Happy new year 2011! Last year was pretty much forgettable, if not for some stirring events spicing up what could have been plain days and months filled with studying and playing mindlessly as a teenager when I still can. No, what did I just say? 2010 was eventful in there were so many things happened that I figuratively might not recognize to the point of denying my 2009 self, but well, that’s the delightful side of being young. And movies. As an undergrad student I can’t possibly watch every other movies released last year, but as many times I spent as I could, not one movie I watched in 2010 seeps its brilliance way above others that made a truly delightful moviegoing experience. Many are mediocre, and the ones shining were, uh, shining enough. But of course there are some I highly anticipated that met my expectations, and what’s bad about starting a new year with reviewing good stuff of last year? I’ll write only three, promise.
The Social Network
This movie went quickly from something that was unheard of to the one I most highly anticipate in 2010 for one sole reason: David Fincher. And he did not disappoint. Though the idea of directing a biopic of someone who is now still twenty-six old sounds kinda ridiculous, but the story of Facebook’s creation is most definitely not. Or so it seems. Fincher has managed to craft a tense courtroom drama based on Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay with a pace so fast to mirror the generation it represents, which might not work well enough without the riveting performance of Jesse Eisenberg portraying the pseudo-sordid Mark Zuckerberg, real-life founder and CEO of Facebook. The ironic mix of sepia tone and modern technology might or might not be Fincher’s lead of a human’s lonely soul beneath the connectivity of the Internet age. Behind the chain of unfortunate lawsuits that happened some years ago lies a tale of friendship and youth brilliance bent over the sole purpose of business, and especially, a history in the making. A story that depicts the attitude of the online generation, framed intriguingly by Fincher through Sorkin’s screenplay and well-performing casts including Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.
The intention of watching Korean movies rarely ever cross my mind for all I know the famous ones are mostly family/love dramas made to jerk the most tears from people’s eyes, but not anymore after seeing Bong Joon-ho’s Madeo. Walking into the campus screening expecting some casual Korean tearjerker, fascination was upon me seeing how effective Bong made a thriller based upon an unexpected plot device, that is the unrequited love of a mother. While Won Bin played well as a somewhat mentally disabled rascal Do-joon, veteran Korean actress Kim Hye-ja is the one stealing the thunder with her role as Do-joon’s financially struggling mother who had to sleuth her way back to her son as he is charged with the murder of a young girl. Madeo’s storyline weaves well the intense essence of a true thriller with the faithful love and trust of a mother. Later I learned that with the success of Madeo, the award-winning director once again proved the significance of Asian auteurs. In between the sorrowful and near-hopeless air about the unnamed mother, Madeo packs the whole journey with a slow, painful punch and ends it with yet another tasteful Korean grassfield scene, this time enveloped in despair.
Performing arts in its various forms has always been more than what meets the eye. Years of dedicated training through rigorous drills and thousands of technique practice to achieve a single moment of on-stage perfection are not something unheard of, even in ballet productions that appear smooth and beautiful in the eyes of the audience. Baking such theme into a sexy psychological thriller about a frail and scared woman, Darren Aronofsky as the director once again showed the world the intriguing, at times self-destructive, refinement process of an art in the making. In what is intended to be a companion piece to his 2008 acclaimed work The Wrestler, Aronofsky put the fouetté and plié moves not just as something in the background to keep the motion in motion picture. It blankets the whole conscious space of the characters: they breathe ballet, eat ballet and sleep ballet. The ballet stuff is allegedly driving the main character (protagonist?) Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) to the edge of sanity, as the holy role of both White Swan and Black Swan is descended upon her by the often sly Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) that led her despairing for perfection, not to mention the fearless Lily (Mila Kunis) that made her pace herself to a competition. As any great main character with a strong tendency towards psychosis, behind the bipolar sides of Nina stands the enthralling performance of the actress Natalie Portman. The frail and innocent Nina was pictured astonishingly by Portman, complete with the moves and spins of a true ballerina achieved through extensive 10-month training exclusively for the role, making her a worthy contender for the upcoming Oscar. Not to forget the fitting grandeur scores composed by Aronofsky’s best collaborator Clint Mansell, Black Swan leaves little space to breathe inside its artful mental struggle of a perfecting ballerina.
Three might be too few, and I didn’t mean to dump great ones like Toy Story 3, Inception, or Winter’s Bone, and the enjoyable ones like Tangled and Remember Me (yes, I found the R-Patz flick delightful). But the aforementioned three films are the ones most captivating I’ve seen all year, and let’s have high hopes for this year’s blockbusters and art house productions, may 2011 be a great year in all aspects!