The Best of 2010
There isn’t much point in giving a preface before listing out the ten best films of the year. You know what its about and how it works. So lets get on with it. The only disclaimer is that I can only make a list out of the movies that I have seen. So I may have not seen some of the best films (read Black Swan/ The Fighter) of the year because they haven’t been released in India and I couldn’t find a good enough torrent.
1. Social Network
People knew that it was going to be a good movie but few thought that a docu-drama on the life of the socially awkward creator of Facebook would go on to become one of the most successful films of the year. Extremely witty, sharp and smart. These are usually the words used to describe a person, not a film but they fit perfectly to Social Network. The Zuckerberg character, fictional though it may be is one of the most well crafted characters in recent memory. You can identify with his confusion, his motivation but even after the movie gets over, remain as clueless about his intentions as he probably is himself. Its a film not merely about a person but about a generation.
2. Scott Piligrim vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim is from the maker of inventive spoofs like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It gets the energy and zing of a video game in a movie and loads it up with quirky comic book humour and exciting back ground score. This is without a doubt the most entertaining film of the year. Put it in loop motion and get under the quilt. Oh, and remember to get a large tub of pocpcorn before you do that.
A film about growing up and conflicts between the adults and to be adults. Its been called the Indian 400 Blows and a celebration of the rebellious spirit of youth. That’s probably a bit too generous to a movie which has slightly one dimensional characters but it still deserves all the credit for being one of the most sensitive films made in India in a long time. It also has the earthy look of small town India which has rarely ever been seen in the movies since the seventies. Not to forget that it’s the first film of director Vikramaditya Motwane and also has the best soundtrack for a Hindi movie this year.
4. Leaves of Grass
The fact that this movie has one of his best performances by Edward Norton (in the role of identical looking but completely different twins) should be sufficient to carry it to the list of the year’s best. The film unfolds like a typical Coen Brothers’ crime comedy, except that it is made by Tim Blake Nelson and not Coen Brothers. So it is much more affectionate of its characters and devotes time to what they think and not just what they do. It gets you thinking about how much of our life is a result of our choices and how much simply of conditioning and events.
5. The Ghost Writer
I would much rather state that Barack Obama is black than say that Roman Polanski is a class filmmaker but what is really amazing is that at seventy seven years of age, he is still making elegant gripping thrillers like this one. This is a film which does not wander around too much. It does not distract you with action sequences or blowing up buildings. It clues you in with the plot in the first five minutes and then starts working on you slowly, tightening the screws. This is a film equivalent of having a glass of good scotch. It won’t knock you out but leave you admiring the finesse.
The protagonist of Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg is not a very likable guy. He thinks only about himself and is angry because he never made it big. People think that he has decided not to do anything with his life and he is angry with people because they can’t see how much pain he is in. He meets a beautiful, caring and sensitive girl but the film is not about the healing power of love. Its about how people can sometimes get stuck with the problems that they create for themselves in their heads. Ben Stiller plays Greenberg like someone you would know.
Initially I wasn’t too sure about putting this on the list because for all the hype generated by Inception, I’ll remember it as a movie which could have been better than how it turned out. That said, it was certainly one of the most influential and talked about movies of the year and it seems to be a waste that one had to watch the movie again to decipher it and not because it was entertaining.
8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
There are a number of things that this movie pulls off spectacularly not the least of which is an intriguing protagonist, the fascinating Lisbeth Salander. The credit for that of course should truly go to the writer who launched (even though he may not have lived to see it) the massively successful trilogy of books based on the character. But where the film goes beyond is in getting the perfect casting for the role and creating a brutal cold setting which would seem to incubate the kind of evil that is let loose in it. The way the suspense unfolds, specially how an investigation of long buried sins transforms into one with ominous urgency, reminded me of Agatha Christie. A thousand times better than the likes of Salt. No offence to Angelina Jolie.
All right, now I am going to cheat a bit. This is a list of this year’s best movies but I definitely have not seen all the movies released this year which deserve to be on this list and I don’t want to fill it with movies which were not good enough. So instead, I am going to slip in a couple of really good movies that I watched this year even though they had been released much earlier.
9. Lars and the Real Girl
Lars and the Real Girl is a film about a lonely guy who gets home a life size sex doll and treats it like his girl friend. Its not a slapstick comedy though, far from it. It’s a heart warming film about the goodness of human nature. Lars (played endearingly by Ryan Gosling) is a nice, gentle, quiet guy who avoids human contact both of the physical kind and that of the social interaction variety. He goes to work everyday and stays in a garage meters away from his brother and sister in law but keeps to himself with a firm insistence. One fine day he orders the doll off the net and introduces it to everyone as his girlfriend; Bianca. The psychologist says that the cure is to go along with his delusion. The rest of the film is about how the people around him including his family, co workers, neighbours and church members come together to play along in the delusion of treating Bianca as a real person; not in a fake sympathetical manner but with a sincerity and gentleness which comes from their care and affection for Lars, one of their own.
10. Away We Go
It seems almost cruel to end a list of the year’s best without a single romantic movie. So here’s a gem borrowed from 2009. Away We Go is about an unmarried couple in early thirties, about to have a child but clueless about where they are in life. They go hopping cities, visiting friends and family, to decide where they want to settle down, the people they want to live close to. Somewhere along the movie, they find out as we do, that they do not have much support apart from their love for each other and that they don’t really need anything more. A soothing soundtrack by Alexi Murdoch adds to the delight that this movie is.