Thursday, July 1, 2010

Half-Way Report 2010

Top 2 Films
I could add Un Prophète, Shutter Island and Toy Story 3 for an even five, but, in all honesty, the only movies that have mattered this year so far were:

02. Prodigal Sons
Kimberly Reed's documentary about the relationship between herself, a post-op transgendered woman trying to reconcile her past as a boy, and her adopted brother who suffers from mental problem after an accident injures his brain is more surprising than a M. Night Shyamalan film. Just when you think you've figured out what Prodigal Sons is about, Reed offers curveball after curveball so extraordinary you can't make it up.

01. Fish Tank
Between Red Road and this, it's obvious that director Andrea Arnold has a thing for isolated, emotionally distant female protagonists. Katie Jarvis is the young woman here and, along with Arnold, she is lead down a confusing path of familial relationships and sexuality with no outlet other than her dancing. Fish Tank was the first 2010 film I saw and nothing I've seen has come close to matching it. The issues the film raises are issues no other filmmaker even considers and is done with sheer intelligence.

Top 5 Performances
05. Tahar Rahim, Un Prophète
Rahim subtly and unassumingly ingratiates himself into the prison and its structure to the point where you barely even notice until he practically runs the place.
04. Anne Hathaway, Valentine's Day
Meet Annie Hathaway, Comedic Firestorm. I was nearly in tears every time her storyline came on. And that Russian accent!
03. James Marsden, Death at a Funeral
His scene stealing turn as a drugged-out funeral attendee saved this remake from sheer stupidity.
02. Kristen Stewart, The Runaways
The vocal inflections are pure Kristen but physically she inhabits the hulking, brooding Joan Jett. Twilight aside, she continues to prove she's an actress on the verge of a breakthrough.

01. Katie Jarvis & Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank
An on-screen pairing of epic proportions. Together, they walk a fine line between hot-blooded lust and inappropriate sexual advances.

Top 7 Rentals
This includes re-screenings which involved drastic changes of opinion.
07. Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001)
I don't think I quite understood what Altman was going for in this film the first go-around (I think I expected more of an out-and-out comedy). This time, however, everything made much more sense.
06. Another Woman (Woody Allen, 1988)
One of the Woodman's most unusual collaborations, this time with Queen of Indie Cinema Gena Rowlands as a cold professor who can't gauge people's true feelings towards her. As she goes about trying to reconcile this situation and discover her own inner feelings, it becomes clear that this is another fantastic Bergman homage melded with the usual Allen themes.
05. The Collector (William Wyler, 1965)
A shy, emotionally damaged young man kidnaps a young woman and holds her prisoner in his basement. Not nearly as morbid as it sounds since all he wants from her is her love. What makes The Collector so unusual is the twisted relationship Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar develop over time and, like Fish Tank, the sexual issues the film raises. Read the fantastic book as well for even more perspective.
04. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
A stylish take on one man's incessant desire to fit in, no matter the consequences. There's so much history stuffed into The Conformist, so much that it almost becomes integral to fully understanding the film, that it's easy to see why I didn't get this movie back in high school.
03. Tout Va Bien (Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972)
Godard and Jane Fonda unite for a spirited takedown of the political climate in early 70's France. There's no real plot to speak of and, as always, there are a lot of political monologues spoken directly into the camera, but no film since Bowling for Columbine has made me want take part in some political revolution like Tout Va Bien did. And that final long take in the grocery store is more epic than all of David Lean's work combined.
02. Applause (Rouben Mamoulian, 1929)
Groundbreaking talkie from the era of clunkers like The Broadway Melody. Read my review here.
01. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Intelligent in both film technique and politics, The Battle of Algiers and its call to arms against the oppression of 20th century imperialism is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Top 5 Singles
This was seriously hard to narrow down since there have been at least 20 phenomenal singles released already this year. I love these songs so much I can't even explain my love for them. Just click on the link and listen (if you haven't already) to experience for yourself.
05. Diana Vickers 'Once'
04. Robyn 'Dancing On My Own'
03. Janelle Monáe 'Cold War'
02. M.I.A 'XXXO'
01. Gabriella Cilmi 'On a Mission'

