, nobody will even criticize them publicly. A critic’s list of ‘best undistributed film’ is still limited to selecting from a shortlist filtered through programmers with (necessarily) limited resources, personal obligations, and commercial imperatives. The internet slowly levels viewing options, but this is why I haven’t put on new movies by Alexander Kluge and Ashish Avikunthak: I haven’t seen them. I’m grateful to the programmers who have programmed the ones I have.
Included shorts in undistributed list: Bruce McClure’s ‘Turn on the Headlights,’ David Gatten’s ‘Shrimp Boat Log,’ Laida Lertxundi’s ‘Cry When It Happens,’ Nathaniel Dorsky’s ‘Compline.’
Arbitrarily limited myself to undistributed films from the past two years, or else might have included Rousseau’s ‘De son appartement,’ Bonello’s ‘De la guerre,’ and Omirbaev’s ‘Chouga.’ Or else older films that never got distribution, are rarely mentioned, and may or may not have gotten their New York premieres this year: Bene’s ‘Our Lady of the Turks,’ Achternbusch’s ‘The Last Hole,’ Duras’ ‘Agatha et Les Lectures Illimitées.’ All three just from rep series at Anthology Film Archives.
With more room would have mentioned Oliveira’s ‘Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl,’ Robert Beavers’ ‘The Suppliant,’ Peter Tscherkassky’s ‘Coming Attractions,’ Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Hommage a Eric Rohmer,’ Jean-Marie Straub’s ‘O Somma Luce,’ and Patrick Keiller’s ‘Robinson in Ruins.’ Post-script: forgot that Straub’s ‘Le genou d’artémide’ and ‘Le streghe, femmes entre elles,’ premiered in New York this year, or probably would have included them at top of undistributed list.
Some double-features between some Hollywood and foreign genre films could be interesting—’Inception/Vengeance’; ‘Shutter Island’/’The Strange Case of Angelica’; ‘Somewhere’/’Father of My Children’; ‘Salt’/’Bellamy’; ‘Social Network’/’Film Socialisme,’ anything/’The Ghost Writer’—to see just how honed-in, pinned-down, synecdochic, and even allegorical the Hollywood movies are as mechanisms: each uses even gestures and eye contact to score points and provide operational rules on action, motivation, quest. Movies like ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Inception,’ in which men role-play their way into their own minds to expose neat dichotomies of fears/hopes, have something to do with a postwar, noir-retread of a repressed past: how this symbolizes the American zeitgeist, who knows. But these movies, along with ‘Avatar,’ probably wouldn’t have been possible before video games: a closed labyrinth with only the illusion of free movement, extensive tutorials on the arbitrary laws of the universe/game, a Beatrice/holy grail-like object of desire who’s a blonde-haired symbol for consummation, like Princess Toadstool dangled at the end of every kingdom. ‘Wild Grass’ operates similarly, but allows for the possibility not only of character but of regenerating character: Dussollier creates his own worlds to inhabit and, like in a James novel, his transformative vision isn’t symbolic but metaphoric, a series of possibilities for how he might reconceive his perceptions down the line. Nolan’s new Hollywood action format of geometric visuals and algebraic scripts is applied beautifully as a logic to increasingly illogical set-ups in To’s ‘Vengeance.’
An exception would be in a double feature of ‘Boxing Gym’ / ‘Unstoppable,’ two films hokey in the pleasures of an old, entirely localized America of underdog individuals and stoic friendships built through shared work for a closed community of family men with common sense. Probably, no director under 50 could conceive of such an America, of common individuals, except in blue-collar Walmart ads, but both Wiseman and Scott find it all around: and find it, not by cuing motivations and structural motivations, but by letting character and scenery emerge in reaction to physical work and labor; people only seen in what a boxing gym or train brings out of them. Both are built from steady problem-solving and rhythm: from the constructivist, social approach of his 90s films (including ‘La Comédie Francaise’), Wiseman’s last two films seem to be moving toward performance fiction, without distinction between rehearsal and performance, stage and backstage, exercise and violence. Boxing Gym, having completed a neat turn-around on its subject, nearly ends with a man punching the air in a parking lot. ‘Unstoppable,’ another dispatch from a specific, imagined time and place, ends from a helicopter in the sky: ‘over and out.’
