…in which I answer the winter film quiz…


I’m Here (2010), directed by Spike Jonze.

Happy New Year! I might as well return from blog hiatus by way of Dennis Cozzalio’s famous film quiz, winter 2010 edition. (And how was your 2010? Mine was productive, thank you.) Here we go, after the jump.

1. Best Movie of 2010
Well, I only saw ten movies that qualify as being released in 2010, and a number of those were shorts and video essays, so take this with many grains of salt. Feature: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. Nintendo + Preston Sturges + wuxia + indie rock = pop brilliance. Short: Ramin Bahrani’s Plastic Bag, with a voiceover assist by Bahrani’s hero Werner Herzog. Nonfiction: Aaron Aradillas and Matt Zoller Seitz’s Razzle Dazzle: Fame through Movies, which raises the bar for the video essay considerably. (Start here.)

2. Second-favorite Roman Polanski Movie
The Pianist
(2002).

3. Jason Statham or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
The Rock, because he has a sense of humor about himself, he’s beautiful, and he’s surprisingly graceful in motion.

4. Favorite movie that could be classified as a genre hybrid
Takashi Miike’s The Bird People in China, from a man who blends genres together as a matter of course.

5. How important is foreknowledge of a film’s production history? Should it factor into one’s reaction to a film?
Completely insignificant. In fact, I prefer not to know any of the backstage gossip about actor squabbles, financial overruns, special-effects meltdowns, etc. Focus on what’s on the screen and in your ears. If I were a film historian, such as the mighty David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, I’d feel differently. But I’m not.

6. William Powell & Myrna Loy or Cary Grant & Irene Dunne?
Grant and Dunne, for The Awful Truth.

7. Best Actor of 2010
Edward Norton, for his dual performance as two very different—but complementary—twin brothers in Tim Blake Nelson’s underrated Leaves of Grass. Plus, Norton manages to get across a convincing country accent without condescending to the character.

8. Most important lesson learned from the past decade of watching movies
The Best Animated Oscar is a useless category because 80-90% of all released American movies are in some way animated. CGI cleanup, digital backgrounds, and color correction occurs even in middling romantic comedies, and it’s a guarantee than some part of your favorite action movie/western/violent drama features at least a small portion that has been computerized in post-production. Avatar and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (another underrated gem) heighten our clarity on this issue but, even without them, it’s no use pretending that cinema isn’t a hybrid of live-action and animation, even for indie flicks. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily—cinema has always been a hybrid art form. This decade just clarified that fact.

9. Last movie seen (DVD/Blu-ray/theater)
DVD: The Secret of Kells. Theater: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1).

10. Most appropriate punishment for director Tom Six
Take away his camera and film equipment, smash them down into bite-size components, and then tape him eating it all.

11. Best under-the-radar movie almost no one else has had the chance to see
Do you mean this year, or of all time? If the question means 2010, then Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass, a phenomenal tragicomedy about philosophy, our dual natures, the importance of reckoning with our hometowns/earliest selves, and some really fine hydroponic marijuana.

12. Sheree North or Angie Dickinson
Dickinson, Dickinson, Dickinson.

13. Favorite nakedly autobiographical movie
Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), though—of course—the filmmaker insists otherwise.

14. Movie which best evokes a specific real-life place
I’ve had friends disagree with me but I think Robert Altman’s Dr. T and the Women gets at my hometown—Dallas—pretty well.

15. Best Director of 2010
Spike Jonze, who emerged from the eight-year hell of making Where the Wild Things Are—which, frankly, wasn’t worth all the effort—to make a fantastic short (I’m Here) and a glorious, frightening Arcade Fire video for “The Suburbs.” (Also, a deeply odd and creepy video for LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls.”) Jonze is one of the most influential, visionary moviemakers of his generation but his métier—as with his friend Michel Gondry—is the short form. That’s not a knock against Being John Malkovich or Adaptation, exactly, but an acknowledgment that Jonze moves with his id and with a lo-fi dream logic that’s all his own but extraordinarily difficult to pull off in feature-length cinema without seeming insufferable. Jonze’s bursts of wild, poetic energy—gorgeous and lush even with Steadicam and naturalistic color—works best in condensed form: commercials, music videos, and shorts. It’s good to have him back.

16. Second-favorite Farrelly Brothers Movie
Stuck On You
.

17. Favorite holiday movie
Pieces of April
, which I’ve written about before.

18. Best Actress of 2010
Julianne Moore, who made The Kids Are All Right Though Their Movie Is Massively Overrated bearable by way of daffy line readings, off-center gestures, and a raw anguish that was difficult to bear.

19. Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson
Baker.

20. Of those notable figures in the world of the movies who died in 2010, name the one you’ll miss the most
Tony Curtis.

21. Think of a movie with a notable musical score and describe what it might feel like without that accompaniment.
The Best of Youth
reuses the “Catherine et Jim” score from Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, and I can’t imagine either film without this soaring, melancholy tune. The Best of Youth cuts fragments of “Catherine et Jim,” so that elements of it become, essentially, themes for specific characters. It’s a beautiful repurposing of a beautiful score:

22. Best Screenplay of 2010
Leaves of Grass
, which fuses Walt Whitman, Oklahoma pot dealers, philosophy, and low-rent Jewish gangsters… and gets away with it.

23. Movie You Feel Most Evangelistic About Right Now
See my answers for #7, #11, and #22.

24. Worst/funniest movie accent ever
Tim Curry, in Congo. He’s going for, I think, Eastern European timbre and pronunciation but it’s impossible to distinguish it from something a 5-year-old would make up on a lark.

25. Best Cinematography of 2010
I’m Here
, directed by Spike Jonze, with cinematography by Adam Kimmel.

26. Olivia Wilde or Gemma Arterton
Arterton, because… wow.

27. Name the three best movies you saw for the first time in 2010
I’m assuming this means movies not made in 2010. 1) Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, which is the first Jarmusch movie that I’ve enjoyed; 2) Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum, which just glows with beauty; and 3) Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo, which nearly got me to cry.

28. Best romantic movie couple of 2010
Scott Pilgrim and Knives Chau. Scott ended up with the wrong girl, which may have been Edgar Wright’s point.

29. Favorite shock/surprise ending
Call me a simpleton but The Sixth Sense’s ending really works for me.

30. Best cinematic reason to have stayed home and read a book in 2010
Another summer of superhero movies… now, with more sequels!

31. Movies in 2011 could make me much happier if they’d only…
…rediscovered classic Hollywood’s flair for screwball comedy. Seriously, when even Billy Mernit can’t pick a best romantic comedy of the year, then something’s really wrong.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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