300: Rise of an Empire
In comparison with "300", this insane film is more engaging by dint of being absolutely impossible to take even a little bit seriously.
Things in movies that made me feel as if my head would explode, in joy or disgust or both, during 2010.
Shot of the year: That's part of it, up there. "Sweetgrass" (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash)
Most astounding shot: A slow zoom-in on a mountainside that outdoes the opening of Werner Herzog's "Aguirre, the Wrath of God": "Sweetgrass"
Best credits sequence: "Mother"
Best voiceover cameo: J.K. Simmons, "True Grit" (as Mattie Ross's lawyer)
(Notice how the brother/guitarist stays in frame, bouncing from one side to the other, in the last four shots... Makes it even stranger/funnier.)
Most accurate subjective depiction of a hallucinogenic experience (complete with lapses of consciousness and situational awareness): "Enter the Void"
Best homage to "Night of the Hunter": The snake-poisoned night ride on Little Blackie: "True Grit."
Best film about sociopathy/psychopathy/violence in a very, very crowded field: "The Killer Inside Me."
Worst performance as a con artist: Jim Carrey, "I Love You Phillip Morris." Carrey telegraphs the inauthenticity of his every emotion, as he always has. Problem is, that makes him a terrible con man (nobody would believe this guy), although he's supposed to be a good one. Ewan McGregor, however, inhabits his character completely, without commenting on his own performance.
Best score based on American folk songs/hymns ("Rally 'Round the Flag," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"): Carter Burwell, "True Grit"
Best explanation of how music works in movies: Olivier Assayas: "I tried period music, I tried everything, it's just that the film kind of rejected it. I had no idea what kind of music I was going to use, I had no preconception. All my initial choices were wrong, so at one point, I was nowhere and (thought) maybe the film didn't want any music, but still, at some point, I just looked into my music library and just copied like 50 tracks, and thought, 'I will do it via a process of trial and error,' and somehow, luckily, I for some reason I tried this track by the Feelies at the beginning of the film, and all of a sudden it worked. It was like magical. All of a sudden you just have stuff that doesn't work, that seems completely redundant and boring or with the wrong energy and all of a sudden, you have this music that lifts the whole thing up and you're like, 'Wow,' so that was the starting point. Once I had the first Feelies track, I sort of understood the energy the film wanted and needed, so I knew which direction to go, so I started using pop songs, I started using post-punk like Wire even though it was much later."
Best sheep (singular): You know the one. "Sweetgrass" In the film's second long take (right before the title), the movie turns around and sees you. A long shot of a herd is followed by a close-up of an intently chewing animal whose every jaw movement clangs the bell around its neck. And then... there's somebody there. In a movie that's all about the ancient, symbiotic relationships between men and animals, you can never quite look at the sheep the same way from this point onward.
Best flora: The blood-red branches of the deciduous foundation-planting shrubs by the front door of former Prime Minister Adam Lang's beachside house in the otherwise desolate grey/brown winter landscape of "The Ghost Writer."
Scariest performances: John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"; Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"; Niels Arestrup, "A Prophet"; President Richard M. Nixon (as himself on White House tapes), "The Most Dangerous Man in America"
Please Make Her Head Explode Award: Natalie Portman, who manages to maintain the same expression on her face (fear, distress, about-to-cry) up until the last few minutes of "Black Swan" (Darren Aronofsky), when her one-note performance finally becomes a one and one-thirty-second-note performance.
Basil Exposition Award for explaining everything (at least) three times, even when it doesn't matter: "Inception"
Most Tantalizing Trailer:
Most Horrifying Trailer:
(Is there an easy gross-out cliché they forgot to include here, along with the Bob Seger rock 'n' roll song?)
Scott Jordan Harris argues that disabled characters should not be played by able-bodied actors.
Chaz writes to Roger about attending the Oscars without him.
Chaz recalls how much Roger loved the Oscars.
Scout Tafoya's video essay series "The Unloved" reconsiders "Tron: Legacy."