Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When Photography Means Something

I've mentioned W. Eugene Smith before. There's an award named after him, and it has recently been awarded to Darcy Padilla, for an incredible series of photos taken over almost 18 years. It's a tough, honest, and heartbreaking look at a life that didn't go well.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Movies of 2010

I kind of fell off the wagon partway through the year, not keeping track of every movie I saw because I was so busy working on the novel and living the life of a soccer dad. If I discover any that I missed (and it's likely there are a few foreign movies that have fallen off the radar), I'll add them to this at that time.

Because we subscribed to Zip.ca this past year (a subscription that we have now let drop), I've decided to include older movies seen for the first time in 2010 as well. It's a standard event with me that many films get seen on my home theatre setup instead of on the big screen, and so many films are seen the year after their release, but this time I'm allowing even older ones into the picture (including one that is significantly older, although ironically that is one I saw in the theatre).

I also add the proviso that my life has been disproportionately weighted towards family fare, although as the boys get older that sort of movie becomes less Cats and Dogs 2 (Hurray! I didn't have to see it!) and more action/adventure. You'll be able to sort out which is which as you read the list.

I'm now up to 38 movies in my Blu Ray collection, which last year (mentioned here) was at 29. The new films on that list are: Close Encounters of the Third Kind; Fantastic Mr. Fox; The Hurt Locker; The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann's film); Memento; No Country for Old Men; Ponyo; The Road; Toy Story 3. I'll continue to add to this collection as I find either the right movie or the right screaming deal.

The other two years I looked at the movies can be found in posts here and here. 53 movies were seen this year, and several of those were shorts as a part of an Oscars collection that came to town. That's down from last year, and is indicative of how time seems to shrink when the kids hit a certain age. But enough whining: On with the list!

Appaloosa - From 08, a decent film with a good cast, although it seemed to wander a tad, especially considering its length.

Helvetica - From 07, and interesting documentary about the typeface. Yes, really.

Sharkwater - A disturbing documentary about sharks and how we view, treat and kill them, from 06

Vera Drake - Imelda Staunton is incredible in this 04 film about an abortionist in 1950s Britain.

The Squid and the Whale - From 05, some disturbing family dynamics and some off-putting characters, but still a good movie.

Tsotsi - From 05, this South African movie was a deserving Oscar winner for foreign language film.

*Metropolis - Yes, this was made in 1927. No, I wasn't lucky enough to see the newly-updated version, but the whole family got to go to the Roxy (the finest cinema anywhere near these parts) to watch the movie with live musical accompaniment by members of Saskatoon's symphony orchestra. There was even wine in real wine glasses, which, judging by the number of times we heard them drop and break, was a mistake.

*Sherlock Holmes - Late 09 release, enjoyable enough, but after seeing the new Sherlock TV series, it just doesn't hold a glass to that.

Zombieland - From 09, fun and light fare, but I'm hopeful the zombie thing is slowing down now. Or even stopping.

(Note: From the next one until a film called The New Tenants, these were a part of an in-theatre presentation of Oscar-nominated shorts, both animated and live action. If the film is available online, I've given a link)

*French Roas
t - A funny animated piece about a man in a cafe who forgot his wallet.

*Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
- Another very funny animated piece.

*The Lady and the Reaper - Also very funny, a madcap animated Spanish film about an old woman who does not want the doctor to keep saving her life.

*Logorama - The Oscar winner for animated short, this is a bizarre, profane, and unsettling film set in a world where everything is corporately branded.

*A Matter of Loaf and Death
- (Link to Part 1, with French subtitles) Wallace and Gromit, of course, another fine and fun adventure.

*The Door - (Link to Part 1) A devastating live-action short about a man who has to sneak into an off-limits area to steal an old door.

*Instead of Abracadabra - (Link to Part 1) A funny live-action Swedish film about a bit of a loser who still lives with his parents and wants to be a great magician.

*Kavi - A live-action short about child slavery in India.

*Miracle Fish - A disturbing Australian live-action short about a young boy who wishes everyone in the world would disappear.

*The New Tenants - The Oscar winner for live-action short, this American one I think was a little over the top, and of course was also the one that had the most professional input (including an appearance by Vincent D'Onofrio).

*Shutter Island - Martin Scorsese. Leo DiCaprio. Lord, what a mess.

Primer - A clever low budget science fiction film from 04 that deals quite effectively with time travel and starting a business in your garage.

Paranormal Activity - An interesting enough low budget horror movie that couldn't quite live up to its hype, but good for some chills and thrills nonetheless.

