Not My Top Ten List
Because I'm not one of those film reviewers who makes a living from my reviews, or even one who gets free passes to movies, I don't see enough movies in any given calendar year to make a relevant Top Ten list. I will feel this lack most keenly this year, when the Motion Picture Academy will announce ten instead of five Best Picture nominees for 2010--the first time the Academy has done this since John Barrymore snatched a bottle out of Jackie Coogan's cradle.
The Academy will issue its nominations in a few days, and so in advance of those announcements I will take the step of naming my own favorite movies released in 2010. After the Golden Globes, it is obvious that the Oscar front runner this year will be The Social Network,a deviously exciting movie enhanced by David Fincher's audacious direction, Aaron Sorkin's scintillating dialogue and superb performances by a gifted young cast. However, I personally found The King's Speech more satisfying, Inception more intriguing, and Winter's Bone a greater work of art. Oh well, not all of us will be happy when that magic phrase, "And the Oscar goes to..." is uttered.
Besides these four movies, my favorites in the past year included The Fighter, The Ghost Writer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, True Grit, Inside Joband Toy Story 3. Movies I liked somewhat less, but still considered considerable achievements, were Blue Valentine, The Secret in Their Eyes, Get Low, Animal Kingdom, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shutter Island, I Am Love, and The Town.
Most critics don't bother having a "Most Overrated" or "Most Underrated" category, because their Ten Best and Ten Worst lists implicitly cover those categories. But again, since I see only the movies I choose to see, I find it instructive--if only for myself--to have those categories. My choice for Most Overrated is Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, intermittently engaging but most often as silly and graceless as Johnny Depp's "Flutterwack" dance. I also was not enchanted by Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. I loved all the performances, but not the screenplay that made Mark Ruffalo's character the whipping boy for Julianne Moore's, and added a blameless Latino gardener as collateral damage. (Not since Steve Buscemi in Ghost World have movie characters received such a raw deal.)
Winner of my Most Underrated prize--an award I'm sure the filmmakers would just as soon forgo--is Raymond De Felitta's City Island, which has received zero Oscar buzz despite a witty screenplay and one of the finest ensemble casts of the year. That Andy Garcia didn't at least rate some award talk for his performance as Vince Rizzo, a corrections officer and aspiring actor who lives his entire life as if he were starring in a Scorsese movie, is rank and festering injustice.
There are plenty of 2010 films that are receiving Oscar buzz that I haven't seen yet: Another Year, Barney's Version, 127 Hours, Rabbit Hole.. I intend to see most or all of them at some point, and when I do, you'll be the first to know. Meanwhile, let's just have fun, as usual, with the awards season, and remember that going home disappointed--whether you're a director, an actor, or just a rank-and-file fan such as myself--is what you should expect. If you do, there's a chance you may be pleasantly surprised.