2010 Catchup Progress, Part 2

The year has ended, but the 2010 Catchup continues. Last time around, I had only seen about 5 of the movies on my original list, but I've been some pretty good progress since then, knocking about 10 more movies off the list (plus 2 additional films that weren't even on the list):
  • The Art of the Steal: Not a heist flick, but rather a documentary about the Barnes art collection, and how various political powers maneuvered to relocate the art from its longtime home in Lower Merion to downtown Philadelphia (despite the clear wishes laid out in Barnes' will). Unapologetically one-sided, but still a fascinating and thought provoking documentary. I'm not entirely sure I buy completely into the filmmakers' side of things - one could certainly mount a pretty good devil's advocate case against them - but on the other hand, the way the powers-that-be went about moving the collection is pretty dirty. ***
  • The Fighter: Add one part Raging Bull, two parts Rocky, and Christian Bale into a pot. Bring to a boil and stir vigorously. Profit. In all seriousness, it's a lot better than I was expecting, but it's also a little on the disjointed side. For instance, it seemed like Melissa Leo and Christian Bale were almost in a different movie. Great performances, but they're a lot more over the top than anyone else in the film. Mark Wahlberg is passable, which is about as good as I could have hoped in a movie where he has to share the screen with great actors. **1/2
  • The Kids Are All Right: Well done family drama hits all the appropriate notes, but I fount it lacking in some ways. Great performances all around and a good central story, but some of the side-plots are given short shrift. I can see why some people love this film, but it didn't do a whole lot for me. **1/2
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Already wrote a full review of this one, and the Samichlaus beer I had after... ***
  • Easy A: Breezy, clever, and fun, it was much better than I expected. Great central performance by Emma Stone and a solid supporting cast anchor the film on top of a clever script. It's not Oscar-bait or anything, but I was really surprised by how much I found myself enjoying this... ***
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop: Intriguing documentary ostensibly about street art and one of it's most mysterious figures, Banksy. Instead, Banksy turns the tables and highlights the guy behind the camera, who turns out to be quite the lunatic. I'm not sure I totally buy Banksy's conceit here, but while I suppose that questions of the film's authenticity are valid, it ultimately doesn't matter much. I really enjoyed the film for what it was, and could even delve a bit deeper than expected to gain some insight into the art world in general. It doesn't go where you'd expect, but I really enjoyed the trip it took me on. I didn't watch them together, but this would probably make a nice double feature with The Art of the Steal (both are available on Netflix watch instantly). ***1/2
  • True Grit: The Coen Brothers's take on the classical Western, I found it very refreshing to just watch a solid Western without having to bother with all the revisionist traditions that most Westerns these days seem to embrace. When I saw the preview for this, i was a little worried about Jeff Bridges voice - something sounded so off, so manufactured about it. But in the context of the film, it was fine, and complemented a good performance. Newcoming Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic and manages to hold her own whenever she's onscreen. For some reason, Matt Damon hasn't been getting a lot of buzz for his work in the film, but I think I might like his performance the best out of all of them. Will probably have a place on my top 10 of the year list, whenever I manage to get to that... ***1/2
    Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon in True Grit
  • Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work: Believe it or not, Joan Rivers plays a small role in my professional life, which only made this documentary more interesting because I really didn't know or remember where she came from or all the other stuff that she does. Despite her constant self-deprecating comments (which got on my nerves by the end of the film), she seems to do a tremendous amount of work. The most interesting thing I saw, though, were some clips from her standup routine, which is quite dirty and very funny. Ultimately, there wasn't a ton to this movie, but it was a solid study of an interesting person. **1/2
  • The King's Speech: This movie seemed like such obvious Oscar-bait that I didn't originally plan to see it, but after hearing a few reviews and seeing that it managed to get wide distribution, I gave it a shot and was very glad that I did so. Fantastic central performances by Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush, and a witty script elevates this film beyond typical indie Oscar bait (though there is maybe one or two groaners in that respect, it was much less than I was expecting). One thing I loved about the film was that it didn't feel the need to completely "cure" the King's stuttering problem (and indeed, the King's response to Logue's jesting comment that he "stammered on the W" is the perfect illustration of why that was a good thing). ***
  • The Secret in Their Eyes: Technically a 2009 release, it won the Oscar for best foreign film... but wasn't released in the US until 2010, so I'm including it on my list. Indeed, for the past few years, the best foreign film Oscar-winner has appeared on my top 10 list, so my expectations were high for this one. Unfortunately, it didn't entirely live up to my expectations, but it's still quite a good film. I just found some aspects of the film a bit sloppy, and didn't connect with some of the subplots. Still well worth a watch. ***
  • Mother: There's something about the way Bong Joon-ho makes movies that just doesn't connect with me. I was not at all impressed with his previous effort, the overpraised The Host, and while Mother manages to be a much better film, it's still not something I totally connected with. The great lead performance by Kim Hye-ja wasn't really enough to save the film for me, though the plot is much tighter and less tonally inconsistent than Joon-ho's previous film. I'm glad I saw it and I can see why it's garnered the praise it has, but it wasn't one of my favorites. **1/2
  • Vengeance: Director Johnny To has been a long time Kaedrin favorite, but despite this film being one of my most anticipated of the year, I have to admit that it was extremely disappointing. There's a nugget of a good movie here, but it's drowned out by some really clunky dialogue (perhaps the partial English language nature of the film had something to do with that) and some baffling plot choices. Even the action sequences, which To normally excels at even in bad movies, came off as a bit trite and uninspired. Again, the overall story has its merits, but I found the execution lacking. It kept my interest, but it's not especially recommended. **
  • The Secret of Kells: It looks like this is another 2010 on a technicality movie, but this animated film is well worth checking out, if only for the visually dynamic style that permeates the screen. Occasionally, I think the film delves a bit too deeply into the stylish visuals and the overall story is a bit on the weaker side, but it's still a compelling and stunning film. **1/2
    The Secret of Kells
This brings the total tally of 2010 films I've seen to 65, which is pretty good, especially when considering that at the beginning of November I was only at around 30 films... And there's still quite a few I have to check out. Keep an eye out next weekend for the Fifth Annual Kaedrin Movie Award Nominations! [Previous Installments here: 2006 2007 2008 2009] If you have any suggestions for either new categories or nominees for existing categories, by all means, leave a comment or send me an email (or however you want to get in touch with me)...