Sunday, January 30, 2011

John Cook at AFA

Early last month, Anthology Film Archives presented an almost-retrospective (3 of 4 feature films) of Canadian-Austrian filmmaker John Cook, active throughout the 1970s in his adopted home of Vienna. It is the type of programming AFA excels in- a spirited retrieval of a minor yet dynamic artist, a vital contribution to a cinephilic education in an age of haphazard digital proliferation. Although Cook’s oeuvre presented here did indeed strike me as minor, he apparently has become posthumously (Cook died in 2001) revered in Austria. This may have as much to do with the miniscule national film industry as it does with the nature of the films themselves. Olaf Moller tackles the question here- the best English language writing on Cook I’ve found on the web. The 3 prints screened by AFA were on loan from the Austrian Film Museum, and were preceded by introductions from the American distributor of new dvd releases.
Despite its brevity, Cook’s retrospective satisfied, displaying creative variation and rapid artistic development. The quantum leaps in technique and effect between the three films (all produced in a six year time-span) suggest a thoughtful, independent artist searching for a style in a new medium (Cook came to Europe as a professional photographer.) One can speculate on the periods of reflection and correction in the interims. Development of the auteur’s process aside, the retrospective offered many attractions: the vivid capturing of Vienna in the 70s, an inside look at its working class and bohemian milieus, and even a portrait of Cook himself, who acts in Slow Summer. Cook’s work is close to experience, if not outright autobiographical, and situated in the present. In all three works, a tension emerges between Cook’s nouvelle vague-influenced casual impulsiveness, and the langourous drag of small budgets, cinematic inexperience, and authorial persona. Only the last work, Clinch, seems worthy of occupying any place in the Austrian film canon, although the other pieces are not mere expat diletantism. If not quite sparkling, they are the products of a grown man and mature artist with an admirable bent towards exploration inward, and outward towards his new, adopted country.
The earliest work, 1973’s I Just Can’t Go On, is a documentary-like look at the small but bustling life of Cook’s building janitor. A frumpy but good-natured mother of three, she is inexplicably married to a young, aimless gypsy, a would-be prize fighter stuck in a working-class rut. They make an odd couple, an obvious fact that Cook downplays. Instead the film is a microsociology of working-class life, specifically its small limitations, disappointments, and diversions. Although the portrait’s protagonist mutters “I just can’t go on” in the last reel, its clear that she can, and does, but devoid of any real hopes or expectations for a better future. Between work hours she plays cards with her family, accompanies her husband to outdoor fights, and keeps her household in order. There is a tenderness between the couple, even after she realizes that his boxing career is a pipe dream- he is pummelled in his first and only fight, and must find gainful employment to avoid imprisonment on a youthful criminal conviction. Cook records both work and play with a handheld camera and natural lighting; anything but such a verite approach would be off-key. Audio and image are mostly unsynced, and at times completely autonomous, the former extended monologues by husband and (mainly) wife, the images roughly stitched together of their daily activities. The boxing montages are roughly lyrical, despite the crude technique. Essentially a home movie, a dry run of method, it is a precursor to the better and more professionally accomplished look at working-class ennui in Clinch. However, its roughly hewn vitality and the odd charisma of its subjects generate a melancholic charm.
