Best and Worst of the Year

2010 was a mixed bag: half of the movies were awful, the other half were mediocre. I couldn’t even chisel out a top ten (I could force myself to compile one, but then I would be more of a disingenuous hack than I already am). The following movies, whether good or bad, were the most eventful of the year. Let’s hope that 2011 compensates for the grotesque ballyhoo of the last twelve months. Below, for your admiration, are the films that you should see or resolve to never see. Enjoy?

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The atmosphere cackles and cracks with quiet despair. Debra Granik directs this impoverished Odyssey with the uncertain treble of a blown out speaker. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) must find her father, who has disappeared at the most inopportune time possible, through channels she has never turned to before. Winter’s Bone is one of the best ensemble pieces of the year, there is no doubt, as each player in the film tunnels into the heart of the frosty Ozarks. As Ree explores the human minefield of this criminal underworld, there is a sense of fragility and terror in each frame. With this performance, Lawrence just etched her name onto the leaderboards of talented actresses everywhere.

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“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is pure joy. The movie is a paintball drumroll across the face of art collectors everywhere. Banksy, one of the most gifted street artists alive, is forever sheathed in fabric and shadows. The English architect’s hooded sweatshirt looks more like a suit of armor than a zip up garment.  Our sardonic ally follows a hapless cameraman as he attempts to become a street art celebrity. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a bombastic hybrid-doc – half Christopher Guest, half authentic examination of street culture. Banksy uses a spray can instead of a paddle to wallop individuals who think they can contain and dilute the unchained nature of urban art.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a party favor popping off on your retinas. I cant think of a film this year that is more fun. I mean fun in the way that you are storming out of the theater like a kid on their last day of school: you have a smile wrapped on your face and a hiccup in your step. Maybe it’s because I’m a cartridge head (when games wouldn’t work, I grew up, like many other aspiring digital Padawans of my age, puffing and blowing on SEGA and Nintendo games like they were cigars or harmonicas). Edgar Wright’s love letter to living beings everywhere is sort of like eating a carton of ice cream for the first time. How do I describe this film? Popped bubblegum and fistfuls of glitter. This movie has it all: the actors are scooting across each frame with the energy of a jackrabbit; the visuals are zipping by with confidence; and the story is padded with enough humor that, after you have been laughing for sometime, your lungs will feel so damaged that you’ll wonder if someone stuffed Pop Rocks in them. Awesome movie. Can I say awesome? Awesome.

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The Social Network is a monochrome place, mechanical and adept, adorned with heady brick buildings and sharp dialogue. David Fincher’s film works because it embraces the sometimes furtive nature of darkness, the unassuming and festering indulgence of modern youth, and how numbers have become razor-edged in digital era. This isn’t the pap piece that Life Magazine wrote about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and instead it choices to tackle the allegedly barbed version of the molar-machinegun, making him out to be a fast talking and ornery Howard Hawks character. “The Social Network” has clever writing and inspired acting (Justin Timberlake is the only fat in this film that needed trimming). The stunning darkness coupled with the most hallucinatory score of the year, courtesy of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, makes Fincher’s film strangely captivating and wholly terrifying.

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It’s hard to call “Blue Valentine” the best movie of the year, but I would feel compelled to reassess myself if I didn’t (I have enough resolutions as it is). The film is horrifically shot, no one would argue, especially since the camera shakes so much it feels like someone is tenderizing it. The close-ups are suffocating and the positioning of the cameras are curiously distracting. With that said, it’s also the most beautifully acted film of the year. The story revolves around a couple whose married life is evaporating like a bead of water on a hot day. There is dialogue here that is brutally honest, acting that is visceral, and some editing that makes your aortas feel like your heart was just ripped from them. Think “Two for the Road” directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. “Blue Valentine” is powerful enough to make you appreciate movies in an otherwise anemic year.

And now…

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“Enter the Void” is like a film directed by Danny Boyle if Danny Boyle had a lobotomy and was then assisted by a salivating Larry Clark. I would rather spend my time filling out CAPTCHAs for two and a half hours than watching this pretentious atrocity.

“Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Other Guys” is one disaster of an entity for me. Will Ferrell and Jack Black flail around, wince and yell like five-year-olds with stubbed toes, and behave like confused silverback guerrillas for two hours. Terrific.
“Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” feels more plastic than a Hasbro factory.  Allegedly a period picture, this movie feels like a community play put on by first time cast.  One of my resolutions after I finished watching this disaster was to repress it forever  – unfortunately it is impossible because it made my worst of list. Way to make me hate life, Mena Suvari.

“Dinner for Schmucks” is Steve Carrell doing his best Jerry Lewis impression in what feels like a two hour episode of “Threes Company”. Look, another misunderstanding brought upon by a vague interaction with someone! Look, a crazy person gets the wrong idea and assails our protagonist! Look, Paul Rudd once again being agitated by someone and yet embracing them by the end of the film! (That last part wasn’t in “Threes Company”, but I digress.)

And there you have it!

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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