06 January 2011

Best of 2010 Pt. I

I'm falling behind on my year end lists for 2010 but it's not all my fault. Somewhere and Blue Valentine only reach the provinces this weekend and I don't want to make a post without having seen them. For now I'll focus on my personal highlights from the year that was and follow up with a best of next week(ish).

My twitter account

Do you follow me yet? I promise an absolutely nonsensical string of movie news, forced jokes and incoherent rants relating to Michigan State sports. What more do you want?

I am seriously shocked at how effectively Twitter accumulates relevant articles from talented folks. I've read loads of good nonfiction since I started an account and perhaps at some point I'll even learn something.

My first film festival immersion

Nothing delights my snobbish nature more than getting into movies before everyone else and securing my preferred front and center seat. Since the teenage heartbreak of being denied entry to Amores Perros at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival no less than three times, I've coveted that glossy, hologrammed press pass. Thanks to City Arts Magazine, I got it for SIFF 2010 and reviewed 16 films.

In addition to getting a great seat for free, I had the opportunity to watch new movies without too many preconceptions. Even if I try to avoid reviews before seeing a film, the buzz always filters in and I have to react for or against it in some way. But writing without falling in line with a Metacritic score is most invigorating. While I was certain to agree with the critical acclaim for SIFF favorites Winter's Bone and I Am Love, I was surprised to find that I was harsher on films that were later applauded, like Howl, which I thought plainly terrible, and Night Catches Us, which seemed too amateurish for serious consideration.

 My first proper call out

As an important public figure (writing biweekly musings for City Arts Blog), I was subject to constructive criticisms in the Comments field for the first time. After dodging a fair amount of bullets for negative reviews, I was put in my place for a single paragraph on the staggeringly trite short film Ana's Playground. In Jennifer's words:

Wow, this review of Ana's Playground is so far off the mark that I question the validity of this review. Do you have a pulse? A heart? It reminds me of the Woody Allen line, "those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym." I'll take it a step further. Those who aren't brave enough to make films trash others art.

I find this critique of my character so blindingly insightful no further comment is necessary. 

My new candidates for #1 crush

2010 was not a great year for my old favorite Scarlett Johansson and I'm forced to search for a new #1 Crush (cue the Garbage song for the Romeo + Juliet MPS). SIFF films brought to my attention Bang Chau (above left, from the feel-good Norwegian film Upperdog) and Ari Graynor (above center, as an updated gangster's moll in Holy Rollers, who you might also remember stealing scenes in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist). Zoe Kravitz (above right, the predictably cute progeny of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet) was likewise irresistible in It's Kind of a Funny Story.

With all three, I found their chemistry with cautious young male leads the most invigorating parts of films that would otherwise be fairly pedestrian. While it's unclear whether I'll ever see another film with Bang Chau (who is, according to her site, something of an aspiring Norwegian pop starlet), Ms. Graynor is going to be in a David Gordon Green comedy and Ms. Kravitz will star as "Sweetness O'Hara" in Yelling at the Sky, a film that's sure to be another triumphant pairing of co-stars Gabourey Sidibe and Tim Blake Nelson.

My love affair with The Last Picture Show

I've seen enough films now that it's hard for one to bust into the all time top 10. Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show did it in 2010 (it's the background to my twitter page for goodness sakes!).

I first saw it as I often do, while eating dinner and checking important sports scores on my phone, but the film gradually commanded my full attention. By the time I got to Sam the Lion's monologue (here in shitty reproduction and not as meaningful on its own) I had moved to a posture of full slack-jawed wonder.

Some days later, on holiday with my friend Ashton on the Olympic Peninsula, in a cabin so rustic it did not even have a television, I watched again with full attention and it cemented itself as a favorite.

Celebrating the new year and turning another year older, I repeat Sam the Lion's words to myself more and more. "I'm just as sentimental as the next feller when it comes to old times," and "if she was here I'd probably be just as crazy now as I was then in about five minutes." Yep.

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