Slow Summer, coming three years later, begins with a metanarrative trope- Cook visits a friend to review footage from a previous summer. Their commentary recedes to allow a conventional, if indeed molasses slow, narrative about Cook (or a Cook-like character played by the director, to be precise) and a clique of friends to unfold. None of these petty-bourgeois bohemians is particularly likable, but Cook, pining and stewing over a break-up (he is trying to make “the Ilse movie” in her honor) comes off the worst. Self-deprecation notwithstanding, he’s a manipulative jerk without much screen charisma. As director, however, Cook demonstrates a rapid development from his previous work. Although still shooting on grainy black-and-white, his montage is confident, dialogue and continuity well executed. The dive into cinema evident in I Just Can’t Go On’s rough form enters the narrative here as a conceptual concern, albeit with a framing device that doesn’t quite deliver what it suggests. A bigger problem is the dull characters; their little romances and endeavors fail to draw much more then a shrug from them or us. There’s not enough charm in its drowsy rhythms for Slow Summer to rise above much more than a modest snapshot. The moments that remain are not the characters or their obscure motivations, but interesting asides amongst the talking, driving, drinking- a rude cabbie, naked children on scooters, a discussion of Lou Reed’s Transformer album.
Finally there was Clinch, based on a novel by Helmut Zenker, and announcing its break from the previous features immediately with its bright color compositions. In the first sequence a fantastically repulsive gang of park landscapers, who break up their day with drinking and whoring, try to compel a middle-aged woman to show her parts. Protagonist Hermann dourly navigates the depravity of his peers, but silently seethes over his life conditions. With a sullen child’s demeanor and the habits of a sailor, Hermann’s hapless charm emerges only slowly. Incapable of commitment, he disappoints his loving girlfriend, is estranged from the conservative family with whom he still lives, and eventually walks off his miserable job, falling into a crisis that concludes with imprisonment for beating up his brother, an intolerable aspiring yuppie. Whats with Hermann? Perhaps a close literary likeness is Berlin Alexanderplatz’s Franz Biberkopf, the marginalized laborer on the razors edge of lumpenproletariat, led by overwhelming external powers, “like an animal to slaughter,” to a terrible end. In short, he suffers acutely from an alienation unique to prosperous and comfortable societies (represented by his family passively gathered around the television), as well as a real exploitation in his role of unskilled laborer. Although his facade is inscrutable, Hermann’s slow persistence upon returning to the world is evidence of a well-spring of resilient inner resistance. Clinch surprises in its sophisticated maintenance of dread in the midst of which Hermann scores a series of believable lucky breaks: a decent job with loyal coworkers, the return of his girlfriend, now with child. The film abruptly ends as the last and only wedding guest departs, leaving Hermann staring headlong into a future, although vastly improved, still limited by the melancholic horizons of working class stability. Developing from I Just Can’t Go On, Cook lets this final work live and breathe with the daily concerns of working-class life: discussions of work routines, patient sequences of Hermann and the truck he drives, minor flarings of workplace disputes. An obvious debt here to both Italian neo-realism as well as the post-68 cinematic return of the declasse from the likes of Tanner, Godard, Fassbinder, and others. If this was to be the culmination of Cook’s career (or at least this retrospective), it is a principled and solid finish.

