The Best Films of 2010

Among this year's winners include a fake documentary, a comedy about Jihad, a vampire story NOT dealing with tacky tween romance, a haunting hillbilly noir, and an elegant tale about clones. Not necessarily the usual cinematic suspects.

Film: Carlos

Director: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstätten, Christoph Bach, Ahmad Kaabour, Fadi Abi Samra, Rodney El-Haddad

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Olivier Assayas' near-epic Carlos boasts the tagline, “The man who hijacked the world.” That man was the Venezuelan Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who in an act of revolutionary bravado rechristened himself "Carlos" -- a single name meant to echo and intimidate. In the early 1970s, Carlos become virtually a household name, the Cher or Madonna of international terrorism. As Carlos, Edgar Ramirez here commands the screen, but the film equally evokes a world of insurrectionist zeal, a particular time in history when a man like Carlos could imagine himself not just a revolutionary, but a worldwide celebrity. From the opening, Carlos turns into a rush of international plotting, revolutionary speechifying, and guerrilla war-making. Geography blurs, from sun-bleached Yemen to sun-bleached Morocco. Insurrectionist groups flower and pass. Relishing his position at the center of it all is Carlos. Soon adopting a Che Guevara look, he is all sex and violence; his potency is purely destructive. In an early scene he admires himself wet and naked in the mirror as the television news recounts his latest bombing. Later, while using a grenade to seduce a fellow revolutionary, Carlos says, “Weapons are an extension of my body.” He pursues satisfaction for both his weapons and his body. Jesse Hicks


Film: Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Sheen, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry

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Display Width: 200Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s vaunted re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic tales of fantastic dream-logic features a nubile young-adult Alice (Mia Wasikowska) enmeshed in a heroic quest narrative in a strife-torn Wonderland. That the resulting film is considerably more than a mere capitulation to Hollywood demographic schemes and recycled Joseph Campbell archetypes can be put down to the glorious visual flourishes and ingeniously idiosyncratic designs of Burton and his team, as well as the wonderfully performers camping it up in this technicolor realm. Helena-Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, with her CGI-inflated head and petulant selfishness, is a joy in every one of her scenes, and Johnny Depp adds the Mad Hatter to his gallery of sensitive, eccentrically-mannered leftfield rogues. As beautifully-constructed eye candy cinema goes, the multiplex crowd could do far worse than Alice in Wonderland. Ross Langager


Film: Casino Jack and the United State of Money

Director: Alex Gibney

Cast: Jack Abramoff, William Branner Tom DeLay, Donn Dunlop, Kevin Henderson, Hal Kreitman, Kelly Brian Kuhn, Paolo Mugnaini, Bob Nay, Ralph Reed, Michael Scanlon, Neil Volz

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Display Width: 200Casino Jack and the United State of Money

Jack Abramoff is famous for making money. He made lots of it, he made it for a long time, and he made it illegally. He didn't make it alone, though. And the way he made it was not his own invention. This is the argument made by Casino Jack and the United State of Money: the erstwhile super-lobbyist Abramoff is surely audacious and noisy and "a man of many hats," but he is also a little mundane, not so singular or deviant as he's been made out to be. The reasons for calling him extraordinary are obvious enough: if Abramoff's schemes to buy and sell members of Congress were his own alone, and he's now imprisoned for his crimes, the problem appears to be resolved. But even the most naïve observer knows this can't be true, and now it seems that everyone, from Tea Partiers to Coffee Partiers, is wary of Congress as a matter of course. So, when, just a couple of minutes in, Casino Jack asks its first and most pressing question -- "Is this the story of individual corruption or the story of what our democracy has become?" -- you already have an idea of the answer. Still, coming to the answer is a fascinating process. Like Alex Gibney's other documentaries, it begins with a violent crime, in this case, the 2005 gangster-style murder of SunCruz founder Gus Boulis. The plot thickens, as it were, as the film digs into the background of this purchase, specifically, how Abramoff came to be rich enough to make it. Significantly, Abramoff does not take part in telling his story, at least on screen. And in the face of this problem, the film finds a series of ingenious solutions -- elegant, funny, and preposterous ways to sort out the man's thinking and contexts. Cynthia Fuchs


Film: The Ghost Writer

Director: Roman Polanski

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi, Eli Wallach

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In Britain it’s just called The Ghost, which better expresses the multiple meanings present in Roman Polanski’s political thriller about an unnamed writer (Ewan McGregor) offered too much money to prepare the memoirs of a British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) whose similarities to Tony Blair are impossible to miss. The ghost of the previous writer, who came to an unfortunate end, hovers over the story, the writing takes place in an isolated beach house, the sky always seems to be overcast... and I’d hate to spoil the fun by saying more. Based a Robert Harris novel, The Ghost Writer is also a pointed political satire and the end result is a film which works on multiple levels at once. Sarah Boslaugh


Film: Shutter Island

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow

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For anyone who wondered if Martin Scorsese had lost his flair for old fashioned filmmaking, this evocative noir-esque thriller was proof of his continuing gifts. Sure, the performances were electrifying and the narrative a twisted knot of red herrings and last act surprises, but the real star here was the American auteur. He took his love for all things Hitchcock, married them to a post-modern idea of dread, and turned it all into a sinister stew pot of visual finesse and narrative terror. Even in today's contemptuous, couldn't care less world, Scorsese got audiences curious, and questioning, wondering if what they saw was reality or the unhinged images of a deranged mind. By the end, it was impossible to tell, which is why this movie remains one of the year's most compelling. Bill Gibron


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The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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