2010 Staff Picks


Separate from our post on the Best of 2010, the Staff Picks below represent the films on our Top Ten lists, but were not on anyone else’s list here at The Filmsmith.  Further, there still remain several titles I have yet to see that come highly recommended (Animal Kingdom, Mother, Biutiful, Dogtooth) so this is far from an exhaustive list.

Also, considering the recent addition of Ben Creech and Aaron Faulkner to The Filmsmith, they haven’t written reviews for all the films on their list.  The quotes listed are their own, but clicking on the highlighted titles will take you to reviews written by myself, Remington Smith, or Ben Creech.  The numbers next to the titles indicate their place on the Top Ten list of the respective writer (our Top Ten lists are at the end).

Aaron Faulkner: News Contributor

4. Toy Story 3
The end of the film was by far one of the saddest endings to a franchise I’ve ever experienced.  The ending didn’t feel like a letdown and the filmmakers gave their characters a respectful end, deserving a standing ovation as the curtain fell. To some The Social Network may feel like a generational film but I disagree, opting to put Toy Story 3 at the forefront of this generation. Everyone goes through the phase of growing up and letting go of their childhood the way Andy does in Toy Story 3, but not everyone becomes a multi-billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg. In short, Toy Story 3 has heart – it touches the soul – and makes a connection with all audiences.  That’s what going to the movies is all about – making a meaningful connection

5. Green Zone
It’s a terrible thing to feel like you’re being lied to and it’s even worse when you catch someone in their lies. It is this feeling that Paul Greengrass explores in Green Zone. A political action-thriller first, and a thought provoking film second, whether you think positive of the United States or not, this film will stimulate conversation.  It was interesting to consider, not how corrupt our government may be, but what we’re really doing outside of our country. It made me wonder why, when the United States is no perfect country, we would try to tell others how to be perfect. Thoughts are powerful and dangerous and that’s what this film does – makes you think. Therein lies the power of Greengrass’ film.

6. Shutter Island
You have master filmmaker Martin Scorsese working with the base of a Dennis Lehane novel – what more could you ask for? This psychologically-taut thriller will keep you guessing ‘til the end. Even if you figure out the ending before it comes, you’ll still jump for joy in satisfaction. The film features stunning cinematography and an outstanding cast. It’s a near perfect film and I don’t know what else to say besides, “It’s a Martin Scorsese film—what else did you expect?”

8. The Town
After Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone was released in 2007 to critical and popular praise, audiences were left wondering what Affleck would do next or even if he would continue his directing career. Boy did he step up to the plate and deliver with The Town. Affleck knows how to craft tension, but he also knows how to create on-screen romance; the film doesn’t get bogged down with either aspect. It was a bold move to not only direct, but star in his sophomore film but he pulled it off convincingly enough that he may well be called the next Clint Eastwood – and hey, the world could always use another guy like Clint!

Ben Creech: DVD Tuesdays, Writer

5. The Red Riding Trilogy
These three films, all adapted from the series of novels by David Peace, were filmed simultaneously by different directors using different but overlapping main characters for each film. They revolve around the search for the elusive Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer whose victims include little girls and sometimes young prostitutes. But the films pay more attention to the lives affected by these crimes and the rampant police corruption that impedes any attempt to discover the identity of the killer.

6. Carlos
Olivier Assayas amazed the film world last year with his portrait of a multigenerational family in Summer Hours. This years follow-up, the 5 and a half hour long film about the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal is even more impressive. Edgar Ramirez plays the title role, with equal parts enigma and charisma, as he moves from nobody to the top of the world most wanted list, and then falls right back down. A social revolutionary and occasional mercenary is brought down by his obsession with his own image, and we sit back and watch as hubris destroys the life of a superstar.

7. Howl
Howl is the first narrative feature from twice Oscar-nominated documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and tells of the obscenity trial and context of the titular poem.  James Franco, in a spot-on performance, plays the poet Allen Ginsberg as he shares his experiences in an intimate interview, and we see the poem for what it is: an ear-splitting howl of freedom after the post war era epitomized by oppressive conservatism and especially McCarthyism.

10. Micmacs
The newest film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French visionary behind such films as Amelie, Delicatessen and the vastly underrated A Very Long Engagement. Here he presents his zaniest film yet, in which a video store clerk gets accidentally shot in the head by an illegally traded gun, and decides to take down the arms manufacturing companies. He enlists the help of a motley crew of circus performers and they embark on a quest to make the world a safer place.

Remington Smith: Managing Editor, Writer

1. Fish Tank
Coming-of-age narratives tend to fall along polemical lines, from Larry Clark’s cynicism (Kids) or Gus van Sant’s adoration of youth’s beauty (Paranoid Park). Fish Tank manages to situate itself comfortably between these exaggerated poles, hinting at the sublime nature of youth via visual aesthetics, while simultaneously confessing all of its sins through the story of messy characters. In the same way La Haine provided a glimpse into the French suburbs, Fish Tank is a snapshot of the British underclass that is anything but facile.

2. Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine might better known for its scandal involving the MPAA’s initial rating (NC-17), but there’s so much more to the film and it’s not pretty. Much like anything by Darren Aronofsky, however, the pain is worth bearing for the overwhelming intensity of its truth.

3. Winter’s Bone
Winter’s Bone deserves a viewing for its bleak visuals (an uncredited main character) and the raw performance from Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. Uncompromised by the usual sexualized overtones and a determined attitude that belies the whiny wimpy trappings of other female characters stuck in a rut, Lawrence is just awesome. Her steely gunslinger gaze and the nobility of her quest come through her graceful and intimidating performance.

7. Let Me In
A film of such virtuosity that it calls to mind the horror greats from the 1960′s and 70′s (Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie), where exquisite directors came to the horror genre to make the films…not respectable, but damn good, in no small part due to their emphasis on character. Reeves made sure to hew to this mantra and the result is one of the best vampire films in years.

9. Catfish
The Social Network wishes it could be half of the astute, blistering commentary on the internet generation that Catfish is. If one argues that Facebook is part of wider trend of sublimating oneself further into the Matrix, Catfish gets the point across with better humanity and clarity than that other Facebook movie.

10. Monsters
Re-watching this a third time I can see some of the film’s shortcomings, but I still stand by my comment, “If Monsters had a thesis statement, I daresay that it would reflect a quote from Stephen King’s Firestarter: “Life is short and pain is long and we’re all put on this earth to help each other.” The ability to translate this sentiment into visual terms that scorns the didactic, verbalized affectations from Hollywood makes Monsters a genuine cinematic triumph.”

Top Ten Lists

Remington Smith
1. Fish Tank
2. Blue Valentine
3. Winter’s Bone
4. I’m Still Here
5. The American
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
7. Let Me In
8. Inception
9. Catfish
10. Monsters

Aaron Faulkner
1. The American
2. The Social Network
3. Inception
4. Toy Story 3
5. Green Zone
6. Shutter Island
7. Exit Through the Gift Shop
8. The Town
9. Black Swan
10. The Fighter

Ben Creech
1. I’m Still Here
2. The Social Network
3. Black Swan
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. Red Riding Trilogy
6. Carlos
7. Howl
8. The Fighter
9. The American
10. Micmacs

-Remington Smith

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One response to “2010 Staff Picks

  1. Blue Valentine does have overwhelming intensity and truth. I felt like the script was a little lacking though, despite the brilliant performances.

    The rest of my thoughts here: http://imagemoved.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/blue-valentine-can-depress-anyone/

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