As is tradition, here’s my year-end list of my favorite movies from 2010.
Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan
While this film left a lot of people amazed but feeling cold, I think a compelling case could be made that this is really an epic love story wrapped up in an incredibly ambitious storytelling device that sometimes works and sometimes just makes you say, “What the hell?” Frankly, the rotating room fight scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is worth the price of admission alone. I won’t go on at length here, as I think this film has practically been talked to death and I don’t want to give anything away for folks who haven’t seen it yet, but I don’t think anyone can deny it’s a landmark film.
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis / Director: Martin Scorcese
This is another film you can’t really talk much about without giving too much away. Suffice to say, the performances were great, as expected from Leonardo Dicaprio and the perhaps under-appreciated Mark Ruffalo; the direction was excellent, never revealing too much but never letting the audience get more lost than they should have been; and the ending, in my opinion, was absolutely perfect.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Writer: Aaron Sorkin / Director: David Fincher
Seeing the evolution of a tool that has become so ubiquitous in our everyday lives was always bound to be interesting. Jesse Eisenberg portrays Mark Zuckerberg in such a fashion that you never really know if he’s an asshole, just incredibly socially inept, or perhaps borderline autistic — all while inspiring some sympathy, mind you. No small feat. Justin Timberlake is appropriately slimy, but also with an impressive handle on the brink-of-sanity aspects of Sean Parker’s personality in the movie. And I wanted to reach into the screen and give Eduardo a big hug the entire film, which made me incredibly interested to see what Andrew Garfield does with Spider-Man. The framing of the story inside the two depositions was a particularly intelligent way to tell the tale, as it allowed us to see the emotional effects of the events down the road essentially as they were happening on screen. With a writer like Aaron Sorkin, great writing isn’t much of a surprise, though.
TOY STORY 3
Writer: Michael Arndt / Director: Lee Unkrich
I’m admittedly a bit of a crier when it comes to television and movies. I routinely find myself dehydrating on a weekly basis thanks to Glee, The Biggest Loser, Modern Family, or even Chuck or Community. It just happens. I’ve given up feeling ashamed and invested in waterproof mascara. I own it. Despite that, I was feeling a bit silly because I was literally sobbing my poor little childlike heart out during this movie — until I realized that 90 percent of the theatre was just as torn up as I was. I think we all felt a bit ridiculous, but I think we all also probably went home afterward and found our old favorite toys, the ones with which we’ve never quite been able to part, and hugged them to bits. And any film that grab that many people in such an intense way deserves a place in the top films of the year.
THE KING’S SPEECH
Writer: David Seidler / Director: Tom Hooper
There a number of elements that will always get me to a movie theatre. One of them is Colin Firth. Another is the non-sports-related underdog historical drama genre (see FROST/NIXON, for example). And Geoffrey Rush will at least get me to look a movie’s way. So, this movie had a lot going for it to begin with, but that also means it’s saddled with high expectations. I put my go-see-this-non-mainstream-movie-with-me credibility on the line by convincing my family to see it on Christmas Day, and I was thrilled that the movie lived up not only to my own expectations but that my family enjoyed it, too. Even my dad, who falls asleep at nearly every movie he sees, stayed awake the entire film — which I think is saying a lot for a historical drama. The performances, as you’ve likely heard and would likely expect from the calibre of actors involved, are fantastic. The cinematography was interesting for a movie like this: the angles were just a little off-kilter, a little uncomfortable, as if to mirror what King George must have been feeling. The story itself is a rather amazing one, and it felt honestly told, not too sugary. At the end, you feel the triumph, but also the weight of what is yet to be endured. I’m hoping this film will be well-rewarded during the awards season.
