Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: So that’s it for 2010?

As the year sinks slowly in the west, I realize that for me the movie year pretty much is over. When I turn in this week’s reviews, the only thing left for me to review this year is Little Fockers. (Assuming Justin Souther isn’t knocked down by a bus, I have no intention of sitting through Gulliver’s Travels.) So far as I know at this point, there’s nothing opening locally on Dec. 31 and the next new movie we’re slated for is Season of the Witch on Jan. 7. (How depressing is that?) What’s mostly left for me this year is shuffling things around for my Ten Best list. I think I may need the time this year, which has been a peculiar one in a number of ways.

One of the strangest things about 2010 is that it didn’t start in the usual manner, which is to say we didn’t begin with the usual dead of winter crapfests. Two of the year’s best films of the year—Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer—came out in February and March respectively. (I expect at least one reader to challenge one of those titles.)That’s unusual—and I suspect it’s played havoc with their chances for awards and best of lists, owing to them not being on the tip of everyone’s brain. (Don’t kid yourself, critics and Oscar voters are both subject to memory loss, the allure of the new and the stigma attached to movies that appear in the winter.) Usually, all we can hope for in terms of good movies early in the year in the provinces are the limited release art film titles that finally filter down to us.

It wasn’t until January, for instance, that we finally got to see Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces. And since the distributor didn’t think it worth their while to send out a screener or set up a screening of it, it didn’t make my Ten Best list. It would have, but it’s considered a 2009 film and is out of bounds for inclusion this year. (Oddly, The Secret in Their Eyes, which only played in New York City and Los Angeles—and which snagged the Best Foreign Language Oscar for 2009—does qualify for consideration this year. because its 2009 release was so limited.) This has happened time and time again. The Hours (2002) missed my list for exactly the same reason. It’s almost a given that something like this happens.

What’s unusual in 2010 is that there’s not all that much of note that won’t have made it to the hinterlands by Christmas Day. Once True Grit, The King’s Speech and I Love You, Phillip Morris open, that’s about it. The goodie bag is all but empty. Oh, there are a few things yet to show up. We have yet to be graced with Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham, Mike Leigh’s Another Year, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, Derek Cinafrance’s Blue Valentine and Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. I’ve seen the first four and will have seen the last three before finalizing my Ten Best list. I was not blown away by the ones I saw, though one will be on my honorable mention list. I am skeptical that the last three are going to change anything.

People who have been following the award season releases may be surprised to see one obvious omission among the titles—Julie Taymor’s The Tempest. Well, the big city reviews were generally so blistering and audience response so tepid that Touchstone pulled it from contender status. It was not only removed from a list of potential critic screenings in Atlanta, it was suggested that the film may never play as far out as Atlanta. Last I knew there were no plans to release it there, which means there are certainly no plans to book it into Asheville.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am seriously bummed by this development. Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999) is nothing short of a masterpiece, and I’d say the same for her Beatles movie Across the Universe (2007). I’m less thrilled by her Frida (2002), though my problems with it are almost entirely script-based, which lists no less than four writers and that number swells to five if we believe Edward Norton’s claims of having improved the screenplay. This left Taymor wrestling with an unwieldy, lumbering script. Visually, the film is brilliant and there are moments of directorial panache that are pure Taymor. As a result—and based on the trailer—I want to see for myself just exactly what Taymor did or did not accomplish here. It’s looking like we may not know till the DVD and that’s saddening.

In a perverse way, I also regret that Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Nutcracker in 3D didn’t make it town and probably isn’t going to. You may remember Konchalovsky. He was briefly famous for Runaway Train in 1985 and momentarily kind of a joke for Tango & Cash in 1989. So what did her serve up here? Well, it appears to be a mostly Tchaikovsky-free version of The Nutcracker rethought as a nghtmarish child’s garden of a Holocaust story—complete with stuffed animals being shoveled into furnaces. OK. To date, it has garnered 28 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes—all of which seem to be locked in a struggle to outdo each other in denouncing how awful and wrong-headed the movie is. All this and Nathan Lane as Albert Einstein and a reported $90 million budget, too. Now, come on, you mean to tell me you aren’t just a little curious?

And so the year winds down as the movies attempt to bring it to a close in a blaze of glory. Have they? Well, that’s kind of up to you. I’m still tussling with what belongs on my Ten Best list and where. For that matter, I’m still working out how I feel about the year in film overall. That, too, is unusual. What does it portend? Well, I’m working that out, too. I reckon I’ll know by the first Xpress of 2011, at which point I’ll let you know.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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35 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: So that’s it for 2010?

