MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Sundance, Top Tens and Critics Groups. Oh. My.

2010 is a wrap, 2011 is here, but for most of us who write in this industry, until we get past February it’s all about Sundance and Oscar. The publicist letters about Sundance slates start hitting inboxes during the Winter Break (I send them straight to the “Sundance” file until after the new year, because I am getting old and grumpy and more hardcore about guarding family time these days) and don’t stop coming until about midway through the fest.

And of course, because the Academy has a twisted sense of humor, Oscar nominees are announced at the asscrack of dawn during Sundance, when everyone is running around Park City trying not to slip on the ice and break anything or freeze to death at a shuttle stop. Or both.

Before we descend into all that madness, though, it seems apropos to sit back and look at how the top tens and critics’ group awards are shaping up this year. One of my critics’ groups, the Online Film Critics Society (which sounds much more hoity-toity than what it really is, which is mostly a bunch of film journalists and critics busting their asses all year to garner enough freelance work to keep the internet turned on), just announced its year-end awards, and I can’t say I’m either surprised or particularly happy to see we awarded The Social Network Best Picture (and when I say “we” I mean, pretty much everyone else but me, I am very much in the minority on this one). But my vote was only one among many, and I have to respect that clearly, a lot of my colleagues think Fincher hung the moon with this film. Whereas I see it more as him maybe hanging up a glitzy neon sign of the moon.

I know, I know. It’s tops on almost every top ten list except mine. It’s winning critics’ group awards right and left. It’s chances for winning Oscar appear good — though I agree with David that it is far from the lock people seem to assume. Social Network reflects the cultural zeitgeist (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself there), yes, but it’s the cultural zeitgeist, for the most part, of people who are, say, 40 and younger. Not that older people don’t use Facebook (or at least play Farmville an awful lot), but the way that Facebook has shaped the very way we communicate with each other has impacted younger people more than the senior set. And there are still a lot of older folks in the Academy who may not be quite as in love with Social Network as the voices dominating the internet conversation about the Oscar race. So we’ll see.

I was glad to see Never Let Me Go top David’s Top Ten list. I went back and forth over that film … it moved me deeply when I saw it at TIFF, and I still think Andrew Garfield is far more deserving of an Oscar nod for his performance in that film than Social Network. But Social Network has everyone’s attention, and Never Let Me Go came and went quietly, with little fanfare, which makes me kind of sad because it is a beautiful, tragic film, and one of the few I will revisit (the book, by the way, would be #1 on my book list for 2010).

My own top ten list this year had a lot of downer films on it, and I wonder how much of that has to do with me feeling very reflective about my life over the past couple years. Certainly Biutiful — although I think it stands on its own merits as both Innaritu’s best film and Javier Bardem’s most complex, challenging performance — ripped my guts out in part because of my own illness last year. Another Year, apart from being one of Mike Leigh’s best efforts and it’s outstanding performances, rings true in its depiction of loneliness and aging and life choices, and how one person’s life can seem so easy while another person’s seems so hard. Black Swan is tragic but simply brilliant, and while I respect the right of others to find it unbearably pretentious, I cannot see what you see in it if you feel that way, so we will have to politely agree to disagree. I saw it again this weekend, and now I want to see it yet again. There are so many layers to this film, it’s complex and beautiful and challenging.

Upon reflection though … there’s not really an “upper” or purely entertaining film on my list — even Inception, the most mainstream of the lot, delves into death and guilt and darkness. Which either makes me a candidate for the Sylvia Plath Award for depressing top ten lists, or perhaps just means that matters of life and death and philosophical ponderings have weighed heavily on me this year, and my list reflects this.

When people who know what I do for a living ask me what current movies I’d recommend, they almost always append that request with, “But not anything depressing!” or “Something entertaining, not too artsy.” Which is not what my personal taste in films tends to run toward, but okay.

In that spirit, I offer those of you who find depressing films too … well, depressing, my Top Ten Uplifting Films of 2010. Films you could take your mom to, even if she loves soap operas or Lifetime movies. Films that are enjoyable to spend your time with, even if I don’t think they’re necessarily the best films of the year (though these is some overlap with my Top Ten Features and Top Ten Docs). There’s not a depressing one in the lot. And yes, The Social Network is on this one.

Top Ten Uplifting Films of 2010

1. Toy Story 3
2. The Social Network
3. Exit Through the Gift Shop
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
5. Kick-Ass
6. Get Low
7. The Fighter
8. Made in Dagenham
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1
10. Knight and Day (Yes, yes, it’s completely ridiculous. But I liked it.)

There you go. Ten films from 2010 that, while not perhaps my favorite artistically, I thought were fun to watch, and I wouldn’t have been irritated at spending my hard-earned cash to see them. Maybe you’ve enjoyed some of them, maybe you’d have a better list. Feel free to share what your own favorite movies of the year were in the comment.

2 Responses to “Sundance, Top Tens and Critics Groups. Oh. My.”

  1. press says:

    My list Top Films
    1 .The Social Network
    2.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1
    3. Toy Story 3

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg