Best Picture: While The Artist is this year’s clear frontrunner with big wins at the Golden Globes and Producer’s Guild Awards, The Descendants and The Help are close on its heals. If this were a year with five nominations Midnight in Paris and War Horse would round the pack. But this isn’t a five-film year, nor is it a ten. Rather than explain the complicated, new system, just note that there could as many ten or as few as five films nominated pending on the number of votes a film receives. The totally will likely be around seven or eight with the sheer number of worthy-contenders. Odds favor darker dramas (like our pick for best film of the year, The Tree of Life) over an already largely comedic selection of sure-bets. Continue reading
1. The Tree of Life– Terrence Malick’s epic tone poem weaves in and out of the life of a typical American family in 1950s Texas, zig-zagging between the creation of the universe and the afterlife in the process. By placing the location of his own childhood at the center of these celestial events, he puts a very personal spin on his warring perceptions of creation; the way of nature and the way of grace. As his camera weaves in and out of the O’Brien family’s lives (a three son household run by Brad Pitt’s nature and Jessica Chastain’s grace), the element of visual improvisation makes their everyday life and afterlife beautiful. Even if you hated it, you’ll never forget it. Read our review.
2. Certified Copy- Unexpected in every way, the romance film by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami follows two strangers as they meet up in Tuscany one afternoon and divulge into their passionate opinions on art, originality, philosophy and love. Over the course of a single afternoon, their relationship takes twists and turns, leaving the audience in awe of the puzzle laid out before them and clinging to the aesthetic beauty of its settings and characters to reveal clues. Sophisticated filmmaking technique brilliantly interlaces heavy academic, multilingual conversation with a flowing narrative to sculpt this as one of the most unique and thought-provoking films of the year. Read our review.
Debatable, one of our newest series piloted earlier this year with a discussion on video-on-the-go, pins CyniCritics contributors together to tackle big picture movie-related topics through back-and-forth dialogue. The latest prompt asks editors if general movie audiences dislike art movies and if so, why.
Matt: I don’t think the “general public” is opposed to art movies in general. It’s mostly about distribution and marketing. The biggest marketing tool for successful art movies is the Academy Awards. However, the taste of Oscar voters leaves out many films that don’t fit into a specific mold or go too far away from narrative convention. That taste then translates to the public, who has limited choice and is more likely to look for stars or be influenced by a memorable trailer.
Luke: I think you bring up an interesting point with the Academy Awards as a marketing tool. There are countless art movies released in the year that find little commercial success until the holiday and awards season. Once the Academy, critics and marketing push a handful of “must-see” films, they start making a lot of money at the theaters because audiences feel these are good films they shouldn’t miss out on. No one would have seen Slumdog Millionaire without the buzz. Nominations and such also translate into good DVD rentals, which explains why Netflix’s top 10 rented movies are mostly Best Picture nominated films. Before then, people just don’t know what is good or don’t know how to find what is good and are too afraid to take a chance. This might explain why it’s easier to go see Mission: Impossible over Hugo. Continue reading
Communication and identity were big themes in 2010 (and every other year), right alongside isolationism on top and kids (and their toys) growing up to mounting uncertainty. The films, as they always do, reflect that. The best ones had none of the problems that their characters often face, and though there are thousands of tireless idiosyncrasies among this year’s releases, it’s the bigger connections that are important, and we’ve left one out. All of the films on this list are wonderful, if each in their own way. So here’s a toast to the great, the weird, the insightful, the funny, and the heartbreaking, and here’s hoping Transformers 3 doesn’t prevent 2011 from being just as good if not better.
1. Black Swan- Taking lessons from classics like The Red Shoes and Repulsion and then adding in more frantic body horror, Darren Aronofsky has us follow Nina the ballerina on her nightmarish journey toward perfection in her preparation for the leads in Swan Lake. In this unlikely companion piece to 2008’s The Wrestler, we dive deeper into the depths of an athlete’s mind and body at war with itself while Nina tries to find her inner dark side to play the Black Swan. The battle is projected onto the environment with hallucinations and onto Nina’s weary body in the form of scratches, bruises, and emerging feathers. Aronofsky himself wages a successful battle between perfect technique and dark, brooding instinct. He, along with a never-better Natalie Portman, creates a new masterpiece full of feverish dance sequences, controlling mothers, and fierce competition for his catalog. Like his protagonist, he flies past the competition and lands atop the pile of 2010’s best films. Read Full Review Continue reading