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Like everyone else who sees a lot of movies (I'm at a bit over 250 theatrical viewings for 2010) I feel forced to make a list of what I've liked the best at year's end.
What I realize each year is that sadly many of the films that make my list aren't things that are easy to catch in a theater. Many will eventually make their way to Netflix or other watch at home outlets (if we're lucky) within a year of being on the festival circuit. So in the imaginary spirit, here are nine great films of 2010 that never got a theatrical release in Seattle but screened at at least one US festival in 2010. Many include a link to a longer review I wrote when I originally saw each film. Here's hoping they make their way back to Seattle before the big budget remake of each does…
Au Revoir Tapei (Taiwan) - Sadly, I suspect few audiences in the US are going to get a chance to see this gem of a film. Just about the perfect little sweet film for a day at the movies. If you want black comedy, painful relationships, aching over life regrets, suicide, slavery, or abuse of children/animals/pop-music go elsewhere. Boy gets dumped by girl, gets mixed up with mobsters, and wanna-be mobsters channeling Pee Wee Herman. And dumplings, my lord the dumplings. Just see it by any means necessary.
Fatso (Norway) - This anti-romantic comedy really stuck the landing for me. Way ahead of any other 2010 film in category of masturbation scenes per minute and likely unique in casting horny rhinoceros alter-egos for the movie's lead. Which apparently in Norway equates to box office gold - and we get Meet the Fockers. There truly is no justice sometimes...
Nothing Personal (Netherlands) - A traveler with issues stays at the home of a widower in Ireland, trading work for food and board. Sounds like a snoozer - but this quiet, slow film wowed me at Palm Springs back in January when I saw it. I could say a lot more, but as the male lead of the film is fond of saying, "Talent knows when to quit".
Cold Weather - This is a film that defies easy characterization. Except that it's really, really good. It's a unique (far as I can tell) mash-up of a chatty relationship slice of life drama centered around twenty-something characters shot in a natural style and a whodunit mystery. Yet it's not really fully either, and the sum is greater than the individual parts. Sort of a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys adventure for the mumblecore crowd.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Canada) - Hillbillies at their fixer upper vacation home are having a fine old time until a bunch of annoying college kids show up and start killing themselves on their property. A nice reversal of the hill people horror flick where the country folk turn out to be totally misunderstood and the stereotype loving frat boys create all the problems. Plus a love story both of the bromance and hetero varieties mixed in for good measure - all delivered in a very tight 90 minute package I think many folks will get a real kick out of. Now if only the film would get a reasonable theatrical run in the states...
Rubber (France) - On one hand Rubber is an entirely familiar exercise a stalker/killer road movie genre film spanning a desert road trip filled with classic elements - right down to the girl watched by the villain in shower during a motel stop. Though it stretches the conventions of the form somewhat by casting the killer as a discarded tire who becomes sentient with the psycho-kinetic powers to make people's head explode. Yes, a tire - as in the thing on your car. And that's not even the most unusual part of the film...
Rammbock (Germany) - because every list deserves a zombie movie. And this was the most interesting one I saw in 2010. Far less gore than the usual zombie fare - but all the scares you've come to expect (or at least hope for).
A Somewhat Gentle Man (Norway) - Guy out of prison struggling to find his path. The picture combines a satisfying conclusion, black comedy, and some of the most uncomfortable sex scenes this side of The Room.
We are What We Are (Mexico) - I believe I can say both with an extreme lack of actual knowledge of the subject yet oddly strong conviction that We Are What We Are is the deepest cannibalism-themed movie made in the last decade. Or possibly forever. There is indeed some gruesome content and "makes you want to turn away" violence - but making a family drama masquerading as a hardcore genre flick (and doing it well) seems deserving of special mention.
For anyone in the mood for my overall 2010 favorite film summaries including the more typically stuff like Scott Pilgrim, Solitary Man, and that Facebook thing, you can bounce over to where my full ramblings go sadly unedited.