My Favorite People of 2010

Funny People

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.





30 comments

  1. Steve Bland

    For the most part, I have the opposite reaction with DiCaprio. Anything he is in, I will see. Ever since he started working with Scorsese, he's been mostly brilliant. And while I will agree with you on Inception, I did not have the same response to Shutter Island. It was hard for me to really sink my teeth into the story or characters and I felt the way they advertised the film really gave away the central plot twist of the film. Not in the sense that they said what would happen, but more or less implied. I wont' say what it is in case people haven't seen it.

  2. Shutter Island is universally beloved at Row Three, I seem to remember. Any twist is to me beside the point, the film is so rich in characters and atmosphere that it still holds up, especially on repeat viewings. I don't dislike DiCaprio, I just find what he usually does limited, the way Tom Cruise or John Travolta are limited. They can overshadow the work. But since Revolutionary Road I am totally on the DiCaprio bandwagon… and he has apparently bought the rights to a JFK conspiracy movie which has me extremely excited.

  3. BRUCE! I'm sure if I bump into him at Whistler, I'll probably oogle at him like a total fangirl. I will try to be professional but I'm not making any promises. I tend to get a little tongue tied whenever I see him.

  4. I don't think DiCaprio is the most amazing actor around, but I do have a lot of respect for his choice of roles, he rarely shops it in and regularly works on interesting or at the very least 'respectable' projects.

  5. Speaking of Shutter Island, DiCaprio's costar Mark Ruffalo has got to be my fave film person in 2010. His quiet presence onscreen feels very grounding even as everybody else goes off the deep end, in the very same way Michelle Williams centres every movie she appears in.

  6. Norlinda, good call. Ruffalo had the performance of is career this year in The Kids Are Alright. A movie I like more and more upon reflection.

    As for DiCaprio, the man is possibly THE actor of our generation. From Gilbert Grape to Basketball Diaries to Romeo and Juliet to the previous box office champ, Titanic. He's great in all of them despite what you may think of the films themselves. And yes, once he started with the Scorsese collaborations, he became essentially invincible.

  7. PS – nice post Rot. I guess it is that time of year to start coming up with such lists. Love reading them, love making them!

  8. I echo Andrew's sentiments. I like this personal posts a lot. I'm also on board with many of those choices, particularly MacDonald, who had a great year this year, as well as Ms. Gerwig.

  9. I thought Gerwig was pretty terrific in Greenberg and surprisingly good in House Of The Devil. I say "surprisingly" because I didn't think much of her at all in "Hannah Takes The Stairs" – partially no doubt due to my total lack of interest in any one of those characters, but also because I didn't like the choices that she was making. You're right rot in that I never knew where she was going in that movie and it was frustrating as hell to watch…

    Michelle Williams is really a joy to watch in anything. I'm really looking forward to Blue Valentine.

  10. I admit the beginning of Hannah Takes the Stairs is really clumsy, but I don't know, once relationships are made, and I got a footing in this universe/experiment, it was like a revelation to me. You can experience a film in a different way… its not about story or style or traditional realism or conventions… you can watch it as something created and appreciate the tacit dimension of the actors not so much being characters but just being in a kind of play that draws out their vulnerabilities. So much of it is extreme close-up, you are reading facial tics, hesitations, awkward conversation… the sum is not a 'good movie', its about the parts, every part being in itself something fascinating on a psychological level.

    That said, Nights and Weekends is a great film AND fulfilling this tacit dimension as well.

  11. I agree with your points about experiencing film in different ways Mike – I just never got any footing in "Hannah". Well, actually I did, but I had to throw my shoes out afterwards…

    OK, I'm exagerrating…The facial tics, hesitations and awkward conversation never came across to me as character driven. It felt like poor acting and direction. You obviously connected with it better though. I am curious to check out Nights And Weekends – hopefully in the next week.

  12. 'character' in this IS performance, bad, good or otherwise. Traditionally you would think of a performance as trying to shield you from the actor and give the illusion of someone else, but Hannah IS Greta, Greta playing a role. Its irrelevant if she is any good at acting as Hannah, at least from the perspective I have of the new way of seeing in this particular film (mumblecore films come in all different shapes and sizes). It is not about verisimilitude (which I see as some attempt to exact an effect) its about play (not trying to hide the paintstrokes). I can understand not enjoying the result of their play, that is subjective.

