Last year I wrote about how every year recently I've seen fewer and fewer movies. From 33 in 2007 to 22 in 2008, to 16 last year. With less than three weeks left in the year, I'm at 9 in 2010. Probably 4 more to come -- I'm signed up for Writers Guild screenings to Love and Other Drugs, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Despicable Me, and Waiting for Superman -- but I thought I'd blog about the rest now, while I'm thinking about it.
Best movie I saw this year was Inside Job, a documentary about the financial crisis. It has started me on a bit of a reading binge to see if I can become significantly more well-informed about what happened to cause the financial crisis and whether it's going to happen again. Seeing the movie coincided with me trying to help my mom figure out some stuff to do with her retirement accounts, so I feel like I'm trying to become well-informed for that purpose as well. Reading a book right now called I.O.U. by John Lanchester that is excellent so far, but I'll write more about it when I sum up the books I've read this year. Nouriel Roubini's Crisis Economics is in my pile as well. I'm by nature a very conservative investor, probably too conservative. And the more I read, the more I worry about anything that isn't government-backed and fully protected. Which is not quite the right attitude to have, but hopefully I'll read enough to feel reasonably intelligent about this stuff at some point.
I'm tempted to backtrack on my "best movie I saw this year" pick, as I look back at my list of 9. The Social Network was awfully good. It's hard for me to not recommend that people see it. It's hard to compare Inside Job and The Social Network, since they're such different things. The Social Network is kind of everything a movie should be. I left the theater completely sold on the film, convinced it will win all of the awards and it will deserve to. It's smart but not at the price of being entertaining. I've read too much about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. I think there's been enough written about how Mark Zuckerberg is probably portrayed unfairly in the movie, and that a lot of liberties are taken with the truth-- but I don't think any of it detracts from how engaging the movie is as a movie.
The third contender for "best movie I saw this year" is another documentary -- Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I don't think it quite matches Inside Job or The Social Network, but it's surprisingly close. I couldn't care less about the life of Joan Rivers and don't have any huge desire to see her perform comedy. But the movie, as a study of fame and wealth and the entertainment industry, is extraordinarily compelling.
Another documentary. "Last Play At Shea," about Billy Joel's final concert at Shea Stadium before they tore it down to replace it with Citi Field. It does what it does very well. As a Billy Joel concert film, or as a loose history of New York and the Mets, it's an enjoyable thing to watch. If you aren't interested in Billy Joel or the Mets, you have no reason to see it, but if either one of those is a thing you care to spend any mental energy on, it's a fine movie.
I did not enjoy The Kids Are All Right as much as most of the reviews I read. I think I expected something less adult than what it was. The world it lives in is a little bleak.
Not as bleak as the world where The Switch lives. That's the Jason Bateman / Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy about Jason's character providing the sperm for Jennifer's character's pregnancy, but not telling her. The logic of the movie hurt me. I wrote about it here.
Another romantic comedy: Going The Distance, where Justin Long and Drew Barrymore play a couple that tries to make a long-distance relationship work. My wife and I were long-distance for two years, while I was in LA and she was still in medical school. I thought it was a good idea for a movie and was surprised to not be able to come up with another movie I've seen that explores long-distance relationships. It felt like at some point someone did a dirty joke pass on the script, and if the movie had any charm or heart before that pass, it did not have it afterwards. I was disappointed, because there was something there that could have worked.
The Infidel is a movie about an Arab who finds out he's adopted and is actually Jewish. Again, liked the premise, but something fell short for me in the execution.
So, I don't know, I could almost rank 6-9 in any order. I found lots to rant about after seeing The Switch, but I also found it more watchable than I'm sure I would have found lots of movies that I didn't see.
1. The Social Network
2. Inside Job
3. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
4. Last Play At Shea
5. The Kids Are All Right
6. Going The Distance
7. The Infidel
8. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
9. The Switch