Top 10 of 2010

As is the case with every year, I always end it wishing I had seen more films than the year prior, but always come to similar conclusions. I’m happy with what came out this year, lots of good stuff, but the only problem being the amount of films coming out later of which I know with great certainty will have a good possibility of ending up on this list. However, I’ve decided to create this Top 10 list until then, although I am thoroughly satisfied with what is included in this list. Let me know what you think.

 

1) Enter The Void (dir. Gaspar Noe): Not enough can be said about Gaspar Noe, one of my favorite filmmakers, and honestly, one of the most completely creative thinkers of our time. Many of the people I know who have seen this film rave on and on about the visual quality this film presents, and mind you, the visuals are the best visuals ever demonstrated in cinema; however, that’s not what interests me about Enter The Void. What captures me most about this film is the spiritual journey Noe takes us on. We become the character, Oscar, as he lingers in the between-states after death but before reincarnation. The entire film is shot through his point-of-view, and by the end of the film, we end up forgetting the illusion of a story, and are rather deceived and enthralled in the reality of certain life after death. It is an inexplicable feeling, and one that may only be done justice through a proper viewing.

 

2) Carlos (dir. Olivier Assayas): Olivier Assayas does something here that not many filmmakers have explored in cinema. Yes, there have been films done about terrorism and the terrorists behind the actions; however, Carlosgoes deeper into the revolutionary ideology of the characters than do most of these other flicks. Assaya’s film explores Ilich Ramirez Sanchez’s, along with his partner’s, obsession for this “cause” that keeps being brought up throughout the film. After time progresses, the “cause” of which they are fighting so vigorously for, begins to blur, and their actions seem to lose not only motivation, but also inspiration. Their terrorist acts begin to involve more and more money, thus detracting from their original goals of attaining liberation in their movements. Carlos is a film extremely wide in scope, and, although very political, extremely easy to sit through despite its extremely long running time.

3) I’m Still Here (dir. Casey Affleck): A great deal of controversy was brought up with this film during its making on the grounds of wether Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement out of acting and into a solo Hip Hop career was all a hoax, or an actual reality. I don’t see this to be relevant, even though the former has been confessed to be true. I’m Still Here reminds me of a great cinéma vérité styled mockumentary from 1992 titled Man Bites Dogwhich also centers around a theme focusing on media attention and how it influences certain actions in means of gaining publicity. I’m Still Herefocuses on the dramatization of the celebrity and the misconceptions reality shows bring to what is true and what is fabricated. Joaquin Phoenix gives the most “authentic” performance of his career, and risks everything he had in means of exploring a topic that has become ever so relevant in the past few years.

4) Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofosky): I am aware of the fact that this film pays homage to several movies of which all are respected pieces such as Perfect Blue, Repulsion, and The Red Shoes; however, my love for The Red Shoes, also being a ballet drama focusing on an upcoming dancer choosing between her love of her profession and that of her life, gives me no choice but to adore this picture. Darren Aronofsky does a fantastic job in focusing in on obsessions and addictions. All of his films focus on these two themes, of which are: Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and finally, Black Swan. Obsession/addiction seems to be an important motif to Aronofsky that will most likely be visited again in his following works. Especially in Black Swan, I feel that covering the obsession that these dancers face, is vital to understanding the people themselves. These dancers train their entire lives for these moments on the stage, being pressured by their directors, parents, and fellow partners. The stress accumulated to attain a certain amount of perfection on stage will, without fail, lead to a mental breakdown, the likes of which are demonstrated perfectly in Black Swan.

5) The American (dir. Anton Corbijn): It is no secret that this film is most likely the most audience-despised film of the year, and, thus, in my opinion, the absolute most underrated film of the entire year. This is how “action thrillers” should be made, rather than lazily told through unnecessary action sequences. The American has a pace and rhythm suitable for its protagonist Jack, as he nears his last mission, and his tiredness of his career leads to not only sloppy performances on his part, but a lack of interest in killing. Jack is a character trapped within a profession of which he is no longer emotionally attached to. His days are long and his loneliness gets the better part of him when he befriends a prostitute, to whom he later builds a romantic relationship with. This film is about the downfall of an incredibly efficient assassin who finally comes to terms with his needs for external encounters and his frustration with killing. Don’t let the reviews fool you, Anton Corbijn constructs an extremely clever piece of art that reaches out to anyone lost in a self-destructing state of depression while making it clear that even those trained to kill yearn for a second chance at what could have been.

