With Oscar less than two weeks away, and my chances of seeing 2010 movies greatly diminishing what with my new hobby of changing poopie diapers, I thought it was high time to make my best of 2010 list before the Academy steals my thunder. Normally, I like getting this out before nominations come out, but the arrival of my first, Emily, trumped all else.
In fact, this might be my last in this series of articles since I would want my list to be robust in that it is from a large library of SEEN films. In the past, I've been able to see about 50-70 films per year in theatres, but in 2010 I only saw just north of 30 films and I'm sure it'll be far less in 2011. Although I can say with confidence that each movie that made my top ten list below is fantastic, I hesitate on making top ten lists in the future. But you never know, so I won't rule anything out yet.
So as usual, I would want to first give a shout-out to the worst of 2010 so that we may never forget. So that we may learn what bad movies truly are before we start talking crap about something really good like 127 HOURS.
WORST OF 2010:
I want to congratulate THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE at being the first Twilight movie to NOT make this part of my article. It wasn't good, but it was very far from awful. Actually a decent fantasy action flick, and I'm now grounded in the Team Jacob camp. I hope this gives me my in should I ever meet Miley Cyrus.
TRON LEGACY isn't the worst movie of 2010, nor is it close to being the worst, but it was certainly my biggest disappointment of 2010. I think it was the only movie I was looking forward to and it was really bad. TRON was my favourite movie as a kid too so it just makes me so very sad.
SKYLINE - A smart Arizona bald man warned me not to see it but I couldn't resist the alluring trailer. I can't explain how bad this movie was in words. Drink a BIG tablespoon of ipecac syrup, and you'll have a similar experience that I did except in less wasted time. I cannot believe that I'm not calling this as the worst movie of 2010. That title proudly goes to...
THE LAST AIRBENDER - I know this isn't the full title of the movie but it makes me ill to write it out completely. It's like when I say 'shazam' backwards out loud. I could write so much about this movie but it would feel like when celebrities bad mouth TMZ on television, it's not worth giving it anymore attention.
What started as a pretty lacklustre year in movies quickly gained speed and momentum as the months went on, and I'm actually surprised at how many great movies didn't make it on the top ten for 2010. So I wouldn't want these films to go unnoticed and I would say that they are well worth seeing:
Despicable Me - What an amazing surprise of a film. I expected absolutely nothing from this film but it made me laugh a ton and even cry a bit. Great characters, well-executed and a ton of fun.
Mao's Last Dancer - really surprising movie. The Chinese consulate scene has to be one of the most stressful movie sequences I've seen in recent history. Although a lessor film, it is very much China's The Lives of Others in the sense that it's hard to imagine governments and countries working this way in modern history.
Pirahna 3D - good, clean adult fun. Horror movies unfortunately almost never achieve movie greatness but it's nice to see some of the fun ones actually succeeding in what they are trying to do. Scares, laughs, b00bs.
Inception - very much the Avatar of 2010 except better. I think this movie is very overrated in general but it still is a very good film.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - I certainly wasn't expecting to like this but I thought it was terrific. Even better than the Tyson documentary of the past year. Lots of surprises if you don't know much about her to begin with (like me!).
127 Hours - Ouch, one of the best acting performances of the year and I can't find room for it in my top ten. It certainly takes a director like Boyle to make a film taking place in such a small space interesting and exciting. A much better film than, say, Cast Away.
Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) - hopefully none of you saw this so you won't be as mad at me as I am for not putting this in my top ten. It was brilliant, I never thought a Romantic Mystery would work but here we are. Not sure how to recommend it properly but it's basically the best episode of Law & Order you will ever see.
TOP TEN MOVIES of 2010
OH BOY! Bringing us to the main course, I'm happy to present you with what I believe to be the best ten movies of 2010. All are outstanding and I encourage you to see any that you have missed. Add them to your Netflix list immediately or, preferably, see them in theatres (some are still there!).
