Monday, January 17, 2011

Guitry, Kurosawa, Lang, Wenders, Ford: My favourite movie experiences of 2010

As you may have heard, the Golden Globes were handed out yesterday at a look at us, we're celebrities, aren't we so special? schmooze-fest in L.A., grotesque even by the standards of awards shows.

Not that I care, though, and not that you should either.

The Golden Globes are handed out by a small cabal known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It may not be as corrupt as FIFA or the IOC, but it's probably pretty close.

Honestly, do we really believe that these awards, or those who decide them, are in any way credible? That they are really about excellence in television and film?

At the very least, it seems odd -- even in Hollywood -- that such a cabal could wield such influence. Which, let's face it, is all that really matters beyond the chance for celebrities to act like celebrities on national TV, to look beautiful and bask in their own fleeting glory.

Yes, all that really matters -- and surely Ricky Gervais knows this -- is that the Golden Globes are generally seen as predictors of the far more important, if not all that much more credible, Oscars.

And this year, it would seem -- and I'll restrict myself to the movies here, as I really don't care about the TV awards -- the major Golden Globe winners are very likely the major Oscar winners:

Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Now, to be fair, I haven't seen all that many of the contenders. I used to see most of the major releases when they came out in theaters, but now, with other priorities, I generally wait for them to appear on video. And of course there may well be a surprise or two. For example, don't rule out Toy Story 3 for Best Picture. I found it significantly less enjoyable than the first two, and far less enjoyable that Pixar's recent masterpieces, such as Wall-E, but eventually the industry is going to have to recognize the fact that Pixar makes movies of greater emotional and intellectual depth than pretty much anything else coming out of Hollywood, and there may not have been a better-reviewed film all year.

I would also note that you never quite know what's going to happen with ten Best Picture nominees, and it's possible that a blockbuster like Inception, which I disliked immensely (stupid and showy, for the most part), wins it all. Hollywood likes nothing more than success, after all.

And, again, what do I know? I haven't seen most of the major contenders yet. I'm just basing this on what I read and hear about where this awards season is heading.

I would just like to add that my favourite movie experiences of 2010 had nothing to do with any of the Golden Globe winners and likely Oscar nominees. Here they are:

-- The Criterion Collection's Presenting Sacha Guitry box set, including the absolutely wonderful The Story of a Cheat (1936). Honestly, one of the best movies I've ever seen, from a generally unknown director on this side of the Atlantic but one of France's finest.

(I would add that I'm halfway (two of four) through Criterion's The First Films of Akira Kurosawa box set. I've seen most of the master's later and more famous films, but these are simply a revelation.)

-- The complete Metropolis, released by Kino, the definitive version, carefully reconstructed of Fritz Lang's silent 1927 masterpiece about capitalism. Stunning.

-- The Criterion Blu-ray version of Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire, one of the best films of the '80s. Truly and utterly beautiful, humane and humanitarian, about angels watching over the people of Berlin, about being human.

-- The Criterion Blu-ray version of John Ford's Stagecoach, an American classic, with a young John Wayne, that is better than ever.

-- Pixar's Ratatouille, which I saw when it first came out on video a few years ago and found disappointing. I watched it again with my daughters recently -- and then again on TV and once more on video -- and loved it. One of Pixar's best, up there with Wall-E, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, parts of the first two Toy Story movies, and the amazing marriage sequence at the beginning of Up!.

(Alright, there is another, and it's going to be one of 2010's best for me: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which I saw in the theater over the summer and again recently on Blu-ray. It's fantastic entertainment.)

I'll likely post again on the movies as we get a bit closer to the Oscars, and once I've seen the major contenders. I highly doubt, however, that I will see anything nearly as good as The Story of a Cheat, Wings of Desire, or Stagecoach.

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  • I'd go with Amy Adams over Leo, but Leo is awfully good, too. You left out two of the other key awards - screenwriting - which should go to Nolan and Sorkin. I've actually seen two of the Sacha Guitry flicks, one being Story of a Cheat, and they're fun. I can see how studios would think they were more geared for French audiences, but I think they travel better than they suspect. The Kurosawa collection is very useful, because those have been hard to find over here. Meanwhile, how is the Kino transfer of Metropolis? I have some other Kino discs, but traditionally, they've put out expensive discs of good foreign films but with poor transfers – color washed out, etc. They've been bad consistently enough that for multiple films, I've seen reviewers say this is a great film, but a horrible transfer. Have they raised their general standards? Or is this such a prestige project that it bypasses that?

    By Blogger Batocchio, at 12:30 PM  

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