-Ben Webster

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upcoming Films

International House

Wednesday Jan. 26 at 6:30pm Viridiana and The Phantom of Liberty by Luis Bunuel - Free double feature screening incorporation with ICA's Set Pieces Exhibition

Thursday Jan. 27 at 7:00pm The Oldest Profession by Franco Indoyvina, Mauro Bolognini, Philippe de Broca, Michael Pfleghar, Claude Autant-Lara, and Jean-Luc Godard - Screening of this rare French omnibus film from the 1960s. Most notable for Godard's short, which is the last film he made with Anna Karina.

Opening at the Ritz (January 28th)
Another Year by Mike Leigh
Bhutto by Duane Baughman and Johnny O'Hara

Film Comment You Have to be Kidding

I received the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Film Comment in the mail this week and discovered that they have decided to put a picture of Reese Witherspoon from James L. Brooks' film How Do You Know on the cover. No, this is not a joke, but Film Comment has now decided that they are willing to completely compromise their integrity as long as they sell a few more issue. They actually put Reese Witherspoon on the cover; this, I have to say, is unforgivable. I can make an exception for Inception because at least there is something to talk about and Christopher Nolan has made interesting films the past, but James L. Brooks? Reese Witherspoon? How Do You Know? A completely uninspired romantic comedy with almost no artistic or cinematic merit! This is almost reason enough to cancel my subscription and include a letter of utter shock and disappointment. Do they really think the audience they appeal to gives a shit whether or not Reese Witherspoon is on the cover? How many more issues are they going to sell with this? Not many, I suspect because as soon as someone picks up this issue and looks inside, they will most likel lose interest anyway. Film Comment is supposedly the premier film magazine in the United States, which purports to offer insightful and in depth commentary on both contemporary and classic cinema and yet still, they feel the need to appeal to the masses. Why? I really cannot fathom this choice. Either they think this will sell a lot more issues or, which may be even worse I'm not sure, they legitimately believe How Do You Know is an important piece of cinema worthy of not only the cover of an issue, but also a full spread and interview with the director. Either way, this is a fucking disgrace!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Stay down mother fucker! The nominations for the awards show that even the mainstream critics criticize have been announced. Expect a more theoretically charged analysis of the Oscars and awards shows in general in issue 2 of SW.

I just want to announce the surprises. It is a good to see Winter's Bone even get nominated, when the mainstream said it wasn't going to and 4 times (Best film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay). I personally was not a fan of the film, but it represents somewhat of underground spirit with how it was made (a bunch of documentarians got together and "just made a movie" in a lot of ways) and its dark subject matter (its a modern gritty film noir that takes place in the Ozarks and/or 'real America'). Still, where was the best director nod? The director, Debra Granik, surely deserved it over Tom Hooper whose King's Speech had nothing going on, Darren Arononfsky who made his worst to date, and David O Russell whose The Fighter film ends with showing us its aim of acquiring Oscars. Or is that Bigelow won, so now get a break from female director nominations for a few?

Then with the foreign category we did not see Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives or White Material. Not sure if those films were not the ones submitted, but the former at least represents one of the best films made in years.

Expect more hate come issue 2!


I apologized to humanity for this film already. Now I will destroy it on a theoretical level never seen. Here we go, this film can be debased on several levels. First, it attorns the stylings of Cronenberg, Polanski and Powell & Pressburger. One sees The Fly, Repulsion and The Red Shoes so thoroughly throughout we are then forced to confront what elements Aronofsky posits: lack of an authorial input, a confused female empowerment, simple symbology that yields little impact, and a lack of a cinematographic plan. Such, as I will prove, leads to a film that works on absolutely no levels. I only could laugh at its cinematic poverty and hope for revenge with Aronofsky being sentenced in a needed future cinema court that will work along the lines of Cinematic Justice to give him only a life hard labor with no hope of parole, which the pain he will go through sums up what I felt watching his film.

Aronofsky openly borrowed from films and filmmakers. Art is formed out of other art. Yet, what he formed was too referential, too unimaginative, and probably due to lack of vision. There is no greater purpose to what he was trying to author. He just seemed to be making a pretentious film. Take the whole story for example, it is based on a two sentence description of a common and non-challenging ballet. It is ballet nonetheless to Aronofsky, so that counts as histrionics to him. He then uses his ballet film to explore the lives of ballerinas in some scenes, but this is unnecessary. He wants to create The Sporting Life at times just to say he did his ethnographic work, but the film is not trying to be about ballet. Aronofsky sets his sights on larger themes, so why do we care of the main character's feet bleed? Strike one of many for Aronosfky.

Then there is this obnoxious female empowerment, a Halloween-style patriarchal fascism of the virginal female battling her sexuality to ultimately gain sin and death. Is Aronofsky even in the 21st century? The conversation intellectually is now about ontology (Judith Butler, the Trans community's battles) and sexual positivity (the Third Wave's immense logic and that influence). The mythos that Aronofsky could of eluded to in Black Swan barely delves into the horror of female submission that has existed since the first class antagonism of man over women when Homo sapiens left tribal society. Something that Catherine Breillat's films do and with such intelligence, but where is her award show nominations and Hollywood financing? His analysis barely moves beyond that of teenager, that wonders why boys can explore and girls cannot, but cannot grasp the larger picture. Can women expect to gain strength from such a film?

