|Top 15 films of 2010
||[Jan. 1st, 2011|06:34 am]
Top Fifteen of the year:|
So it’s the end of the year and that means it’s time to throw down my favorite films of ‘10. This year there will be fifteen instead of ten. Why? Well it’s my list. Also I felt like there were enough great films worth talking about to make a list of fifteen. Now it should be noted, I can’t see everything hard as I may try, and there were a number of films that had I seen them may have been on year but I won’t know till I see them. That list includes: The Town, 127 Hours, Wallstreet 2, The Ghost Writer, Exit Through the gift shop, Blue Valentine, The Fighter, or King’s Speech. Once I see them, you all will hear about it. But for now, let’s get started.
A-team/Expendables/Pirhana 3D: The reason I’m combining these three films into one review is because talking about them individually will get repetitive. The fact of the matter is these movies were just pure fun. There seems to be the idea that unless a film is dramatic in nature or says something about the human condition that it’s not worth talking about. I think that’s a load of crap, because films are supposed to be entertaining or hit you emotionally, and those emotions can be just having a good time at the theater, which these three films do.
A-Team: A team is a film that easily could have tried to be too serious. Tried to become a post 9/11 film about terrorism and a group of mercenaries. Face could have been a Jason Bourne like fighter doing parkour. But director Carnahan and the writing team did exactly what you should do with an A-team move. And that’s just make a fun movie about a group of guys who aren’t going to do any fancy dance-fu. They’re just going to kick some ass. From the opening helicopter dog fight scene to the tank falling out of the airplane. A-team was just a lot of fun at the theater, but a really well done ton of fun.
Expendables: This is a film that I’d been looking forward to for about a year or two. When it was announced I remember saying “This should be called MAN! The movie.” It’s easy to dismiss this film as a silly actioner, and to some degree it is. The story line is nothing more then you would fine on any straight to video action film in the 90’s but due to the amount of characters in the film, the simpler the story the better. The thing that makes this film work is the personalities on screen. From Stallone and Mickey Rourke to Stone Cold Steve Austin on the villain side. It also has to be noted how well this film does at showing off the different fighting styles of each actor and making it work. It’s not simple to throw in fist fighting to UFC style fighting to Jet-Li’s style of martial arts and make it seem like it all works. That these men would stand next to each other. And despite a scene or two it was great to see an action film where you can see what’s gong on. You can see the punches being thrown, the bullets hitting people. It didn’t just go for the “shaky cam” look the entire time. It’s also funny, like actually funny. Stallone has a great way of writing conversation between people that feels real, that’s evident going all the way back to Rocky. And he’s still able to do it here. The down time between the guys feels like conversations you would hear between drinking buddies. Also Jeti Li and Jason Statham super kick a guys head backwards. If you can’t appreciate that, then what the hell is wrong with you?
Pirhana 3D: Now while I can appreciate that 3D should be used to bring the audience into an experience. There is something great about a gimmick film every once and a while. Pirhanan runs with that gimmick, the whole gimmick of doing a 3D monster movie. This film easily could have fit into the “Grindhouse” film set from Tarintino or Rodriquez. The casting of Christopher Lloyd as a fish shop owner is just hysterical and he steals every scene he’s in. The opening homage to Jaws with Richard Dreyfus is a great opening to the film and sets you up for what you’re about to experience. But it’s also well directed. Aja has made straight up horror films before this and it shows. The giant fish attack on a Spring Break concert is really well constructed, building the tension before all hell breaks lose. This is also probably the most violent film I’ve seen in a while, also featuring the longest amount of time spent on female nudity. This film is violent, exploitive, sexy, in your face, and I loved every minute of it.
