I will begin this with my biggest disappointments, movie-wise, of the year 2010. Because it has been that kind of year at the movies, hasn’t it? On paper, there were a bunch that I was really looking forward to that just let me down. These may not be the worst movies of the year, and some of them weren’t bad at all. Still, compared to the expectations they lugged along with them, these just didn’t bring the thunder.
Top 10 Disappointments of 2010 (in no order):
The Wolfman: They had the right idea, but the execution was way, way off. How can a movie about a wolf man be boring? This is how.
Alice in Wonderland: Hard to believe this is a Tim Burton movie. This is everything that Burton of the 80’s would have found repellant.
Green Zone: Another pairing of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon? Sounded good, until you watched another “take” on the not-finding of WMDs in the middle east.
Hot Tub Time Machine: A great title, a terrible comedy.
Kick Ass: I got the joke (that there are real-life consquences to superheroing) very early, and then was really bored.
Iron Man 2: This couldn’t have felt more half-assed. The “drunk Iron Man” scene was one of the worst scenes of the year.
Predators: Again, the right idea done poorly.
Get Low: They really pussed-out with how to end this movie. If you ever see it, you’ll see what I mean.
The Fighter: Probably the best movie on the “Disappointment” list, but still. Christian Bale? Really? If Nicolas Cage had done that performance, no one would be able to stop talking about how campy it was.
Greenberg: Maybe the most unpleasant movie of the year.
Still, the above movies were shining beacons of hope as compared to the following:
The Five Worst Movies of 2010:
Somewhere: Makes you reconsider everything not only Sophia Coppola has done before, but maybe even her dad’s movies, too.
Cop Out: To see this done right (or at least funny), see The Other Guys.
Clash of the Titans: A remake of a movie that I actually think could use a remake. But not this one.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: This movie didn’t need a remake, and the one original thought they brought to it (maybe Freddy was innocent) was abandoned in favor of Wes Craven’s ideas of 26 years ago. Worthless.
I’m Still Here: Speaking of worthless… if this was a hoax (which it was), what is the value of watching Phoenix disintegrate like this? So boring, considering I had the knowledge that he was “just kidding.”
There were some really good movies out this year. Here are a bunch.
Top 10 Movies of 2010:
Runner-Ups: The American, The Secret in Their Eyes, The Other Guys, The Two Escobars, Going the Distance, The Prophet, Mother, Splice.
10. How To Train Your Dragon: Came to this late, as I still resist any non-Pixar animation while at the theater. Don’t know why, as I have liked recent movies such as Monsters vs. Aliens and really liked Kung Fu Panda. Dragon is plain-ol’ excellent, though, almost if not as good as most of the Pixar output of late. By the end, I couldn’t believe how invested I was in a penis-y looking dragon and his boy.
9. Exit Through the Gift Shop: It was that recent Banksy-created Simpsons opening that finally made me see this. That was fantastic and weirdly subversive, but Gift Shop was incredible, shifting focus and theme several times throughout the movie. It starts out being about this fringe filmmaker in Los Angeles who becomes enmeshed in the Street Art scene made famous by artists such as Shepard Fairey. Then the mysterious Banksy gets involved, and it becomes something else. I am being vague because you should really check this out.
8. True Grit: Had to see it twice to fully get it, but now that I have, I do think it is one of the better Coen Bros. movies. Initially, I think I was expecting something a bit more… western-y- you know, gunfights, showdowns, etc. Those are all here, but I found it to be a bit inert and, sorry to say, boring. On second viewing, I realized this movie is all about character, with the three leads forming a surrogate family in post-Civil War west. Add to that great performances, trademark excellent Coen dialogue and an ending that is truly moving, and you have a great, great movie.
7. Inception/Shutter Island– Yep, I cheated. Two movies occupying the #7 spot. But you know what? In a year when Leonardo DiCaprio did two movies that are all about the fine line that separates reality and…something else, I think it is appropriate that they share a spot. I think Inception was the better movie, but I loved Shutter Island as well. A couple of brain-melters that can be discussed endlessly.
6. 127 Hours: James Franco’s Cast Away, but instead of a volleyball, our hero talks directly into a video camera. The fact that there is conveniently a video camera at first seems like a cheap movie conceit, until you remember that, well, he DID have a camera. And that is the reason why I thought this was better than Cast Away– the truthiness of the whole affair. We spend almost the entire running time with Aron Ralston, pinned under that rock. So when he has to cut off his own arm to escape, the audience empathy-quotient skyrockets like in no other movie this year.
5. Winter’s Bone: A dark, dank piece of scary hillybilly mojo. I think this is the scariest hillybilly movie since Deliverance, or at least since Southern Comfort. The difference here is that these seem like actual, real-live people. People who you could run into if you took a wrong turn off the freeway. Jennifer Lawrence, the girl “detective” who is the center of the movie, is the anti-Veronica Mars. There are no wisecracks or sass to lighten the mood, the atmosphere, or the sheer amounts of meth-dealing hooligans about. Great, great movie.
4. Toy Story 3: Two animated movies in my top 10, and I haven’t even seen Tangled. As boring as it is to announce another Pixar triumph, I must stand upon the mountaintop and sound my victory bugle for this one. It may be the best of the three, but that is like choosing between Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces. I love these movies because I love these characters, who seem to be more fully-fleshed out than most of the characters in live-action movies these days. The “Holding hands on the way to hell” scene is about as good as the motion pictures can provide these days. Also, note that there is a “Holding hands on the way to hell” scene in a movie called Toy Story 3. Nice.
3. The King’s Speech: Essentially, just another “Unorthodox Teacher Helps a Downtrodden Student Realize Potential Through Unorthodox Teaching Styles” movie, much in the same vein as Stand and Deliver, Summer School, or even The Karate Kid. The difference here is the historical implications- if Bertie didn’t get his stammering under control, he could never become the type of leader that could lead England into World War II. This is could be sappy and manipulative, and maybe it even his here, but I fell for it, just as I did in the movies listed above. Not to mention that Colin Firth’s final speech is perhaps the most inspirational bit of oratory since Michael Douglas’s final address in The American President.
2. Black Swan: Another mindbender that can be discussed endlessly. But every conversation I have had about this movie has inevitably ended in laughter as we thought back on the lurid, over-the-top plot machinations at play here. It has been said before but it bears repeating- Natalie Portman is the shit here. The amount of prep that must have gone into this role is unbelievable, not to mention delivering on everything that the script asks of her. To keep this movie even remotely grounded in anything resembling reality must have been a chore, but she pulled it off. This is a dark, weird, violent, uncomfortable, funny little movie that messed with me from beginning to end. There is no middle ground on how people feel about this movie, and I totally get why people may not care for it. They are wrong, but I get it.
1. The Social Network: Doing a top 10 midway through January can be boring because I am not telling any “Top 10 List Readers” anything they don’t already know. The Social Network was the most purely entertaining movie of the year, though, probably because it succeeds at so many things. It is one of the best courtroom dramas, biopics, character studies, comedies, thrillers, and how-to movies of not just this year, but any year. Right now my favorite thing about it is the script by Aaron Sorkin, but I can’t wait to see it again to discover the many other positives it has to offer.