10. WINTERS BONE
I want to call this the white trash version of Precious but I don't think that is giving it enough credit. I think it could very well be a better movie than Precious. For sure the leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence cements this as being a great piece of film making on its own. But the supporting cast is super rich in depth as well. This is as bleak as a movie can get. Not just in terms of film style but in story as well. The entire middle of the movie is gut-wrenching and difficult, but certainly worth the effort. Where the heck are the Ozark woods anyway? I was sure this movie was set in Arkansas but then I see icicles which doesn't add up in my mind with the accents. It actually comforted me that I don't know where in the world this was set since it would be the last place I'd want to spend a vacation I think. Apart from a brilliant leading performance, I loved how this film makes you feel like you are among these people. That you are part of this mountain-living population. You get a sense of community for what it is. Anyway, very difficult to watch but rewarding nonetheless. Certainly not the last we'll see of Jennifer Lawrence. If she manages to beat Natalie Portman for the Oscar, I will have a lighter wallet but happier heart.
9. THE KING'S SPEECH
Wow, I can't believe I got to see the best two acting performances of the year on back-to-back movie nights (saw True Grit the night before) Colin Firth is amazing and this film's quality is working at that same level. Lots of great drama and tons of brilliant humour spattered in here and there. I had a great time from start to finish. The dialogue and script are equally superb as well. Certainly has all the building blocks of an Academy Award favourite for sure.
Firth should be a total lock for Best Actor.
8. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
In the same way that Dead Space 2 is not your mom's video game, this is NOT your mom's movie. This movie is probably one of the more 'real' feeling movies I've seen in a while. I think it borrows some from American Beauty but the acting is just off the charts in this one, it's so good and feels so impromptu and real. And I don't think I've ever seen humour used this indirectly yet effective. It's almost like it's not trying to be funny but just keeps cutting off slice after slice of life which is nothing but hilarious. Honestly, all five acting performances are flawless. The whole thing feels very real, and I feel embarrassed that I forgot how remarkable Julianne Moore can be. Great flick.
I'm mad now that I just realized Jennifer Lawrence's chances are even less since Annette Bening's performance in this is more likely to be the potential 'upset' in the best actress category. dang!
7. TRUE GRIT
Wow, best Coen brothers movie since No Country. Jeff Bridges AGAIN delivers one of the best performances of the year, wow. Really funny too (in true Coen fashion), I had a great time from beginning to end and the movie certainly shifts once or twice into something completely different. What a great ride. The young newcomer actress is superb as well. How is she only nominated as a supporting role?! She had better win with so many great and memorable scenes.
"wait...are we trading again?" lol. Most definitely recommended. Superb.
I was just discussing with a movie-loving colleague today about how great this movie was and I saw it months and months ago. Not needing much of a description because the premise is simple: this is simply amazing raw footage from a platoon deployed to the Koregal valley in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous assignments for the U.S. army (or any army, for that matter). It's so authentic because it is all actual footage, and there is no narrative or soundtrack at all. It speaks to how authentic it is given that people can't decide if this is a pro-war or anti-war movie. In essence, it's neither because it's not trying to make a statement at all. It serves brilliantly its purpose of communicating to the audience what it's like being deployed to this region. However, it's hard not to think during the movie (and afterwards, believe me) how much the situation is similar to Vietnam and you question why these troops are putting everything on the line. Especially watching a couple of heart-wrenching scenes. That soldier that got awarded the medal of honor is even in this film, albeit briefly. He's left the armed forces since and you could guess why after seeing this film.It will be difficult to enjoy Hollywood fictionalized war movies I think from now on. Even ones as quietly stirring as Hurt Locker. After you've seen or experienced the real deal, how can you adjust to anything else? Definitely recommended. Strong, strong film. I wish this was a shoe-in for best documentary this year. I wouldn't bet money on it but I'll be rooting for it for sure.
5. ANIMAL KINGDOM
Best Australian movie since Rabbit-Proof Fence methinks. Hard to imagine that this is a directorial debut considering some MASTERFUL scenes of pure suspense. Very scary stuff at times. The great script and acting doesn't hurt of course. I LOVE how this movie is very very very slowly brought to a boil. Yikes. Lots of fun.
