Ten for ’10

From Facebook to talking toys, ‘Post’ film guru Hannah Brown presents her take on the top films of the past year.

The Social Network 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Social Network 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
2010 was the year that moviegoers turned on (their computers) and tuned out the movies. That the biggest critical hit of the year was David Fincher’s The Social Network, an account of the creation of Facebook, is a reflection of the fact that many of us are more eager to log on to our computers than to head out to the multiplex these days.
The Social Network is a wonderful film about how technology shapes our lives, with rapid-fire dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, the man who gave us the TV series, West Wing. But this film about the world’s youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, and the lawsuits that were the one wrinkle in his otherwise meteoric rise, lacks a certain drama. For it to dominate the awards season – it has won virtually every US critics’ award – so completely shows that it was a weak year.
Several other films that received critical praise, mainly for their acting, have not yet opened in Israel, which is frustrating.
These include The King’s Speech with Colin Firth as a monarch with a stuttering problem; Black Swan starring Natalie Portman in a psychologically charged thriller with a ballet setting; the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake with Jeff Bridges; Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which features James Franco as a mountain-climber who gets trapped; and The Fighter, with Mark Wahlberg as a boxer. The Fighter is opening here this week, the rest over the next few months.
But many of the movies that did arrive here were disappointing. Although there were high hopes for Martin Scorsese’s retro thriller Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it was ultimately an empty exercise with little suspense, the most memorable aspect of which was DiCaprio’s Hawaiian-style tie. Christopher Nolan’s Inception, one of the year’s big hits, also starred DiCaprio and was praised for its supposed complexity. But it’s an inane and convoluted story about “dream engineers.”
A parody by the comedy group College Humor was funnier than any comedy film this year and you will appreciate it if you actually sat through the ponderous boredom of Inception. Check it out at www.collegehumor.com. Hey, there’s that Internet again, sneaking into a discussion of the movies.
Israeli films had an up-and-down year.
Hopes were high when Israel garnered its third Oscar nomination in a row, this time for Ajami, but the film did not bring home the gold. Avi Nesher’s The Matchmaker charmed local viewers (as well as audiences abroad) but due to local film-industry politics, will not represent Israel at this year’s Oscars. The one huge hit on the local scene was the (very) broad comedy, -, scripted by the writers of the popular sketch comedy show, Eretz Nehederet and starring the cast of that show. It broke box-office records and sold a half-million tickets. It won’t win any prizes abroad, but obviously it struck a chord here.
IT’S ALWAYS difficult compiling a year-end 10 Best List in Israel because most of the movies topping the critics’ lists and awards in the US have not yet been released here. To balance that, I’ve included a few films on my list that hit Israeli theaters in 2010, but were eligible for Oscars last year because they came out in America in late 2009. A few of these films were only shown briefly in theaters here, and others went from film festivals to DVDs pretty quickly, but that is a reflection more of the sometimes inexplicable distribution industry than on their quality. So here, roughly in the order of release, are my 10 Best:
1. Up in the Air – No one could make alienation as much fun as George Clooney does in this bittersweet drama about a man who flies all over the US to fire people for corporations. He may be the last real movie star left.
2. (500) Days of Summer – An incredibly charming film about two 20-somethings in and out of love, it proved that you can make a funny and sophisticated film about romance.
3. The Hurt Locker – This moving drama about US troops in Iraq won the Best Picture Oscar, beating out director Kathryn Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron’s big-budget extravaganza, Avatar.
4. The Matchmaker – Avi Nesher’s story of a Haifa teen in 1968 who works for a mysterious matchmaker is the only Israeli film on the list. It won raves around the world, at the Toronto International Film Festival and others. Like most of the movies on this list, it’s now on DVD.
5. Toy Story 3 – Although I thought this film was wonderful, I don’t agree that it was better than the first two installments in the series.
6. The Kids are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko made a very funny contemporary comedy of manners about a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their kids and their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).
7. Please Give – Another quirky independent director, Nicole Holofcener, examines yuppie angst in a film that is similar in tone to The Kids Are All Right.
8. Tamara Drewe – Stephen Frears directed this genial British comedy about an ugly-duckling turned swan who returns to her hometown.
9. The Tree – A surprising film from Julie Bertucelli starring Charlotte Gainsbourg as a young Australian widow raising her children alone.
10. The Social Network – Status Update: The year’s hottest movie.
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