The blogging train is back on track – here’s round two of my “hey, the date changed – I better tell people what I think about stuff!” endeavour.
In the last couple of years I have watched a lot of films, and the main person to blame for this is Mark Davidson. When we were flatmates, he convinced me to get a Cineworld Unlimited card, and explained to me the virtues of LoveFilm. And during the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010, he asked me to partake in a podcast he was starting for his excellent blog. This has now become a monthly deal, and in the December edition we discussed our films of the year. In case you missed the podcast (or I should probably say: in case you heard the podcast, sorry, but…) here are my Top 5 Films of 2010.
5. The Kids Are All Right
The Kids Are All Right centres on a same-sex couple, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, who each conceive a child via the same sperm donor. The family seems to be a happy and close-knit unit, until the kids decide to track down their biological father, the lovable Mark Ruffalo, and things get a little bit shaken up. The characters in this film are so well developed and realised that I just really enjoyed watching them interact, and I really cared about what happened to them. I also admired the way the film makers didn’t try to politicise this story, or make it a movie with a particular message, other than the fact that family and relationships, whatever form they take, are complicated and beautiful.
One of the best films I saw at the EIFF, Monsters is set 6 years after alien life has crash-landed in central America, resulting in a large area between South America and the USA being quarantined. The story centres on two characters journeying through this infected zone, trying to get back home. Kaulder, a photographer trying to document the devastation caused by these aliens and ultimately to capture an image of one of the elusive creatures, is tasked with escorting the injured Sam (his publisher’s daughter) to the coast. Their relationship is key, and is played perfectly, perhaps owing to the fact that the actors are a married in real life. Director Gareth Edwards is from a special-effects background, and his work here integrates seamlessly with the real world footage, much of which was filmed organically and improvised as the small cast and crew themselves journeyed through central America. A fresh take on the disaster movie concept, where we actual see very little of the monsters but learn much more about their effect on the lives of ordinary people in the “infected zone”.
3. The Social Network
Facebook is so hot right now, so it’s no surprise that a movie about its supposed origins was one of the biggest of the year. I was excited when I heard that the writer of “The West Wing”, the director of “Fight Club” and the singer of “Sexy Back” were teaming up, and they definitely all delivered. The dialogue was just as snappy as we’ve come to expect from Aaron Sorkin, and David Fincher ably directed us through dorm-rooms and court-rooms to give a picture of the events that started Mark Zuckerberg on the road to becoming Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2010. Although the truth of the tale is sometimes questionable, it was a story well told and well acted. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield were believable frenemies and JT proved that he definitely has some acting chops. While I don’t believe Zuckerberg to be as ruthless or unpersonable as this portrayal, I think the film used this “Mark Zuckerberg” character to draw out some of the key themes associated with Facebook today – it’s effect on privacy, relationships, business models, etc. Definitely a film with a lot to say to this generation, and well worth a look.
2. Up In The Air
Another zeitgeisty film I enjoyed this year was Jason Reitman’s Cloon-fest, Up In The Air. George Clooney plays a consultant who travels from city to city, informing the employees of failed companies that they are losing their jobs. All this flying around forces him into something of a nomadic lifestyle, the freedom of which he fully relishes. But this lifestyle is threatened when Anna Kendrick’s character shows up – a young, bright-eyed, loved-up graduate with designs on revolutionising the business. One final cross-country trip, involving run-ins with his family and love-interest Vera Farmiga, causes him to consider his transient existence and wonder whether it’s time to settle down. I can definitely relate to the tension between wanting to lead an exciting and unpredictable life, but also valuing the security of family and “home”. Some of these themes reminded me of Into The Wild, a film in which the lone-wolf protagonist finally concludes “Happiness only real when shared”. Great performances from the three leads and a funny and thought-provoking script made this one of the films I most enjoyed last year.
There isn’t much to say about Inception that hasn’t already been said, given that it featured on the majority of critics Best of 2010 lists. Christopher Nolan is carving out a niche for himself making intelligent blockbusters, when so many other directors seem to be dumbing down. The Dark Knight proved that comic book films didn’t have to be predictable and superficial. And now Inception reminds us that good sci-fi doesn’t have to be set in space, or re-tread the same old tired ideas. Choosing the realm of dreams meant there were no limits on Nolan’s imagination, the extent of which we can see in the worlds and concepts he has created and explored here. Some people have complained about plot-holes or contradictions, but I was so engrossed by the film that I didn’t notice. Everything from the soundtrack to the special-effects seemed pitch perfect to me, and I found the themes of guilt, memory and the subconscious fascinating (unlike my podcast co-host). Leo continues to impress, as did Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ellen Page. Nolan seems to be a director with the Midas touch and I can’t wait to see what’s next.