Note: For a complete list of my favorite films of 2010, please visit my wholly deficient list over at criticWIRE.
Obligatory Repetitive Introduction
In the past, in lieu of ranking movies and being held hostage by the dissonance between the film release calendar and my own experience of the ebb and flow of filmgoing, I have listed my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. I want to get back to that; as the way in which I get to watch movies and talk about them continues to diversify, as the idea of cinematic experience expands to multiple devices, formats, cities, communities, I think this list is here to stay. The age of the theatrical release calendar is dead for me; we’re living in a new time, where the movies can be found in every area of life, from online conversations to your home entertainment system, the back of a car seat to a projection screen at a restaurant, your phone to a portable tablet. So, I am going back to my old model, probably for good; over the next ten days, I’ll be posting my Top 10 Cinematic Experiences of 2010. Not necessarily films (although sometimes), these are the experiences that defined my year in film culture. Subjectivity alert!
7. The Social Network At The New York Film Festival
This one seems like a no brainer; one of the most celebrated films of the year, David Fincher’s The Social Network screened for the first time for the press and industry at the New York Film Festival. It was a relatively unique situation for me; a big Hollywood movie, about a subject that couldn’t be more timely, premiering in an art house environment with the creative team in attendance. The NYFF has done this in the past, but it is rare to get a movie this big that hasn’t played Venice or Cannes or Toronto; it was a real coup for the Film Society to be the organization that launched this movie into the world. If the team behind the movie were looking to build critical word of mouth, they could hardly have made a smarter decision. How excited were the press to see this movie? Here is the view from my position in line at 8:10 AM on the morning of the screening (and I was near the front of the line, which continued on around the corner):
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
From the moment the movie screened, the press (for the most part) has been enamored with The Social Network and for good reason; I found it to be among the best movies I saw all year.
But in analyzing my own feelings about the film (not my critical reading of the movie but literally my feelings about the film,) I think part of the reason I enjoyed The Social Network so much is not completely dependent upon the content of the movie itself (although, that too) but is instead based upon what the movie was and when a saw it; coming near the end of a month-long run of festival screenings, many days filled with five or six screenings featuring challenging international films, heartfelt documentaries and smaller independent features, The Social Network was a bolt from the blue; sharp, fast and distinctly American in its cynicism, subject and execution, it felt like a movie for our culture, for our time, for, well, me. I still love international cinema and powerful non-fiction, but there is also something hardwired inside of me that responds to the Hollywood tradition, the social issue movie, the grand themes executed with precision yet rendered accessible on the level of pure entertainment. Maybe I give too much credit to movies that hit the sweet spot and access that part of my own experience and brain, but I can’t help myself. I was knocked out by The Social Network; right movie, right place, right time.
The New York Film Festival remains my personal favorite event. Do they have issues? Sure; the programming process is imperfect (I'll say it again, the non-fiction programming is generally below par and the selection committee, filled with critics and not programmers, very publicly declined Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and, among the strangest decisions in the history of film programming, did not select Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, which is set at Lincoln Center, is terrific fun, and would have made a vastly superior Closing Night film to Hereafter) but it's all understandable; The NYFF shows the movies I love, in a theater I love, surrounded by familiar faces, inspiring debate and blowing up my (admittedly cloistered) Twitter feed. This year’s Top Ten Experiences features two films from the festival (one more to come... what could it be?), and I can’t sing its praises enough. Another wonderful autumn in New York...
The Social Network Team (L to R): Aaron Sorkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, David Fincher