2010 was a particularly compelling year for documentaries, even if there wasn't a break-out, "March of the Penguins"-type success story in there. We got stories about street art ("Exit Through the Gift Shop"), Facebook ("Catfish"), the financial crisis ("Inside Job") and the general fucked-up-ness of the American educational system ("Waiting for 'Superman'"). All of these stories are amazing, for sure, but one of the more incredible stories of the year, in terms of documentaries, was that one filmmaker, the Oscar-winning Alex Gibney, created two of the year's very best - "Casino Jack and the United States of Money" and "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer."
"Casino Jack" was the real story of Jack Abramoff (sorry, Kevin Spacey), an out-of-control political tale that is streaked with the very blackest of black humor. And "Client 9" was the rare real-life conspiracy tale -- one in which a crusading politician is brought down by the private vices he often publicly campaigned against. Considering he was responsible for two of the very best movies of 2010, we asked Gibney what his favorites of the year were. He delivered us a great list.
"The Town" - Great action movie with a character at the center who gets caught in his own lies. Love that theme.
"Vincere" - A brilliant film, that is about personal and political corruption (my thing) and also about cinematic myth-making. Marco Bellocchio does a brilliant job with the sex scenes, where you can see the evil in the eyes of the young Mussolini and also a lovingly accurate recreation of the way people used to go to the movies. He also freely intercuts actual newsreels with footage he shot. Wow!
"Last Train Home" - A powerful film that is painful to watch. The crowd scenes at the railway stations will terrify you. Imagine losing one of your children there. And the scenes between the daughter - who wants nothing to do with school - and her parents - who desperately want her to reach higher so that she doesn't end up like them - are riveting and hurt like hell. And I do mean hell.
"The Kids Are All Right" - So much joy in this film. So human. We are not perfect and that's "all right."
"The Oath" - Laura Poitras is a gift. She is doggedly pursuing the issues re: the global war on terror that will haunt us for years to come. She gets "inside" the contradictions of terror and shows us its human face.
"Inside Job" - A very clear distillation of the economic crisis.
"The Social Network" - A powerful film about winner take all values. Scary.
"Toy Story 3" - So much joy.
"I Am Love" - The power of passions that can't be controlled. And Tilda Swinton's performance - magnifico!
"The Tillman Story" - This one made me mad. Watching Rumsfeld lie with impunity to congress. Why do we allow our government to lie to us like this?
"Black Swan" - Darren Aronofsky at the top of his game. The terrifying face of ambition.
"All Good Things" - A riveting film about what happens when a good girl meets an evil family. It's not a happy ending. And the face of evil is sympathetically portrayed without excusing the crimes committed.
"12th And Delaware" - Rachel [Grady] and Heidi [Ewing] ("Jesus Camp") - You go girls!