– David Phelps
“I think the year will be remembered more for bad films than for good ones, specifically regarding Hollywood’s big push for post-processed 3D films. ‘Clash of the Titans’ will show up as a data point for years to come, as will ‘The Last Airbender.’ The biggest surprise on the biz side of things was the wild success of ‘Paranormal Activity 2.’ I had assumed, after the success of the original film, Hollywood would find a way to screw up the ‘give small filmmakers more money and you’ll get a better movie’ paradigm as they have in the past, but the investment seems to have paid off. On to the films I picked. ‘The Social Network’ just wins the year, though I think it has lost some of its luster since its initial release. It is not, as others have pronounced, a generation defining epic. In fact, it is not as transcendent as some of David Fincher’s other works, like ‘Seven.’ Who knows if we’ll want to watch ‘The Social Network’ in 5 years. Still, it is a great piece full of snappy dialogue, inspired set pieces and wonderful performances. Fincher managed to make our own time look like a period piece, which technically the film is. It’s on odd grouping of parts. Aaron Sorkin’s film work has never popped and sizzled as well as his television work, but it seems Fincher has wrangled his words perfectly. By any metric I try, ‘The Social Network’ takes the top spot for 2010. Lena Dunham’s ‘Tiny Furniture’ is the breakout film of the year. What struck me when I caught it at SXSW is how incredibly funny it is in such a sincere way. Audiences take for granted how tough it is to be that funny at such a young age; that ‘Tiny Furniture’ feels funny is an achievement in and of itself. The big question for 2011 and beyond is whether or not Dunham can bring the same spark to material that isn’t so closely linked to her own life. Only, it’s not a question. ‘Tiny Furniture’ does not work because Dunham reaps the benefits of a charmed life; it works because she is a gifted and witty writer. She is going to be huge. I think much the rest of my picks could almost be lumped together in a pile of “weren’t these films just great?”. I’ll be honest, I still don’t have a full handle on ‘Dogtooth,’ as in don’t ask me to explain it to you because I can’t. However, it is a film that has stuck with me for months, and one I would like to revisit every year to try to get a handle on it. Sometimes a film comes along that completely catches you by surprise; Dogtooth is that film this year. As to my last 2 choices. ‘Get Him to the Greek’ is a film that I initially rolled my eyes through. That is until we reach ‘The Jeffrey,’ when this dude-journey turns into a comic freakout. That scene (and others) are what propelled it to my list for best films of the year. Comic set pieces can be fun to watch, but the best setups are the ones you miss. I had no idea that those furry walls would come into play to such hilarious ends. I said it in my review of it and I’ll say it again: Tony Scott’s ‘Unstoppable’ is one of the best directorial efforts of the year. It is a very human tale told with heart-pounding action. More importantly, it is a film that knows what it wants to be, a trait it shares with the other best films of the year. To anyone who would say an action film cannot make the top 10; I don’t know what other criteria you need. So that’s it. I’ve seen more films this year than any year prior, and I’m happy to be able to parse out my thoughts and share them with indieWIRE. Happy new year of film, everyone.
I think the argument over who is a critic reached a fever pitch this year. Though this fight is as timeless as it is pointless, it’s worth nothing that in early 2010 it was on everyone’s mind after Todd McCarthy was fired from Variety. Shortly after, J. Hoberman trotted out Armond White’s personal skewering of Noah Baumbach, which unleashed a torrent of pronouncements from White about who is a worthy critic, famously implying that Hoberman influenced the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis and ‘innumerable Internet clones.’ Suddenly, as these two critical forces pounded on each other publicly, the argument around who was a critic seemed fun again. Everyone got in on the argument if only to further vilify White. It was an event. I can’t say I recall a similar critical event that riled people up so much, which is to say criticism was fun in the month of March, 2010.
For my money, the role of the critic is and will always be to critique. If you can do that consistently and well, then the form your outlet takes makes no difference. I think the tides are changing heavily, and the old guard may not be able to keep up. Except for one person: Roger Ebert. He has proven that technology is only a boon for the critical voice. Another notable event was the end of ‘At the Movies,’ the show Ebert started long ago. 2010 may mean the end for television criticism. There is more film writing out there than at any time before, so criticism is far from dead. We just have so many options, it’s difficult to sift through and find a voice you like. It’s a lovely problem to have.
