Film
9:30 am
Wed December 1, 2010

Top Art, Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Film of 2010

Up to Date film critics Steve Walker and Cynthia Haines review new movies and share their lists of favorite films from this past year.

December is Oscar season, and a slew of solid films are opening in the next month. Up to Date host Steve Kraske welcomed critics Cynthia Haines and Steve Walker back to the program to review independent, foreign, and documentary films playing on area screens. Plus, Steve and Cynthia share their list of TOP FILMS of 2010.

In no particular order

* Director: Debra Granik
* Genre: Drama
* Rating: R

Winter's Bone

(KCUR) Daniel Woodrell's modern gothic novel about a teenage girl's fight to save her family is enlivened by director Debra Granik's decision to film it entirely on location in the poorest hovels of southern Missouri.
- Steve Walker (full review)

(KCUR) Proof that a low budget film can best many big budget films by offering a good story, good casting and characters you care about. - Cynthia Haines

(KCUR, Up to Date) Interview with Debra Granik, Director

(Fresh Air) A Saga In The Ozarks, Suited For The Screen

(NPR, David Edelstein) 'Winter's Bone:' A Miraculous Film From The Ozarks

(NPR, Ella Taylor) An Ozarks Alice In A Meth-Battered Wonderland

(NPR) 'Winter's Bone' Leads Spirit Awards With 7 Noms

* Director: Banksy
* Genre: Documentary/Comedy
* Rating: R

Exit Through the Gift Shop

(KCUR) The British art punk who goes by the nom de plume Banksy helms this outrageous documentary about the genre of contemporary art some call graffiti and others vandalism.

- Steve Walker (full review)

(KCUR) Fascinating example of "is it or isn't it a documentary"? -Cynthia Haines

(NPR, David Edelstein) A Rich Satire About Street Art, Or Is It A Hoax?

* Director: Joon-ho Bong
* Genre: Drama/Crime
* Rating: R


Mother

(KCUR) From South Korea comes this psychological thriller about a ferocious mother's attempt to free her mentally challenged son from a bogus murder charge.
- Steve Walker (full review)

(KCUR) Never under estimate a Korean mother's love for her son. -Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Mark Jenkins) From Korea, A Thriller Hitchcock Would Admire

* Director: David Mich?d
* Genre: Drama/Crime
* Rating: R

Animal Kingdom

(KCUR) Mothering takes on new levels of depravity in this extravagantly baroque film about a family of ill-bred gangsters and their
sociopathic matriarch in the seedy neighborhoods of contemporary Sydney, Australia.
- Steve Walker (full review)

(KCUR) Best crime family film since "The Godfather".
-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Bob Mondello) 'Animal Kingdom': It's A Dog-Eat-Dog World

* Director: Tom Hooper
* Genre: Drama/History
* Rating: R

The King's Speech

(KCUR) Playing King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth), whose reign was almost undermined by his stuttering, Colin Firth is the man to beat for this year's Best Actor Oscar.
- Steve Walker

(KCUR) Wonderfully told story of courage and friendship starring brilliant actors.
-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Bob Mondello) For A 'King's Speech,' Commoner Helps Find A Voice

* Director: David Fincher
* Genre: Drama/Biography
* Rating: PG-13

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The Social Network

(KCUR) Whatever one feels about Facebook, there's no denying that Aaron Sorkin's script about the backstabbing and betrayal inherent to the founding of the company is the smartest and wittiest of the year.
- Steve Walker

(KCUR) Nothing unique about the technique, just an interesting character study.
-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Bob Mondello) 'Social Network': Fact Or Fiction, A Tangled Web

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* Director: David O. Russell
* Genre: Drama/Sport
* Rating: R

The Fighter

(KCUR) The true story of Boston boxer Mickey Ward is a punch to the solar plexus, thanks to fierce performances from Christian Bale as his drug-addled brother and Melissa Leo as their protective mother.
- Steve Walker

Opens December 10, 2010

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* Director: Lisa Cholodenko
* Genre: Drama/Comedy
* Rating: R

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The Kids Are All Right

(KCUR) Annette Bening is superb as the intense half of a a same-sex couple whose family is both enriched and devastated when herteenage kids meet their sperm donor father.
- Steve Walker (full review)

(NPR, David Edelstein) Cholodenko's 'Kids' Flick: More Than Just All Right

* Director: Samuel Maoz
* Genre: Drama/War
* Rating: R

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Lebanon

(KCUR) One of the best war/anti-war films of the year.

-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Iris Mann) Invasion Of 'Lebanon,' An Intense Thriller

(NPR, Mark Jenkins) Damp And Claustrophobic, In 'Israel's Vietnam'

* Director: Niels Arden Oplev
* Genre: Crime/Drama
* Rating: R

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(KCUR) Best of the trilogy.
-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Jesse Baker) 'Dragon Tattoo' Has Designs On U.S. Audiences

* Director: Steve Antin
* Genre: Drama/Musical
* Rating: PG-13

Burlesque

(KCUR) Entertaining throwback to 1930's style backstage romance starring two very talented women, Cher and Christina (Aguilera).
-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Scott Tobias) 'Burlesque': A Cliche Is Born (Entertainingly, Too)

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* Director: Darren Aronofsky
* Genre: Drama
* Rating: R

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Black Swan

(KCUR) Natalie Portman grows up and becomes a star. I'm a big Darren Aronofsky fan.

-Cynthia Haines

(NPR, Alex Cohen) In 'Black Swan,' Another Dance With Ballet's Devils

(Fresh Air) To Become A 'Black Swan,' Portman Had To Go Dark

* Director: Andrea Arnold
* Genre: Drama
* Rating: R

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Fish Tank

(KCUR) Hip-hop dancing and a neglected horse seem to be the only things a British teenage girl cares as she undergoes a period of sexual awakening.
- Steve Walker

(NPR, David Edelstein) 'Fish Tank': A Teen Adrift In A Tough London Suburb

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* Director: Luca Guadagnino
* Genre: Art, Drama
* Rating: R

I Am Love

(KCUR) A lush, opulent melodrama inspired by the 1950s films of Douglas Sirk that follows a rich family's deterioration - thanks to mom Tilda Swinton's affair with her son's friend - in modern-day Milan.
- Steve Walker (full review)

(NPR, John Powers) 'I Am Love': A 'Madame Bovary' For Our Century

About our Art, Independent, Foreign and Documentary Film Reviewers:

Contributing arts reporter Steve Walker joined KCUR in the fall of 1998. Besides covering local theater and the arts for KCUR and serving as film critic for Up to Date, Walker teaches creative writing classes at the Kansas City Art Institute. His B.S. and M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Missouri-Columbia led to his job at The Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare Inc. as a consultant and trainer in peer counseling and HIV prevention programs for several area high schools. His writing has appeared in such national magazines as The Sondheim Review, The Advocate and Theater Week, as well as local publications like The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Business Journal, Ingram's, The Pitch and Review.

Cynthia Haines, a photographer, film critic and scholar, retired as an Associate Professor of Film Studies from the University of Texas at El Paso where she taught for ten years. She has a B.A. degree from Stanford University and an M.A. from U.T. El Paso and attended the Stanford University Broadcast and Film Institute. She is the author/photographer of Literature and Landscape: Writers of the Southwest. Her most recent book, Showtime! From Opera Houses to Picture Palaces in El Paso about the history of film exhibition on the U.S./Mexican border from 1896 until 1960.

Currently a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, she reviews foreign, art and independent films for the Kansas City NPR affiliate KCUR. Cynthia serves on the Kansas State Historical Society Board and has served on the Kansas Film Commission.