12. Winter’s Bone
A detective film set in the Ozarks and the detective is a 17 year old high school girl looking for her father. Winter’s Bone is a mood piece from the very first scene. And the tension builds from scene to scene as the main character Ree Dolly tries to find her father, going from family member to possible family member trying to discover if her father went back to making crystal meth or if he’s just dead somewhere. It’s not a complicated story, and because it’s simple it’s easier for you to be brought in and be invested in Ree’s journey. Jennifer Lawerance is the actress everyone is talking about when this film is discussed, and they should. She’s amazing and if she doesn’t win the Oscar for best actress then she should at the very least be nominated, she gives a wonderfully subdued performances, but the whole film is on her back, if she were to be an “okay” actress, the film wouldn’t work, but she does great work. But all the actors do great work in this film. It’s also the little things that make Winter’s Bone really come to life. You hear random gunshots in the distance, no one reacts. It’s just part of life. Stray dogs are seen through many of the scenes. Just wandering around. And it’s those little touches that make this films work. It’s a simple story but it’s the small things that make this movie jump off the screen and suck you in.
11. Waking Sleeping Beauty
The documentary about the fall then rise again of Disney Animation from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s. This film could have been made and basically be a giant commercial for Disney. A “Aren’t we great!? Look at these awesome movies!” documentary. Something that would work better on as a DVD special feature. It’s not. This film, directed by Don Hahn, who produced Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Damn, looks at the Walk Disney Animation company from the “Great Mouse Detective” to “The Lion King”. The move of the animation team from the Disney studio to a shack like studio in Glendale. The bringing in of Jeffery Katzenberg to run animation like it’s own movie studio and the power that Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s music brought to the films and the creativity in making these films. The film, which is primarily home video shot by the animators and talking heads from all the people involved, actually has an arc to it. There’s a story in all of this and that’s how a group of people who were down and out and for a period of time looked like they were no longer needed, became the powerhouse of animation again in the 90’s. This isn’t a film just for Disney buffs or animation fans, it’s an interesting underdog story, these people just happen to be animators. Hahn gets everyone he can to do interviews on the film and discuss that era. We also get to see personal drawings done by the animators of either each other or situations that were happening to them or even contest that were held. It’s a great documentary and a great story.
10. Black Swan
If someone would have asked me a few years ago who I thought was going to be the next “Cronenberg”, the director to take body horror and mix that in with eroticism and paranoia, I wouldn’t have thought of Darren Aronofsky, but Black Swan proved it to me. Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors working today, and I think it’s the fact that he is so in your face. He’s not a subtle director; if he has a point to make he’s going to make sure you understand that he’s making it. For some people that doesn’t work and I understand that, but I love it. I love seeing a modern day director that swings for the fence and pushes his audience’s comfort levels. From the sounds being loud or even overpowering at times, the images being shocking, the repetition of score from Clint Mansell, Aronofsky is an extreme director and I appreciate that. With Black Swan, his first horror/suspense film he continues to push. Any scene with sexuality is interrupted by a horror image or sense of discomfort, making the two parts of your brainwork with each other, the frighten side and the side of arousal. The use of shaky cam and close up gives the audience of feeling of being there and the film works as having a sense of unease through it all. The actors do a great job of bringing out that ease and discomfort. I’ve heard some say Natalie Portman only has to act scared or sad through out the film. Maybe true, but we also have to believe the ending when she becomes the Black Swan. If that doesn’t work, the film doesn’t work. And it works, she pulls off the Black Swan. Mila Kunis is great in every scene she’s in, bring in the comic relief from time to time, Barbra Hershey brings a great amount of gravity to the over bearing mother and Vincent Cassel as the dance director who knows what he wants but does it such a sleazy way just makes the film come to life. It was also great to see Winona Ryder in a film again, if only for ten minutes. It’s the art house horror film I’ve wanted for sometime.