With Aronosfky's symbology, he makes the good and virginal main character wear white the whole film and gives the evil one a tattoo and makes her wear black. She smokes cigarettes, does drugs and engages in promiscuous sex. She is a sitcom character put into a film that fashions itself as high art. The virgin battles this character, engages in an unneeded lesbian scene, then starts to take on her attributes. Rebelling against her authoritarian mother and coming into her own. With film, simple symbols can give one measurable result, as with the color schemes in a film like Godard's Weekend or the simple, but profound resonance of images in the films of Robert Bresson. We do not have this with Black Swan due to cinematographic issues, as I state later, but also due to the inane nature of what he expounds. Then, with his surrealist moments, Aronosfky uses the template of good battling the evil within and the fact there were swans in Swan Lake. We have Portman seeing her face on people in the street and in other main characters, but this device becomes stale quick because it's too obvious and founded on themes that cannot carry weight. And we are just uncertain of why she is battling herself. Then there is Portman turning into a black swan. The Cronenberg influenced transformation metaphor lacks Cronenberg's intellectual poeticism. It seems due to the lack of purpose for this film to exist, is Aronosfky's got is a budget to do a bit of FX and there are swans in the ballet he was supposedly inspired by, so that is why he does them.

Then the camera work leaves little to be desired. Aronosfky's admixture of cinema verite with more formalistic shots believes it is adding heightened emotion and realism to the real and surreal. Aronosfky in this film is mixing what he did in The Wrestler and The Fountain. The combination of both though was not calculated enough. Just to do a through experiment, the usage of handheld with non-handheld in Lar Von Trier's Antichrist, just to note is a film that dealt with similar themes to Black Swan, was a part of that film's system. The system of Black Swan is a cluster of images that are sometimes handheld and sometimes not, with no differentiation, which means there is not the magnification of what little Aronosfky has or could say. He has to also think his cinema verite leads to emotion or realism, so when he shoots that way sometimes, he probably then justifies it to himself later. 

VERDICT: TOTAL SHIT. This is a film that has surrealism and realism, pretension, muddled feminism, influence from great filmmakers and films. This film, dealing with areas that would be SW approved, as a whole is too simple and too unaware of its pretension that we are given a crucial film. We should of come to expect this from studying Aronosfky previous work, that he doesn't have much to say, but he tries to say it in stylized (Pi, Requiem For A Dream), gimmick (Pi), psuedo-political (The Wrestler, Black Swan) and pseudo-intellectual (The Fountain, Pi, Black Swan) ways that fool the audience.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Upcoming Films

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,
Below are some filsm coming throughout the next week in Philadelphia worth checking out.

International House:
Wednesday January 19 at 6:30 Orson Welle's Citizen Kane
The rest of this week and this weekend, IHouse is presented a mini retrospective of the early films of Atom Egoyan, which will present a rare opportunity to see the filmmakers first five films on film and in a theater. Schedule is below:
Thursday, January 20 at 7pm - Next of Kin
Friday January 21 at 7pm - Family Viewing
Saturday January 22 at 5pm - Speaking Parts
Saturday January 22 at 7pm - Calender
Opening Friday January 21 at the Ritz:
The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet - The director of Triplets of Belleville's latest film based on an unproduced script by the great Jacques Tati.


Gondry's Science Of Sleep used the infantilization of indie underground film scene of arts and crafts with ironic romanization of the retro to create a highly depressing film about a man who rather let his mind take him into a world of sleep than deal with the horror of reality. Even with the common knowledge that a Seth Rogen written and produced action film would not be high art, I hoped that Gondry's would do something new & unique with 3D and a high budget. The fallacy of 3D is fairly obvious, screens end and the 2D nature of cinema is where the art is found through composition and the escape found in that anti-reality, but I was moronically hoping that Gondry would of somehow fought the studio to make his 3D “reality” one that dealt with the horrors of reality we were exposed to in Science Of Sleep.

