"Was it a good year for movies?" asks AO Scott in the New York Times. "A great year? Hard to say, and finally, who cares?... An attempt at synthesis can only fail, so in lieu of a comprehensive theory of Cinema Now, I offer a handful of postulates on the Cinematic State of Things." One of those postulates, "The Bush era is not over," takes us straight to his #1 film of the year, Charles Ferguson's Inside Job.
A second postulate explains why he's not included The Social Network in his top ten, nor even in the list of 20 runners-up that follow: "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."
But the Chicago Reader's JR Jones asks: "Can any do-gooder documentary released this year claim to have done more good than The Social Network...? Its portrait of CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a conniving little shit who elbowed his best friend out of the business was so scathing that, shortly before the release date, Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to the school system of Newark, New Jersey. And now that the movie has won rave reviews, played for ten weeks, and emerged as a surefire Oscar contender, Zuckerberg has joined the Giving Pledge, the philanthropic campaign launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and promised to donate more than half his fortune to charity. Clearly, since we can't raise taxes on the wealthy, what we need is a new genre of shame-inducing billionaire biopics: 'Get Christy Walton,' say, or 'The Brothers Koch.'"
Both Time Out Chicago critics, Ben Kenigsberg and Hank Sartin, put The Social Network at the top of their lists (though I should note that the film shares the #1 spot on Jones's list with Debra Granik's Winter's Bone and Nicole Holofcener's Please Give). After that, they diverge considerably. Let's go to the #10s. Ben Kenigsberg on Serge Bromberg's Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno: "The talking heads are talking heads, but holy cow — what footage." Hank Sartin on Katie Aselton's The Freebie: "A couple agree to allow each other one night of infidelity in this raw, painful, largely improvised look at a good relationship about to go bad."
The real fun in the AV Club's list each year — and this year, Winter's Bone crowns their top 15 — is in the individual ballots. Each of the writers offers a few words on the "next five" that didn't quite make their own top tens — and then come the Club's other categories.
"Overrated," for example. Noel Murray: "[W]hile writer-director Lisa Cholodenko adroitly captures California at its most I'm OK-You're OK granola-y, the plot of The Kids Are All Right couldn't be more generic." Or "Guilty Pleasure." Keith Phipps's is Piranha 3D: "Does it count as a guilty pleasure when something's so clearly designed to be a guilty pleasure?" And "Underrated"? Nathan Rabin: "Hatchet II is an unapologetic genre film/bloodbath, but it's also one of the smartest, funniest, and most informed deconstructions of the slasher genre this side of Scream." For Tasha Robinson, the "Most pleasant surprise" of the year is Tangled: "It was a great year for animation," but "Disney's so-called final fairy-tale picture" presented "the biggest, most heartening gap between what it appeared to be and what it actually is." Scott Tobias's "Future Film That Time Forgot" is Skyline: "Normally such an enterprise would go straight to DVD without anyone giving it a second thought, but Universal thought it might turn a quick buck out of undiscriminating sci-fi and action fans. (Correctly, as it happens.)"
At the New Statesman, The Social Network is Ryan Gilbey's film of the year, followed by a slew of honorable mentions — but the bulk of his list, too, is comprised of categories he's created, e.g., "Most unjustly forgotten film of the year: The Road, which also contained the scariest scene of the year: good to see there's life (and death) in the creaky old 'Don't go down to the cellar!' routine."
IFC.com's three critics have written up their top tens. Here they are on their #1s: Alison Willmore: Giorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth "can be read as a metaphor for totalitarianism, though it stands alone just as well as a fable about the darkest human impulses." Matt Singer: Pedro González-Rubio's Alamar "certainly isn't the most ambitious film on my list, or the most viscerally exciting, or the most cleverly written (if it was written at all). But to my eye it is perfect in its own small way." Stephen Saito: "Sexual and culinary delights abound, but it's [Luca] Guadagnino and [Tilda] Swinton's shared belief that films should be unbridled and larger than life that makes I Am Love so vibrant and indelible."
Winter's Bone has scored well with the San Diego Film Critics Society: Best Film, Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Supporting Actor (John Hawkes). As Tom Long reports for the Detroit News, Winter's Bone has picked up the highest number of awards from the Detroit Film Critics Society, even though The Social Network has won best picture. "Tom Hooper's The King's Speech and David O Russell's The Fighter led the 17th annual Screen Actors Guild Award nominations," reports Peter Knegt at indieWIRE.
James Rocchi is interested in "films that move beyond merely bad and start to move into the realm of the truly dangerous — movies that have a negative effect on the audience, the industry and the art form by their mere existence. With that said, here are the 10 Most Dangerous Films of 2010."
Viewing (4'17"). From Ethan Anderton at FirstShowing: "While I was blown away by the Filmography 2010 retrospective earlier this week, our old stand-by Matt Shapiro (known as oyguvaltshappy on YouTube), who started these cinematic retrospectives back in 2006, is back with 2010: The Cinescape. While his film selection isn't quite as expansive as Filmography 2010, Shapiro has carefully edited clips from many films including The Social Network, Black Swan, TRON: Legacy and one great cut to Scott Pilgrim vs the World."
The Big Picture's year in photos, parts 1, 2 and 3. "Adam Scott Shares His 10 Favorite Things From 2010" at Movieline. And some listening (30'07"). The New York Times: "In a roundtable conversation about the best albums of 2010, Jon Pareles recounts how he fell for the Arcade Fire's reflections-turned-anthems, Jon Caramanica argues that Rick Ross has gotten better as he's gotten more famous, and Ben Ratliff and Nate Chinen explain why it was a great year for jazz."
IN OTHER NEWS
"Neva Patterson, a character actress who portrayed Cary Grant's fiancee in the 1957 movie An Affair to Remember in a career that spanned six decades and more than 100 film and TV roles, has died," reports Valerie J Nelson in the Los Angeles Times. "She was 90."
"It gives us great pleasure to reveal that Duncan Jones's Source Code will open SXSW Film 2011. This mind-bending thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan, and marks Jones's return to the kind of smart, nerve-wringing sci-fi that made his name with the visionary Moon (SXSW 2009)."
Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale: "Today Armin Mueller-Stahl is celebrating his 80th birthday. We wish him the very best and are delighted we'll be awarding this extraordinary artist the Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement in February." You might want to take a look at some of the actor's drawings and paintings at the Kunsthaus Lübeck.
The first round of titles has also been announced for Generation Kplus and Generation 14plus, the Berlinale's programs for younger viewers. Among the titles is Zhang Yimou's Under the Hawthorn Tree, and last month in Time Out Hong Kong, Edmund Lee wrote that this "adaptation of the nostalgic tale of love discovered, lost, and mourned forever brims with a simplistic sentimentality that rivals the most archaic of weepies."