9. Kick Ass
I’ve made the argument that not all films can be all things. I often hear complaints about horror movies that aren’t funny or comedies that lack drama. That’s always caused me to roll my eyes because that’s not their intended genre or what the filmmaker was going for. You can’t have everything in a film. But for me, Kick Ass comes pretty damn close of having everything in a film and not making it feel like it’s bloated. Directed by Mathew Vaghn, Kick Ass does a damn good job of going from emotion to emotion. Being hysterically funny one minute, to giving us a great action scene the next. Giving us a sweet story with Hit Girl and Big Daddy (granted, a fucked up heart warming story). We get the hero’s journey and more. It’s also nice to see a superhero film take the R rating and run with it. Kick Ass is violent and full of language, not every superhero movie should be this way, but going with the mind set of “What if a normal person became a superhero?” it does. We also get some great performance. Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl, a character that easily could have been a one note joke that kills itself thirty minutes into the film works and that speaks volumes of the young actresses talent. Nick Cage gives one of his best performances in the last few years, this along with “Port of Call New Orleans” show me Nick Cage is back doing real acting in interesting films, and it’s great to see. Also Christopher Mintz-Plasse breaks out of his McLovin role and is now The Red Mist. I hope we get a 2nd one because I want to see these characters continue, I want to see what happens next, and with these actors, not just on the comic book page.
8. Shutter Island.
A 1950’s style pulp thriller directed by Martin Scorsese. That’s what Shutter Island is and it’s awesome because of it. I won’t go into how gorgeous the movie is, it’s Scorsese, of course it is. The thing that makes Shutter Island work is the film holds up over multiple viewings. Some people bemoaned the fact that they say the twist coming a mile away. I make the argument that even if you saw it coming doesn’t mean the movie isn’t good. What? Do you never watch a movie with a twist a 2nd time because you know the end now? Of course not. This film works because it’s not all about the twist. The film builds to that twist and it’s only on a 2nd viewing you can see how wells it’s done. Everything is set up that you can take the film in two ways, that the twist you are told is a lie or that it’s the truth and it works both ways. That’s not at all easy to do. This film is very much of another time. It’s a 50’s thriller to its core. The acting, the dialogue delivery, the structure of the thing is very much a 50’s style pulp story. Martin Scorsese made a Val Lewton movie; he made a very very good Val Lewton movie. If this film didn’t work for you the first time, or the “twist” had your rolling your eyes, give it another try. You may catch things you didn’t notice before or see it as a completely different movie.
7. Robin Hood
Robin Hood is a movie that is getting so much flak, I don’t get it. People were just ready to hate this movie it seems. Either because they don’t like Russel Crowe or because they are apparently such giant fans of Robin Hood that anything deviating from the source material is blasphemy. Before this movie came out all I heard was “Why do we need another Robin Hood movie?” (Btw, most of these folks loved Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.) Then the movie comes out and all I hear is “Why isn’t it like other Robin Hood movies!?” This movie basically is Robin Hood Begins, and I didn’t mind that. We see the character build and grow into the Robin Hood we know. And with Scott behind the camera, you end up getting a damn good-looking movie. It was so refreshing to see a movie where real people ride real horses on a real beach. I know there was some CGI in the film, but with Scott you know the CGI that is there is there in purpose of the story, not in the “oh look, pretty cool what computers do now huh?” way. Also Cate Blanchete gives a hell of a performance as Marion, she shows grief in many ways, not just in tears. When her character is grief stricken, it’s all over her The battle scenes are fantastic, Scott can do battle scenes like most people shoot talking scenes, it’s his bread and butter, but that doesn’t make then any less exhilarating. And it was great to see a villain with no grey. The villain is an asshole to the end. You hate his guts and when he gets his comeuppance you can’t help but cheer a little. Yes this is Robin Hood Begins, and I think it’s awesome for being so.