4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Wow, what a near-perfect movie! I completely loved it. For sure going to win Best Picture at the Oscars since it's the perfect type of movie the Academy loves (not my pick for best movie of the year but who cares).It's rare that I see a movie where I want to immediately go and download a copy of the script because I want to relive certain scenes immediately (specifically, moments of the deposition where Zuckerberg pwns the plaintiff's lawyer). Sometimes after a movie I want to rewatch a scene but in this case I want to reread it because it was so fast and brilliant. This ia an extremely rare feat for a movie to accomplish for me. Only after did I realize it was a Sorkin script which makes perfect sense because the last script I downloaded was from the West Wing. Oh, and the performances are TOP DRAWER. The lead is perfect. Justin Timberlake is terrific. For a movie about programming, I don't understand how I was almost on the edge of my seat for most of it. On an aside, it had to be one of the worst movie-watching experiences I've ever had. During the course of the movie I sat in FOUR different movie seats. First was top right of the theatre, they left the lights on near the exit which was right above me. Couldn't see anything, so I moved to the front. Too close. Moved to the top left of the theatre, aisle seat in the 2nd top row. 20 minutes into it, not one but TWO aisle seats on the left flip open their blackberries and start texting or whatever. The screens are SO bright that I can't NOT look. dammit. So I move back to the front and sit in front of a group of people with only one bald-headed guy in front of me. The people behind me have their shoes on the top of my chair, I can feel them resting on my head. They keep kicking the chair too. The bald guy in front of me flips on his iphone and HOLDS IT UP while reading it. It's blinding. It's the closest I've come in many years to having a total meltdown. I yell out, "JESUS CHRIST!" and the guy gives me a half-turn of the head. If he had turned all the way around I would have screamed at him to turn his focking computer off. The people behind me magically removed their feet from the back of my chair / top of my head at this moment too. Even with that incident(s), I was able to fully enjoy the movie. STRONGLY recommended. It's brilliant.
3. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
In the same way that Tron Legacy was the worst surprise of 2010, this was the best surprise of the year for me. Dreamworks Animation deserves this recognition. This is by far their best film ever. I find it hilarious to compare to Avatar on how much better this film was in terms of storyline and character development. The script was SO good. Note: I did not watch it in 3D because I despise 3D in almost all movies. I found the visuals to be outstanding even without it. It is so good, it feels like Pixar MUST be involved. Is it possible Dreamworks has finally figured it out? In several sequences just like when I watched UP (my fave film of 2009), I got the feeling that it HAD to be written by animal-lovers because they show far too much comprehension on the building of bonds between man and animal. It makes it SO believable and I savoured every last minute of those scenes. This movie could have taken seconds in the subduing of Toothless but instead spread it out over several scenes and it's a kid's movie! I found that so smart and brilliant. The scene of Toothless trying to force a smile will stay with me all year. This will totally appeal to all children and I believe most adults will really love the story as well. Most definitely recommended.
2. TOY STORY 3
Frickin' hilarious for both adults and kids, another Pixar masterpiece. However, this is the first Pixar movie since Cars that isn't slam-dunk guaranteed the Oscar, in my opinion. Having Mel from Flight of the Conchords(sp?) voicing a triceratops is almost enough to destined this movie for greatness. This is also the first Toy Story to make me cry (*blushes*). Enough already with the 3D though. I found it added nothing to this film (unlike, say, Coraline). If you can see it without 3D, I recommend doing that. Anyway, perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. Most definitely recommended.
Those that know my best movie lists and articles of the past might be shocked that a Pixar movie didn't get the number one shout-out, but I simply couldn't pick any movie other than...
1. WASTE LAND
Absolutely amazing. Best documentary since MAN ON WIRE. I thought that Restrepo had the lock on best documentary for 2010 and then I thought this would but I don't think either will win and it makes me a sad panda.
This is a stunning motion picture, deeply moving and a total pleasure to watch. I can't say enough good things about it and I feel the less I say, the better. I sincerely hope that you all watch it since I don't know anyone else other than my wife who saw this as well.Strongly recommended. A must see.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the read and more than that, I hope that you will be inspired to see some of these movies now. If you do, be sure to let me know how you liked it in the end.
I've done this articles and lists since 1995 and I'm sad that this will likely be my last year doing this since I don't want the lists or articles to be based on a very small sample size. I know I can't see every movie but I want to see a decent selection so I can have a good list to stand behind.
If you agree/disagree with any of my selections, do comment! (even if you liked Airbender, let me know what the heck you liked about it and what you were on at the time).
Thanks for reading!