    Nights and Weekends is more of a real film, I think you will enjoy it.

  13. I'm pretty much in agreement with everything you've written, Mike, but am amazed that you didn't mention Leo's performance in The Aviator, which I think was a high-water mark for him. I found that in his films this year, he plays characters that are too similar (dead-crazy wife-obsessed, mentally unbalanced), but I've loved him since Gilbert Grape and especially This Boy's Life, in which he holds his own with DeNiro.

    I'm completely with you on Michelle Williams, who is an amazingly talented actress and not hard to look at. I like Gerwig but she needs a few more roles before I'm convinced of her talent.

  14. I should be clear: I have never hated DiCaprio's work, I can see that he is a fairly solid actor and I understand why the Hollywood machine has made him into the next Tom Cruise. I just was never above and beyond a fan of him, he was just there. I am not a fan of The Aviator or Gangs of New York.

  15. KeithTalent

    Awesome list. Gerwig and Scott are definitely two of my favourite people. Gerwig was freaking awesome in Greenberg.

    Senor Rot, if you haven't yet, you should listen to Comedy Death Ray #80 where Scott co-hosted. Hilarity ensued!

  16. Mike, I forgot to tell you I saw Adam Scott live a few weeks ago, MST3King a crappy movie at Cinefamily with Doug Benson. He was pretty funny (though not as funny as Doug Benson). I didn't stick around to meet him, though; I haven't seen too much of his work and it seemed weird to be like "hey, this guy who writes for the same blog I do really thinks you're awesome."

  17. I can't seem to find Comedy Death Ray #80 online, pass me a link if you get the time, Keith. I listened to the commentary on The Vicious Kind with Adam Scott and it was priceless, very dry humour.

  18. KeithTalent

    Here you go: http://www.earwolf.com/episode/episode-80-adam-sc

    You should also check him out on Doug Loves movies, particularly the one with Elisabeth Shue, that was freaking priceless!

  19. thanks, will check out tomorrow.

  20. now that I have two threads going on Adam Scott, just wanted to thank-you Keith for the link, the bit about U2 had me laughing out loud and even though the improv stuff wasn't so great with the guest impersonations… just the voice of Jesse Ventura alone had me cracking up.

  21. Kurt Halfyard

    You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

  22. I never did get the reference for that line, is it Harry Brown? But yeah, the Jesse Ventura impersonation is of that caliber.

  23. Kurt Halfyard

    Sorry sir, it's classic pop-culture Michael Caine, The ORIGINAL ITALIAN JOB, and it sort of become a massive catchphrase in the UK at the time, if I read that right…

    <object width="250" height="165"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8g_GeQR8fJo?fs=1&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8g_GeQR8fJo?fs=1&hl=en_US&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="250" height="165"></embed></object>

  24. KeithTalent

    Yeah Mr. Rot, CDR gets pretty whacky with the improv stuff, but I love it and I've been with it since day 1; a lot of those characters have been on multiple times, so I have an extra attachment.

    You'd probably enjoy Doug Loves Movies more. Scott is a monster at The Leonard Maltin Game; actually that's a game I think Kurt would destroy since Kurt seems to know the name of every actor from every movie. :D

  25. Adam Scott was also hilarious in Piranha 3D. Perhaps I was the only one who saw it…

  26. I am determined to see it now, thanks Shannon!

  27. Haha, enjoy… it's one of the bloodiest, silliest films of the year – but Adam Scott's great in it.

  28. Huh, There is a film called August that is on Netflix with Adam Scott as a co-lead in a dot.com drama that has got some decent reviews, need to check out as well. Just caught up with Startup.com last month and I am in the mood for that kind of tech market drama.

  29. KeithTalent

    M. Rot: have you seen Torque? If not, you should, if for no other reason than to see Scott's awesome hairdo. The movie is ridiculous and cliched all to hell, but it was also kind of amusing at times.

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