Tuesday, January 4, 2011


In the past year, I saw roughly about 104 films in a theater and while sitting in the dark, I have witnessed the following: a tough bisexual chick with a mohawk and a very large tattoo, an anti-social computer nerd, imaginary worlds inside imaginary worlds, remakes of international films, remakes of Hollywood films, film versions of television programs, films inspired by a true story, films set in Boston, lesbian mothers, gritty cowboys, unbalanced ballerinas, animated animals seemingly jumping off of the screen and of course, lots of sequels. 

Hollywood, as it has always done, has stuck with the tried and true with the least amount of risk as possible but fresh and creative managed to sneak in from time to time. This was certainly a wild and weird but fascinating mix of cinema which I enjoyed very much (except for those 3D cartoon animals flying at my face which is a fairly disturbing trend).

There are still a few films that I haven't seen yet, such as "The King's Speech", "Another Year" "127 Hours" and "Blue Valentine" that could have possibly made this list but I think this is still a fairly complete and accurate review of the movies that have made me laugh, made me cry and made me simply very happy over the past year:


It took over five years for actor Mark Wahlberg to bring to the screen "The Fighter", the true life story of boxer Micky "Irish" Ward but it was very well worth the wait. David O. Russell brilliantly directs this story of Ward who boxes to help support his family but he wants to do it on his terms despite living in the shadow of his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund who had a promising boxing career but lost it all due to his addiction to crack and trouble with the law. Christian Bale gives an amazing performance as Eklund plus very nice turns by Amy Adams as Micky's salty but sweet girlfriend and Melissa Leo as the tough mama of the brothers who is more interested in arranging Micky's fights than being his mother.


The well-deserved accolades keep piling up for "The Social Network". This masterful film by David Fincher in this story about whether it was college student, Mark Zuckerberg's (Jesse Eisenberg) own idea to create a website for fellow students to communicate with each other which later evolved in to this very lucrative global sensation or did he actually steal the idea from other individuals and cheated them out of their rightful part of the Facebook revolution? With a solid script by Aaron Sorkin, this film has also brought to Hollywood's attention such talented new young actors as Rooney Mara, Arnie Hammer, Andrew Garfield, Max Mingella and Justin Timberlake (!) that I'm very sure we will be seeing much more of them in the future.


Despite whatever you may think about director, Roman Polanski personally, as a film maker, he is still at the top of his game. His latest film, "The Ghost Writer" is a tense political thriller about a writer (Ewan McGregor) assigned to complete the memoirs of a former Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) after the previous writer has died under mysterious circumstances. A terrific film full of suspense and intrigue with great performances by Mr. Brosnan and Olivia Williams as the puzzling wife of the Prime Minister.


In "The Kids Are All Right", Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play the lesbian parents of their two children who decide to seek out their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo) which only complicates and disturbs this family. Lisa Cholodenko co-wrote and directed this warm, funny and very moving film which features a sensational performance from Ms Bening who should finally get that Oscar that she has been previously robbed.


Iconic French director, Claire Denis and legendary French actress, Isabelle Huppert have teamed up to make "White Material". This beautifully poetic film about a coffee plantation owner in an unnamed country in Africa who refuses to leave even though the country is in the middle of a civil war with the rebel soldiers quickly approaching. Ms Huppert, as usual, is electrifying and you cannot take your eyes off of her.    


In a breakthrough performance, Jennifer Lawrence plays a poor seventeen year old, living in the Ozarks, caring for her incapacitated mother and two younger siblings. She is in a desperate search to find her meth dealing father who put their home up as his bail bond or else the family will end up losing it. We are taken into a world that is bleak, dangerous and terrifying but is powerfully moving movie. "Winter's Bone" is a quiet and very natural feeling film that you should definitely check out.


I didn't know what to expect from this little Australian film but I was completely blown away by "Animal Kingdom". This story of a family of criminals that is loosely based on the 1988 Pettingill case in Melbourne. This confident debut film from David Michod is filled with unexpected twists, shocking turns and superb performances, most notably by Jacki Weaver who plays the mother with a sunny exterior but a very dark interior.


Ben Affleck returns to the director's chair for the second time with "The Town",  a taunt, well-crafted crime thriller. It certainly proves that Mr. Affleck's 2007 first first, "Gone Baby Gone" was no fluke. Set in Boston, the story of four life-long friends who also happen to be bank robbers make the mistake of taking a hostage (Rebecca Hall) and one of the robbers (Affleck) winds up falling in love with her. This brings the gang some unwanted attention from the F.B.I. A great cast that include Chris Cooper, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner.


The only thing these documentaries have in common is that I loved them all. "Exit" is a fascinating (but questionable) film about photographer, Thierry Guetta who documents his life and becomes obsessed with street art, "A Piece Of Work" follows veteran comedian, Joan Rivers as she struggles to remind people that she is still funny and "The Radiant Child" features filmmaker, Tamara Davis's lost interview with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that she builds a touching remembrance around on his life and work.


The three Swedish-language films, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" are based on the best-selling books by the late Stieg Larsson. Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a troubled computer hacker who teams up with magazine reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to solve a mystery involving a corrupt industrialist that include sex, drugs and murder. The strongest film of the group is "Dragon Tattoo" but they are all well done and entertaining and although these films are currently getting the Hollywood treatment, I highly recommend you see these original films first.