Cranky Hanke’s 10 best
This strikes me as a curious year — a good year, but not quite a great one. Maybe that’s why I’ve spent more time struggling with this list than in any previous year. I’ve shifted more titles around than usual. I never did get on board The Social Network bandwagon (it was entertaining, but I wasn’t that impressed). I was on the Inception one, and then I wasn’t — until I saw it again. Inception was on the list at least three times, but in the end, came in a runner-up. One day I may regret that. I also wonder how much my feelings on the year were impacted by seeing both Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Ken Russell’s Tommy (1975) in the theater, because no matter how good the 2010 offerings were, they didn’t resonate with me the same way that those two films do. Who knows? Anyway, here is how it shakes out for new movies for me — a great year for thrillers, that’s for sure.
1. Shutter Island I believe this is the first time that the first five-star film of a year has ended up in the number-one position. Far from indicating that Martin Scorsese’s best work is behind him, Shutter Island suggests to me that he is as good as ever — and possibly better. This is a nigh-on-to-perfect marriage of technical mastery, thematic complexity and moral weightiness.
2. The Ghost Writer Following the disappointment of Oliver Twist in 2005 (which there was nothing wrong with, except it was another version of Oliver Twist), it was a real treat to see Roman Polanski make a huge return to form with this brilliant meditation on the nature of identity wrapped in the guise of a political thriller. The more you know your Polanski, the richer the film becomes, with its echoes of Repulsion (1965), Cul-De-Sac (1966), Chinatown (1974) and, most particularly, The Tenant (1976).
3. The King’s Speech Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech is perhaps the single greatest entertainment of the year: a completely satisfying, artistically impeccable, human and moving work that also operates (without compromising itself) as a “crowd pleaser.” I do not believe there’s a single false step in this beautiful film that, if nothing else, will probably snag a long overdue Oscar for Colin Firth.
4. Micmacs Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest qualifies as the most completely creative outburst — and I use the term deliberately — of cinematic fireworks this year. Its full French title is Micmacs à tire-larigot, which translates as “Nonstop mix-ups” or “Nonstop funny business,” and that’s a good description of the movie — both in terms of its boundless cleverness, but also its deliciously convoluted story. Micmacs perhaps got me higher than any other film this year.
5. Black Swan Well, if Polanski made a comeback of his own this year, Darren Aronofsky certainly evoked something of his spirit with this psychological horror/drama about a ballerina’s descent into madness. But it isn’t imitation Polanski, since it also recalls Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes (1948) and is filtered through Aronofsky’s own sensibility. Chilling, involving and disturbing.
6. True Grit The Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit probably comes in second only to The King’s Speech as entertainment, but it’s a close call. I do think True Grit is the most beautifully photographed film of the year, which is saying something when you look at the options. Forget the 1969 Henry Hathaway film True Grit — it was never very good to begin with. This is the goods.
7. The Secret in Their Eyes A rich and richly rewarding thriller that manages to span 25 years — switching back and forth between past and present with almost alarming effortlessness. The film manages to work as a thriller, an emotional drama and a political critique all at once. Everything about Juan José Campanella’s film works.
8. The Extra Man In some ways, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s The Extra Man is my personal favorite film of the year, though I admit that there clearly are better movies. But this offbeat comedy of strange relationships and journeys of self-discovery resonated with me on a personal level as few films did this year. That it also offers terrific performances from Kevin Kline and Paul Dano helps immensely.
9. Nowhere Boy The Weinstein Brothers managed to kill whatever limited box-office chances Sam Taylor-Wood’s biographical film on the young John Lennon had with some of the worst bookings imaginable. Locally, the film cried out for the Fine Arts or The Carolina, but ended up — with no fanfare — at the Beaucatcher, which has only rarely had any luck at all with “art” titles. Don’t miss this warm, authentic-feeling film when it hits DVD later this month.
10. I Am Love As magnificently operatic as movies come, Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love was something of a surprise hit when it played here — and a deserved one. Complex and content to leave a lot of the subtexts to the viewer, the film has a wonderful central performance from Tilda Swinton and makes brilliant use of the music of John Adams. It’s all pretty great, but the breathless ending is likely the most exciting single stretch of filmmaking I saw all year.
Runners-up (some of which have been on and off the “10 Best” list several times): Inception, Mother, I Love You, Phillip Morris, 127 Hours, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Get Low, Winter’s Bone — and I’m only slightly stretching it to include Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Machete and Easy A.
Hanke’s 10 worst
1. I Want Your Money Essentially a 90-minute commercial for the Tea Party, which even Tea Partiers refused to see. Spectacularly inept and intellectually and historically dishonest, this was, thankfully, as bad as it got.
2. Cyrus While there were worse movies this year than the mumblecore mess that is Cyrus, I can recall no film that so completely annoyed and bored me. The mumblecore “movement” continues to allow people with no discernible talent to make movies. Why? I do not know.
3. Furry Vengeance It could have been called 50 Ways to Humiliate Brendan Fraser and been more honest. This is a movie strictly for people with a desire to see a raccoon urinate in Fraser’s mouth. I never knew such a market existed.
4. How Do You Know This tedious witless crapfest from James L. Brooks is so dumb it doesn’t even realize its title needs a question mark.