  1. christiana

    You should see The Town. It was one of favorites this year with several masterful character studies.

  2. Ken Hanke

    It is actually sitting in the pile of movies to be watched before that list is finalized.

  3. Son of Rufus

    I’m looking forward to seeing some of these late year releases. I think I’ll probably make it to the theater to see The Fighter, Black Swan, and True Grit.

    I currently have the original True Grit on the way from Netflix to see right before the remake.

    I’m waiting on these three titles because I refuse to go to theaters on opening weekend anymore (this decision was finalize after a particularly awful audience at Shutter Island). It just isn’t worth it.

    I’ll be looking forward to your top ten list Ken since I didn’t make it to the theaters very much this year.

  4. Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere.
    Based on what I’ve heard from people who have seen this, you don’t need to save it a spot on your Top Ten.

  5. I expect at least one reader to challenge one of those titles.
    I doesn’t give me any glee. I wanted to love THE GHOST – there was so much about it that was great. McGregor, Olivia Williams and especially Brosnan were fantastic, but the script was just so damn silly I couldn’t buy into the plot. The level of contrivance and ease in which McGregor managed to uncover a multi-national political conspiracy was just laughable, plus the stupidity of that ending. Christ.
    It was a few rewrites away from being great, but in the end I just found it an extremely flawed film with some very worthwhile elements.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I currently have the original True Grit on the way from Netflix to see right before the remake.

    I can’t claim any fondness for the original. I really like the new one, though.

    I’m waiting on these three titles because I refuse to go to theaters on opening weekend anymore

    I often have no choice, but I tend to see them on Fridays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., which are hardly prime times. I actually prefer a largish audience for the vibe, though. It just rarely works out for me.

    I’ll be looking forward to your top ten list Ken since I didn’t make it to the theaters very much this year.

    It’ll be out on Jan. 5 (actually probably online about 9 p.m. on Jan. 4).

  7. Ken Hanke

    Based on what I’ve heard from people who have seen this, you don’t need to save it a spot on your Top Ten.

    Based on everything else she’s made, I already suspected that, but you never know.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I wanted to love THE GHOST – there was so much about it that was great. McGregor, Olivia Williams and especially Brosnan were fantastic, but the script was just so damn silly I couldn’t buy into the plot.

    I did love it. I do love it. I have no significant problem with the screenplay. We are simply not going to agree on this.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I sure hope BLACK DYNAMITE makes it onto that list

    I doubt it — and unless you come shove a copy of it into my hands, I’m not likely to find out.

  10. We are simply not going to agree on this.
    I’ve yet to see anyone successfully argued out of enjoying a film, let alone you. I’d find it easier to argue Rush Limbaugh into atheism.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I’ve yet to see anyone successfully argued out of enjoying a film, let alone you.

    I think you and I have a really basic disconnect in that you fixate a lot more on the writing than I do. (I know you rate sceenwriters as more important than I do in the overall scheme of things.) I’m more concerned with other aspects of the film, so long as the screenplay isn’t illiterate or just plain stupid — and not being stupid doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be terribly realistic, as long as it supports the film’s themes.

  12. I’m more concerned with other aspects of the film, so long as the screenplay isn’t illiterate or just plain stupid
    Well, based on that, yeah, I do rate the screenplay a little bit more than you. Considering it contains a) the story and b) what all the characters say and most of what they do then I think it’s probably one of the more crucial aspects of a film. And I do expect more of it than just not being illiterate or stupid. That’s a bit like saying ‘I’m not that concerned about the cinematography in this film as long as I can see people’s faces when they’re talking and the lights are turned on’.

  13. and not being stupid doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be terribly realistic
    I don’t care that much about realism, more about plausibility within the world of a film.
    I found HARRY POTTER 7A much more plausible than THE GHOST, despite the fact that it revolves around a trio of teenage wizards looking for artifacts that contain bits of an evil wizard’s soul.
    I just didn’t believe that the events of THE GHOST could occur without characters who have been presented as very smart behaving very stupidly for no apparent reason. I know this is somewhat of a staple of modern thrillers, but it still bothers me.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Well, based on that, yeah, I do rate the screenplay a little bit more than you. Considering it contains a) the story and b) what all the characters say and most of what they do then I think it’s probably one of the more crucial aspects of a film. And I do expect more of it than just not being illiterate or stupid. That’s a bit like saying ‘I’m not that concerned about the cinematography in this film as long as I can see people’s faces when they’re talking and the lights are turned on’