6. How To Train Your Dragon
When it comes to Animated films, Pixar tends to be king. Due to the over saturation of the Shrek franchise and other films that are “okay” at best. It’s easy to write off Dreamworks animation. But this year Dreamworks produced perhaps the best film their studio has put out and that’s How to Train your Dragon. This film does what I loved about animated films growing up, and that’s that it was an adventure film. Sure the film had a message to it, but like any great film that may have a message it has that message given to the audience by character and plot development. Not having your characters just telling the audience “Here’s the point. Onto the next scene.”. It’s not heavy handed. The flying scenes in this film alone are worth a watch, just on TV they are still exhilarating. The voice cast is great, having names but not “stars”. It’s just a great film for the family, that may sound chilche but it’s true. It’s not just about the kids on this one, the parents or even people who have no children in their family can love this movie. It’s like being a kid all over again, and it can be rare for a film to really give you that feeling.
5. True Grit
The saying “The Devil is in the details” works great for any Coen film. But it’s probably never been truer then in True Grit. True Grit is a classic film made in a classic way. A number of westerns have been made in recent years. But there’s been the urge to make them “modern” in the film making techniques and in the language. True Grit is a classic Western, there’s nothing flashy going on and that’s what makes it work. The language feels genuine and old timey (it might not be, I didn’t live back then so I couldn’t tell you but it feels right). And all the actors make this film, it’s an actors film, from Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon to the smaller roles or characters that have two lines, every character adds to the interesting story that is True Grit. The film is funny and action packed, and going with that classic Western feel, you see everything. The Desert, the forest, the mountains. See these old cowboys going on a man hunt. And you can’t talk about True Grit without talking about the star making turn by fourteen year old, thirteen at the time of filming Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. She plays a real person, which is not easy for a child actor to do, they can often come across as “actors” and not “people’ Steinfeld has no problem with that. Years from now I’m not sure if people will look back at this film as a “Coen’s classic”. It’s not as bleak as “No Country” nor as hysterical as “Raising Arizonia” but it should go down as one of their best made. It’s a damn well made film by damn good filmmakers. Like Shutter Island it’s a film out of it’s current time, and that’s why it’ll be remembered years from now as the film it is, not by who made it, it’s that damn good.
4. Toy Story 3
It would have been very easy for Pixar to make Toy Story 3 another “Toys go on an Adventure” film. It could have been easily disposable fun entertainment and would have made as much money. But they didn’t. Pixar took their time and made perhaps one of the most “human” films they’ve ever made. They did a simple but perhaps a brilliant move by aging this sequel in real time. This time around, the toys don’t just go on an adventure we actually see the toys deal with the idea of mortality, usefulness in life and dealing with loss or the idea of loss. Pixar took these characters to the next phase of their lives, the next natural step these characters would have to take to grow, not just doing a re-tred of the first two films and sending them on another wacky adventure. It’s also one of the best prison escape movies I’ve seen in a while. The prison just happens to be a childs’ daycare run by a pink stuffed bear. The addition of new characters was well handled because they didn’t overpower the film, which can happen when you bring in new characters. With sequels the writers so badly want to show you the new things they crated they forget that you’re there to see the characters you know and love, Toy Story 3 doesn’t have that problem. The new characters push the story forward while giving our old favorites new developments. It’s also a damn funny film. From the “method acting” hedgehog to Mr. Tortia head. It’s not all about seriousness and emotion here, it’s also hysterical. The script by Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter Michael Arndt gave us the simple thing of real human emotions, and put that into Toys. Another masterpiece for Pixar, and a great end to the trilogy that is Toy Story.
3. The Social Network
About a year ago when it was announced a Facebook movie was being made, everyone scoffed, it became the easiest Internet joke. But what Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher ended up bringing to the screen wasn’t a movie about a company starting up and becoming successful. They created a movie about friendship, betrayal and absolute power corrupting absolutely. All those elements are some of the most basic plots of classis stories, using those troupes to tell this story made the movie more then a simple “Behind the scenes” kind of movie. And Sorkin’s fast, stylized dialogue gives the film a real break neck pace along with Trent Reznor’s score. Scene about coding feel like the most fascinating scenes ever, as opposed to being dull or just basic set up, every scene feels like it’s really important and has a force pulling the audience along. Jesse Eisenberg takes the character we have seen him play before and make him something more. Maybe it was the dialogue or just the simple looks he gave, but his Mark Zuckerberg comes across like a dangerous animal. Sweet and unassuming at one point, ready to strike and attack at another. A film I can say safely that people will be talking about ten to twenty years to come as a great movie and maybe an important movie.
