Vittorio Carli's cinema interviews

It is with a heavy heart that I write this column.  I’ve been making top 10 movie lists for a very long time. I remember doing some mid year lists in the ‘80s for the Xavierite when I was an undergrad at Saint Xavier University, then I did top 10 year end movie lists  for “The Star” from from  1987 until 2003 when I was unceremoniously cast aside in favor of critics with  more conventional tastes.


Finally I have done them for from 2004 to 2009, but that website is currently frozen because of a virus. You can see most of my previous lists on my website at I may continue to post them there even if I lose my film critic position.


It has become far easier to do the lists since I got accepted into the Chicago Film Critics Association, a few years back because I receive between forty and sixty screeners a year (but to be honest I only first saw two in my top ten as screeners)


I tend to see many great films at the Chicago International Film Festival (held exclusively at Landmark this year) and the European Film Festival which was at the Gene Siskel Center.


However this may be my last year to do the list unless is revived there will be no place for my top tens to appear in. I predict that this will make feel listless in the future.


Anyway this was an excellent year to end the top 10s because the film pickings were very good in every category (especially documentaries.) Here are my top picks of the year with brief explanations. I saw the first two films at the Chicago International Film Festival and Valhalla Rising (number 11) is the first feature film I have ever seen on-line (Thanks to Tom).


1. Certified Copy- I know this is cheating since this film has not officially been released in Chicago, but this film (which I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival) is the most moving, thoughtful and ultimately satisfying feature film of the year. Abbias Kiarastami’s classy and absorbing drama about a pair of people that pretend to be a married couple makes us question the very notion of artistic authenticity. It’s like the best ever improvisational exercise captured in a film.


2 Black Swan-This daring fusion of dance/art film and psychological/body horror is about a gifted ballerina who starts to succumb to her mental demons (and perhaps rivalry) when she gets the lead part in Swan Lake. As I said in my Kilter review, if Rod Serling and Mario Bava had collaborated on the Masterpiece Theatre version of Showgirls it might have ended up like this.


3 The Sun-This poignant historical drama about Emperor Hirohito’s first hours after the end of WWII is an understated and beautifully acted film that explores the gap/chasm between Eastern and Western culture.  For most of the year this was my unrivaled number one. In Japanese with English subtitles.


4  Inception –Intelligent and beautifully conceived cinematic work about the nature of reality is like a perplexing journey through a house of mirrors. The plot is about a man who is paid to enter an executive’s dreams to get him to sell off his business. I’m not sure if this is an outlandish sci-fi or if it foreshadows the corporate controlled future (or present). This cries out to be seen more than once if you have the time, but it's worth the effort.


5 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Edgy and graphic crime thriller in which a liberal investigative journalist teams up with a socially maladjusted  Goth hacker to solve the mystery of a woman who disappeared.  I dread the upcoming American prequel because it is bound to be sanitized and dumped down (like City of Angels.) Watch the DVD interview to see just how much Noomi Rapace transformed herself in the role.  In Swedish with American sub-titles.


6 Please Give-Well written Indy flick about a woman who exploits death by make money selling houses of the recently deceased. In order to purge her guilt she becomes a helpaholic. Starring the always superb Catherine Keener, one of the most underrated actresses in modern cinema.


7 The King’s Speech-Beautifully acted film tells the tale of an unusual and unlikely working relationship/friendship between a king and a speech pathologist.


8 The Ghost Writer- Roman Polanski’s sly film about a writer who is ghosting a bio of a British ruler is a brilliant deconstruction of Tony Blair’s career.


9 Winter’s Bone- Depressing but mesmerizing tale of a girl’s quest to find her missing dad, and she runs afoul of her meth producing family. He put up the house for bail, and if she doesn’t find him she will lose her shelter and her family.  The effects of this unflinching but unforgettable film are hard to shake off and it brilliantly uses the gritty locale.


10 Wild Grass- Alain Resnais's literate and creepy adventure in which a disturbed man sees returning a missing wallet as a potential avenue to find romance. Resnais is once again (like Robert Altman) able to masterfully weave together story threads which don’t initially seem to belong together. In French with English subtitles


Here is the rest of the top 50 in order of preference. Feel free to strongly disagree. I might change my mind next week, anyway. This is the only recent year in which I believe my whole top 10 deserves 4 stars.


Valhalla Rising, Freakonomics, The Social Network, True Grit, Son Son What Have Ye Done?, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Everything is Strange and New, The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector, Machete, The Extra Man, The Tillman Story, Greenburg, White Material, The Kids Are All Right, Mother, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Carlos, The Fighter, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Kids are All right, Waiting for Superman, Beyond the Love , Exit through the Gift Shop, Barneys Version, Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, The Killer Inside Me, The Good the Bad and The Weird, Stone, I Love you Philip Morris, Animal Kingdom


Here are some of my choices for various film categories.


The Best… Directors- Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Abbias Kiarastami (Certified Copy)
Actors- Issei Ogata (The Sun), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Actresses-Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), and Catherine Keener (Please Give)
Supporting Actors- Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Supporting Actresses-Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech
Documentaries- Freakonomics, Waiting for Superman and Exit through the Gift Shop
Cinematography-Winter's Bone (Michael McDonough) and True Grit (Roger Deacon)
Newcomers-Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Hailee Seinfeld (True Grit)
Soundtracks-The Social Network and Black Swan
Animated Film-Toy Story 3
Scripts- Certified Copy and Inception
Short- despite its title there is nothing pornographic about this Isabelle Rossellini film.


Most disappointing film
Jonah Hex-Josh Brolin is more than respectable in the main role, but the film completely ruins the comic concept by making the cowboy super powers. The films turned a grittily realistic western anti hero into a supernatural entity who can speak to the dead (he's like the man with no name mixed with medium). The confused, half hearted and compromised script seems like it was written by 30 writers. The graphic novel,   No Way Back, which was released concurrently with the film, was 1000 times better. Megan Fox still can't act.

PS: This is an update of an article I did for the Examiner. Since then I have seen a few more films and I remembered to include some of the ones I forgot on the last list.

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The best films of 2010 by Vittorio Carli

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