I am honored and proud to be a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that nominates and then votes each year for the Oscars.
To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how to judge a “best” film or actor or screenplay or anything else. To try to do so seems akin to going into the Louvre and picking out the “best” painting. So the Van Gogh is “better” than the Renoir or Gauguin or any other painting? Oh, please! I hope we get to a time when the Academy changes “Best” to “Favorite,” to more accurately define the process.
That being said, I always look forward to your responses to my personal favorites, and to seeing a list of your favorite films of 2010. Here are mine:
My absolute favorite film of 2010. Brilliantly acted, written, directed, produced, photographed and designed, The King’s Speech is an Old Hollywood movie-movie at its very best: intensely human, poignant, heroic and fiercely funny, with the kind of character development that has nearly become a lost art. I’m not sure I remember a year in which the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role seems so assured as it is this year for Colin Firth in his role as King George VI.
Clint Eastwood’s direction seems to get better, deeper and more emotionally vulnerable with each film, and Hereafter may just be my favorite of all his films to date. The film is a fascinating and engrossing exploration of two stories that ultimately intertwine: the effect of a near-death experience on a television personality (lovely and talented French actress Cécile de France) and how a psychic (Matt Damon) runs away from and then ultimately re-embraces his gift. Having personally produced two films that deal with the subject of life after life (Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come), I was deeply moved by everything about Hereafter, a truly haunting and beautiful film.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan has created one of the most imaginative, complex, intricate and original films of this or any other year. Inception is an experience that is almost impossible to describe. I’ve seen it three times now, and each time I see something in the film that I hadn’t noticed before. Only Avatar and The Matrix films come to mind when trying to find a comparable film world that illuminates new horizons of consciousness. Inception is brilliant in every aspect, with an unforgettable last shot that will provoke conversations for years to come.
A totally entertaining, “are-you-kidding-me” account of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation (with a LOT of help from his “friends”) of the Internet phenomenon Facebook. It’s almost surreal to note that Facebook, now with over 500 million subscribers and an estimated value of more than $25 billion, began in 2003 when Zuckerberg and his business partner and best friend Eduardo Saverin were attending Harvard. In a year that didn’t include Colin Firth’s brilliant performance in The King’s Speech, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg would almost certainly earn him his first Academy Award. The Social Network chronicles the meteoric and controversial success of Facebook, which shattered friendships, led to lawsuits and bitter confrontations, and is a classic American success story, framed perfectly by the scandal-ridden first decade of this new century.
The Company Men is an important and timely film for anyone who has been fired or laid off from his or her job and descended into fear and guilt. Expertly and compassionately written and directed by John Wells (prolific executive producer and writer of such television landmarks as ER and The West Wing), the film follows three men (Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones) who are let go from what they considered safe career jobs after the economy went south in late 2008. The movie delves into the psyche and home life of each man as they cope with shock, shame, anger and desperation. If you’ve been laid off or fired, or know someone who has (which covers almost everyone everywhere, yes?), The Company Men will resonate deeply and also give you hope that tomorrow is indeed another day.
An inspiring story of faith, love, trust, redemption and hope. Secretariat is also this year’s version of The Blind Side, in that it is touching, poignant and uplifting, and based on a true story about a determined and powerful woman. Secretariat focuses on Penny Chenery Tweedy’s relationship with her father and a very special horse that became perhaps the greatest racehorse ever. It’s also the kind of film that Old Hollywood used to make with regularity, that New Hollywood makes only occasionally, and that the Academy usually overlooks because of its unabashed sentimentality. So grab your kids, your parents, your grandparents and anyone else you can find, and go see Secretariat, a film that the whole family will enjoy.
Never has a film been more appropriately titled. Joan Rivers’ sheer courage and honesty is simply heroic. At 77, Ms. Rivers has been entertaining and outraging audiences for over 40 years, which in and of itself speaks volumes about her talent, appeal and perseverance. In an industry as fickle as show business, that kind of longevity happens only rarely and, when it does, it means the entertainer in question has equal doses of talent and determination. (Content warning: The language is as salty and profane as you can imagine!) Rivers is so vulnerably honest and forthcoming about herself that it’s almost impossible not to walk away from the film with a deep sense of respect and affection for her. Near the end of the film, Rivers is walking off stage after a performance and simply says: “Look, I’m a performer. That’s all I am and all I ever want to be.” Personally, I hope she lives to be 100 and does a show that day. If she does, and I’m still ambulatory myself, I wouldn’t miss it.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is the second film on my favorites list that focuses on the effect the recent financial crisis is having on people’s lives. While The Company Men revolves around those who were fired, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps focuses on how the Gordon Gekko character that Michael Douglas made famous in the 1987 original has “evolved” after spending eight years in jail, leaving his family in ruins. The film plays out as Gekko uses his daughter’s fiancé (Shia LaBeouf) to get back into his daughter’s life. Michael Douglas is brilliant as always, and his performance feels particularly poignant because of the courageous battle he is now waging against throat cancer. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an engrossing drama, played out against a compelling real life crisis that we all are still facing every day.
City Island is a totally charming, funny and down-to-earth comedy about the consequences of the deceptions that families often use when they are afraid to tell each the truth. As the film plays out, and the deceptions (none of which are illegal or immoral) become harder and harder to conceal, each member of the family learns the truth of the brilliant ad line for the film: “Truth is stranger than family.” How great is that? Who of us doesn’t have a family we consider strange in at least some way? In City Island, a wonderful cast, led by Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies, shows us how absurd we are when we tie our lives, our loved ones and ourselves into emotional pretzels when the truth always does “set us free.” City Island is an absolute gem.
Disney’s wonderful Tangled hearkens back to the classic Disney days when they made magical movies like The Little Mermaid, which had the same feel of love and fun of Tangled. Putting a new musical and comic spin on the Rapunzel story, Tangled is a wondrous mixture of fun, adventure, romance, heroes and heroines, a charismatic horse whom you won’t soon forget, and sensational music. Special mention goes to the amazing Alan Menken who wrote the score. Mr. Menken has been nominated for a mind-boggling 18 Academy Awards, has won eight of the gold statues, and also wrote the scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Tangled is a wonderful family film.
So that’s my list for 2010. What’s yours? Please share your list and join the discussion!