In 2010, the films I thought about most seemed to take part in the real/fake discourse, and for that it was a boom year. These are the films and clumps of films (and events) I thought about most:
I’m Still Here. The one film on my list that didn’t play the Film Forum. Playing himself as the actor Joaquin Phoenix, who is leaving filmmaking for a career in hiphop, Joaquin Phoenix commits and gives the best performance of his life.
La Danse / The Red Shoes. We played both early on in the year: Frederick Wiseman’s narrationless documentary this time works with an art form that doesn’t need narration: ballet – in this case a company in Paris that is old and venerable and working hard to keep rethinking itself and la danse. And about ten seconds later we played The Red Shoes, an actually terrifying drama-filled Powell and Pressberger classic that is no doubt topped only by Black Swan.
The Sun. Alexander Sokurov’s film about Hirohito’s checked-out rein in Japan at the end of World War II. All about formalities and politeness amid chaos, Hirohito’s world, if this film is true, was triple weird and gripping in its embrace of unreality — maybe no more so than when Douglas MacArthur enters, has a smoke with the emperor, and speaks.
Two Live evenings: When Stewart Stern talked for an hour after Rebel Without a Cause about saving young men in World War II and, among other things, sleeping in James Deans’ bed after the actor’s death you could have heard a pin drop (had there been pins dropping). And this fall The French Project added funny dialogue to a bad movie and brought the Sultan of Swing together with some Germans. It wasn’t the deepest evening, but does that matter when it’s so fun?
They’re Still Out There: Miguel Gomes’ Our Beloved Month of August, Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers, and Amie Siegel’s Empathy. No links among these films – Gomes’ is long and slow-moving and asks us to help him make the film; Korine’s is shocking and crude until you see what a beautiful tap-in he’s made of his own dreamworld; and Siegel’s carefully details the mirages of consciousness, especially in conversations around psychology — but all represent everything that is interesting and excellent about films that push the envelope. I think Trash Humpers, along with I’m Still Here, are the most fascinating films of 2010.
Wheedle’s Groove. The best local film of the year took up a forgotten soul scene in North America’s whitest city. The film deserved all the attention it got, and it should have gotten more.
October Country. Pretty and unsettling.
Visual Acoustics. About the great photographer of architecture, Julius Shulberg, who gave us some of the most iconic images we have of modern houses and spaces, especially of Hopper-esque buildings in and around L.A.
Daddy Long Legs. Joshua and Benny Safdie’s Cassavettes-esque (and autobiographical) story of a man figuring out how to be a father to his sons.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child. Unseen footage of Basquiat is reason enough to put this film into the top ten. In its center are amazing scenes of the speed of Basquiat’s brush, which shows a mind hurrying to set down the images crowding his mind, and having little time for self-doubt.
Howl. A good year for James Franco, and in this film he makes natural all the oddball verbal tics of the late, spiritual, self-promoting poet, Allen Ginsberg.