Best of 2010:
Debra Granik's Winter's Bone more or less takes Raymond Chandler's basic story structure for his Philip Marlowe books but sets it in the Ozarks with a teenaged girl as the detective. Ree Dolly goes hunting for her missing father, who's put their house up for his bond. If he doesn't show up for his hearing, the family will be homeless. As with Marlowe, Ree gets the shit kicked out of her, discovers a much more involved plot and it all ends with the initial mystery not being so important. There's plenty of haggard femme fatales, I guess, but Granik doesn't do much with shadows, so I wouldn't exactly call this hillbilly noir. Instead, Granik subtly uses the hardboiled template to tell the story without becoming postmodern pastiche -- i.e., without the winking of, say, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang or Brick. So this unfortunately knocks Jackass 3D off of my list of 11 films.
Jay and Mark Duplass are known for their mumblecore style and are favorites of Sundance, so that should've warned me off from watching this shit, but I gave Cyrus a chance. John is a lonely lump of a man who's been masturbating for the past 7 years since his divorce. His best and only friend is his ex, who makes him come to a party where he gets drunk and acts like an ass. Molly is a chubby-chasing MILF who finds this oaf's idiocy appealing for its authenticity. Granted, its authentic in the sense that the story takes place in L.A., where drunken, loud-mouthed narcissists who want to talk about themselves to anyone standing around are a dime a dozen. But why is this appealing to Molly? Well, because she's got an Oedipal thing going on with her obese, asshole son, Cyrus, so maybe John reminds her of him. If the fantastic message had been if you're not blessed with a beautiful face, you might be lucky enough to have Marisa Tomei as a doting mom, the film might've moved past the low bar set by the standards of Sundance, but the brothers Duplass aren't perverse enough for that. Instead of exploring incest (which is always interesting), they provide wish fulfillment for cloddish types who can't rely on an interesting personality or wit to get them through life. This is, of course, the same terrain mined by Judd Apatow, only with intentionally dull lines and a constantly moving camera to give a patina of realism. Authenticity by rote.