Mainstream Consensus names The Social Network the film of the year but everybody knows it lacks the power and popularity of true consensus-making films like On the Waterfront, The Godfather, E.T. and Saving Private Ryan. The questionable unanimity around TSN proves the disconnect between pundits and the public and exposes how so-called critics’ tendency to flatter their own caste fails to grasp genuine film art.
This year’s Better-Than List provides an opportunity to see how a great year for movies, highlighted by a renaissance of cinema’s Old Masters—from Resnais and Bellocchio to Chabrol and Haile Gerima—has been obscured by the media preference for slick new images of its own noxious, select kind. The Social Network rewards immorality, but this list knows better.
Wild Grass > The Social Network
Alain Resnais concocted one of the year’s two best films with a constantly inventive fantasia on our common idiosyncrasynot polarized like the high-tech bullying that David Fincher burnishes and sentimentalizes.
Vincere > Carlos
still vital, still relevant, explores the neuroses of mass hysteria via
film, opera and sexual magnetism. One of the year’s two best films, this
political psychological drama embarrasses Olivier Assayas’ terrorist
chic commitment to nothing.
Mother and Child > The Kids Are All Right
Rodrigo Garcia delves into the meaning of community though basic female experience (Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Kerry Washington, all brilliant). He digs deeper into sex, community and local politics than Lisa Cholodenko’s facile, P.C., button-pushing lesbian sitcom.
Life During Wartime > The King’s Speech
Todd Solondz, America’s toughest satirist, posits post-9/11 forgiveness and takes the temperature of the zeitgeist; it is the year’s most provocative film, but the Anglophiliac celebration of England’s George VI on the brink of WWII is the year’s tiredest.
Another Year > The Social Network
Mike Leigh looks at the middle-aged need to connect sympathetically, exquisitely, while Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s TV-glib script reduces human relations to a sophomoric power grab.
Ondine > Black Swan
Neil Jordan shows the importance of myth and faith in an Irish romantic epic so visually ravishing (shot by Christopher Doyle) it feels absolutely new, but Aronofsky rips-off Repulsion and The Red Shoes to terrify and excite the ignorant, faithless and over-cultured.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole > Toy Story 3
Zack Snyder’s such a compelling visionary he can credibly turn owls into human surrogates while resurrecting the moral meaning of narrative; Toy Story 3 is a full-length commercial for dupes who mistake merchandizing for culture.
Teza > White Material
Haile Gerima dramatizes a young Ethiopian’s awakening conscience while tracing the modern history of Europe’s impact on colonial political thought. Gerima’s deep feeling contrasts Claire Denis’ wacky white guilt and death wish.
Takers & The Fighter > The Town
David O. Russell and John Luessenhop find ethnic vitality in street history and genre heroics, but Ben Affleck’s trite condescension only finds degrading ethnic and genre stereotypes.
Easier With Practice > Easy A
Kyle Patrick Alvarez sensitively depicts young adult sexual pressure but Easy A reduces the legacy of The Scarlet Letter to an insipid teen flick that cheers dishonesty and greed.
Please Give > Greenberg
Nicole Holofcener’s best-yet film understands it’s not all about "me," but Noah Baumbach advertises his own repugnant egotism, striking a chord with evil critics everywhere—but thankfully, not the public.
I Love You Phillip Morris > I Am Love
Directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa boldly assert gay love—truly progressive sexual and cultural politics featuring the performance of Jim Carrey’s career—while Tilda Swinton showboats epicene, gay special pleading disguised in ersatz melodrama.
Inspector Bellamy > Blue Valentine
Claude Chabrol’s sensibility—and epitaph—finds the full range of life experience in a detective’s duty to wife, family and the world. It corrects Blue Valentine’s immature sex obsession.
City Island > The Social Network
Gotta have at the Facebook movie once again, if only to counter the fallacious consensus that no other movie dealt with the Internet phenomenon. Ray De Felitta’s emotionally large family comedy and Andy Garcia’s warm comeback performance epitomized timeless, non-cyber interfacing.