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The Top Five for 2010

The White Ribbon

The Social Network

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

The King’s Speech



Honorable Mention: Catfish, Black Swan


*The White Ribbon*

You know how I love sadism at the movies!  What is up with that.  This movie was by master sadist Michael Haneke, the man who brought us *Funny Games* (two versions of that), *Caché*, other masterpieces I haven’t seen.  *The White Ribbon* is very understated for him - - nearly all of the violence happens offscreen, which makes it extra creepy.  It has a gorgeous look to it, an unreal silvery black and white.  I read somewhere that he achieved it by filming it in color and then digitally draining out the color.

*The Social Network*

A first-class Hollywood product.  I mean that in the best possible way!  A perfectly crafted movie, and a lot of the credit goes to Aaron Sorkin for a killer screenplay.  Great performances, and wonderful invisible direction by David Fincher.

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One*

As is often the case with me, the experience of going to the movie was nearly as much fun as the movie itself.  Karen, Richard, and I saw the Friday night show on opening weekend, waited in line on the sidewalk with all the other teenagers and middle-aged Potterians.  The movie did not disappoint, it was spectacular.

*The King’s Speech*

The best movie of the year.  Flawless, brilliant, marvelous.  The best thing about the movie, for me, was the tone - - it had a warm and somewhat light tone, so when the situation became emotionally charged it had a big impact, because you had been effortlessly drawn into the lives of the people onscreen.  And it was so great to see all those English actors pulled out of the cupboard: it was especially heart-warming to see Claire Bloom as Queen Mary.


This is Sofia Coppola’s fourth movie, and her fourth time on my Top Five.  I’m a little anxious that her movies, in my view, have each gotten a little less good.  She started with *The Virgin Suicides*, which was brilliant.  Next was *Lost in Translation*, which was lovely, but didn’t have the same oomph.  Next was *Marie Antoinette*, which was a little wacko, but still wonderful.  *Somewhere* is vintage Sofia, so beautifully made and touching, but a little bit of a retread of *Lost in Translation*, and it seems a little soon for that.  It’s interesting that all of her movies are about people who are profoundly lonely - - but the tone of the movie is warm and loving.  I think it’s because she genuinely cares for the characters, which comes across in the script and in the direction.

Honorable Mentions


I saw this movie literally knowing nothing about it, apart from the fact that it was a documentary.  I urge you to see it under the same circumstances.  It was a breathtaking, intense ride.


*Black Swan*

This was almost in the Nice Try category, but I like the movie more the more I think about it.  It was a bit of a disappointment because I wanted it to decide whether it was a psychodrama or a schlocky horror movie and I, of course, wanted it to be a schlocky horror movie!  The performances were fantastic, they really made the movie.  Natalie Portman was amazing, and deserves her Oscar nom, but I have to say that I was bothered by her dancing.  Clearly she trained very hard for this movie, and it’s impressive what she does - - but she’s just not (for me) believable as an A-list prima ballerina.  The way I look at it, she’s playing the role of a prima ballerina in *Black Swan* in the same way as Cate Blanchett played the role of Katharine Hepburn in *The Aviator*.  I’ll tell you what I loved like crazy - - the performances by Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey!  Scenery chewing at its finest!  Ryder in particular, she knew that when you have five minutes on screen, you gotta make the most of it.


* * *


The Other Categories


Best Cameo, Female

Winona Ryder, *Black Swan*.  See above.  One of the greatest performances of her career.

Best Cameo, Male

Ernest Borgnine in *Red*.  So sweet to see him in this tiny part in a major Hollywood movie.  And he delivers.

Remembrance of Movies Past

*The Heiress*.  I’ve loved this movie for years, have seen it probably seven or eight times, and hadn’t seen it in five years or more.  Richard and I watched it together a month or so ago, and let me tell you, this is one of the very greatest movies from the golden age of the Hollywood studios.  It gets better with every passing year, and with every viewing. Directed by William Wyler, starring Olivia de Havilland, Ralph Richardson, Montgomery Clift (at his most beautiful), and Miriam Hopkins.  With a score by Aaron Copland, no less!  It’s an adaptation of the book *Washington Square* by Henry James - - I love Henry James, but let me tell you, the playwright totally improved on the ending.  The James has a sadder-but-wiser ending, but the play and movie give it the rock-em’ sock-em’ that we all live and die for.  If you haven’t seen this movie, put it right at the top of your queue.