This obviously didn't happen and about 3% of the film showed any of Gondry's influence. Comic book films yield high profits due to already established markets, but you still hope that when they get a talented director you'll see them take it as an opportunity. This is a bourgeois notion, that the talented will still stay consistent even with Big Cinema breathing down their necks. It's like an Ayn Rand novel and it's fucking nonsense. Not sure why he still made the highly personal documentary with heavy personal influence The Thorn In The Heart and then just did some work for a paycheck around the same time. That unneeded contrast aside, avoid this dreadful cliché and mainstream film at all costs. (Even if you're a fan of Rogen because the film is not funny).

Verdict: Shit.


The film has all the makings of a modern romantic indie drama, quirky female character who dances to a ukelele and rides around in a wheel chair for no reason. A man who is proletarian, emotional, and nice to old people. The film move towards something different with its cinematography and its trajectory. The issue lies in its unjustifiable existence with scenes that have the indie stylings of Grizzly Bear under the words spoken explaining the film. These scenes, the female lead talking to her grandmother about love and the male lead talking to his co-workers about marriage, supposedly give purpose to the whole. Yet, when William's character gets pregnant with another mans child, we are not exposed to the psychology of Gosling's character as to why he just opts to be that child's father. We then devolve into scenes of marital non-bliss tricked by crisp and claustrophobic cinematography. The film ends on a simple dialectic of showing their marriage with the end of their marriage in parallel action. The final outcome is of no importance to an audience that was simply fooled by the performance film emotionality of the main characters and the deceptive nature of what we think are never done before romantic film extremes that encompass Gosling dealing with his masculinity or Williams trying to create a violent psycho-sexual encounter with Gosling. Ultimately the director created a film with characters that can only embody stating cliché things to justify what they do, but we as an audience gain nothing from their union and their demise.

The issue with the romantic film is a lack of meaning. We get the cute scenes that are supposed to warm us, with the realistic scenes that are supposed to awe us with the raw. Actually, we as an audience should expect films about why people get together, not just about them getting together and then ending on a swelling indie rock score

VERDICT: GARBAGE. Instead of this rent or steal Ali: Fear That Eats The Soul, Written On The Wind, L'Eclipse, In The Mood For Love or any of the hundreds of films that use the tension and the frustration of love to help us understand the larger picture sociologically or philosophically.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Somewhere by Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola's latest film Somewhere finds the director channelling Antonioni in her depiction of ennui and alienation in the life of a Hollywood actor. The film is very quiet -- it has very little dialogue -- and is anchored by an incredibly restrained performance from Stephen Dorff. In this film, Coppola forgoes the glitz and glamour of Marie Antoinette for minimalism and long takes where very little seems to be happening. The film is beautifully shot and lingers on its characters in a way we don't see much anymore in American cinema. Coppola's film is subtle and nuanced. She gets the most out of the material without pushing it. It is a film about moments, gestures, and glances. There is almost an absurdity and a humor to many of the scenes, where so much seems to be happening around Dorff's character and he just passively stares or gives one word answers to ridiculous questions. Unlike Antonioni, Coppola is much more optimistic about her characters and their lives. The film is about loneliness and isolation and boredom, but it feels like the film is working toward a sort of revelation, which is where Coppola wisely leaves us, with the possibility of change. The film is not a masterpiece, nor is it Sofia Coppola's best film, but the film is memorable, interesting, and subtle. Subtle! At a time when American films like Black Swan and Inception are beating audiences over the head with explanation, Somewhere is a welcome bit of subtlety and nuance; it looks and feels more like a European film, but I believe the American cinema can reclaim some of this stylistic ground again and begin making films for people who like to be challenged and have to think about what they see, instead of just being told everything in the film. Somewhere is a nice start to 2011 and gives me a glimmer of hope that this year will be a better year than 2010.


