New Year is a time to reflect and make lists (especially for Librans). So, Happy New Year, and here are the films I watched in 2010 in alphabetical order. (Not that I watched them in that order, you understand...) FS realtes to the films I saw as part of my membership of Film Society.
1. The Accidental Husband – I got the title confused with Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, which is a witty, amusing satire with spirited dialogue, sexual politics and sympathetic characters. This drab ‘romantic comedy’ has absolutely nothing in common except for the final word of the title. Big mistake.
2. The Baader-Meinhoff Complex – Germans can be very intense and single-minded, as we know. This terrorist organisation planned bombings, kidnappings, robberies and assassinations in the late 1960s and 70s to protest against the new fascism – American capitalism. In this political drama we see how the ends are used to justify the means and how a supposedly secure unit can disintegrate from the inside. And it’s all true.
3. Berlin is in Germany (FS) – No, not a geography lesson, but a history one about a man who goes to prison when Germany is divided in two, and is released after the wall has come down. Adapting to life on the outside is even more difficult when your boundaries have literally been redrawn.
4. Bestseller – A Korean ghost story has all the requisite trappings of a classic horror story but still manages to hold some interest. A writer who may or may not be losing her mind; a silent daughter with an invisible friend; a strange old crone; a decrepit house by a lonely lake surrounded by woods – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, it would seem.
5. Beyond the Darkside (FS) – A selection of short New Zealand films indicates that Kiwis are a little too connected to their environment and they need to stop taking themselves so seriously – themes of murder and bullying and abuse are played out against a bleak, claustrophobic landscape in which it is raining. Not exactly light-hearted...
6. Black Sheep – And so it was done; the Kiwis made a splatter-fest with sheep involved. This is an ovine version of The Birds but not as intense or self-consciously serious. It’s only got one joke and it goes on for a bit too long, but it’s amusing in a woolly sort of way.
7. The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her role in this schmaltzy and non-too realistic (although based on a true story) portrayal of a wealthy WASP momma taking in a big black homeless boy (Quinton Aaron) who can’t read but can play American football like a demon. It’s all very ‘nice’ and predictable but quite touching in parts, despite the heavy-handed ‘we’re all one people’ moments.
8. The Book of Eli – An extremely obvious and predictable parable with no surprises despite some good acting from Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman. It’s very dusty in post-apocalyptic America, but young men are still encouraged to Go West!
9. The Boys are Back – Clive Owen is a favourite of mine and he’s so good I will watch him even in a film about children. When he becomes a single parent in tragic circumstances, Supernanny probably wouldn’t approve of his child rearing methods, but he loves his children and does the best he can. I found my heart warmed and my eyes brimming despite myself.
10. Breathless (FS) – When this Jean-Luc Goddard film came out in 1960 it heralded the New Wave in French cinema and blew everyone away. Clearly times have changed. The story itself (a small-time thug who hangs out with his American girlfriend while on the run from the police) is not as important as the way it is told.
11. Bright Star – This is an utterly beautiful depiction of the three-year romance between Fanny Brawne and John Keats, and the affect it had on their families and friends. Jane Campion’s directorial focus can make anything look attractive, and the bluebell woods are simply divine. It’s heart-stoppingly, desperately romantic – one for the girls, perhaps?
12. The Brothers Grimm – Fairytales are far from cuddly and full of deception and depravity in this fable for grown-ups, starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon. Terry Gilliam’s muddled vision is not quite Pan’s Labyrinth, but it’s a long way from Disney’s sanitised tales.
13. Cemetery Junction – Reading is boring – I could have told you that – but apparently in 1973 it was even more boring. This British comedy about coming of age and discovering sex has a cute (albeit predictable) homily about how much you should escape and how much you should honour your roots – should you ever forget where you came from? It’s an old story, well told with a script by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
14. Cheri – This is a slightly overwrought story of a young man falling in love with an older woman, but it was written by Collette, so what do you expect? Society is scandalised although the ‘older woman’ is the still-gorgeous Michele Pfeiffer, so it really shouldn’t be. Female reviewers like it and males don’t – I guess they don’t appreciate the double standard. Plus ça change...
15. Clash of the Santas – Probably not the best Christmas film ever made, but certainly not the worst either. Robson Green and Mark Benton (among representatives from around the world) battle it out to see who is the best Santa at an international competition in Lithuania. Contests include (frozen) turkey bowling, side-car racing and chimney climbing in a cosy tale that will not cause any problems while digesting the Christmas dinner.
16. Close-Up (FS) – It’s not every day I watch an Iranian film... and on the basis of this one, it will be a long time coming before I watch another one. This is supposedly a film that makes you think about the impossibility of true documentary. I found myself looking at the radiators on the walls and thinking, ‘Oh, so that’s how Iranians heat their houses’... Compelling it wasn’t.
17. Cold Souls – Billed as a ‘weird comedy’, this is really just weird. Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti (although not quite himself) as he searches for his soul in his life and his self. The navel-gazing, self-obsessed, neurotic, whiny, cynical, fed-up, depressed and depressing New York element is funny in a Woody Allen sort of way, if you like that sort of thing.
18. Confessions – This Japanese revenge tragedy was intriguing from beginning to end. No one can be trusted, and the many twists and turns to the narration are explosive. With callous youths and calculating teachers, this film refreshingly subverts the inspirational teacher genre. Brilliantly brutal; please no American remake.
19. Creation – The story of a man’s personal and familial battle – to confirm what he has proven; he must turn his back on all his wife believes. Paul Bettany embodies Charles Darwin’s inner struggle beautifully with nuances of insanity as he wrestles with the big issues.
20. The Damned United – I’ve only ever seen Michael Sheen play Tony Blair, which he does frighteningly convincingly, but he does Brian Clough equally well. With sensitive portrayals of men under pressure, he and Timothy Spall bring Leeds to life – even the American critics loved this film (although they did insist on calling it soccer).