    No, it’s nothing like that at all — though that is a statement that could be applied to a number of comedies, but that’s a separate issue. Actually, you’re running a bit wild with my off-the-cuff statement. The story very often has little to do with the screenplay. It’s very often not even written by the nominal screenwriter, and very often the screenplay is as much directed by the director as the film is. (Not to mention that once a screenplay is handed over, what the director does with it can differ greatly from what’s on the page — and that can be true even if the writer and the director are the same person.) “So long as it’s not illiterate” is perhaps a simplification, but it depends on the individual film. I would call the dialogue in The Ghost Writer considerably better than simply not illiterate. It flows and is frequently witty. The plot points that bother you do not bother me. I’m perfectly able to accept them within the confines of the film, which at the end of the day is really about the question of identity more than it’s a thriller. Does the screenplay carry that theme? I say it does and I don’t need it to do more than that (though I think it mostly does).

  15. pepiacebo

    Ghost Writer was the best film I’ve seen all year. I saw it twice. Yay, Asheville Pizza and Brewing.

    Salt wins for most implausible piece of garbage.

    The latest Preditor movie was more plausible and enjoyable than Salt.

    (Can we keep the Still Showing ratings for the movies at APBC?)

  16. DrSerizawa

    What? Machete isn’t on the Oscar list? I’m shocked. Well, I’m not shocked but Machete was certainly more entertaining than past Oscar winners. I expect the awards next year to be no different.

    But, I did see some very enjoyable movies last year. Some were enjoyable in ways that the makers didn’t intend, though. My enjoyment I attribute in large part to the reviews by Ken and Justin. I simply didn’t see anything terrible that I wasn’t fully warned about. And when accurate info enables you to get in the right mindset to view a film half the battle is won.

    I only saw a couple that I thought might be good enough to deserve an Oscar. Shutter Island and Inception top the list. And this pains me to say so because I simply don’t like Poofyboy DiCaprio much. But I can’t deny his acting skill and so will give the devil his due.

  17. Me

    Son of Rufus read the book for fist thats what the Coens are basing the movie on. I personally wish they would have adapted Portis’s Dog Of The South.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Salt wins for most implausible piece of garbage.

    Well, it’s more stupid fun than The Tourist.

    (Can we keep the Still Showing ratings for the movies at APBC?)

    I do when the movie was still playing the week before. It’s trickier to put something back once it’s gone — though not impossible in some cases. (It would be impossible in the case of, say, Elf. The cut-down form we use now wasn’t in existence when that was reviewed.) It’s even trickier in the print edition, because space has already allocated before I know what’s playing there.

  19. Ken Hanke

    I expect the awards next year to be no different

    I could probably predict Picture, Director and Actor right now. I will agree with the third, but not the first two — unless they really surprise me and they rarely do.

    My enjoyment I attribute in large part to the reviews by Ken and Justin. I simply didn’t see anything terrible that I wasn’t fully warned about

    A pleasant assessment of our efforts. Thank you.

    And this pains me to say so because I simply don’t like Poofyboy DiCaprio much

    I don’t think that has really applied to his performances for a while now. I still don’t find him attractive, but I’ve gotten used to his looks and his performances aren’t what they were in the Titanic days.

  20. I could probably predict Picture, Director and Actor right now. I will agree with the third, but not the first two—unless they really surprise me and they rarely do.
    Think they will make amends with Mr. Firth after snubbing him over A SINGLE MAN?

    I don’t think that has really applied to his performances for a while now. I still don’t find him attractive, but I’ve gotten used to his looks and his performances aren’t what they were in the Titanic days.
    He seems to have worked out a marvelous line in protagonists who are losing grip on their own identities, between THE AVIATOR, SHUTTER ISLAND and INCEPTION. It’s not hard to understand while Scorsese keeps using him and why Nolan wanted to work with him. He would’ve made a fabulous Harvey Dent too, for what it’s worth.

  21. Son of Rufus

    Son of Rufus read the book for fist thats what the Coens are basing the movie on. I personally wish they would have adapted Portis’s Dog Of The South.

    Thanks, I’ll look into that.

