We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
It's halfway over. One thing seems to be sure, it's not just the USA dominating. First the World Cup, now films. I normally don't do this, but three of my TOP 7 Films So Far in 2010 are from overseas. All that reading, all those subtitles, and yet, there they sit. On the top of my list. It's been a rough summer, but with Christopher Nolan's Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt opening this weekend, the summer is starting to look better. For this list, The movie had to open by June 30, 2010. That's right, The Last Airbender can't qualify (for many reasons, the date only being one of them).
And now let it begin.
7. The Joneses
Recap: A family of four moves in to an upper-class gated community and immediately starts putting on a show with all of their new toys and fancy things. They seem perfect and so do their things, so what’s their secret? You’ll have to try and keep up. Reason: It’s an idea so simple, it’s amazing this concept hasn’t already been done to death. The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” has accelerated to what is now simply marketing genius. The Joneses captures that idea perfectly with the meticulously groomed David Duchonvy, Demi Moore, Ben Hollingsworth and Amber Heard leading the way. This film is at its best when it is showing you how susceptible other people can be when it comes to new toys. And by toys I mean, the latest golf, TV, workout gear and food around. Yes, the film tries to be a little too much at the end. It doesn’t know exactly what genre it wants the last 20 minutes to fall into. But until then, it’s a wild ride with a great con-family.
6. Terribly Happy (Frygtelig lykkelig)
Recap: In this film from Denmark, Robert (Cedergren) is a Copenhagen cop who gets transferred to a small, strange Danish village where the locals like to keep to themselves. Robert starts to investigate an abusive husband, which leads to many problems, with the entire town watching every move. Reason: Technically this film came out in 2009. You're going to see that again and again with the foreign films on this list. Portland didn't get this film until the Portland International Film Festival. The first 20 minutes of the film could be a comedy, a love story, a thriller or just a version of “Northern Exposure.” It’s a little too easy to say, but the town is the best character in the film. The store where Robert must deal with a shoplifting kid, the little girl walking at night, the card game between the town leaders and most importantly … the bog. For 1.5 hours you can’t think of anything else, and you’re lost on this odd journey with Robert, even though some of his choices will kill you. To top it all off, the film comes together for a perfect ending. Not enough people will see this film. That’s a shame. It made me terribly happy.
5. Hood to Coast
Recap: This documentary follows four unlikely teams on their epic journey to conquer the world’s largest relay race. Each year, 1000 teams (12,000 runners) cover 197 grueling miles as a relay team, putting themselves through an arduous physical journey that as an individual would be impossible. The race is from Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast. Reason: You can call me a homer on this one, and you don’t need to be a runner to fall in love with this cross country trip. Huge fan. I moved to Portland almost two years ago. I’ve fallen in love with the weather (compared to Chicago), the hikes, the beer, and the food. This documentary is just another reason to love Oregon. I need to be a part of this race, though I’m leaning toward “team driver.”
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Man som hatar kvinnor)
Recap: In this Swedish film from Steig Larson's Millennium Trilogy, a disgraced journalist is hired by the powerful head of a wealthy family to find a woman missing for 40 years. He’s joined by an antisocial hacker and together they uncover way more about the Vanger family than they anticipated. Reason: Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) is an inspiring, angry, sexy character who is put through hell by men. Luckily, she can dish out some punishment as well. That's just one reason why this thriller works. Lisbeth eventually joins Mikeal (Michael Nyqvist) in the investigation and they play off of each other with great delight. The mystery builds and builds with fantastic tension all the way until the end. The Girl Who Played With Fire also came out this year (July), and while still good, this one is better.
3. Shutter Island
Recap: Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) are called to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the disappearance of a woman from the island’s hospital for the criminally insane. Reason: It was a great feeling to be in Martin Scorsese’s hands. He controls every aspect of this film, and it’s simply obvious he knows what he is doing. Once again, we get a really good DiCaprio show. We are completely and utterly on a journey with him, and want to know the truth of the mysterious disappearance of a woman just as much as he does. It’s rare to have a film slow down and really keep you in a moment. Most films don’t stick us in a dream sequence for 15 minutes. But here, it all works toward a great ending.
2. The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos)
Recap: Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, this film from Argentina tells the story of a retired criminal court investigator (Darín) attempting to write a novel about a murder he was trying to solve 25 years ago. Reason: The Secret in Their Eyes will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. Patience, justice, and true love. Those are just a few of the things this film nails. It takes a train station scene and breathes new life into it. It takes you down some dark paths you didn’t see coming. For a foreign film to do that, is truly impressive.
I’ve noticed if I start to fall in love with a foreign film, I start thinking who should play these roles if an American filmmaker decides to remake the film. With this one I landed on Daniel Day-Lewis or George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones (who I normally don’t care for) and Gene Hackman in the supporting role. D
1. Toy Story 3
Recap: In this animated three-quel, the toys are back, but their owner Andy is all grown up and about to leave for college. Woody (Hanks) and Buzz (Allen) must try to figure out where to go, but they run into trouble at Sunnyside Daycare. Reason: I didn't see this one coming. This movie truly captures the pain and worry of being alone. Lotso and his gang try to sell the idea of “No owners means no heartbreak.” Woody tries to sell the idea of being there for someone, even when they don’t want you anymore.
If you want to remember your childhood, and the passion you can have for inanimate objects, then go see this movie. Actually, no matter what your thinking is … go see this film, it’s my favorite of the first half of 2010.