Princess and the Frog - A return for Disney to hand-drawn animation. The movie was fine and enjoyable, but won't ever rank as a classic.

Whip It - Drew Barrymore's roller derby movie. Light and frothy fare, fun to watch.

*How to Train Your Dragon - Enjoyable enough, but not so special to be a top ten moneymaker on the year.

*The Ghost Writer - Just when I was bemoaning the state of movies in 2010, a friend on FB (thanks, Taras!) suggested this movie, which, no matter what you think of Roman Polanski, goes a long way to renew one's faith in the ability of movies to grab and hold you. Absolutely marvelous.

A Serious Man - In which the Coen Brothers kick it down a notch and make sure they don't make a movie with broad appeal. I liked it, yes, but it is definitely a movie that rewards patience.

*The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - The best of the three in the original Swedish. Noomi Rapace is tremendous in this one.

*Date Night - Fun and funny, although with reflection I find that James Franco's character is the one that still sticks with me.

Kick-Ass - Disturbing, funny, and with whole sections that bored me to tears. Like so many movies of this sort, I am no longer the sort of geek ready to give it a free pass.

The A-Team - I watched this on the plane coming home, a bored captive audience. Preposterous and loud. Oh, and also smug.

*Inception - I found this to be very smart and thrilling, and yes, I understood what was happening.

*Scott Pilgrim vs The World - Smart and too cool for school, and just the sort of role that works for Michael Cera's disjointed affect he gives the audience.

*The Last Exorcism - Not what I expected at all, and that's a good thing. I found the characterization of the pastor/exorcist to be very realistic, and a pleasant surprise.

*Let Me In - A rare instance in which the American remake is every bit as good as the foreign original, and in some ways I would venture to say even better. It's a shame this movie didn't catch the public's attention. Go check out this excellent breakdown of what Matt Zoller Seitz calls this movie scene of the year. And if you've seen the movie or Let The Right One In, be patient with his use of the word "father."

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - It's been quite a ride, and I've enjoyed both the books and the movies, feeling they've just gotten better over time.

*True Grit - Wow, what a tremendous film. And there's so much sorrow and loss in this film, something that the Coen Brothers managed to slip by this time.

*The Girl Who Played With Fire - Good, but not as much tension as the first.

*The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest - A bit more tension in this one. I will say that the source material, being in many cases not much more than a tense laundry list, makes it surprising they were able to do as good a job as they did.

500 Days of Summer - I really enjoyed this. Whimsical and sweet and sad and fun, and the song and dance number with the animated bird was a nice touch.

The Damned United - Nice to see an excellent soccer movie, with great acting to boot.

Drag Me to Hell - Sam Raimi returns to his roots with a good old-fashioned horror that makes you laugh as much as you might scream.

The Informant - Matt Damon has a good time going over the top and at the same time makes a somewhat nuts character sympathetic. Not a classic, but enjoyable.

It Might Get Loud - From 08, Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page riff and talk, and it's endlessly fascinating.

Public Enemies - I think of how Bonnie and Clyde was such a shock to the system back in 1968, and how much I admire Michael Mann, and wonder how this movie could have left me feeling so flat.

Micmacs - A fun and whimsical French film about getting even and getting along.

The Good the Bad the Weird - A funny and well-done Korean movie, a Western that takes place in 1940s Manchuria.

*The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 - A so-so thriller remake starring Denzel Washington.

Terminator 4: Salvation - Yee. Why did I bother?

*Babies - A sweet and fun documentary about four babies born at the same time in four very different countries. I was thankful there was no narration.

The Brothers Bloom - From 08, an enjoyable film full of great period anachronisms. The brothers seemed to live in a time bubble, and nobody around them seemed to notice.

Julie and Julia - Great acting from Streep - surprise, surprise - and an enjoyable story arc that results in a movie I quickly forgot.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - Terry Gilliam would have been the only person to be able to work out an answer to the death of his star, Heath Ledger. Mad and entertaining, but sloppy and loose and, in the end, disappointing.

Top Ten? As per last year, keep in mind that I will restrict this to actual 2010 releases, except for foreign releases that were hard to get here. Also, remember that there were all sorts of films I didn't get to see.

1. True Grit
2. Toy Story 3
3. The Ghost Writer
4. Inception
5. Let Me In
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
7. Micmacs
8. The Door
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This list is sorely lacking. I finally saw The King's Speech the other day, and have yet to see Winter's Bone, Black Swan, 127 Hours, Monsters, and so many more. I promise to try harder for 2011!


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