  22. Fran

    I, of course, don’t see nearly the complete array of movies that you do, but I know that SHUTTER ISLAND and INCEPTION would rate high on my 2010 list. I suspect DEATHLY HALLOWS and TANGLED might be there as well. I have a niggling of a couple of others that I would add, but I join the ranks of others whose memory fails…

  23. Ken Hanke

    Think they will make amends with Mr. Firth after snubbing him over A SINGLE MAN?

    I do and this would be a great chance because his George VI in The King’s Speech is as good as his performance in A Single Man. I’ve seen Speech three times and he has impressed me anew each time (as has the film).

  24. Ken Hanke

    I suspect DEATHLY HALLOWS and TANGLED might be there as well.

    The former is only half a film to me in many ways, and I’m not quite that strong for Tangled, though it was certainly far better than I imagined. Then again, what I imagined was major moose fellation.

    I have a niggling of a couple of others that I would add, but I join the ranks of others whose memory fails…

    You see, if you reviewed them, you get to put them in weekly file folders on your computer and you can go back over the full year. This is not infallible, mind. I once argued with Neal, the manager of the Fine Arts, that I had not seen a movie he’d mentioned. He insisted I had. I once again said I hadn’t. He told me I certainly had because I’d reviewed it. I checked. I had.

  25. DrSerizawa

    He told me I certainly had because I’d reviewed it. I checked. I had.

    That’s okay. There are many movies I wish I could forget that completely. Love Story would be a good one. Wish I could forget the old girlfriend who dragged me to that one too.

  26. Ken Hanke

    That’s okay. There are many movies I wish I could forget that completely.

    Oh, I understand that, but it’s not like this was a bad movie. I just couldn’t remember it by title. I can’t remember what the title was now.

  27. clkwrkred

    What a lackluster year. It seems that with each year there’s a decline in quality. While I loved a few of the others mentioned (Deathly Hallows Part 1 probably more for its faithfulness to the source), nothing really grabbed my attention. I will say that Easy A was a pleasant surprise, but I find it hard to rate that on a Ten Best of List simply because of its genre.

  28. Ken Hanke

    What a lackluster year.

    I’d agree that there’s something odd about the year — maybe even something a little bit off — but I wouldn’t call it lackluster.

    It seems that with each year there’s a decline in quality.

    I believe that observation has been made every year since about 1916. At the end of a year, it’s hard to get any more than a snapshot of how you feel about the year at that moment — and that moment is too close to you to call. You’re trying to assess movies you saw nearly 12 months ago in the same breath as movies you saw yesterday. The further away you get from the year, the less the momentary rush from the newer titles matters little.

    I will say that Easy A was a pleasant surprise, but I find it hard to rate that on a Ten Best of List simply because of its genre.

    It’s not on my list, though I liked it a great deal. I wouldn’t question it on a list, and I don’t know that I think any film is out of bounds because of its genre.

  29. brianpaige

    Am I the only one who could care less about Shutter Island? Maybe it’s just at this point I simply detest these Shyamalan style plot twist endings and Shutter Island is basically a period piece version of a Shyamalan movie.

    I do want to see the new True Grit though, having seen the original last week. It’s amusing that the Coens keep protesting “Oh, we’re not remaking the Wayne movie, we’re filming a more faithful adaptation of the book!” Every scene in the trailer seems like something from the original, haha. Let’s not kid ourselves. The original isn’t some epic classic no one can touch. It’s a decent *** western with an iconic Wayne performance and Glen Campbell trying to be a Texas Ranger. It isn’t like the Coens suddenly got a wild hair and decided to remake The Searchers.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Am I the only one who could care less about Shutter Island?

    I don’t know. How much less could you care?

    Shutter Island is basically a period piece version of a Shyamalan movie.

    Uh…no, it’s not.

    Every scene in the trailer seems like something from the original, haha.

    Only if the original was done right. This clearly is closer to the book. The tone is entirely different than the Hathaway film. The approach is different. The story and events are going to be similar because they both come from the same book, but the films are very different. No John Wayne ham, no wooden Glen Campbell, and no catastrophically inept and overage Kim Darby.

  31. Me

    Im with ya brianpage.

    I haven’t seen the Tempest but what it looks to be is another one of those Lord Of The Rings stylings.

  32. Ken Hanke

    Im with ya brianpage.

    Yeah, Shutter Island is no Cyrus.

    I haven’t seen the Tempest but what it looks to be is another one of those Lord Of The Rings stylings.

    You’ve sure seen a different trailer than the one I’ve seen. Or your perception is very, very different.

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