My Top 10... er, 3... movies of 2010


A lot of times I am compelled at the end of the year to cook up some sort of Top 10 list of favorite movies. This year is a toughie, though. I haven't seen a lot of new movies, and the ones I've seen have largely been wiped clean from my brain-slate.

So, I won't do a top 10. Here are the 3 films I remember liking best from 2010, in alphabetical order.

And Everything Is Going Fine (Dir. Steven Soderbergh, with Spalding Gray) - Spalding Gray was a unique talent who managed to create a niche for himself, doing pieces that incorporated performance art, stand-up comedy (more like "sit-down" in his case), and something like confession or open therapy. There are already 3 feature films documenting Gray's best-known monologues -- all performed with Gray seated at a desk, while the film directors try to figure out how to keep things visually interesting. Steven Soderbergh (the Ocean's movies; sex, lies, and videotape), who directed the last of those movies (called Gray's Anatomy), here constructs a narrative of Gray's life through a succession of clips from Gray's other monologues, some television interviews, and a few home movies, with no authorial interjection from any other voice besides Gray's. The effect is that of a posthumous autobiography, or as the blurb in the trailer below suggests, a final monologue.

Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas, with Edgar Ramirez) - A 3-part, 5 1/2-hour movie about terrorist and failed revolutionary Carlos the Jackal that recalls the epic sweep of other men-with-guns sagas like the first two Godfather movies and GoodFellas, but has the unsettling style and revolution-gone-awry subject matter of The Battle of Algiers and Soderbergh's similarly multi-part portrait Che. The movie follows a common rise-and-fall biopic strategy, although Carlos seems more successful at becoming a gangster celebrity than making progress for his supposed cause -- which is, of course, his fatal flaw. Carlos's key asset is Edgar Ramirez in the lead role; his magnetism carries all 5+ hours of the movie, even when the character is being an utter jerk. There is a shortened 2 1/2-hour edit of this flick, but the complete version is so immersive, I expect more is lost than gained by abridging it.

Tiny Furniture (Dir./actor Lena Dunham) - Mumblecore is kind of a misbegotten genre; even the filmmakers most associated with the tag don't much care for it. In a nutshell, mumblecore movies are mostly super-low-budget DIY-style portraits of 20-somethings as they awkwardly (let me underline that word: AWKWARDLY) deal with, you know, like, love and jobs and nudity and growing up and being adult and stuff. It makes sense, then, that Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture gets lumped in with the mumblecore crowd, since that's pretty much what the movie is. However, Dunham's film is more fluidly written, directed, and edited than pretty much all the other mumblecore movies I've seen. The actors are natural and compelling, which is pretty remarkable for this kind of film -- think about She's Gotta Have It or Stranger Than Paradise or Clerks: as good as they are, the acting is pretty darn rough. Tiny Furniture is also well-designed, but not in a way that calls too much attention to itself, like a Wes Anderson movie or an overambitious student film, and the story (what little there is) moves at a entertaining clip, instead of lingering over the agonizing moments. Like Spalding Gray, Dunham has successfully created some good art, just by distilling her life's events into narrative form. Let's see if she can keep it up.

Honorable mentions:
*Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - A flawed film that still has a ton of thrilling moments and funny gags. Plus, it is so densely packed that it rewards many additional viewings (I've already watched it about 4 times). The movie led me to the graphic novels, which are largely different, and which I like too.

*I Love You, Phillip Morris - This pleasantly silly con man movie with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as gay lovers never took off (maybe because of the gay thing), but it is one of the most thoroughly entertaining flicks I've seen lately.

*True Grit - I love the Coen Brothers, and I really liked this movie, but it's not quite in the uppermost echelon of No Country for Old Men- and Fargo-type classics. Well... maybe I'll like it better when I watch it more.


Nice job

Jacky22's picture

Nice job with the list, although I have to avoid reading about the one's I have yet to see (true Grit for one)