Writers: Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin / Director: Darren Aronofsky
Half psychological horror, half meditation on the line between artistic passion and insanity, this dark film ended up one of my favorite films of the year. It’s a bold film, trippy and sometimes difficult to watch. It’s really hard to sum up how I feel about it, to be honest. I was utterly compelled in moments by Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina Sayers. I found myself both captivated by and feeling intensely uncomfortable about Lily, portrayed by Mila Kunis. And I was equally drawn to and disgusted by Vincent Cassel’s Thomas Leroy, director of the ballet troupe. This is a movie that’s not going to hit for everyone, but when it does hit, it knocks the wind out of you.
Writer: Dan Fogelman / Directors: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Finally, Disney returns to form with a cheeky, romantic, gorgeous and musically memorable film to join its animated classics. TANGLED had echoes of some of my favorite Disney films, like THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME , SLEEPING BEAUTY, and CINDERELLA, but they all feel natural and original in this reimagining of Rapunzel. It also has a bit of the feel of films like STARDUST and THE PRINCESS BRIDE. The voice acting is pitch perfect. The part of Flynn Rider feels like it was written for Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy is fantastic as Mother Gothel. Really, I can’t recommend this film highly enough, for anyone of any age.
AND THE REST…
It was going to be too difficult to expand my list to 10 or narrow it from about 17, so I said, “This is my list! Damn the man! Save the Empire!” The following 10 movies are films that didn’t quite measure up to the seven above in one aspect or another (either critically or on enjoyability) but are still worth your time.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: It was a strong year for animation; in another year, this might have made my Top 10. It’s from the same folks who did LILO & STITCH, one of my favorite Disney movies of all time, and they deliver another movie with the same sort of quirkiness, darkness and heart that made that film so great.
KNIGHT & DAY: You need to go into this movie knowing it’s a farce. They’re poking fun at the action and romantic comedy genres, and Tom Cruise is poking fun at himself. The film plays it straight, which makes it a kooky, super fun, summer popcorn movie.
FLIPPED: Sort of like The Wonder Years but not so depressing. While some critics took issue with the he said/she said storytelling device, I found it was used in a fresh manner int hat it did a nice job sparing the audience redundancies.
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: A sweet coming-of-age story about a kid who checks himself into a mental hospital. The real stand-out in this movie is Zach Galifiankis, who shows that he’s not just a goon making a career on his ability to be awkward. He acts in this movie, and he does it brilliantly.
THE TOWN: A gritty crime thriller with heart, with solid performances from the entire cast.
MORNING GLORY: I’m a sucker for journalism movies thanks to my education. Add the always-delightful-to-watch Rachel McAdams, and you’d have to do something really wrong to make me dislike something like this film. Luckily, the filmmakers did not try to make me dislike it; quite the opposite. The characters walk the balance between caricature and complete human being. It’s sweet; it’s funny; it’s feel-good. And that’s generally good enough for me.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART ONE: More brooding character piece than we’ve seen before in the series, I found this to be one of the most interesting of the series. It’s lovely to see how the trio of actors have really come into their own; they handle this heavy material very well. Also worth noting, the animated sequence used to tell the story of the Deathly Hallows is absolutely brilliant.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER: I’m on the fence as to whether this trumps PRINCE CASPIAN as my favorite Narnia film. It’s certainly the most beautiful of the three, and I think it does a nice job of re-capturing some of the magical elements of the first one while embracing the maturity of the second. I was incredibly impressed by Georgie Hensley, who plays Lucy. Not only is she growing up into a lovely young woman, but she showcased her growing acting talent here as well.
127 HOURS: Danny Boyle always delivers interesting movies, and Simon Beaufoy is one of my favorite screenwriters, as he knows make the heart of a character evident to the audience. And with this incredibly challenged premise, they once again deliver.
THE TOURIST: I found this to be a highly enjoyable comedic thriller in the vein of CHARADE, though admittedly not as good as CHARADE (but what is?). Like KNIGHT & DAY, it’s a movie that plays it straight on the surface but isn’t taking itself seriously at all underneath. Go in, turn off your brain, and just enjoy the ride (and Johnny Depp… and Angelina Jolie).
That sums it up. What were your favorite movies of 2010?