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Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Scanners' Exploding Head Awards 2010

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)

Best opening shot: "Mother" (2010) by Bong Joon-ho

Best final shot: The terrifyingly comedic/nihilistic ending of "The Ghost Writer" (Roman Polanski). It all comes down to this: meaningless chaos, scattered and swirling in the wind...

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 movie-star shot: The one on the Staten Island Ferry that glides up behind Angelina Jolie and turns into a magnificent profile close-up. "Salt" (Phillip Noyce)

Best ensemble: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska (!!!), Josh Hutcherson. "The Kids are All Right" (Lisa Cholodenko)

Gaudiest credits sequence: "Enter the Void" (Gaspar Noe). Of course, just because it's flashy and unwatchable doesn't make it any good. (See Budd Uglly Design.)

Best credits sequence: "Mother"

Best love scene: "The Killer Inside Me" (Michael Winterbottom). Also a harrowing death sentence: "I love you. Goodbye."

Best arguments for remakes: "Let Me In" (Matt Reeves), "True Grit" (2010) by Joel and Ethan Coen

Real or Not Real? It's all very coy, but who cares?: "Exit Through the Gift Shop," "I'm Still Here," "Catfish," etc., etc., etc.

Best voiceover cameo: J.K. Simmons, "True Grit" (as Mattie Ross's lawyer)

Best dance: (tie) Kim Hye-ja, "Mother"; the sisters in "Dogtooth"

(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.

Garret Dillahunt Award: Garret Dillahunt, "Winter's Bone." Any movie is immeasurably improved by the presence of Garret Dillahunt in it. Or Harris Yulin.

Rebecca Hall Award: Rebecca Hall, "Please Give," "The Town." I'd watch her anywhere, anytime.

Best original musical score: Stuart Staples, Tindersticks, "White Material" (Claire Denis)

Best score based on American folk songs/hymns ("Rally 'Round the Flag," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"): Carter Burwell, "True Grit"

Best song score (serendipitous anachronism division): Olivier Assayas, "Carlos" (The Feelies, Wire, etc.)

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."

Napoleon Dynamite for the downtown crowd: "Tiny Furniture" (Writer/director/star Lena Dunham is so in love with herself she feels the need to hide it behind a mask of phony self-loathing.)

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?)

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