– Jonathan Poritsky
“I voluntarily miss a lot of current releases these days, and don’t feel like I’m missing a lot, preferring in many cases to see older films and/or ones still unreleased in the U.S.”
– Jonathan Rosenbaum
“2010 wasn’t the abysmal, ten-car-pile-up that most made it out to be. In the end, it seemed like there were more memorably good films (or at least passable films) than bad. But I think I speak for everyone when I say: thank god it’s over.”
– Drew Taylor
“Yet another year of a sharp divide between the ‘critical tastemakers’ in corrupt, ignorant awards committees and the actual moviegoing intelligentsia. As usual.”
– Gabe Toro
“Cowardice, cliques and herd-mentality thinking have destroyed criticism–if not damaged democracy–but good films get made anyway. Good luck finding them.”
– Armond White
“The lockstep decline of both independent studios — and venues for the independent journalists who champion their films– is bad news for everyone.”
– Stephen Whitty
“It would seem that Art and Commerce are zooming apart farther than ever. There is the terrifying possibility that Art will simply come untethered and exist in its own ghettoized zone, as in theatre and visual art in America. It will simply not remotely be part of mass distribution and will be its own vaguely futile eccentric bohemian enterprise. Almost all the films on my top ten list were festival pictures that got tiny releases and played to very small crowds. And they were, I insist, patently the best films–and I saw a lot of big films. The ‘Social Network’–oh, I guess it’s okay. But doesn’t seem as if a huge opportunity were wasted here? That is, the opportunity to talk about how this change in technology changed the way ‘The Social Network’ itself exists, and how people relate; and in particular, the ways in which the operating principles of capitalism insert themselves into that Social Network? That’s like kind of an interesting thing to explore, right? Instead, we get a blow-by-blow HBO docudrama on how it all went down behind the scenes, photographed and edited in punctilious 70-take Finchervision, and that seems to blow people’s minds. I think they have been used to very bad movies for too long. There is also the sense that buzz is starting to crush the little crania of “film critics.” So that a little formulaic feel-good picture like ‘The King’s Speech’ gets a tumultuous reception because it does its problem-struggle-surrender-rally-hug-hug-victory thing with a modicum of skill. Or take ‘Black Swan,’ a sort of smart movie for dumb people, which is really about nothing more than ‘superego fights with id inside uptight virgin.’ For people who haven’t seen or don’t remember a lot of movies, this kind of hysterical melodrama seems stylish and brainy in ways they don’t quite understand, hence–hurrahs. And yet movies that are a little less sexy, buzzy, slam-dunky, but very reputable, like Anton Corbijn’s icy-silent, Antonioni-style ‘The American,’ or Doug Liman’s sizzling political melodrama ‘Fair Game,’ or even a crackling-well-done Lifetime meller like ‘All Good Things’ gets kind of a shrug…not because of the quality of the picture, but just because the stars, the story, the sizzle of the movie–well, one is reminded of the magazine editor who said to Jules Feiffer of some of his cartoons, ‘I’m just not getting hard.’ These pointyhead pundits are just not getting hard, and so these movies are getting screwed. Genre movies did not do so well this year–creatively, I mean. So I feel hell-bent to say something nice about, of all things, a film by The Other Paul Anderson, ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife,’ which sports some smashing action set pieces and beautifully rounded 3-D cinematography, and Cinetel’s reboot of ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ –thanks for your smart words on that one, David Edelstein! Here is a brutal, shock-‘n’-awin’, utterly defensible absolutely spellbinding movie that dare not speak its own name.
– Matthew Wilder
“While I never consider them for any of the categories in the poll, I spent more time talking about ‘Catfish,’ ‘I’m Still Here’ and ‘Inception’ than everything else in my top ten combined. 2010 has been for me the year of the frustrating, fascinating conversation piece film.
– Alison Willmore
“The technology was often fabulous; the scripts often fell short. The print media editors, sadly, continued their war on film (and other art) critics.”
– Michael Wilmington