Every year, we put the call out to our staff to pick the year’s best—best films, best DVDs, best TV and performances—and every year, out staff comes up with more selections than we can initially handle. That’s why now, once all the hoopla has subsided and the consensus drawn, we can branch out a with 50 additional efforts our writers felt we overlooked. Call them misjudged (or misguided), but from A to Z, these are the movies we missed for 2010.
* * *
Life During Wartime
Ally Sheedy, Allison Janney, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Marquette, Paul Reubens. Michael Kenneth Williams
Using the themes of redemption and forgiveness like scabs on a festering wound, director Todd Solondz throws aside the crude scatology of Happiness to make this unusual “sequel” a celebration of endurance. Once again, the characters are no more settled than when we meet them the first time, sexual psychosis and maladjustment staining their every action. But instead of dealing with shock and scandal, Solondz has turned political and what he has to say is a far more accurate reflection of America circa 2010 than his previous film was as a look at life in 1997. By turning the bogeyman from the past into a take on terrorism and homosexuality as the new “evils”, he mines exceedingly fresh material. A whole new cast aside, these are really the same Jordans, obsessed with their own petty fears and completely incapable of conquering these imaginary ‘monsters’. Bill Gibron
The Living Wake
Mike O’Connell , Jesse Eisenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Ann Dowd
If there is a fine line between quirky and irritating, this film finds it and then crosses it several dozen times during its nutty 90-minute run. As a surreal starring vehicle for Funny or Die fixture Mike O’Connell, this bizarro black comedy has eccentricity to spare. Focusing on the clueless, delusional lead and his universe of equally offbeat associates, we are prepared for something very unusual. Instead, we are ramrodded into a realm so freaking unreal that we often wonder if we’re watching a broadcast from another dimension. Luckily, it’s a wildly entertaining and easily enjoyable transmission. Bill Gibron
Made in Dagenham
Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff
The period tunes plinking out of radios or layered behind montages in Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham are all perfectly appropriate for its time. Small Faces, Traffic, and Desmond Dekker summon up a time and mood, but as this overly winsome film goes on, they feel more and more like a crutch for a movie that can’t quite face up to its deadly serious topic. Though he has vegetables on his menu, Cole tries time and again to serve up dessert first, in the form of perky tunes, self-consciously retro costumes (beehives and hot pants), and light humor, distractions from a story that doesn’t need the help. Chris Barsanti
Benjamin Bratt, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Max Rosenak, Erika Alexander, Jesse Borrego
La Mission was a true labor of love for its filmmaker, Peter Bratt. Having long sat in the shadow of his far more famous brother, Benjamin, he yearned to find a means of making his mark in the otherwise cutthroat world of entertainment. By staying close to his Latino roots, he has done just that. First there was Follow Me Home, a bracing introspection of the cultural divide between Chicanos, African Americans, and Native Americans. Now he further focuses his vision with La Mission, looking at the struggles of a recovering alcoholic ex-con (brother Ben) who builds lowriders for a living. When he discovers that his estranged yet beloved son is gay, the reverberations both internally and within the community make for compelling exploration. While not always perfect or free from its low budget leanings, La Mission is still a provocative and proud film. Bill Gibron
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Chloë Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon
Undeniably quirky, but also very effective from a straight dramatic standpoint, this offbeat film argues for Werner Herzog’s continued viability as one of the great filmmakers of the post-modern age. With an eye that can’t help but produce masterworks and an aesthetic which neatly balances the weird with the clear and concrete, he forges a path toward enlightenment while tossing as many unusual beats at the audience as possible. Yet the director always counterattacks the initial oddness with an insight or explanation that furthers our understanding of the subtext involved in the story. Bill Gibron