Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Best of the Best: Ballerinas, Broken Hearts and Boys Being Boys

If you've looked at The Awkwards By Year tab recently, you'll notice that Blue Valentine has replaced The Social Network at #2 for 2010--as I mentioned when first writing the Awkwards for 2010, Valentine's one-week release rendered it ineligible for the awards the first time around. If it had been eligible, not only would it have made #2 on the Best Picture roster, it would have been runner-up for Best Actress (Michelle Williams) and probably placed in several other categories as well (though I can't choose any category it'd win). But even though I placed it at #2, I'm still not confident of how my top three would look.

Let's face it--there are really no three more different movies than these. In fact, despite all being well-rounded and fully-formed films, they are each an achievement of a different art: Black Swan is the ultimate director's film, with a crazed, fully realized vision, Blue Valentine is the ultimate actor's film, filled with lived-in performances and a brilliant mix of scripted and improvisational acting, and The Social Network is a writer's movie, featuring one of the best screenplays ever written.

I say this more than enough, but it's a shame that all three of these films had to be released in the same year. They will, in my mind, all stand the test of time as works of art, films that set out with a purpose of narrative and fulfilled it completely. One is a psychosexual thriller that acts as a horror film for anyone involved in the arts. One tells a story (not a retelling of events, but a story) about how the site that drives our lives was made. And one is a portrait of a collapsing marriage that breaks your heart with no mercy.

There is so much to love, so much to respect and so much to really respond to in all these films. Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling and Jesse Eisenberg are all giving the performances of a lifetime. Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are all showing exactly what they're capable of. Winona Ryder, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer and Brenda Song are showing that there are truly no small parts, only small actors--and they are most certainly not small actors. Darren Aronofsky is letting his art take him to his peak. David Fincher is reining himself in for the first time in his career. And Derek Cianfrance is establishing himself as one to watch.

There is indeed so much to love about these films, but what is perhaps most important is that they show us how modern cinema is not dead. There are films out there that are beyond the remakes and sequels you see everywhere. There are films beyond the traditional genre molds. There are films that are still what film truly should be: art, exquisite and beautiful. These are the films of the year--they could be in any order depending on the day, but they are the best. Black Swan, Blue Valentine and The Social Network: truly the Best Pictures of the year.

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