Every year since writing this Film Diary, I’ve done a summary of “The Best” movies that I saw. Because I don’t only see new films, my list, unlike the typical ones out there, is not just of films released in 2010. In fact, very much the case this year, the older films were typically much better than the newer ones and I have much more to recommend that goes further back in time. I also don’t see “all” of the new films as a professional reviewer/writer does, so it’s hardly an assessment of all of 2010’s output. The other quirk of my doing this is differentiating between Theatrical viewings and DVD/television viewings. This is more a personal quirk than anything.
2010 was a pretty damn weak year in my estimate. As for new films, I’d call the Coen brothers’ Western True Grit my favorite from the new films this year. The others in my list, including Black Swan, Inception, and Toy Story 3, were all good-to-very-good, certainly worth mentioning, worth seeing and will probably be on lots of people’s “Best Movies of 2010″ lists.
But the best film I saw in the cinema this year would have to be Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent science fiction epic Metropolis, which played at the Castro as part of the Silent Film Festival (and then came back and played for another week). The film was recently reconstructed with “lost” footage that was discovered in Buenos Aires, bringing the film closer to its original length and breadth. The footage is notably rough, but this is one of the great movies of all time. It’s truly visionary, vibrant, wild and amazing. While Criterion has cut a DVD of this print, so people can get it from Netflix and see it wherever they live, seeing it on the big screen, with a live accompaniment just cannot be beat.
On DVD, the only two newer films that I enjoyed were A Town Called Panic (2009), a Belgian stop-motion animation feature by Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, which became my son Felix’s favorite movie and Sweetgrass (2009), a ethnographic documentary about sheep herding in Montana. The latter is not something everyone will enjoy as it is slow, has no narration, and did I mention it’s about sheep herding? But it’s a great film, a fascinating approach to documentary and a beauty as well.
A couple of key discoveries for me this year were Doctor X (1932) by director Michael Curtiz. This might be my favorite strange, entertaining discovery of the year. Another utterly amazing film that I’d never seen was The Red Shoes (1948) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, perhaps the greatest Technicolor experience of all time. I also really liked Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), which I had never seen.
Any way you slice it, all of these films are well worth seeing. They were the tops of the many, many films I saw in 2010, and I recommend them all whole-heartedly.
True Grit (2010) dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Black Swan (2010) dir. Darren Aronofsky
Winter’s Bone (2010) dir. Debra Granik
Toy Story 3 (2010) dir. Lee Unkrich
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) dir. Edgar Wright
Inception (2010) dir. Christopher Nolan
The Thing (1982) dir. John Carpenter
Raging Bull (1980) dir. Martin Scorsese
The Sword of Doom (1966) dir. Kihachi Okamoto
Breathless (1960) dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Some Like It Hot (1959) dir. Billy Wilder
Metropolis (1927) dir. Fritz Lang
A Town Called Panic (2009) dir. Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar
Sweetgrass (2009) dir. Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor
The Grifters (1990) dir. Stephen Frears
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) dir. Wes Craven
House (1977) dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
It’s Alive (1974) dir. Larry Cohen
The Harder They Come (1972) dir. Perry Henzell
Spider Baby (1964) dir. Jack Hill
Onibaba (1964) dir. Kaneto Shindô
L’Avventura (1960) dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
Rio Bravo (1959) dir. Howard Hawks
The Red Shoes (1948) dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Detour (1945) dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
To Have and Have Not (1944) dir. Howard Hawks
The Seventh Victim (1943) dir. Mark Robson
Doctor X (1932) dir. Michael Curtiz
Animal Crackers (1930) dir. Victor Heerman