The O&T Best Of 2010 lists are landing.
OK, so it’s mid-January 2011 at this point, but last year produced a bumper crop of high quality films and records, and it would be a disservice to the works in question to compile said lists without a lot of prior thought. For general information, this list (and the albums one to follow) considers everything that was released in the UK in the calendar year of 2010 AD. I don’t vote in awards ceremonies – or at least I haven’t been asked to yet – so I don’t follow the thinking which dictates any films nominated for the 2010 Oscars are ineligible. Hope this is clear.
Additional note: O&T also likes to wait until the year in question has actually finished before deciding what was the best of the last 12 months, unlike many other media outlets.
In at five, with a glorious disrespect for authority and innumerable piercings, it’s Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Now, this may have 2009 listed on its IMDb page, but the first instalment of the Millennium trilogy was released in March 2010 in the UK. I realise that this may instantly cause timeframe-related grumbles, but I refer you to the above text detailing eligibility rules for any questions. This shall be the final mention of them.
The story of Lisbeth Salander, in the course of a single year, has attracted an almost Potter-like following, both in novel and film format. The first part of Oplev’s trilogy – based on Stieg Larsson’s book series – is a searing, merciless crime procedural thriller. Bursting with breathless set-pieces, marvellous performances and genuinely harrowing sequences, it delivers the kind of no-holds-barred cinema we’ve come to expect from the Swedes since Tomas Alfredson’s masterpiece Let The Right One In. Foreign-language thrillers sometimes don’t hold up in the face of English-speaking audiences, but despite the film’s imminent Americanisation, the subtitles don’t slow you down. Noomi Rapace’s hacker Lisbeth and Michael Nyqvist’s meddling journalist Mikael Blomqvist are magnetic screen creations; Rapace, especially, is fantastic in a role demanding fury, despair and intelligence in equal measure. It’s a really tough movie to watch in places, but grips in the opening minutes and doesn’t let go.
At four: or is it really at four, what’s really going on here – it’s Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island.
Two movies featured Leonardo DiCaprio this year. One handled the very fabric of reality, the difference between our world and that of dreams, the tangibility of the human mind and the deep subconscious. And so did the other one.
Yet despite all the praise lavished upon Inception, it’s Shutter Island which delivers the superior DiCaprio performance; in many ways, that alone makes Scorsese’s film one of the best this year. Leo’s troubled US Marshal Teddy Daniels, investigating a disappearance on an island asylum with loveable partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), is a deeply flawed protagonist, grappling with grim memories of wartime service and twisted dreams about his family. DiCaprio is phenomenal, and the plot twists more than a Chinese burn, making for a hugely intriguing, wonderfully shot mystery movie which both pays homage to B-movies and surpasses them in every aspect. The more I think about Shutter Island, the more I like it. The more I think about Inception, the more I dislike it.
So if I was to only going to watch one film released this year about the subconscious, made by a directorial wizard and starring DiCaprio, this is the one I’d choose.
A johnny-come-lately at number three. Praying its way onto the podium, it’s Xaiver Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men.
No film was more of a surprise to me than Of Gods and Men, and I mean that in the best possible way. The story of conflicted French monks trapped by conflict in a mountaintop Algerian monastery, Beauvois’ film is incredibly powerful, marvellously cast and beautifully composed. Its two virtuoso sequences are a real joy to watch, and the on-screen debates about the meaning and logic of religion are unapologetically intelligent and pose some of the most fundamental questions possible about what it is to believe. The cast of relative unknowns are superb to a man, each fully inhabiting his character, which makes the lengthy debate scenes all the more mesmerising. I connected with Of Gods and Men as I have with very few films in recent memory, and the facility with which it engrossed me was almost impossibly brilliant. A real opus.
Holding the silver medal aloft while serving a lengthy spell in the joint, it’s Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète.
Another film generally placed in the 2009 film year, Jacques Audiard’s film about a young inmate’s journey from the base of the prison foodchain to its summit works like a kind of twisted biopic. Tahar Rahim’s magnificent performance as Malik El Djebena marked him as a talent to watch, and the praise thrown his way was richly deserved. The scene which sticks in most minds – where Malik kills a fellow inmate with a razorblade he hides in his mouth – is brilliant and brutal, but the shootout in the film’s final reel is every bit as thrilling and showcases Audiard’s talent for directing action scenes matches his skill with the slower, dialogue-driven ones. Most of the film acts as a sort of prison seismology chart, as various entities shift and shuffle within its hierarchy, whether it’s El Djebena or the crew of Corsicans led by Niels Alestrup’s Luciani. The prison is suitably ghastly, all block concrete and grey cell walls, and the flashes of brutality which punctuate the film spray stains of crisply captured claret over this colourless backdrop. A terrific character study, and unmatched by any other thriller this year, Un Prophète could, and should, enter the canon of great French films.
(no original review posted)
Jerking tears, shedding youth and bidding farewell at number one: Toy Story 3.
Although this selection may not come as a great shock to anybody, there is (and always has been) only one choice for the best film of 2010. What to say that hasn’t already been said? The final instalment of the incredible Toy Story trilogy is a masterpiece by any yardstick I can see fit to measure it with. As everyone expected, it’s a magnificent visual achievement, and is sure to entertain any child with a smidgen of imagination, but what makes Pixar’s film so special is the depth of emotional drama, the poignancy of the messages within it, and the glorious ability of this film to make pretty much everyone choke back a few tears. While it may seem initially like another jovial jape with Woody, Buzz et al, this is by far the most serious of the trio; its central themes are abandonment, rejection and the inherent tragedies of growing up, the time where every person realises it’s time to put the toys away. Every second of the group’s journey back to Andy, despite being filled with dozens of brilliantly conceived gags, is laced with the tragic undercurrent of Andy’s growing up. The comedy is wonderful, the voice acting terrific, and the emotional drama is second-to-none. Better than anything else released this year, and the gap, I believe, is wide.