Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best of 2010 - The Films of the Year

What follows is a quick review on what I felt was the best film of 2010, preceded by eight others which were impressive in their own right. Beyond that, I've also taken a look back at some of the other movies I watched this year -- good and bad. If you're curious about any of the films I list here, each is linked to a trailer.
The Town 
The Town is perfect... just an absolutely perfect heist flick, that is. There's really nothing new going on here when it comes to this sort of story, but I can't think of another movie so successful in the execution of all these standard elements at once -- internally tortured lead character, engaging romantic interest, bucking against the pull of childhood friendship, FBI agents who aren't one-dimensional, great getaway/chase scenes and even better stick-ups. What a cast; everyone in this movie knocked it out of the park -- Renner, Hamm, Hall, Lively, Cooper, Welliver. And Affleck is solid as well.
People may scoff at me when they read this, but even with only two films under his directorial belt, Ben Affleck is starting to turn into this generation's Clint Eastwood -- a big-time actor morphing into a top-notch filmmaker. Pay attention to whatever it is he does next as a director. He's earned it.

At the surprise no one, Christopher Nolan continues to own our asses. I'm not sure what I can say about this film that hasn't already been posted somewhere on the internet. Maybe it didn't reach the heights of some people's lofty expectations, but I think even many of us who walked into the theater this summer hoping for a great film weren't disappointed. I recall being mesmerized for a few days afterward. The only legitimate critique I've heard regarding it was that it didn't go far enough within the dreams as it could have. Touche. Anything else seems to be obnoxious nit-picking.

Winter's Bone
This movie follows the trek of young Ree Dolly as she attempts to learn the whereabouts of her fugitive father in order to save her impoverished family from losing their home. Treading through both strained family history and violent locals, the teenage girl repeatedly sacrifices herself and her dreams in order to care for her young siblings and disturbed mother. The highly original setting in the Ozark Mountains gives this bleak drama a sense of foreboding I can't recall seeing in some time. Winter's Bone is haunting and harrowing during its most-intense moments, yet still has the ability to fill an audience with vigor by its conclusion.

The Killer Inside Me
Now THIS is some film noir, baby. Based on Jim Thompson's classic 1952 novel, The Killer Inside Me is the picture of a criminally warped mind encased in a community pillar of a small Texas town. Casey Affleck's portrayal of small-town sheriff and complete sociopath Lou Ford is brilliant. Now, this movie has been labeled as a work of misogyny, which I see the argument for, but egregiously overlooks and distracts from the film as a whole. You can't watch this movie and not have the violence burned into your memory. It contains scenes that, without a doubt, are some of the most brutal I have ever seen on film -- they are completely revolting, yet simultaneously mesmerizing. But, honestly, these assaults make up a only few minutes of the film, unlike some of the others I've referenced in this article (Kick-Ass and The Expendables in particular) and many entries from the filmographies of countless celebrated directors, such as Tarantino for example. Critics should give it another shot, because Michael Winterbottom pulled off this adaptation. At times, Killer is downright beautiful and should be recognized as such.

Everything you need to know about why Kick-Ass was phenomenal is in this clip.

The Ghost Writer
An excellent political thriller. Everything is top-notch here. Ewan McGregor delivers a necessarily strong performance as we weave along with him on a journey through a British politician's personal life and past. On the way to the truth, we're also given memorable scenes from Tom Wilkinson and Eli Wallach, as well as good work from Olivia Williams and Pierce Brosnan. The parts of this movie I'd normally delve into here are too spoilery for those who haven't seen it (which is probably most of you). This may not be a classic like Chinatown or as fun as The Ninth Gate, but The Ghost Writer shows Polanski is still at the top of his game.

Animal Kingdom
A simple, yet superb crime drama from top to bottom. After the death of his mother, confused teenager "J" Cody begins living with his grandmother and uncles, who are seeped in the Australian underworld. From there, his introduction into the criminal world takes his life and the lives of those he cares about into an uncontrollable tailspin. Guy Pearce is predictably fantastic as the cop trying to get the kid to turn on his family. Joel Edgerton oozes charisma as J's likable uncle (wouldn't be surprised to see him make an Eric Bana-esque splash in the next few years). And, man, what a performance from Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of the Cody clan. She makes Livia Soprano look like the mother of year. This crime drama is very curious in that there is barely any actual crime shown. Much of it is alluded to of course, but even then it's vague. But that doesn't take away from the story. If anything, it draws you in deeper. Highly recommended.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Soooooo much fun. I had a smile on my face the entire time. The editing and direction of this movie really deserve some sort of major recognition they'll undoubtedly fail to receive. I suspect Pilgrim will become regarded as an innovative movie for future filmmakers. Now I'm really looking forward to Edgar Wright's Ant-Man, which I believe is still in the works after The Avengers debuts in a few years from now.
After the jump, my selection for Film of the Year, in addition to mentions of 28 other movies from 2010.

Film of the Year
There were some damn good movies that came out this year, but nothing I saw was even close to the level that The Social Network resides on. My immediate reaction on Oct. 15 to my friends via The Facebook were as follows: 
I highly recommend The Social Network. A fascinating depiction of a young man's ascension (and simultaneous fall) to success via innovative vision, unparalleled drive, sheer brilliance, inescapable loneliness and self-centered greed. Poetic direction. Superb script. Perfectly cast. A uniquely American narrative.
I don't care whether what was depicted was what really happened or not. Fincher and Sorkin crafted one of the finest portraits of an asshole ever on film. Kudos, gents.

Not-So-Great Films Still Worth Seeing
Brooklyn's Finest - While not as grand of a story as it was clearly intended to be, there is still some excellent street crime action here from Antoine Fuqua as a trio of tales focusing on different types of policemen converge. Plus, Wesley Snipes is the bomb; it's sad he just got trucked off to the big house in real life because he might have been on the verge of a major comeback.
Date Night - Maybe it was because I went in with zero expectations, but I don't think I laughed more during any other movie this year.
Easy A - One of the better teen comedies to come in out in some time. Not quite at the level of Mean Girls though. Kinda reminded me of the vibe I got from Ten Things I Hate About You, only a bit smarter. Emma Stone is the real deal. 
Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson goes on an entirely different rampage than what you've become accustomed to. 
The Expendables - Good lord, I hope Stallone continues to inject steroids straight into his dickhole and make blissful action movies like this for the next few decades. How else do you explain me loving this flick in spite such horrible dialogue and plotting?
Green Zone - Wanted to be The Hurt Locker meets the Borne trilogy. Didn't quite match either.
Iron Man 2 - Not as great as I had hoped it would be, but I think it did some things better than the first installment did, not to mention further set up the Marvel U jump onto the big screen.
She's Out of My League - Pittsburgh has never looked better on screen, which is reason enough for me to recommend this. Ridiculous concept aside, it contains a few laughs, most of which come by TJ Miller.
Shutter Island - In all honesty, I should have written about this one above, but saw it so long ago I can't remember enough specifics to do so. If you claim to have guessed the ending 20 or so minutes into the movie, you're either a lying sack of shit or you changed your mind a few times in between.
Youth In Revolt - Falls apart during the third act, but was a lot of fun until then.

2010-Released Films (in the US) I Didn't See, But Wanted To
44-Inch Chest
The American
Black Swan
The Fighter
Harry Brown
The Kids Are Alright
The Next Three Days
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

2010 Snooze Fest
1. Men Who Stare at Goats
2. Clash of the Titans
3. The Wolfman
4. Salt
5. Robin Hood

More of the Best of 2010
The Albums of the Year
The Year in Television

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