Best of 2010: Movies

As always during this time of the year, bloggers, critics, reviewers, and the general entertainment-loving public reflect on their favorite of the past year. I did it last year, and am attempting to quickly do it again for this year.

First up on my list is my favorite movies of the year. I’m not going to put a number or ranking on them, this is just a spattering of movies I enjoyed from the past year, and why I liked them. Simple enough.

The Social Network David Fincher

I reviewed it after it came out, or at least blogged about how I felt about the movie itself, and how Facebook has changed over the years I’ve been using it, and how much a part of my generation’s online life it holds. The movie itself was well-written, directed, shot and of course, acted. Jesse Eisenberg uses his strength as a fast-talking, nerdy-looking lead and put on his jerk-face to create a character that while not necessarily true to the real Mark Zuckerberg, carried the movie with a headstrong passion. Eisenberg really captured Zuckerberg’s drive to create a revolutionary enterprise in Facebook, and helped solidify the movie’s non-stance on the creation and subsequent litigation surrounding Facebook. The cinematography was also great, in particular the tilt-shift focused crew race sequence. I found myself glued to the screen, mesmerized by the sights and sounds projecting from above. We’ll see how the movie fares as we inch closer to the imminent award season, but if I were a voter, it would definitely be on my list.

Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich

The emotional and cathartic conclusion of Pixar’s amazing franchise, Toy Story 3 was timed perfectly with the generational change occurring in both the film’s main human character Andy, and it’s audiences. When the first Toy Story came out, aside from being wowed by the technological prowess that Pixar provided with an entirely computer-generated film, the idea of having toys come to life and experience real human emotion with their owners was something every kid wished for. Now, 15 years later, my generation, like Andy in the film, is growing up and no longer play with those childhood toys we all loved so much. The movie captures the emotion that comes from growing up and letting go of your childhood, and while many of us painfully let our parents give away our favorite toys, and left it at that, Toy Story 3 gives us as sympathetic viewers, closure as Andy plays with Woody and friends one last time before giving them away to a young girl. It simultaneous gave us closure with the franchise’s end, and also with our own childhoods, and I applaud Pixar for achieving that near-impossible task.

Inception Christopher Nolan

I also blogged/reviewed this when it came out, and I was in the “wow that was amazing” state coming right off the movie. In the months since it came out, there has been a good deal of criticism of the movie, mostly calling out the logic flaws and lack of original plot, some going as far as saying the only real value of the movie was its visual effects. While all of these criticisms have their strong points, I simply go back to how I felt about the movie right after I saw it, and know that I enjoyed myself during it, and it left me thinking – whether it be specifically about the top spinning at the end and if it drops or not, or even just about the concepts of , and the rabbit hole that brings me through. It was exciting throughout, and like many of Christopher Nolan‘s films, leaves you guessing. I bought into it, and perhaps after another couple viewings it may lose its luster, but I still believe it belongs on this list.

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky

Just saw this, and was mesmerized by it throughout, especially watching Natalie Portman‘s psychological transformation. I always liked her as an actress, but I think this movie especially allowed her to show some real range as a sweet, innocent and driven ballerina, into an aggressive, sexually experimenting, paranoid, hallucinating ballet star, striving for perfection. Shot very intimately, the film-making allowed the viewer to watch this transformation, and Portman makes us believe every bit of it, even the horror-esque sequences. A real cross between Darren Aronofsky‘s “The Wrestler,” and “Requiem For a Dream,” both director and lead actress take us through a thrilling and emotional psychological journey. All in a movie about ballet.

The Fighter David O. Russel

Also just saw this, so it too is fresh in my mind, but I really enjoyed the gritty look at a struggling boxer caught between his career aspirations and his family. While everyone was great in it, I think that Christian Bale took the film, having lost 20 pounds and starving himself to portray a scrawny, crack-addicted has been boxer, trying to make a comeback by training his brother. A notorious method actor, Bale nailed the performance down to the last dropped r, (or should I say “ahh”), and this was especially evident after seeing the real life Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, giving a sign off to the crew after having been a part of the production process. The movie was half a boxing movie and half a family drama, and the boxing didn’t really show itself until the third act, where Micky is finally getting his shot and fighting toward a title shot. One of the more emotional parts of the movie occurs when the HBO documentary about crack-addiction airs, and the entire cast of characters huddles around their respective TVs, even Dicky in a large viewing in prison, hamming it up for the crowd of convicts. When they realize it is more of a tragic story than a triumph, the emotion of the family, and especially Dicky himself, brings down the excitement, and I think David O. Russel and the cast did a great job of capturing this quick emotional turnaround. Dicky says it best when he yells at his co-habitants to stop laughing, “my kid is crying and wants to be with his father, but he can’t because I’m in here with you all!” *may have gotten some of that quote wrong. As a coda, living in LA, across the country from my hometown, I love any movie that is spoken primarily in Boston accents. It’s a full-proof reminder of home. You may find me subconsciously dropping my r’s after seeing a movie like that.

*Honorable Mention – The Town Ben Affleck – Another Boston movie, this one showed Affleck’s ability to direct an action flick with some great sequences, including a European-style car chase through the narrow streets of the North End, and also a huge climactic shootout in Fenway Park. Great performances by Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively, both nailing a tough accent to grasp.

Feel free to comment on what you agree, disagree, or would like to add to this list. Stay internet-dialed to Josh Glass Online for more Best Of 2010 lists in the next day or two.

“Drop the ‘The.’ It’s cleaner.” Reminiscing about old Facebook, my sort of review of “The Social Network”

After seeing “The Social Network,” the story about how the originally programming and company of “Facebook” came about and succeeded, I couldn’t help but be reminiscent of “The Facebook’s” early days, when I first joined in 2005.