Movie That Needs To Be Made

My old roommate Claire used to call this the “Biopic That Needs To Be Made” category, because 95% of the time it’s a biopic.  Ah well, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?  My pick for this year is a Bernie Madoff movie, with Gene Hackman and Julie Christie as the Madoffs.  Get Aaron Sorkin to write it and Barry Levinson (or some other first-rate but not terribly distinctive director) to direct it.’

Eagerly Anticipated

*My Week with Marilyn*, with Emma Watson as Lucy (whoever that is), Michelle Williams (aka the Widow Ledger) as Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh as Larry Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, and Derek Jacobi as Sir Owen Morshead (whoever that is).


*Cowboys and Aliens*, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, directed by Jon Favreau.  Also with Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, and Paul Dano.  Best “sums it all up” title since *Snakes on a Plane*.


*The Moth Diaries*, directed by one of my four favorite contemporary directors, Mary Harron (she did previous Top Fives *American Psycho* and *The Notorious Bettie Page*).  IMDB gives this summary: “A teenage girl at a boarding school suspects her roommate is a vampire.”  Oh yeah!


*The Skin That I Inhabit*, directed by Almodóvar, starring Antonio Banderas and Marisa Paredes (she was the diva in *All About My Mother*).  Sure to be on my Top Five next year.


*Iron Lady* - - Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher!


The last Harry Potter movie, of course.


Follow-up on previous Eagerly Anticipated:


Still to come - - Liberace movie, *Atlas Shrugged* and *Mildred Pierce* miniseries.  *Sex and the City 2* - -  one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  A total embarrassment.  I’m sure it could have been worse, but I don’t know how.  *Somewhere* and *The Green Hornet* - - see above and below.

Most Deserving of a Comeback

This isn’t really a comeback, this is more of a pay-off - - remember Clifton Collins Jr., who played Perry Smith in *Capote*?  I saw him on *Alias* recently and remembered what a stunning performance he gave in that movie.  It looks like he’s been working pretty steadily since then, but nothing I’ve seen.  He’s a very promising actor, let’s see more of him.

Viva La Diva

Helen Mirren in *Red*.  A good movie, and she was the best thing in it.  Seeing her in a white evening gown firing off a gatling gun, it doesn’t get better than that.

Nice Try

I was so hopped up to see *The Green Hornet* - - I have a crush on Seth Rogen (though I thought he was cuter/sexier when he was a little more chubby), the previews looked boss, and it’s directed by Michel Gondry, the man who brought us *Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind*.  It was diverting, but not all that, nor was it a bag of chips.  Rogen wasn’t quite right for his part, Cameron Diaz was doing The Cameron Diaz Show (which is I guess is why they hired her), and worst of all, my boy Christoph Waltz had absolutely nothing to do.  A biggish part yes, and a big box office movie - - good for his career, but he had NOTHING to do.  Worst of all, the movie was in 3D, but there was nothing 3D onscreen!  Clearly the 3D was added post-production, in a shabby effort to cash in on *Avatar* mania.  There were a few destructive action sequences that were over-the-top exuberant, and I got the feeling that Gondry was having fun making a big-budget action movie.  That was satisfying.  But on the whole, the movie was a dud.

Horrorable Mention

*Piranha 3D*!  Now here’s a movie that knows how to use 3D!  It was such a scream!  Richard and I saw it in San Diego on our vacation last summer, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at the movies.  It knew exactly what it was and what it was doing, it was a blast.  A bloody, cheesy, hilarious schlockfest.

How Could I Have Missed It?

*Beverly Hills Chihuahua* and *Kick Ass*.  *BHC* was so funny and so adorable.  A very sweet little movie, I think you’d enjoy it.  And *KA* is not quite for everyone - - you might not be into seeing an 11-year old girl as a slaughter-happy action hero, slicing people up to the tune of the theme from *Banana Splits*, but heck, it sure did work for me.

Break-Out Performance, Female

Hailee Steinfeld in *True Grit*.  A gorgeous movie, and she was the best thing in it!  Totally pulsating with intelligence.  She was fantastic, I look forward to more from her.  She’s only 15.

Break-Out Performance, Male

Jay Chou in *The Green Hornet*.  He was the best thing in the movie, totally sexy and hilarious.  Also that red turtleneck was a stunner (though it seemed a little girly that it had a zipper up the back of the neck).


New Category: Best Credits

This award will clearly go to whatever the new Almodóvar movie is, because his opening or closing credits are always totally amazing.  But there was no Almodovar movie this year, so we have to look elsewhere.  This year the award goes to *Green Hornet*.  The closing credits were the one spot in the movie where you were really glad you were wearing your 3D glasses, they were full of kapow.

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