Monday, March 21, 2011

Top 10 Films Released in 2010 #4

4. Summer Wars

Though I am by no means an "Otaku" I do occasionally enjoy the foray into japanese animation. This, of course, includes the wonderful works by ghibli's resident masters Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. There are a few series i also enjoy, though mostly i enjoy feature films. The film in discussion Mamoru Hosada's Summer Wars is up there with the big boys of the genre.

It follows the story of a young naive nerdy japanese boy named keichi and his four day part time job playing the role of the intrepid and wily natsuki's fiance. He comes to meet a rather large and rather offbeat family: The Jinouchi clan. The family has (and is continuing to) gathered to celebrate the 90 year old matriarch's birthday. what ensues is a family drama that is both hilarious and emotionally resonant. this is only half of the plot however, for the other half of the film . THe other half is composed of an all encompassing online social network called oz. Eventually, a sentient AI called love machine is released upon the unsuspecting network and eventually causes a string of events that could lead to severely ruining the world. It sounds more farfetched in description rather than in practice! trust me!

the animation in the 'real world' is effective and clasically styled with some nice moments of animation. visually the world of Oz shines through. It's aesthetically stunning relying on red lining instead of the typical black. The avatar's are marvelously quirky ranging from a killer rabit, a yellow sardonic squirrel, and a magical girl fox.

Honestly, there's more to this movie than what appears at first glance. Hilarious, devastating, heartwarming, action-packed and thrilling. this is not only a must see for any fan of anime, but fans of film itself.

Top 10 movies released in 2010 #3

3. Black Swan

Firstly: this film is NUTS. There were many times during both my first and second viewing of this film where the only thoughts that passed through my head was: "Is this seriously fucking happening." Much like my discussion of Inception I'll try not to give anything away, but I will say that the last 20 minutes of this film were easily the most over the top of the past year in cinema. The plot is straightforward. It follows the journey into insanity of the ballerina Nina Sayers (played wonderfully by the always great Natalie Portman) after aquisition of the role of the swan princess in tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake.

The subtle art direction and costume design really add to the film without being too 'in your face' such as with Alice in Wonderland or other films of the like. The cinematography is equally effective with some splendid handheld moments as well as beautiful close-ups. The editing was also splendidly done, and really helped in the unnerving nature of the film.

What I find so interesting (and slightly humorous about the project) is how dichotomous in nature this film is to Aronofsky's last project The Wrestler. Both films chronicle the struggles of two performers and their subsequent descents into 'oblivion'. One is heartbreaking, the other horrifying. Both: Phenominal.

The performance by Portman is the clear standout, with some people even calling it an 'acting vehicle' for her. I disagree, considering the all around gret performances by the entire cast. Portman still shines naturally, especially in the more heartfelt moments, such as the phonecall to her mother after she gets the part. Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Rider also do very decent jobs in their parts. I will have to say I'm glad that Kunis wasn't nominated as many predicted. She added some nice brevity to the film, but she didn't add up to the 5 women nominated, nor some of the ones who weren't.

All in all this film was explosive, exciting, frightening, and fantastic. This is easily a psychological thriller that will be remembered for years to come.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Top 10 Films Released in 2010 #2

2. Inception

Honestly, I don't know what I can say about this film that hasn't already been said. I'm going to try to avoid any spoilers or even give too much away as far as the 'mystery' surrounding the film is concerned. I'll try to stick to the technical aspects and the like. However, As far as the narrative goes, the thing that truly keeps this film from being a run of the mill sci-fi adventure a la surogates or the upcoming limitless is the relationship between Cobb (di Caprio) and Mal(Marion Cotillard). It's strained and ultimately unreal, but witnessing the pain he feels when he sees her and the desperation in her eyes in two or three choice scenes really gives the film an emotional anchor which adds the depth other sci-fi thrillers are missing.

Technically speaking, this film is THE BEST of 2010. Wally Pfister's cinematography, Lee Smith's editing (flabergastingly snubbed of an oscar nomination), and the sound and production designs are nearly flawless. As well, the visual effects are top notch, endlessly exciting, and always feel real. One thing i truly enjoyed about this film is that it was not film, covered, nor did it really need to rely upon the inclusion of 3d. The stunt crew really deserve some props as well because they were Awesome. I wish I could say it more eloquently, but come on...

Although acting wise it was not the strongest of the year, the cast was still incredibly solid. The standout for me was the always near perfect Marion Cotillard who basically acted circles around the rest of the cast in her small but poignant (and devious) performance. DiCaprio is as the rottentomatoes show called it "on autopilot, it's a perfectly capable autopilot, but nothing special" or thereabouts. it's not a direct quote, but the sentiment is there. The remainder of the cast did a decent job, especially the breakthrough Tom Hardy as the suave brittish Eames.

Another standout from the film besides it's exceptional screenplay and visuals was the addition of Hans Zimmers intense pounding score which powerfully evokes the song of inspiration: Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien".

This may be Chris Nolan's masterpiece, and I(like many others) am excited to see what this soon to be "Master Director" has in store.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top 10 Films Released in 2010 #1

I'm Doing this in order from best onward
1. Never Let Me Go

Honestly, I was skeptikal when I first started watching this film. I had recently read the book and fallen in love with it's muted and dismal story telling, oddly life affirming messages, and exceptionally written characters. Although I felt that the exposition was much stronger in the novel (a natural occurence in adaptations), but the film delivered on the devastation ten-fold. There is a desperation that the actors bring to the film which the novel couldn't do with just words alone. I think the best example of this is the scene in the diner at the Norfolk cost. The characters rod and krissy are discussing the topic of defferals with the three main characters: Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. The magnitude of the situation comes across much more in the film because of the two actors sad and eager faces which in the book only felt conversational. That being said the book is phenominal, and the film compliments it well. This is one of the rare cases where I think that the film is on par with its source material, mainly because one has what the other lacks.

Technically speaking the film is really well done. The Art Direction is fantastic. There is an austere dilapidation to all the buildings, such as Hailsham, the bording school, or the cottages where the characters venture to after their stays at said school. Where the craft portion of the film really shines is the cinematography. It really conveys a stark darkness throughout the film, even in the brightest of places. The only exception is the fields of hailsham which feel bright and safe and brimming with a strange childlike wonderment which works for that portion of the film.

The Adaptation is really well done as well. The plot (which follows the lives of 3 young children in their journey into adulthood where they learn that they are clones whose sole purpose in life is to have their organs harvested) has very few minor changes from the novel, and none of them are really jarring.

Where this film shines the most (other than Ishiguro(the novelist)'s narrative) is the performances by the three principals. Although Andrew Garfield(Tommy) does a nice job, the film truly belongs to Carey Mulligan(Kathy) and Keira Knightly(Ruth). I was pleansantly suprised to see the amount of subtlety in Mulligans performance after the powerhouse one in An Education(for which she was robbed of an oscar). Knightly, as always, gives a great performance, and hers is the most forward of the three. Honestly, I wish she would have been nominated and won the oscar for best supporting actress, she was really that good.

All in all this movie is fantastic, and has secured a place as my number four favorite film of all time.