After the success that was the Dark Knight, people began talking about Inception in terms of “The movie between Batman films” much like “The Prestige”. A good movie, a very good one in fact, but not one people were rushing out to see again and again. This was all before it came out of course. Inception ended up becoming the movie to see, due to its complexity and fantastic action scenes. But what makes Inception an enjoyable film for me is that it’s a genre film. It’s a bank robbery movie done very creatively. It’s a story we’ve seen before time and time again. A crew of guys, all with their specialties have to do “one last job” before they can quit and there’s the femme fatal from their past getting in the way. The fact that it is all done within the dreamscape and within the mind is what makes the film pop. The story is both familiar and new. It’s the familiar aspects that grab the audience and bring them in. it’s the new aspects that kept them coming back and trying to figure out the puzzle piece. It also shows how great a film done primarily with practical effects can still be. It’s the first film in a long time that had me go “Okay, how’d they do that?” Some have said this film lacks humor, which I disagree with. You just have to look at Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levett play off each other to see that’s not true. But even if you feel that’s true I say “So what?” This goes to my case that not every movie needs everything. There’s little to no comedy in “Taxi Driver” or “The Exorcist” and those films are classic. Inception is a fantastic film that holds up wonderfully on multiple viewings and it has firmly cemented Christopher Nolan as one of the best filmmakers currently working today.
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The best film of the year to me is the Swedish Phenomenon and the first of the Millennium trilogy. Now I realize the year this came out officially is 2009, BUT it didn’t come to the states till mid 2010, and I couldn’t see it legally till 2010, so it makes my 2010 list. There were two more films in the series, both good, but the 1st is the best. The thing that makes Dragon Tattoo a film you want to see again and again, despite it’s bleak atmosphere and harsh storyline, are the performances. Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth and Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist make these characters come to life, you fall in love with them and want to see them triumph. Her acting in this is so good that Rapace has basically become a international star, and deservedly so. She’s amazing and brings such great nuance to her role, as does Nyqvist. Sometimes acting is all in the eyes and these two do so much fantastic work with their eyes. Salander is a character that feels powerful and tough and that can be difficult to pull off but Rapce does that. The directing by Niels Arden Oplev brings to mind other great bleak detective films done by Davind Fincher (who’s now directing the remake) and Roman Polanski. Some have complained that the mystery story the two are trying to solve isn’t interesting or groundbreaking stuff. I think that part of the story is fine, but it’s the macguffin, the thing to bring these two together, at the end the story is about Lisbeth and Blomkvist and the growth they go through. Just like Philip Marlowe stories are about us getting to know Philip Marlowe. The same for Sherlock Homles, the cast of CSI and now Lisbeth and Blomkvist. It’s not about the mystery, it’s about the characters. Larson has created one of the best female characters maybe in the last ten years. She will last a long time as an iconic figure now, due to this film and the portrayal by Rapace. 15 to 20 years from now, maybe other writers will come and write more adventures for Salandar and Blomkvist, just like Holmes and Marlowe. But for now, we have this amazing film to watch, and re-watch. A remake is coming out this year, and it may be good, hell it may even be better in different aspect. This film was also a message film to some extent. Larson wanted to bring to light the harsh realties he perceived in Swedish culture to the treatment of women. The original title of this was ‘The Men who hate Woman”. But like the other films on this list though that is there, the message is clear, it doesn’t bash you over the head, and it’s not overwhelming. You care about the message because you care about Lisbeth. This film may be made again and again because it’s that good, but for me, the Swedish version, with these actors, is my number one film of the year.
And that wraps up 2010. 2011 seems to be another great year for film. Can't wait to see what I love then.