Category Archives: The Social Network

The Top Five Movies of 2010

Those of you who’ve listened to this month’s podcast will already know the result of my Top Five Movies of 2010. Nevertheless, I thought I’d include it in text form for those of you who prefer the written word to its spoken cousin.

5. A Single Man

It is Colin Firth, rather than Jeff Bridges, who should have won the Best Actor accolade at the oscars this year. His role as George completely captivated me throughout Tom Ford’s directorial debut.

As he deals with the grief of losing his soulmate, we gasp at the beauty of the cinematography in the frame, while sympathising with the ugliness of the situation Firth has found himself in.

The supporting cast of Julianne Moore and Jamie Bell are equally important, as they attempt to give some comfort to the grief-stricken Firth.

There’s also an attention to detail mirrored in both its main character and the filmmaking that allows us to be enchanted by A Single Man from start to finish.

Winters-Bone-poster.jpg4. Winter’s Bone

Another film with an incredibly strong central performance. This one sees the seventeen year old Bree (Jennifer Lawrence) trying to make sure her family doesn’t lose her home, after her drug-dealing father doesn’t turn up for his court appearance.

Set in the stark, cold, Ozarks, it’s a film with a real sense of place. Aside from the beautifully captured environment, it also gives you a real sense of the community Bree must negotiate to get justice for her family.

This community has its own moral code, its own way of doing things. As she explores it, we as an audience take that journey with her. All of which culminates to give us haunting, beautiful fable sure to earn its lead an oscar nod.

socialnetworkposter.jpg3. The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin’s use of dialogue is second to none in his generation. And that is surely proven with this, his latest project. A film about geeks, court cases, and coding has no right to be entertaining. Yet you never doubt its appeal because of the way Sorkin presents the subject matter.

Words burst and fizzle across the screen similar to the manner of a shoot-out in a Western. Statements and phrases attempting to land the killer blow in almost every scene. It really is a masterclass in writing.

Of course making an entertaining, smart script means nothing if you haven’t got anything to say by the end of it. Thankfully a story about the birth of the most important communication tool over the last decade has no such problem.

As we see the underhanded methods Zuckerberg used to set-up Facebook, we are forced to take sides, consider moral questions, and question how our own views on privacy and friendship have changed since joining our own online social network. A film very much ‘of our time’.

Another-Year.jpg2. Another Year

The only British film on the list tells the story of a settled, contented husband and wife, and their unsettled, dissatisfied friends.

It’s a film which takes place over the course of a year. Showing us one weekend from each of the four seasons. As we move between the times of year, Leigh uses colour filters to bring out the greens of Spring and the harsh greys of Winter.

It’s also a film which takes its time to introduce us to people and their nature. All the information comes very naturally from conversations, and like all of Leigh films, getting to know them is more akin to getting to know friends than characters in films.

Each character has a great sense of self, which makes them both believable and relatable. Ultimately this is quite a sad film. Its title, Another Year, represents a melancholy to the process of growing older and spending an extra twelve months on this earth.

What we experience over the year with the characters, however, has a grounding in reality few films are able to achieve. Leigh, as always, capturing something of human nature in a way few directors can.

movie_10230_extra_poster_0.jpg1. Of Gods and Men

A story of a community of French Monks living in Algeria may seem like a strange choice for Film of the Year.

The movie tells the true story of eight monks who are living peacefully in a small village with the Muslim community around them.

However, their way of life is put tot he test by Islamic terrorists who visit them during the night and make it clear they’re not welcome. The Monks have a choice, to stay and complete their ‘calling’ or leave with their lives still intact.

It’s a movie directed by an atheist yet with a strong sense of the spiritual to it. The director chooses to fully engross the audience in its small community of monks. As we attend services, tend the garden, and treat the sick, we gradually get a very real sense of the kind lives these men lead.

Perhaps this is best summed up by a scene in which the monks share a meal together; the theme from Swan Lake playing in the background. As the camera cuts from face to face to face, we see the emotion of the music unlocking a real and tangible humanity in each of the monks.

The movie as a whole gave me such a fresh and unexpected experience that I feel it is more than deserving of The Film of 2010.

For some differing opinions of the Top Five Movies of 2010, you can listen to this months podcast, where my co-hosts Dave, Steve and Laura give their picks:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8634900/ObserveALot6.mp3

Advertisements

Film School: Authorship

There’s a theory which goes: Movies are a director’s medium, and television a writer’s.

The extent to which this is true can be argued over at great length. Should directors get as much credit as they do for a film’s success? Is it not the person who came up the story, the writer, just as important as the one who had the technical expertise to put it up on the screen?

Of course, there are certain directors whose stamp is so firmly put on their films that they must be considered the ‘author’ of the piece. These directors are often referred to as auteurs.

Defining which directors should be considered as auteurs is not as easy to define as people may think. Certain directors like to work with the same cinematographer, so that shots we may consider hallmarks of a director’s film could in fact be the calling card of their long-time collaborator.

citizen_kanePoster.jpgOne of the most cited examples in favour of auteur theory is Citizen Kane. Welles co-wrote, directed and starred in the ground-breaking movie, and it’s easy to see his stamp all over the brash, bold story told.

Films by directors such as Scorsese, Tarantino, Leigh or Wes Anderson are very easy to identify. To the extent where people often complain that their latest film was too similar to their last. Perhaps this complaint is the very thing which proves that the movies they direct are very much their own.

However, what about those who manage to make very different films in a variety of genres, can these directors not be considered auteurs?

Let us consider the cases of Fincher, Boyle and Spielberg: all of whom have won oscar nominations for their directing, and are known for dabbling in a number of different genres.

David Fincher recently directed The Social Network. Can one reasonably call him the ‘author’ of the piece, when one can so clearly see the fingerprints of its writer, Aaron Sorkin, all over the screen? My answer would be ‘no’. While Fincher’s stylistic touches can be seen in some parts of the movies, I think it would be very unfair to describe him as the main creative mind behind the film.

Likewise with Danny Boyle. The differences between each of his films are such its difficult to consider him their author. The three writers he has worked with: John Hodge, Alex Garland and Simon Beaufoy; all seem to have had a marked impact on each film and how its story is told.

Finally, Spielberg has made movies as varied as Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List within the same year. These two films have few similarities between them in terms of story or themes. Is it the case that one most successful directors of the modern era is not an auteur?

Well, perhaps that’s overstating the case. There are themes that emerge in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Last Crusade, War of the Worlds and Hook: all of which deal with flawed fathers who need to rebuild their relationship with their kids.

However, films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Artificial Intelligence have seen him collaborate with other directors. These films cannot be seen as merely “A Film by Spielberg,” but rather “A Film by Spielberg/Lucas” or “A Film by Spielberg/Kubrick”.

Perhaps we could say that Spielberg is very much the ‘author’ of certain films, but is happy to put someone else’s vision on the screen when inspired to do so.

So, to conclude, sometimes directors can be consider the ‘author’ of a film and sometimes they can’t. The extent to which that’s true only the people who’ve actually worked on the film can truly know.