I always find it more appropriate to dish out halfway through the year awards in August rather than July for a few reasons. Mainly because January and parts of February rarely have anything to contribute in the realm of quality cinema so the year doesn’t really get started until March. There is also the fact that the months from September to December are usually overflowing with quality films so it is appropriate to allow for some July blockbusters and indies to be considered somewhere.
As is the case every year, I have not seen nearly as many films in 2010 as I wish I had. When 2-3 movies are released every weekend that I want to see I find myself getting behind relatively quickly. However, I am proud of the variety of films that I have seen. I’ve made it out to the art houses to see smaller, independent movies more this year than in the past and as a result my halfway through the year list is more fair and balanced than it could be. So without further ado, here are my picks for the Best (and Worst) of the first part of 2010:
1) The Kids Are All Right
Even when all the fall and winter movies have been released I still think that people will be talking about the performances in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. I wrote in my review that it was sort of the anti-mainstream comedy in that it doesn’t dumb itself down for the audience. I would not be surprised at all if the film scores Oscar nominations in 3 of the 4 acting categories and takes home a trophy or two. [My Full Review]
2) Toy Story 3
For the fourth year in a row a Pixar film will be competing for a top spot in my end of the year awards. One of their films has been in my top 5 in the past 3 years and unless the second half of the year shows some great stuff, it looks like Toy Story 3 could make it 4 in a row. It ranks as one of the funniest films of the year and a great nostalgia trip for fans of the series and anybody who had that special toy growing up. [My Full Review]
3) Winter’s Bone
A new kind of heroine is created in this gritty, neo-realistic film noir from Debra Granik. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as the hardened Dee who acts as a new kind of Philip Marlowe lost in the Ozarks. John Hughes is also fantastic as the unpredictable drug-dealer Teardrop who enters each scene with the same likelihood of killing as saving. Despite the Deus ex machina finale, Winter’s Bone is one of the best suspense movies of the year. [My Full Review]
Christopher Nolan provides the viewer with one of the greatest visceral experiences of the year with Inception. The film’s brilliant story structure will keep the viewer guessing even into the second viewing as Cobb and his team go on one of the most unique cinematic adventures. Inception is head and shoulders above what we normally see during the summer movie season and we have Nolan to thank for that. [My Full Review]
Colin Farrell seems most at home in a film set in his home country and his performance is one of the finest of the year. Neil Jordan’s fantastical story is filled with moments of true beauty including shots of the solemn Irish countryside and a layered father-daughter relationship that will break your heart. [My Full Review]
Honorable Mention: Robin Hood
Best Performance by an Actor
1) Colin Farrell – Ondine
Despite his recent attempts to be an action hero, Colin Farrell is much more suited to the soft, dramatic characters like Syracuse in Ondine. His struggle to regroup his life after a rough divorce and overcoming his drinking problem are amplified by the strange woman that appears in his life, and Farrell perfectly emotes the anguish and inner-goodness of a simple Irish sailor.
2) Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mark Ruffalo in better form than as the sperm-donor father in The Kids Are All Right. He has the right level of smug and caring in a way that’s completely likable from the moment he enters the screen. His character gets sort of forgotten in the film’s final act and any other actor might have caused the audience to write him off as a bad guy, but Ruffalo makes the character so warm and likable that he stays present up to the end.
3) Michael Douglas – Solitary Man
If there is any character that should have been absolutely detestable on screen it is Ben Kalmen from Solitary Man. While his life spirals downwards, Kalmen continues to make bad decisions in a way that makes him seem pitiable. However, Michael Douglas portrays the character with such conviction that pity and dislike are never feelings that crop up.
Honorable Mention: Leonardo DiCaprio – Shutter Island
Best Performance by an Actress
1) Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko’s film has somewhat of a monopoly on the performances of the year, with good reason. No person shines in that film brighter than Annette Bening whose character is having everything she has worked to build taken away from her by the appearance of the biological father. Bening is, for lack of a better term, emasculated by Ruffalo’s appearance on screen and her neurotic attempts to regain control are presented with pitch-perfect effectiveness.
2) Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore brilliantly contrasts the controlling Bening with her immature, dreamer side of the couple. There is a childlike quality to Moore’s performance as her character still seems to be searching for herself while in her 40s. Moore also has some of the best comic timing and her interactions with Ruffalo make for some of the funniest moments of the year.
3) Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
Jennifer Lawrence is this year’s Gabourey Sidibe in that she is a newcomer who puts forth an emotionally suppressed performance to create a new type of screen heroine. Lawrence’s character is constantly searching for a method to escape her circumstances, but she is weighed down with a sense of duty to her siblings. Without fully knowing her past it is apparent that Lawrence has been lied to and cheated as she doesn’t trust even the kindest strangers.
Honorable Mention: Mia Wasikowska – The Kids Are All Right
1) Jonah Hex
2) Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
3) The Wolfman
Honorable Mention: Valentine’s Day
Share your top 5s in the comments!