All I can wish for in this life is to see a slaughter when I turn on the television. More even when I encounter an awards show. It is common knowledge that the Globes winners are picked by the Hollywood Foreign Press Asscoation (HFPA). With the complacency and acceptance of the mediocre that we have come to accept from the mainstream critical press, the winners will always be boring.

This year is no exception, but when one tuned in they didn't get the violence they would hope for. No, they only received horrors like The Kids Are Alright torturing us with a nomination and then murdering us with winning the award for Best Comedy or Musical. The competent film Social Network won best picture and the competent director David Fincher won best director. This though and everything else just added to lethargy, the so-so made-for-awards film The Fighter won and actor who goes crazy equals award was Natalie Portman. Such was so mind-numbing it was a tragedy for humanity to deal with the fact this not only was happening somewhere on the planet, but that such energy was put into something like it in course of human history. So, like me, you turned it off and hoped for the deaths of the HFPA, who obviously get paid off by studios to make their blockbusters or films that are 1/3 blockbusters (anything 'indie' studios put out) get a couple more ticket sales because the viewership doesn't know the sham got caught

We now have grounds for tribunals and an organized front is in order to enact such hearings. Who amongst the readers of this blog will be the spark that leads to such a beautiful bloody spectacle?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Upcoming Films

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

The new year is upon us and Shooting Wall is hard at work. We are currently working on articles for issue #2, which if anyone still wants to submit the deadline is this Saturday, Jan. 15th. You can email us your articles between now and then. We are also getting ideas together for our website, which we hope we can launch around the time of issue #2, so probably the end of Feb. Keep checking here for more updates concerning those things. Issue #1 is still out and about. Tell your friends and lovers to look for it and check it here on the blog. Stay tuned to Shooting Wall for our first podcast and more and more blog updates every week.

Upcoming Films:

Wednesday Jan. 11th - Film Ist: A Girl and a Gun by Gustav Deutsch 7pm at International House
Saturday Jan 15th -  Black Moon by Louis Malle 7pm at International House
Wednesday Jan. 19th - Citizen Kane by Orson Wells 7pm at International House

Opening this week (Jan. 14th) at the Ritz
Somewhere by Sofia Coppola
Another Year by Mike Leigh
Blue Valentine by Derek Cianfrance

Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham is also still playing at the Ritz. When I first saw the preview for this, it looked like southbysouthwest shit, but I have been hearing quite a few good about this film from people I respect, so perhaps it is worth checking out.

There is also some stuff coming up in the next few months at both Chestnut Hill Film Society and Andrew's Video Vault at the Rotunda. You can check out the lineups here:
I will be highlighting the films worth seeing as the occur.

Friday, January 7, 2011


King's Speech is Oscar Bait, ready to be fucked by the audience that attended The Blind Side or Slumdog Millionare. It's a cute British Dramady Bio-Pic. Directed by Tom Hooper, the director of the John Adams mini-series, he works in similar direction. The film is not complex or interesting, about a King with a speech impediment who has to find his “voice” as to be it for the people in World War II. It attempts to divorce the historical for a majority of the film, attempting a psychological-drama. Yet, the it never gets that subconscious, going only as far as George VI is the product of father and insecurity due to teasing. It shows his isolation and a budding friendship with a speech coach. We are supposed to enjoy their bonding, but are we supposed to enjoy the coach's interest in a character established as weak? Who, with no connection to his subjects, informs us towards the end of his film that he who they look up to when the film goes historical in the third act. As the audience we are supposed to work on some outside nostalgia for World War II to support George VI at the conclusion of the film when he gives a speech in a fully closed off room with only his coach watching. I believe the director wanted us to feel George's empowerment and his courage and to show his connection with his new speech coach comrade, but the outside world is literally shut out. I believe the director completely overlooked the visual symbol of the last scene.
This film has Colin Firth in it, who gave one of the best performances in recent memory in Tom Ford's excellent A Single Man. His performance in this film is stiff, without life, on the cusp of the cartoon. This comparing of two films is a constrictive lens, but I want to note that A Single Man a) only made 9 million dollars in theaters and King's Speech is at 30 million and b) A Single Man's subject matter mixed with the political/economic nature of the Oscars inhibited from the accolades it deserved.
Where this film thinks it differs from recent Bio-Pic films like Ray or Amelia is wallpaper, extreme lens, rack focus, and steadicams. The wallpaper is the star of the film. Everywhere it can be seen it is crazy, vibrant, and odd. Then the steadicam adds little to most scenes, but in some of the historical moments it was possibly an attempt at realism? There are usages of telephoto, wide angle lens and variants of focus. These all only bring more focus to an actor, but in the sense they put focus on the actor. Not heightening anything in the scene, but giving as much focus to the performance at moments that rarely due less than build the mirage of an aesthetic. The art director only deserves credit for the spectacular wallpaper.

