Thursday, 22 July 2010

2010 so far...

We're more than halfway through 2010 now and I am about seven months into my blog. Personally, the year so far has been very exciting. It started with a (brief) appearance on BBC Radio Sussex talking about the results of the Golden Globes. Since then I have recorded a bunch of podcasts, reviewed a lot of films and had a lot of amazing opportunities. I have been to a premiere, interviewed stars and written entries for a book. I have also very recently had the pleasure of filling in as temporary host on 'Flick's Flicks', which has been another new and enjoyable exercise.

But (more interestingly for everyone who isn't me) 2010 has also been a very good year for films so far. My friend and fellow film writer, Dennis, today asked me what my top ten films of the year would be up to this point and this has proven a difficult task.

There have been lots of "good" films this year to choose from. Films like the enjoyable 'Kick-Ass' and the extraordinary 'Dogtooth' have failed to make my final list. I could also have put the re-issue of 'Rashomon' in the list (and it would have been very high up) but decided against it. The Cuban boxing documentary 'Sons of Cuba' could just as easily have found its way into the top ten, as could Chris Morris' hilarious 'Four Lions'. It also pains me to leave out Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog' which I really loved every traditionally animated second of.

Anyway, my final list is as follows:

10) Life During Wartime (Solondz/USA)
9) The Father of My Children (Hansen-Løve/FRA)
8) Lebanon (Maoz/ISR)
7) Cemetery Junction (Gervais and Merchant/UK)
6) Capitalism: A Love Story (Moore/USA)
5) Ponyo (Miyazaki/JAP)
4) Greenberg (Baumbach/USA)
3) No One Knows About Persian Cats (Ghobadi/IRN)
2) Micmacs (Jeunet/FRA)
1) The Happiest Girl in the World (Jude/ROM)

These may not be anything like the objective "best" of the year (if such a thing exists), but they are probably the ones which have stuck in my mind and impressed me the most. They also all moved me, many of them to tears. I think there are two big reasons why 'The Happiest Girl in the World' has emerged as an unlikely winner so far this year. The first is that I had no expectations going into the film. Absolutely none. It was able to surprise me. The second is that it is a film of patience and with a simple premise. There are few actors, one setting and the premise is explored fully as a result. The characters are multi-layered and their motivations interesting. The film can also be taken as a look at contemporary post-Communist Romanian society or of the film industry as a whole - and equally could be read as neither.

'Micmacs' was purely joyful from start to finish, though I know many people who really hated it so I think it is a Marmite experience. Regardless, I left it buzzing. 'Persian Cats' hit me a bit like 'Happiest Girl' and came from out of nowhere to really leave an impression upon me. 'Greenberg' hit a nerve with me and I found myself relating to it in a similar way to how I did when I saw Baumbach's 'The Squid and the Whale'.

'Ponyo' is Miyazaki, so it is splendid from start to finish. Michael Moore is as polemical as ever in 'Capitalism', but I agree with him, so I guess I don't mind. I really felt moved by some of the stuff in it too. Especially the part where he explains how FDR backed a group of striking workers and sent in the army to protect them from the police. 'Cemetery Junction' is the most American British film ever made - in a really good way. A fresh and exciting look at British youth that refuses to ignore 1970s social issues, but refuses to be depressing and really feels like Reading's answer to 'American Graffiti'.

'Lebanon' is a fantastic account of the brutality of war from the inside of a tank. Again, like 'Happiest Girl' it is one idea used to its maximum potential and effectiveness. The fact that it is based on the director's real experiences makes it even more vital and compulsive viewing. 'Father of My Children' takes a non-judgmental, un-sentimental look at a suicide: both the cause and the aftermath. And 'Life During Wartime' is daring and strikes exactly the right comic note in uncomfortable territory.

This is how I feel tonight. Who knows? I may change my mind entirely by the end of the year and many of these films may not feature in my 2010 poll. Some may be higher up and others may enter the list which have so far been left out. But I suppose these lists can really only ever be a platform for discussion and an interesting diversion. Hopefully it may also have encouraged you to check out a few movies you may not have considered. If that happens on even one occasion I will have been proud to invest the time in making it. Probably because it didn't take that long.

I can't wait to see what the rest of 2010 has to offer. Come back in January to find out where things stand when it's all behind us.

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