It’s that time again, so begins the onslaught of end-of-the-year lists for everything! Keeping with tradition I thought I would start this post a month early and celebrate those fine individuals whom have most entertained me in 2010. The year will go down as one of my all-time favorites, when the time comes for the official top ten films list, I will be struggling to whittle down from my short list of 26 films and counting. It has been a solid year for American and Canadian movies, and unlike years past, the most anticipated tent-pole pictures of the year lived up to the hype (Inception, Shutter Island, 127 Hours, The Social Network, etc.). Feel free to share your favorites in the comment thread, but for now, without further ado, my pivotal players of 2010:
Bruce McDonald: God bless you, Bruce McDonald. I am ashamed to admit, I was late coming to the party. With the exception of Pontypool which I did actually see in a timely manner, and which I loved like all else who have loved it, I have been something of a snob towards Canadian cinema most of my life and as a result have missed the bulk of your output. Due in part to Pontypool being still affectionately fresh in my memory, and to my piqued interest in the concert doc concept of the trailer, I decided to catch This Movie is Broken, admittedly not expecting much, and not even all that familiar with the music of Broken Social Scene; I came out a believer. It is one of my favorite concert documentaries of all time, and I am now a fervent fan of BBS, with you to thank. Shortly after, Trigger premiered at TIFF and I was one of the first to get a look at it; this too, rocked my world. This two-punch of Toronto stories has inspired me to watch your back catalogue, and last week I finally caught your Magnus Opus, Hard Core Logo, which has now firmly cemented my love for you, and I wait feverishly for the sequel that is in the works.
Adam Scott: By the beginning of the year, Adam Scott was an actor I barely recognized as the guy who played a bit part in a Judd Apatow movie, but by the end of the year he was to become the poster boy of everything awesome in the universe. My first holy shit revelation was in the Canadian indie film, Passenger Side, where Adam plays the snidest of characters as one part of the road movie slacker brother duo. Switching from comic foil to something darker and more menacing in The Vicious Kind, Adam plays Caleb, a misogynist, insomniac basket-case at war with his family. There is a glint of Campbell Scott circa Rodger-Dodger in the way Adam chews on dialogue and emanates disdain in The Vicious Kind. Hungry for more, I watched both seasons of Party Down of which Adam for all intensive purposes is the chief protagonist, playing an oddly subdued straight man to the foibles of a group of mismanaged Los Angeles caterers. Attention Zack Snyder: here is your Superman.
Greta Gerwig: The so-called Meryl Streep of mumblecore, Greta Gerwig first crossed my radar in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg as Florence Marr, the bundle of quirks that Ben Stiller awkwardly seduces. Florence is more than a romantic foil, her self-proclaimed geekiness bodes an unflappable counter-balance to the Roger’s flawed ego, and Gerwig pretty much steals the entire movie with her fluttering nuance. Greenberg was her first foray into mainstream movies, a kind of mumblecore-Hollywood fusion. This then inspired me to watch as much mumblecore as I could, and particularly with her pairing in Joe Swanberg films such as Hannah Takes the Stairs and Nights and Weekends, I became even more devoutly in love with this actress. In something like Hannah Takes the Stairs, everything is paired down to the biology of the performance, the minute inflections, the inhabiting of character and improvisation. On this minimalist stage, Greta Gerwig is magic to watch, that spark of never knowing entirely where she is going to go in a moment makes her that way. I also caught her small role as the friend of the heroine in The House of the Devil, probably my favorite horror film of the last couple years, and while her role was slight, she continued that shape-shifting allure, that kinda hot, kinda vulnerable presence which I hope to see for years to come now that she has officially made it.
Michelle Williams: Full-disclosure: I am in love with Michelle Williams to probably an unhealthy degree (I almost bought seasons of Dawson’s Creek). Sexual attraction aside, I am also madly in love with her as an actor, partly her choice in roles, partly her ability to inhabit them, she is outstanding in everything she does (and I have seen The Baxter and Deception). This year she is in not one but three films that will likely be in my top ten of the year: Blue Valentine, Meek’s Cutoff and Shutter Island. In Blue Valentine, Williams plays Cindy, one half of a marriage in dissolution, a woman who was never fully whole yet capable of modest ambition that dissolved over time. Granted, it is the chemistry of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling playing off each other that elevates the film and the emotions of the story to their ecstatic heights, and while Gosling has the more showy role, Williams’ quiet seething as the wife falling out of love is in its own right, worthy of recognition. In Meek’s Cutoff, she plays Emily Tetherow, the heroine of the story. Though mostly comprised of an exchange of glances, Emily’s coy relationship with a Cayuse Indian is central to the quandaries of faith in the film. In a smaller but not insignificant part in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, Williams get the opportunity to become an object of obsession (a situation I could easily grasp) and though one of many scene-chewing performances in this mosaic piece, Williams gets an opportunity to shine that stays with you long after the film is over.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Until 2010, I would have considered myself not much of a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. Most of what he had been in with Scorsese had rubbed me the wrong way (with the exception of The Departed), and while he was a big part of one of my favorite films of last year, Revolutionary Road, I don’t think it was particularly because of him, but perhaps in spite of him as a larger than life celebrity that that film won me over. DiCaprio rarely seems to be anybody but DiCaprio, a stigma of the über-famous perhaps, but also something of a limitation to his range of acting. And yet, this year it would be ridiculous of me not to include him on this list. With both Shutter Island and Inception, he is at the center; he is the emotional core around which the rest of the story pivots. I don’t know what it is exactly, he let his guard down a bit more in these performances maybe, but in both I feel he is a big part of the success of the films. The grandeur of the films themselves perhaps lend better to the grandeur of his acting, whatever it is, DiCaprio has had a very good year.