The film has nothing going on. Just a character drama with minimal psychological depth. Style over substance. VERDICT: Garbage

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Joshua Martin Best Films of 2010

2010 was an incredibly disappointing year for film, but nevertheless, there were still some great films that did come out. I didn't see 10 new films this year that I thought deserved to be on a top 10 list, so instead of just putting down some that I love and a few others that weren't too bad for the sake of having 10, I am just going to put my top films of the year, which will not be ten.

Best Films of the Year:

1. Blue Beard by Catherine Breillat - Her best film to date is a subtle, nuanced, beautifully composed version of the haunting fairy tale. This film shows Breillat at the top her game, composing superb shots and creating a masterful mise en scene. If her next film, Sleeping Beauty, is anywhere near as good as this one, I can't wait.

2. Trash Humpers by Harmony Korine - The most unusual film of the year, but also the most fascinating and legitimately interesting film to come out. The film is grotesque, yet beautiful at the same time. Don't be fooled into thinking this is just a film meant to shock, as the mainstream critics will have you believe. Korine knows what he is going and he is doing it the way he wants to and, in this case, I think he was successful.

3. White Material by Claire Denis - A wonderful, elliptic, engrossing, and fascinating film from one of the best directors working today. Denis is a master at knowing how to use the handheld camera and fully integrate it into the style, tone, and cutting of the film. All those American filmmakers who use handheld as a crutch, could really take a few tips from Denis on how it is supposed to be done.

4. I Am Love by Luca Guadagnino - A visually beautiful and remarkable film to look at it. The first forty-five minutes are a masterpiece, though unfortunately the film veers off track toward the middle and the end, it still packs enough beauty to be well-worth seeing.

Honorable Mentions:

Life During Wartime by Todd Solondz
Wild Grass by Alain Resnias
The Social Network by David Fincher
Winter's Bone by Debra Granik
Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese

2010 Films I Still Need to See:

Film Socialism by Jean-Luc Godard
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Ne Change Rein by Pedro Costa
Aurora by Cristi Puiu
Dogtooth by Giorgos Lanthimos
Mother by Joon-ho Bong
Everyone Else by Maren Ade
Carlos by Olivier Assayas

It is possible that after seeing the above films, my top 2010 film list may expand, perhaps even to 10 films, but I can only go by what I have been able to see up to this point. This is part of the problem. Most of the above films were not released theatrically in Philadelphia (some haven't even gotten a big theatrical release in America at all), yet, these are some of the most interesting films out there right now. Unless you found a screening at a film festival or elsewhere, it was very difficult to see many of these films (if you could see them at all). How is cinema supposed to survive when good films aren't getting the kind of release they deserve?

Disappointments (Average to below average films by great or generally interesting filmmakers):

True Grit by Joel and Ethan Coen
Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami
Greenberg by Noah Baumach

Total Failures:

Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky
The Killer Inside Me by Michael Winterbottom
Enter the Void by Gaspar Noe
Inception by Christopher Nolan