5. Yogi Bear tied with Marmaduke. Two of the dumbest talking-animal movies ever made are locked in a grudge match for the number five slot. Marmaduke gets extra demerits for wasting Lee Pace, while the cast of Yogi Bear pretty much deserved what they got.
6. Paranormal Activity 2 The original was a one-note gimmick that kind of worked on novelty. This one’s the same gimmick minus any novelty, but with extra tedium.
7. The Bounty Hunter In a year of absolutely awful romantic comedies, this unpleasant, unfunny and unromantic pairing of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler was the cream of the crap.
8. Our Family Wedding The highlight of this movie is a gag where a goat eats Forest Whitaker’s Viagra and goes on a rampage of horniness. Need I say more?
9. Remember Me Robert Pattinson failed to break out of his Twilight mold with this interminable romance/drama where he spends most of the film sulking. So did I — right up to the ending, which manages to be both tasteless and so preposterous that it’s funny.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street I don’t object to remakes and rethinkings as a matter of course, but there’s no evidence of any thinking at all here, let alone any rethinking.
The coveted Pootie Tang Award this year goes to Vampires Suck, a movie so cosmically god-awful that it’s an insult to Pootie Tang to give it this award.
Justin Souther’s 10 best
1. Shutter Island After much deliberation, Martin Scorsese’s stylish, overtly creepy thriller finally won out. And not just because it’s a master filmmaker reveling in the freedom of film, but because it’s such a dense, complicated, layered work of modern noir, with a cumulative impact that’s impossible to ignore.
2. True Grit On the surface, this film is a straightforward Western, but one with all the idiosyncrasies the Coen Brothers are known for. The most entertaining — and surprisingly funny — film of the year, coupled with this year’s best cast.
3. Black Swan No film this year approached the ambition of Darren Aronofsky’s “Polanski on PCP” descent into madness. A totally intense, emotionally charged, absolutely committed piece of filmmaking.
4. The Secret in Their Eyes With several of the most striking, memorable (and with any justice, iconic) scenes of any movie this year, Juan José Campanella’s film is a remarkable work, made more powerful by its assured, classy and often brilliant direction. A jaw-dropping film at times.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Hyper-stylized and extraordinarily fun, Edgar Wright’s film is the perfect romantic comedy for a generation raised on Adderall and video games. Michael Cera be damned.
6. Mother Wonderfully quirky and odd, in a year of excellent thrillers, Joon-ho Bong’s film is the most idiosyncratic — and maybe the most beautifully heartbreaking, too.
7. The Town One review of this crime drama called director/star Ben Affleck “Hollywood’s new Clint Eastwood.” If only Eastwood had ever made something this smart and taut.
8. The Ghost Writer Vintage Roman Polanski. Here he takes a straightforward political thriller and turns it into an examination of paranoia and identity, all coated in an overbearing sheen of dread. An old master making it all look so easy.
9. Micmacs Signature Jean-Pierre Jeunet: effortlessly stylish and imaginative, with a plot that runs like clockwork. A movie that never forgets it’s a movie, and is all the more wonderful because of it.
10. The Extra Man A sometimes eccentric, often hilarious, surprisingly touching movie about loneliness and friendship. Sad, yet hopeful, witty, yet introspective, it’s a nice little movie that has been overlooked.
Souther’s 10 worst
1. Skyline A couple of meatheads decide to make science fiction, but instead make a stupid, unoriginal, unimaginative amalgamation of every big sci-fi film from the past decade and cross it with a rap video. It’s like Michael Bay without the budget or Uwe Boll without the charm. My heart has broken just a little each time someone, anywhere, has bought a ticket to go see it.
2. Flipped Speaking of meatheads, Rob Reiner made a movie. It sucks — no surprise there. But it’s the lazy plotting and the schmaltzy take on growing up that pushes the film into the realm of the teeth-grindingly obnoxious.
3. N-Secure They tried for Tyler Perry and ended up with Tommy Wisseau.
4. Takers In the “dumbest casting of the year” category, Hayden Christensen plays a tattooed, tough-guy greaser. He at least gets shot in the movie, which shows that at least somebody in the chain of command had some sense.
5. Sex and the City 2 Two-and-a-half more hours of talking about shoes and orgasms. But no elaborate diarrhea jokes this time around? You’ve come a long way, baby!
6. The Virginity Hit No “10 Worst” list would be complete without yet another lazy mockumentary/found-footage entrant. This year the genre has been advanced to the point of dick and fart jokes. Well done, gents, you do your boring genre proud.
7. Chain Letter It’s like Saw, but stupider. Yes, this is possible.
8. MacGruber So someone decided to make a really bad spoof of MacGyver? So now how do I get my Airwolf parody made, huh?
9. The Last Song Honestly, I don’t remember much about this movie except that Miley Cyrus and a raccoon are in it. I don’t think the raccoon ever bit her, but in my mind, I like to pretend it did.
10. Alpha and Omega I’m sure Yogi Bear and Marmaduke are worse, but by the grace of the Almighty, I managed not to review either. So instead, this year’s unfunny, annoying talking-animal movie goes to Alpha and Omega. Congrats.