One of the major pluses t0 being accepted into a college was getting your “.edu” email address, which meant you could sign up for “The Facebook.” When I joined, it had expanded a good deal from its Harvard-only exclusivity, but nowhere near as open as it is nowadays. It was a couple of years before they let high-schoolers sign up, and then eventually everyone. It was a part of my college experience even before I got to college. I “met” and talked with people who were on my freshman year floor, some of which I would actually become friends with. In REAL life. Although, there was always the awkward “This person is being a little stalkery,” even in the early days. After seeing the movie, at least in the view of the filmmakers, the idea behind the social tool was to be able to find out information about people you knew, or kind of knew, without necessarily having to speak with them directly. This dynamic was already present in existing social networks, especially in Myspace’s case.

Not only did Facebook coincide with my college experience, it really came into my life when I first got my own computer. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this milestone, and it’s an interesting insight into the simultaneously privatized and publicized lives of young college students 5, 6, 7 years ago. We became independent with our own computers, moving away from home into our new lives, which allowed us a more private computing use – no need to worry about sharing a computer with family members, everything you did on your laptop was yours. But at the same time, we began expanding our online lives, sharing various bits of information about ourselves – our interests, our relationships statuses and sexual preferences, who we associate with, what we say to each other, etc.

Once pictures came into the mix, it became a whole new scenario. Suddenly you had to be careful what was posted of you and how you were shown in pictures – underage drinking at college parties, drug use, being in photos with members of the opposite sex when you had a significant other stalking your page. Very quickly, the freedom we had to express ourselves and share our lives with peers online had a shadow cast over it – there were consequences to our online actions, oftentimes dire ones – relationships ruined, jobs lost, parents upset.

Speaking of parents, once Facebook was opened up to the general public, where anyone with an email could join, many of our generation’s parents started joining, as they had obviously heard so much about it from us, because it was as much a part of our lives as college and high school kids as music, movies, comedy, fashion, drinking, partying – any and all of our interests.

Through the whole time, Facebook was expanding and quickly becoming the biggest social network out there, and making Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in the world. This is where I found “The Social Network” very interesting. Having been on Facebook from its earlier stages (not the earliest obviously, but within a year or so of its inception), it was interesting to see what was happening behind the scenes with Zuckerberg and his business partners throughout my own personal experiences with Facebook. I remember when they dropped the “The” from the title. I remember when it expanded worldwide, and when it reached 1 million members, and it’s so amazing to think that now, only a few years later, they’re at 500 million members and still growing.

A good way to conclude this pseudo-review would be to imagine what life through college would have been like without having this social tool to help us through it. Sure, there would have been other venues of communicating with each other – perhaps AIM or G-Chat later on would continue to carry online communications between college kids. Perhaps texting would have taken off a few years earlier. Of course, another new thing would eventually have to come along, clearly the idea was thought of in similar senses in similar circles, had Zuckerberg not created what he created. But despite all those “what-ifs,” the fact remains that Facebook exists, and is pretty much in everyone’s lives, whether they use it every day, or just check it every so often. It’s helped college kids make new friends freshman year, it’s helped people find former high school and college classmates, years after they’ve lost touch. It’s allowed us to share anything and everything with each other, its helped craft both the course of our personal lives online, and also the course of social media in general. Now, you can log in to almost any site with your Facebook profile, there isn’t a site out there that doesn’t allow you to share things on Facebook. “Facebooking” and “Friending” are in our collective vernacular, (and in our dictionaries, at least in the case of the latter). Facebook is as much a part of our lives as television or movies are, it’s even social water-cooler talk – “did you see what Jim said on his Facebook? He caught a foul ball at the Sox game yesterday, and was on TV!”

I was thinking a bit about brand loyalty while watching “The Social Network,” and I came to this conclusion – there are very few companies that have such a strong hold on their consumer base as Facebook does. Apple comes to mind, but it’s slightly different, because Apple creates tactile products that cost money. Facebook is a free, extremely useful tool, and I think it may be safe to say it goes beyond seeing Facebook as a brand. I really think that it’s clearly not a fad, and may even overtake our use of email as the primary source of online communication. If not Facebook specifically, than the various social networks that exist – Facebook for primarily social forms of communication, Linked-In, or something similar for our business networking, Twitter for real-time updates on news, events, traffic conditions, whatever.

It’s an exciting time we’re living in, in terms of technology and social media – things that haven’t always garnered such strong attention, and in the case of social media, didn’t exist a decade ago. Just look at the box office numbers for “The Social Network” after this weekend is done. The movie isn’t even necessarily an entirely fact-based account of the beginnings of the Social Media giant. But everyone is going out to see it, because everyone is on Facebook, and everyone is interested in its story. And it’s a good story to be told.

Feel free to Facebook your comments.

Oh yeah, and my quick review of the movie itself – Aaron Sorkin wrote a great script, extremely well-shot and directed, thanks to Mr. David Fincher and his DP, Jeff Cronenweth, and the interpersonal drama between the main characters, despite being almost entirely based on legal issues and testimony, which many find tedious and boring, was compelling throughout. While no one actor really shined off the screen, perhaps Justin Timberlake could be mentioned just for the fact that he’s proving himself to be more talented than any of us thought from his “Bye, Bye, Bye” days with *NSYNC. While Facebook may or may not have started in exactly in the way that the movie portrays, the tension sifts throughout the heavy dialogue and business/legal jib-jab. You leave the movie not really sure whose side to be on, aside from maybe just Facebook’s side. We use it. We like it. We’re addicted to it. We don’t necessarily care one way or another whose original idea it was, or who screwed who out of the company. I for one, am content with simply clicking the big “like” button on “The Social Network.”

The Social Network 2010
I have 660 friends – how many enemies does that mean I have?