Films of 2010 – Part 1

Because there’s great pleasure to be found in lists. Here we go: (in some kind of descending order)

Four Lions

A black comedy following the activities of a terrorist cell operating in Sheffield. I think it’s the funniest movie of the year, and probably the most moving also. Four Lions’ great success is in creating comedy out of distressing events, and willfully making the funniest moments of the movie also the most poignant. Focusing on the very real stupidity and ignorance of someone willing to kill themselves for something they don’t even properly understand, as well as the incompetent and damaging attempts of the police force to stop such indiscriminate attacks. A fantastic and courageous comedy that treats the subject matter of terrorism with more respect than anything else out there I’ve seen. It’s a film that I want to show to everyone of my friends, just so I can say ‘look at it, look how good it is’

Ponyo

Studio Ghibli’s newest movie draws heavily from the The Little Mermaid, and follows the story of a magical fish-girl-thing that falls in love with a little boy and turns into a human. Hayao Miyazaki’s best films tend to eschew the traditional narrative structure followed by films in general, and animated films in particular. There is very often no real antagonist, and in the case of Ponyo and My Neighbour Totoro there is very little conflict whatsoever. Ponyo is a dream-like walk through a very-near-perfect world, and anyone who doesn’t warm to it quickly and permanently is in my eyes some kind of monstrous person.

Toy Story 3

I’m glad I saw this film in 2D, but it would have been nice to have a pair of 3D glasses to hide behind while I bawled my eyes out. They were certainly a blessing while watching Up. Funny, clever, and touching. A film about growing up and parenthood that really should convince any of the few remaining doubters that animation is a grown-up medium that can stand alongside traditional film. Really, this is a perfect end to a series that should be rated as one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time.

Inception

It’s nice to see a film comfortable enough in its own skin that it doesn’t patronise you with reams of needless exposition. Nolan doesn’t want to convince you that this whole dream-science thing is plausible, or even possible; it just states the rules and expects you to keep up. And half the fun of this film is keeping up. The rules are consistent, as well, even if they’re not all explained in every little detail. So stop complaining that it doesn’t make sense. Finally, it is genuinely gripping: It’s complex, it’s thoroughly mysterious, and it’s ambiguous wherever ambiguity best serves it. Most big-budget action films are halfway lobotomised: all explosions and chase-scenes. I like seeing how well Inception did at the box office, because it’s a sign that a film can be both an action-packed thrill ride and a genuinely intelligent piece of work.

How to Train Your Dragon

The story of a young Viking called Hiccup, who lives in a village where life is all about fighting the dragons that periodically attack the village. Hiccup is the chief’s son, and while all the other Vikings are burly, headstrong, and at least a little dim, Hiccup is a skinny, nervous teenager who shares nothing in common with anyone else he knows. But he’s smart and curious, and during one dragon-raid on the village he manages to wing one of the more dangerous dragons with a catapult of his own invention. Things go on from there, and maybe I’m childish for getting so caught up in it, but I really got caught up in it in a big way. The reason I liked this so much are probably largely subjective: it’s a story of curiosity, ingenuity, and intelligence showing itself to be far more powerful than the sheer force employed by the rest of his headstrong community. The film really nails the difficult father-son relationship, and the feeling of not fitting in. Also, there are lots of bits where Vikings fight big angry dragons. Those bits are really good. And the Viking girl is hot, even if she’s a bit of a bitch at first.

The Time That Remains

Elia Suleiman tells the semi-autobiographical story of a Palestinian family living through both the Israeli-Arab War in 1948, and the subsequent Israeli occupation. The film at first follows his Suleiman’s fathers actions as a resistance fighter in the 1948 conflict, moves on to show the lives of the young family as minority ‘Israeli-Arabs’, and finally shows the older Suleiman (played by Suleiman himself as a non-speaking observer) returning to Palestine later in life. This is another harsh black comedy, and like Four Lions it treats its subject matter maturely. This isn’t an anti-Israel movie. Horrible acts are shown being committed by Israeli troops, but then horrible acts were committed by Israeli troops, by both sides in fact. Instead, The Time That Remains revels in the absurdities of the political situation, and of people in general. Almost all the humour is silent, and physical in the manner of Buster Keaton. It marries sadness and humour in a very mild-mannered, accomplished way, and though it isn’t the kind of film that made me laugh out loud very much, it kept me in a happy state of anticipation and appreciation throughout its running time. The final scene is also one of the most impressive, most understated scenes I’ve ever seen in a film.

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