Wednesday, 29 December 2010

...2010 In Review (cont.)

Best Surprises of 2010 (Film/Actor)

#1 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)

As rich, disturbing and ironic a take on the Western as it is possible to find, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Ford's most assured films. In the film that gave birth to the famous epithet 'When the truth becomes legend, print the legend', James Stewart and John Wayne occupy opposing points of the moral compass in a burgeoning town beset by the repulsive criminal Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin fashioning one of the most intimidating villains in cinema). Featuring an extraordinarily forward-thinking sense of pessimism and melancholy in its outlook on heroes and how society perceives them, it's a rare film that hasn't dated since release but has instead increased in stature and complexity. A masterpiece in every sense of the word.

#2 Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges, 1955)

A ruthless exercise in furniture-chewing suspense, Bad Day at Black Rock has few rivals in terms of quietly mounting paranoia. From the moment one-armed army veteran Spencer Tracy arrives in a backwater, redneck town to investigate a disappearance, the eerie, ill-defined sense of menace never lets up, and things aren't helped by the presence of monstrous thugs Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Tracy acts as a riveting moral centre in what is a remarkably quiet film, one which features few scenes of overt violence but which is rife in deadly, slow-burning atmosphere. Director Sturges brings his customary intelligence to bear on a chilling story that bubbles with unpleasant racial undercurrents, bringing the western kicking and screaming into the modern age.

#3 Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, The Millenium Trilogy, 2010)

Whatever the flaws in the adaptations of Stieg Larsson's Millenium novels, Noomi Rapace's tremendous central performance never faltered. As goth, bisexual, anti-social computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, Rapace is electrifying from first frame to last, fashioning a thoroughly modern heroine who lies at the heart of Larsson's disturbing expose of male-female relationships. By turns victim, persecutor and enigma, Salander is never a cipher but always a plausible centrifuge to the increasingly convoluted and ridiculous plot machinations surrounding her. Rapace plays it to the hilt, and the moment in the final entry, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, where she turns up in court with a mohawk is one of the most triumphant moments in a film in 2010.

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