A Bong Joon-ho film is like someone with a poker face who can't stop smiling at the aces he's about to lay down. He's good and can usually conjure some touching human moments, but he takes a little too much pleasure in unfolding his sickeningly devious plots. Mother may be his first movie to break free of the poker hand and play freely. With it, the director proved that, although he has risen to the top of the current wave of South Korean ultra-violent directors (Park Chan-wook, Na Hong-jin), he's more than the sum of his virtuoso tricks and Grand Guignol setpieces (Park may have him bested there, anyway). Devious and disturbing though Mother may be, Bong was unwilling to sacrifice an equally painful examination of the deeper reasons people are driven to violence. In Mother, everyone had a reason to hurt someone else, from the world-weary cops investigating the local retarded boy (the one being accused of a bizarre murder) to the boy's mom, a sweet little neighborhood apothecary. Beyond its insidious central mystery, Mother was the carefully detailed picture of an average woman being driven to an extreme end. Everybody made sacrifices in deciding what is right; Bong would like to remind us that if we have children, our decision may already be made for us.
--from Tiny Mix Tapes' Favorite 25 films of 2010
No one can accuse Darren Aronofsky of being a timid director, and with Black Swan, he delivered a hallucinatory melodrama while maintaining complete control of his craft. Natalie Portman starred as Nina, a dancer whose mind unraveled after she was given a starring role in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Portman was in every scene, and her commanding performance forced audiences to share her anxiety. We grew to care for Nina because those who were supposed to care for her, her director (Vincent Cassel) and mother (Barbara Hershey), couldn't see how their sinister defects casted a psychic toll on the young dancer. Despite strong performances, Black Swan was at its best when Aronofsky's bravado camerawork left a visceral impact. During dance rehearsals and performances, the camera penetrated the company as if it were a fellow member. The special effects, which were subtle and bold in equal measure, became an eye-popping metaphor for Nina's undeveloped sexuality, as well as her eroding sanity. And when Black Swan reached its climax, we were presented with the year's most hauntingly beautiful transformation. Even if Aronofsky's tight rein scarcely offered a moment to breathe, his arresting imagery left us gasping for more.
--from Tiny Mix Tapes' Favorite 25 films of 2010
Tony: Where the hell are we?
Percy: Geographically speaking, in the Northern Hemisphere. Socially, on the margins. And narratively, with some way to go.
It's possible that a second viewing will change my thoughts on this film, but when I saw it in January it blew me away and I loved every moment of it. Granted, had Heath Ledger NOT died during its making the film might have turned out even better, but I felt like Gilliam rose to the challenge of finishing the film without Ledger & succeeded admirably (thanks of course to Depp, Law, and Farrell stepping in to help). So as tempting as it may be to judge a film based on what could have been, I prefer to judge it for what it is...and as it stands I was very pleased & impressed.
Why I haven't seen this on more 2010 best of lists, I have no idea. I much prefer it over 127 Hours. Ryan Reynolds finally proves he can act (and does an excellent & impressive job), the heavy reliance on dialogue to tell the tale allows your imagination to actually work for a change, the suspense works and is sustained throughout, and...well, to say much more might spoil something. Go watch this now.
An excellent look at Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems from a few different angles. James Franco is amazing as Ginsberg, and recitations of the main poem are set to some of the most beautiful and amazing animation I've ever seen. I really enjoyed it & plan on watching it again, though I couldn't help but feel that people with no appreciation of poetry probably wouldn't make it through the entire film (their loss).
It seems the Coen brothers make good movies the way I get up in the morning and take a pee. That is to say habitually, effortlessly, and often with no small amount of urgency and relish. As anyone that's been paying any kind of attention over the last couple decades knows, it's simply what they do. True Grit, of course, is no exception.
Now I've heard from various sources that this is a re-make of an older John Wayne film. And come to think of it, that sounds right. Guess what? I don't care. And neither should most anyone else. I'll admit I haven't seen the original, (both are adapted in one way or another from the original-original source material novel of the same name) but I suspect that anyone trying to compare the two is probably missing the point. By now most would agree that Joel and Ethan Coen have earned the right to breathe new life into whatever they deem fit. They're too passionate about their craft to committ any severe disservice, and too confident to avoid branding any project with their own personal stamp.
In fact, the only fault with True Grit is that it ended too quickly and perhaps maintained too sharp a focus. I suspect most audience members wouldn't have minded meandering through some peripheral (or even completely invented) story a bit; site-seeing a little longer through these gifted film-makers eyes.