Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Most Inspiring Films 2010!

The movie year started off sloooowly. There were few Hollywood films that I wanted to watch, much less review. Luckily for me, I had the Loft Cinema where I could enjoy enchanting foreign films and documentaries. Ah, the docs! Is is amazing how documentaries have come into their own – even being screened in mainstream theaters – as entertaining (sometimes more entertaining) than their narrative counterparts. Generally, I don't review docs, but some of my favorite films of the past year happen to be docs so I'm including them on, “Jana's Favorite Inspiring Films of 2010” list. And as long as I'm breaking my self-imposed rules, I'll throw in a couple of wonderful animated films as well. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: In the delicious Italian treat, "Mid-August Lunch" the unemployed fifty-ish bachelor Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio) shows respect for his ninety-something mother by taking good care of her and lovingly preparing their meals. The landlord is willing to forgive their growing dept if they take in his mother so he can get away for the Mid-August holiday. He drops off his mother AND his aunt. Soon their doctor's mother joins the mix. So Gianni must survive the weekend playing good host to four strong-willed shut-ins. What impressed me most was how he never loses his manners but treats these woman with the respect earned by those who have reached a certain age. This film illustrates the isolation that comes with aging and our continued need to socialize. There is an Italian saying, "A tavola no s'invecchia," that articulates the theme perfectly, "The passage of time is suspended with experiencing the pleasure of good food, good wine and company."

12. “Four Lions” – There aren't that many comedies about terrorists. But “Four Lions” boldly turns a hilariously dark parody about extremist values into a moving tale about the innate cluelessness of the human-race.

11. “Toy Story 3” - A touching, nostalgic adventure for adults who remember what it's like to be kids - through the eyes of their toys. Won Best Animated Film of the year.

10.“Afghan Star” – a documentary on Afghan's version of American Idol. After being suppressed by 30 years of war and Taliban rule, the Afghan people are finally able to gather around the one TV in the village and enjoy their favorite show. A female contestant risks her life for a greater cause – to share with her fellow countrymen the expression of the human spirit through dance.

9. Sci-Fi Meets Immigration Debate in the award winning indie, “Sleep Dealer.” Director Alex Rivera sets his tale in a third world country and a big city. When their water is taken by international corporations, the local people are forced into hard labor to survive. The clever executives have invented a way to exploit their labor from afar so they don't even have to see the workers in their neighborhoods. The worker is connected to a machine where he becomes a puppet master, his arm movement controlling the arm of a robot at a distant construction sight. Even their private memories are bought and sold for mass entertainment. A truly original slant on immigration issues.

8. “The Fighter” – is one film I wish I had reviewed when it came out. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the fighting world was just so familiar and common. It didn't feel original. When his older brother fails to become the champ, the weight of the family is shifted to Micky's (Mark Wahlberg) shoulders. His fighting career becomes the family business with his drug addicted brother (Christian Bale) as his trainer and his over-bearing mother (Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo) acting as manager. Christian Bale (Best Supporting Actor) and Melissa Leo gave Oscar winning performances in this Best Picture nominated film about overcoming personal adversity and the bonds of family.

7. “Lebanon” - When this came out, it was one of the best movies I'd seen in a looong time. It showed the confusion and human tragedy of war from the claustrophobic view of a tank soldier.

6. “Don't Let Me Drown” -(I also didn't get a chance to write a review of Cruz Angeles' Sundance indie because I was busy watching more films at the AIFF.) Two young people are brought together by the 9/11 tragedy that touched both of their families in this refreshingly real love story. It is good to see normal Bronx teens for a change rather then the juvenile delinquents commonly portrayed in movies. The filmmaker takes his time setting up their world so the audience becomes invested in what happens to these kids in this moving, touchingly funny coming of age film. The naturalistic acting enhances the experience.

5. “How to Train Your Dragon” – Spectacular scenery, thrilling flight and combat scenes. An inspiring tale of how one person can lead the way to positive change when the old ways don't work anymore.

4. “The King's Speech” - England is on the verge of the second World War and the newly appointed King (Colin Firth) must give a speech rallying the country. But before he can speak for the people, he must manage his own debilitating stammer. His Majesty must overcome his mistrust of his therapist (Geoffrey Rush) and grow to trust that he is the powerful leader the country needs. This story is about more than making "The King's Speech." It is about the making of a King. I recommend this Best Picture winner for it's clever writing and inspiring story, Colin's Firth's dynamic, Oscar winning performance and Geoffrey Rush's hilarious take on the eccentric therapist.

3. “Winter's Bone” – my favorite for Best Picture. When her father disappears after putting the family house and farm up for bail, sixteen year old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) must traverse the dangerous backwoods of the Ozarks to bring him back. “Winter's Bone” was filmed on location in the Ozarks giving it an authentic feel by using their music, language, and customs. Writer/director Debra Granik and writer Anne Rosellini gave us a strong teenage heroine who showed loyalty, determination and strength as she did what had to be done to protect her young siblings and taught them the necessary survival skills in case she failed.

2. From the trailer, “Big River Man" appears to be a entertaining character study of an overweight Slovenian endurance swimmer in his fifties who drinks two bottles of red wine a day even when swimming. In 2007 Martin Strel began an insane attempt to be the first person to swim the entire length of the world's most dangerous river, the Amazon, supposedly to create an awareness of our polluted rivers. But his real driving force seems to be the pursuit of fame. When the river starts affecting his physical and mental health, we see that something else is driving him – a mystical quest for unity and mastery over nature. Don't let the trailer fool you. This is one of the most compelling, moving docs ever. Hilarious, disturbing, powerful.

1. My favorite film of the year was, “Even the Rain.” I was so moved by this picture that I stayed for a second screening. A production crew has come to Bolivia to shoot the story of how Columbus conquered the new world by suppressing and enslaving the indigenous people. Ironically, the crew is there to get cheap labor by exploiting the indigenous people to work as extras for $2 a day (and also have them build the sets). So they are actually exploiting the descendants of the very people the Spaniards exploited. During the filming, Spanish decedents are still suppressing the indigenous people by taking their most precious resource – their water supply. The director unknowingly casts a charismatic, outspoken local to play one of the natives - who turns out to be the leader of the water protests. As a filmmaker, I was inspired by the attention to detail that the fictional as well as the real director, Icíar Bollaín, gave to the Spanish and Inca history. And I find it admirable that despite having the scope and feel of a Hollywood epic, director Bollaín chose to tell this story in Spanish – accentuating Spanish responsibility in suppressing the Incas. Whew! I love this film!

Perusing this list, I can see that 2010 was great year for film.

Movie Blessings from 2010!

Jana Segal


Anonymous said...

Great list. I've seen about half the films, and am dying to see "Even the Rain". "True Grit" was one of my favorite inspirational films of the year.

Reel Inspiration said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

lil josh said...

Martin Strel is 50 years old, overweight, a drinker, smoker and a Slovenian.
He swam the amazon.
What did you do?

lil josh said...

It is a very nice list.
My favorite is big river man.

Aubrey said...

I haven't seen most of the films on the list but I did see "Winter's Bone." I found it very inspirational and definitely a step outside of the box. I thought the little girl did an excellent job of acting and was one of my favorite characters. Although I understand the movie called for a "white trash" setting, I did feel that the film gave the Ozarks a negative cover without any bright spots in the scenery, and being from the Ozarks it was a litte offensive that the natural beauty that there is in the Ozarks wasn't shown. Overall good story about pushing through any negative circumstance to find the positive.