Top 5 Bonus Tracks, B-Sides, Remixes and Assorted Non-Singles
05. Kris Allen 'Let It Be'
This was my contribution to the Haiti relief. Easily a more accomplished cash-in on that tragedy than 'We Are the World' and 'Everybody Hurts.'
04. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart 'Cherry Bomb'
Surprisingly addictive given the fact Dakota and Kristen are hardly singers. I suppose that doesn't matter since punk rock doesn't exactly require a Whitney Houston voice. Still, their version of 'Cherry Bomb' has enough bite to make every other Girl Power anthem in the past few years look as antiquated as a 50's housewife.
03. Alex Gardner 'Heartbreak'
Not sure if this will be a future single but any doubt about whether Gardner could enter the super-stylized world of Xenomania was erased after this gorgeous song.
02. Britney Spears 'Telephone'
Not superior to the GaGa version by any means, and it loses points for not having the Beyoncé verse, but Brit's demo version of 'Telephone' from the Circus days is so Britney. Her growl is so distinctive and proves to be a real asset in making this version work. Now if someone can get a proper recording with Beyoncé, my life would be complete.
01. Florrie 'Call 911 (Fred Falke Remix)'
An electropop masterpiece. Florrie, current drummer for the Xenomania houseband, with the help of Fred Falke, turns this simple pop tune into a 7 minute epic dancefloor piece. Can't wait to hear what she cranks out next.

Top 5 Albums
05. Ke$ha Animal
What I love most about Ke$ha is that she seems to understand and accept who she is as an artist. Animal doesn't pretend to be anything but the drunken party album it is. And for that I'm grateful.
04. Miley Cyrus Can't Be Tamed
Miley's big FUCK YOU to Disney and her former life as a tween star only gets better for me. Glad to see that's she finally starting to embrace the pop goddess inside of her.
03. Kelis Flesh Tone
The R&B singer embraces the electropop for a stunning change of pace from Tasty years ago.
02. Alphabeat The Spell/The Beat Is...
This is Alphabeat was their throwback to the 80's. The Spell/The Beat Is... is Alphabeat's throwback to Ace of Base-style 90's pop. Needless to say, their inspirations are simply divine and help fuel this creative, constantly arresting album.

01. Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1
It took a couple listens in a row in my car to show just how brave this album is. Not immediately accessible, Body Talk Pt. 1 proves to be entrancing once you start to understand Robyn's intention with each of her songs. And, in its oddity, it feels more like a cohesive album than many others released this year.

Top 5 Music Videos
05. Miley Cyrus 'Can't Be Tamed'
Miley ditches Disney, takes notes from Britney's complicated persona and dresses like the rare caged bird she is.
04. Rihanna 'Rude Boy'
After the darkness that surrounded both 'Russian Roulette' and 'Hard,' Rihanna lightened up quite a bit with this fun, colorful clip for what is obviously the most commercial song off Rated R.
03. Mark Ronson featuring Q-Tip and MDNR 'Bang Bang Bang'
Simultaneously a throwback to early 80's New Wave videos and a parody of crazy Japanese television.
02. M.I.A. 'Born Free'
As frightening and vivid as a film like Children of Men. She also gets points for understanding how to intersperse a 3 minute song into a 9 minute video (something Lady GaGa should take notes on).
01. Alphabeat 'DJ (I Could Be Dancing)'
In the same way that Nelly Furtado's 'Say It Right' video does, the whole of 'DJ (I Could Be Dancing)' is greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing about each individual set up is particularly unique, even if it does have a great neo-80's feel. But, collectively, the images add up to a particularly arresting video. I can't quite put my finger on why, but 'DJ (I Could Be Dancing)' is a video I can watch over and over again without growing bored.

Top 3 Obsessions
03. Setsuko Hara
The Japanese actress impressed the hell out of me last summer when I saw Ozu's Tokyo Story, but two more performances in two Kurosawa flicks have proven she was an actress of incomparable talent. No Regrets for Our Youth showed her in stone-faced, taking-on-the-sins-of-the-world mode while Hakuchi was her violent, explosive Bette Davis performance.
02. Xavier Samuel
I've been in love with this Aussie hottie for awhile now, but the anticipation for his American debut in Twilight Saga: Eclipse (assessment: he doesn't let us down) was what drove me over the edge.
01. Nicholas Hoult's Bum
I mean, have you seen it lately?

Top 5 (New) Hot Guys

05. Simon Nessman

04. Dave Franco

03. Dylan Forsberg

02. Michael Fassbender

01. Alexander Skarsgard

Top 5 Favorite Posts
05. So Many Women, So Little Time: The Sexual Politics of Up in the Air and Nine
According to these films, boys rule and girls drool.
04. My Senior Thesis: Ordinary People, Spice World, Saratoga Trunk
Some of the pieces I wrote for my senior thesis that I worked on during the past semester of school.
03. People Who Can Stop Sucking It: Katy Perry
This is still the best thing that happened during the Godforsaken ninth season of American Idol.
02. Ten Essential Film Performances of the 2000's
Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and...La Tisdale? My strange collection of the most important performances of the past decade.
01. Actor Devotionals: Jean-Pierre Léaud
My look at the career and on-screen persona of New Wave icon, and my favorite actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud. I know a lot of people don't really know JPL beyond The 400 Blows, but this is probably my favorite piece I've ever written.


samanthamdownes said...

yes yes yes to #1 new hot guy. love him!

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