6) White Material (dir. Claire Denis): An astonishing film by Claire Denis, White Material stands out from almost all films about war-torn Africa due to not only its female protagonist, Maria Vial, but also to how Denis integrated bits and pieces of the character’s life and passion into several different emotional levels slowly being picked away by the thugs and gangs of the streets. Maria Vial, a farmer who refuses to give up her coffee plantation to anyone, remains working despite the dangers of the war. She is a stubborn character, bluntly displayed in how she treats her lazy son whom is eventually driven insane, most likely due to her insufficient raising methods of ignoring his bad habits and treating him like a baby. Maria ignores every sign of danger, wether it be within her family, or within the streets of Africa. This film speaks on so many emotional levels because it shows a character at her last layer of strength who has fought all her life to put together a failed coffee plantation, a dysfunctional family, and by the end of the film, loses her sense of reality as the world she’s blindly trusted stabs her in the back without the hesitation she clearly demonstrated.

7) Catfish (dir. Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman): Many might wonder why I chose not to include The Social Network in my Top 10 of the year, and truthfully, it’s because of Catfish. This documentary/mockumentary, call it whatever you like, it’s fabrication or honesty is of no real relevance, but rather the fact that it presents to the screen characters so attached to fake relationships on the internet, they forget that the basis for social networking is partly to do with self alterations. By putting yourself on the internet, you are giving people the right to interpret who you are, rather than actually letting them know who you are on a first-hand basis. Audiences all over question wether or not this film is real or fake, but, what they fail to realize is that the prank is really being played on them. Just as Catfish‘s authenticity is put into question, so shall our identities on the internet be questioned as well. Are we truly portraying who we are? If not, then are we anymore guilty then the woman who deceived Nev, our fun and loving protagonist? These questions only further our sympathy for these people, rather than our disgust. We are shown understanding and compassion to these situations, and rather than feeling betrayed, we feel closer to the real person whose identity was so foreign to us in the beginning of the film.

8 ) The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski): Roman Polanski is a master at these kinds of films. There really is no one better at making suspenseful thrillers that make you think, rather than those that make you bolt out of your seat. The former sticks with you longer and carries with it more of a haunting effect. I don’t want to get too much into this political thriller, but I do want to address the concept of a ghost writer, something that has always interested me, particularly in this film. We are not given any sensible amount of information on Ewan McGregor’s character, let alone his name, making his role as The Ghost ever so appropriate. He doesn’t really exist to us. Yes, he has goals, fears, desires, but his character is limited. We only explore him as much as his writing task permits our entry. Everything we know about him, is because of Adam Lang, the politician whom hires The Ghost to write his book. Every scene we share with The Ghost has to do, in some way, to this politician. This was a rare treat for me. I have never quite experienced a character who existed, yet did not exist at the same time. Just like he is merely a ghost in the memoirs of Adam Lang, he is, too, a ghost in our own encounters with the subject.

9) I Am Love (dir. Luca Guadagnino): Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love is a film incredibly hard to write about, for everything that should be said about it, must be viewed, not read. The Italian family depicted in this film is one of class and style, quite suitable for owning a fabric company. The film is, thus, done in such a way that compliments the stylistic choices of the country, the family, and the individual characters, giving an homage to older pictures from the 20th century. Now, the title, I Am Love, reads as a clear statement to me. It is Tilda Swinton’s character Emma declaring to her family who she is. Throughout the film, she is alone and isolated from the rest of the family due to her Russian heritage. Her Russian accent flows through every word of Italian she speaks, serving as a constant reminder of her lone place amongst the family. Tilda Swinton plays this role with a calm unlike anything else she has presented to us on screen, and for that, amongst the praises above, is this film a truly exceptional work.

10) Get Low (dir. Aaron Schneider): The directorial debut of Aaron Schneider, Get Low has been widely dismissed as it is much more than a predictable tale of the cranky old man who goes through his redemption stages ending all in a happy note. Rather, this film is very much a character study of Robert Duvall’s enigma Felix Bush. With hearing news of an old friend’s death, Felix decides to plan a funeral for himself while alive, in means of hearing what others have to say of the little known myth which is Felix Bush. An extremely complex character played whole-heartedly by Duvall, we are taken on a journey to how this man found it in himself to live isolated from the world for so many decades due to an action he had committed in his past. Throughout the film, we begin to ponder what type of act would trigger a man to ostracize himself from all of society, yet not warrant any type of police intervention? Get Low is an exceptional work which gives us a character so shockingly real that we are forced to sympathize with an otherwise incomparable human being.

Thank you for reading,

Omar Antonio Iturriaga

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