Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…
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?)
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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