I’m in the middle of David McCullough’s Truman, a 1,000-page biography (not including the end-matter). Given its girth I figured I’d have to take a break at some point. Sure enough, page 500 rolls around and I get a notification that Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is finally ready for me at the library. So I start that one and immediately love it.
Then I remember I have two forthcoming books I need to review for Booklist with fast-approaching deadlines. So now I’m in a book while reading another book, which itself is a break from another book.
Toy Story 3 How great was the epic Western opening sequence? (It was actually a recreation of the original film’s opener.) I couldn’t stop smiling throughout this movie. It does a remarkable job of marrying old characters with new challenges. But the reason this is the best of the year is its ending. Andy decides to give away his toys (and, in essence, his adolescence) as he enters adulthood, leading to the most emotional and bittersweet goodbyes I can remember in film. So long, Woody, Buzz and Co. Here’s hoping the Academy wises up and awards Best Picture to the best film of 2010.
Black Swan I sat in the theater, watching the credits roll, wondering what in the name of Natalie Portman just happened. What was the most stressful movie-going experience for me was also the most fascinating. Credit goes to director Darren Aronofsky, for creating the film’s unique vision and suffocating atmosphere, and to Portman, who finally shows how far she can go to achieve greatness as the conflicted ballerina. Who says ballet isn’t interesting?
The Social Network The director David Fincher jokingly calls his film “the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies.” On technical merits, it’s no Citizen Kane. But The Social Network understands its generation much better than any of Hughes’ movies did. You can’t get hung up on the facts because when viewed as an allegory of our time—the Age of Facebook—it’s brilliant and oddly epic. Here’s to seeing more of Jesse Eisenberg (and less of Justin Timberlake).
The Fighter Mark Wahlberg beefs up, Amy Adams dresses down, and Christian Bale whacks out. And all three make this taut, unvarnished true story worth watching. Like many good sports films, The Fighter isn’t so much about the sport as it is about the competitor. Though Bale sticks out as the crack-addict brother, it’s Wahlberg who shines as the boxer with something to prove.
True Grit The Coen Brothers’ first foray into the Western is in many ways the Brothers’ least typical. The trailer doesn’t let on how funny the film is. A lot of the humor derives from the characters’ antiquated diction and sharp tongue of 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. But watch out for what is arguably the only time the Brothers Coen let sentiment sneak into their story’s end.
Inception More amazing, I think, than Christopher Nolan’s mind-blow of a movie’s special effects and concept was how such a big summer feature was kept under wraps for so long. I really didn’t know what to expect until I saw it in theaters, and when I did I was hugely impressed by the mind-web Nolan spun. Not perfect by any means, Inception gives me hope for more smart, well-made summer films. (A fool’s hope?)
The Kids Are All Right Gets the award for most pleasant surprise. Once you move beyond the novelty of the lesbian-mothers dynamic, The Kids Are All Right reveals itself as a compelling and endearingly odd family drama. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.