Saturday, February 19, 2011

My top films of 2010

And now I present my top 10 films of 2010. Honestly I don't think this was a great year for cinema. Even of these top 10, only a few qualify as films that I actually loved. So click ahead to see what I spent my year watching.

Seriously this was a really great movie and if it wins Best Picture I'll be completely satisfied. In terms of my own enjoyment, I loved the look at an aspect of history I knew almost nothing about. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were both great, as was Helana Bonham Carter as long as I was able to forget her performances in Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. Fun fact, thinking about this movie actually bumped up my list a few places when I thought about how good it actually was. Caveat: this is one of the few films I didn't see during the 2010 calender year, so when I see my perceptions may have been tainted by the knowledge that it was already winning a bunch of awards.

#9. TRON: Legacy
I wanted to like TRON more than I did. I saw it in IMAX 3D and went again to a local theater hoping it would be better with lower expectations. But the fact is, it missed too many beats, and I sat through it as a writer wanting to scream, “Why is he doing that?” or “What a cheesy line!” or “I don’t care about this!” I don’t want to blame the actors, I think Garret Hedlund’s role was poorly written, he was a hero who was never given anything particularly heroic to do, and Jeff Bridges played a stoned Obi-Wan Kenobi without the film playing off the fact. And that basically left Olivia Wilde carrying the film and her role wasn't large enough to manage that. What could have been a standout in Michael Sheen’s performance ended up horribly out of place and didn’t fit with anything else in the film. My two cents: If the whole of TRON: Legacy had the same tone as Sheen’s club scene, it would've been awesome. Give me Daft Punk craziness, not incredibly vague musing on life, the universe, and everything. When you’re a Disney 3D Blockbuster, you have to fun to watch. And I’m not saying it’s not—my second viewing was motivated by a desire to spend a couple of hours eating popcorn—but it could have been much better.

#8. The Social Network
This is one I didn’t actually get to in theaters, though I’m not sure it would have gained much from the big screen experience. As a member of the Facebook/Twitter/blogging generation, I found it fascinating, and as piece of filmmaking and story-telling, I though it was brilliantly executed. It was a look at culture and friendship and honestly I won’t complain (much) if it beats out my personal favorites at the Academy Awards. Actually, watching this was quite possibly the final straw in motivating to get this blog going, so it gets additional kudos for that. Also, it managed to get me psyched to see Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man.

#7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
This was a good movie. It was the most mature and possibly the best of the Harry Potter series in terms of filmmaking. It was also kind of boring. Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary said this better than I can. But basically, I sat through Deathly Hallows I thinking “This is great.” And then it ended, and I thought, “I can’t wait for the next part where all the good stuff happens.” The fault here probably lies in sticking too close to the source material, I had some similar problems with parts of Return of the King. It’s the end of a huge franchise, millions of people would be pissed if anything changed. The part of me that's a Harry Potter fan is happy. The part that's a writer says that 50% of the seventh book could have been cut and rewritten into one concise story.

One of my favorite surprises of the year. The story goes like this. It was an afternoon and I had nothing to do. Kick Ass was showing at the closest theater to my apartment. I’d heard good reviews, but I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of hyper-violent super hero movies. I sat through the 10 or 15 minutes of previews thinking, “I hope I didn’t just waste ten bucks.” A few minutes later, Nic Cage (whose films I generally avoid), started pumping bullets into Chloe Moretz, and I realized the movie was awesome. I don’t love the R-rated superhero genre, but it worked for Kick Ass.

#5. Predators
Other surprise of the year, I was expecting something generically action-y (see The Losers, The Expendables, The A-Team) and worried it might not turn out well (see Legion, Skyline, The Book of Eli), but Predators is the film that actually worked for me. I still saw the “plot-twists” coming a mile away, and I’m not certain I buy Adrien Brody as an action hero (but Peter Jackson started that_, and Predators managed to keep the CG spectacle to a minimum and actually make the characters interesting while they fought aliens. It’s something too much sci-fi (see Avatar) fail at, and I applaud Predators for it.

#4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I’ve already made my nerd-status clear right? Actually, I have an incredibly tiny history of video games and the fact is I probably didn’t get 90% of the references in this movie. I still loved it.

#3. Iron Man 2
I know this movie was far from perfect, but I liked it. It suffered from an overload of villains and noise and explosions, and didn’t work as perfectly as the first Iron Man film did, but it was still one the most fun movies I saw all year, and one of the few that I wanted to rush and buy and see again. Adding Scarlett Johanssen is does not equal a negative in any book that I acknowledge. Yes, my inner nerd is taking over here—oh heck, I have no inner nerd. As a nerd, I liked Iron Man 2. And I have an Iron Man poster on my wall. I’m not apologizing.

This was a close second. I grew up with the Toy Story films and this certainly lived up to the others and to Pixar’s almost perfect record of great movies (I’m just not a fan of Cars). Toy Story 3 was a brilliant movie, and it’s equally deserving of the top spot. But based on the fact that I ran out to buy the Inception Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy faster than I ran out to buy TS3, I have to admit I just liked Inception a little bit more. Also, the fact that Toy Story 3 implied that you have to grow up and let go made my inner child throw a tantrum and run off to organize my LEGO collection.

Christopher Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream film gets my top spot, because (a) it was awesome, and (b) it was actually good. It’s depressing how rarely an action movie actually has a decent script backing it (see the examples farther down this list) and Nolan is one of the only filmmakers in Hollywood who seems capable of balancing the two. Also, when I was about five, I loved this movie called Angels in the Outfield, saw it about a hundred times, and seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt grown up and kicking ass in zero gravity made my inner child immensely happy.

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