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2010: A Film Odyssey | reviews, news & interviews

2010: A Film Odyssey

2010: A Film Odyssey

The good, the bad and the ugly: Anne Billson reflects on her film-going year

2010 will go down as the year I fell out of love with Johnny Depp. And not just because of his cringe-making Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, an over-produced farrago which reduced Lewis Carroll's dark Victorian whimsy to a dull computer gamelike chase-rescue-showdown scenario. The Deppster sealed the Double Whammy of Dreadfulness with his uncanny impression of naff comedian Rob Schneider in The Tourist, a would-be rom-com thriller that somehow sacrificed the romantic, comedic and thriller elements of its remit to fawning close-ups of the increasingly prognathic Angelina Jolie. If only it really had been Rob Schneider. Preferably in both roles.

Other disappointments included Invictus, where I wished Clint Eastwood had gone the Inglourious Basterds route and changed history by having the plane crash into the stadium, and Shutter Island, in which Martin Scorsese demonstrated once again that he possesses not the slightest inkling of what makes a genre story tick. Leonardo DiCaprio recycled his overwrought bloke-with-dead-wife-issues performance from Shutter Island in Inception, which teasingly dangled the idea of cities being rolled up like parchment, or Michael Caine lecturing in Dream Architecture at the Sorbonne, before ditching all the interesting stuff and settling for some of the dullest extended dream sequences in movie history, though I did like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's weightless race against time.

Throughout the year, respected directors crashed and burned. Paul Greengrass showed he's not infallible with the pedestrian Green Zone, while Peter Jackson came unstuck with The Lovely Bones, featuring some of the kitschest visions of the afterlife since What Dreams May Come. Meanwhile, Hideo Nakata unwisely ventured out of his J-horror comfort zone to catastrophic effect with Chatroom, sunk before it started by a clunky Enda Walsh screenplay full of teen-soap stereotypes.

Worst Film of the Year was a toss-up between Nine and Sex and the City 2. Both set the cause of feminism back about 50 years, though Nine probably had the edge over SATC2 since it featured five (FIVE!) Oscar-winnning actresses as a sort of featherheaded harem fluttering around Daniel Day-Lewis, himself hitting a new career low in charmlessness. Plus nearly everyone talked in fake Italian accents. Director Rob Marshall (previously responsible for the appalling Chicago) should be tied to a chair with his eyelids pinned open, Clockwork Orange-style, and forced to watch the complete musical-comedy oeuvre of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen and Bob Fosse over and over again, until he gets it right. Also, it might have helped if he'd cast performers who could actually sing and dance.

Recurring Plot of the Year was the one in which special ops agents were framed and/or targeted by their own people and had to fight to prove their innocence and expose the bad apples in order to save democracy, the free world and civilisation as we know it. Or something like that. As seen in The Expendables, The A-Team, The Losers, RED, Salt, Knight and DayMachete et cetera. Can someone come up with a new story, please?

Best Remake was eco-horror movie The Crazies. Dramatically and thematically, it offered no real advance on George R Romero's 1973 original, but the well-crafted scary set-pieces and a great double act from the always reliable Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell made it a cut above over other recent horror remakes. Job well done Breck Eisner, which means we'll overlook, for now, the fact that you are the son of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

The award for Most Mind-Blowing Opening Credits of 2010 goes to the super flashing typography of Enter the Void, though these are probably best avoided by anyone who suffers from epilepsy or migraines. Loved the film too; I do wish Gaspar Noé had cast someone other than the transcendentally annoying Paz de la Huerta (pictured above) as the female lead, though I appreciate it can't be easy to find actresses outside the porn industry who are willing to be filmed naked and having lots of explicit sex. De la Huerta could also be seen this year in HBO's Boardwalk Empire, where she gets naked and has explicit sex with Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon, for which she surely deserves some sort of medal. Likewise Adrien Brody in the enjoyable monster movie Splice; he's not an actor to whom I've ever warmed, but one has to admit he's game for anything. Especially here.

agoraThe four Scariest Films of the Year were Agora (pictured left), Dogtooth, Black Death and the re-release of Went the Day Well?, all of which had me whimpering and peeking through my fingers at the screen, though Agora may have the edge since it also made me accidentally stab myself in the thigh with a ballpoint pen. Worst Haircut of 2010 was the one worn by Benicio del Toro in The Wolfman; hard to take the film seriously once you realise it makes him look like Frankie Howerd.

My Favourite Performances of the Year are headed by Hye-ja Kim in Mother (give her an Oscar already) and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, finally breaking out from under the shadow of fellow-dweeb Michael Cera by daring to be unloveable. Greta Gerwig made all the other actors in Greenberg look as though they were ACTING, though it was nice to see Ben Stiller tapping into his angry side, for once, instead of pretending to be a schmuck. In Gentlemen Broncos (which also gets my award for Best Vomiting Scene) Jemaine Clement as Dr Ronald Chevalier became my new role model - expect 2011 to be the year in which I too become a bestselling author and plagiarist. Ben Affleck's The Town confirmed the promise of Gone Baby Gone with some original detail in its robbery set-pieces and nice supporting performances, notably from Blake Lively (aka Gossip Girl's Serena van der Woodsen) giving sympathetic shadings to what could otherwise have been a stereotype crack whore.

Hurrah too for Sam Rockwell for his small roles in Gentlemen Broncos and Iron Man 2, while Rose Byrne's rock-chick almost stole Get Him to the Greek from Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. Olivia Williams, whom I've long admired, deservedly attracted attention for her subtle work in the trickiest role in The Ghost, a bog-standard airport-novel plot transformed by the storytelling genius of Roman Polanksi into a spellbinding first-person quest.

French film-makers continued their run of inventive, non-formulaic biopics with Gainsbourg and Carlos, while Jacques Audiard hit another home run with A Prophet, a prison movie which, unlike nearly every other prison movie ever made, was not about escape. The year's Girlpower Award is shared between Drew Barrymore, for the amiable but unfortunately titled Whip It, and Floria Sigismondi for the exhilarating The Runaways. And I tip my hat to Kristen Stewart, who played Joan Jett, for managing to make her character in the Twilight films marginally more interesting on the screen than she is on the page, and to Michael Shannon, whose Kim Fowley is only marginally less creepy than his terrifying Agent Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire.

paprika02My Least Favourite Trend of 2010 was 3-D. The spectacles hurt my nose, so I have to stuff paper tissue under the bridge to act as a cushion. This is particularly inconvenient if it's a film like Toy Story 3 (another of my Films of the Year) which made me weep buckets; the tissue then gets all soggy, and falls out of position when I try to mop my eyes. Not only that, but it took me 35 years to learn to wear contact lenses, and I resent now being obliged to pay for the privilege of wearing spectacles at the movies all over again.

There have been many sad film-related deaths this year, but the one that made me saddest was that of Satoshi Kon. The brilliant Japanese anime director of films like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Paprika (pictured above) died on 24 August of pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, in his creative prime. His final blog entries are a heartbreaking record of his terminal illness, yet also offer a curiously uplifting celebration of the human spirit in the face of approaching death. "Now excuse me, I have to go."

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Comments

Glad to see that someone shares my opinion of Rob Marshall!

How can you say all that crap about Johnny depp???! are you crazy?...Johnny is a good actor ,maybe he did that movie only for fun,nothing serious..and he is payed for this! he can do what he wants..and I will always love him and I will be in love with him.he is gorgeous and soooo cool! ..you will see..you gonna fall in love with him again

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