Monday, February 07, 2011

The Best Films of 2010 - Better late than never

It's about here that I'm supposed to make a statement about how good or bad last year was for movies, but I'm mot going to do that. No matter how good or bad the year is, I find that the top films always deserve to be remembered - and are a refreshing reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, great movies ARE still out there - and there are many of them.

Tto be eligible for my list, a movie has to have premiered  in the Dayton area during the calendar year of 2010. (With three exceptions, as noted below).  That means that Blue Valentine won't make my list until next year.

If I gave a movie a full review, the title will link to it.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)

Best Worst Movie - This documentary on the making of the hilariously bad Troll 2 focuses on the dichotomy between its actors, who mostly knew they were in a piece of junk - and the filmmakers, who cluelessly believed they had actually made something artful. On the whole, it's more entertaining than Troll 2 itself.

Crazy Heart - It could have been a cliched soap opera with a country twang, but in the hands of this cast and crew, it became something touching and genuine.

Despicable Me - At first glance it looked just like a funny gag reel, but actually turned out to have strong heart too. Hooray for the Minions!

Easy A: Yes, Easy A. Watch Emma Stone's performance and believe. The screenplay is sharp and witty to boot.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: Most critics pegged this as the weakest of the "Millenium Trilogy," but I disagree. What makes it distinct is that even though it's primarily a courtroom drama, it's still dramatic and suspenseful. (The second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, is a solid action movie, but is  the least memorable of the lot.)

Hereafter: Clint Eastwood's latest film at first landed on a lot of Oscar prognosticators' lists by default - and then disappeared. It should have stayed. It's a fascinating look not so much at the afterlife, but what people believe to be true about it and how it affects them.

Inside Job - Not being a mathematical creature at all, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the world of finance, but Charles Ferguson deconstructs the implosion of our economy with startling clarity - and the story of its unraveling is by turns despairing and enraging.

The Kids are All Right: This is the movie that JUST missed my top 10, but that takes nothing away from this terrific acting showcase about the tough love of an unconventional family.

The Town: You know, even though Ben Affleck is on camera in his second directorial effort, his very fine film convinced me that he could quit acting and go into directing - and I absolutely mean that as a compliment.

The Tillman Story: Pat Tillman never wanted anyone to make a fuss over him. He just wanted to do his job and to do it well. The best thing about this documentary, is not so much how it reveals that Tillman was crassly exploited, but that it reveals what kind of man he was. And we lament his loss all the more.

Out-of-town specials

Two outstanding films didn't play Dayton in 2010, but they're too good to be excluded from these rankings.

Buried: This intense film about Ryan Reynolds being buried alive in Iraq developed great buzz - which dissipated in a halfhearted release that prevented the movie from reaching as many eyes as it should have. And that's a great pity. This film has the same basic concept as 127 Hours - man confined to narrow space, limited opportunity for visuals - but it's better than Danny Boyle's film which didn't stay with me the way it should have.

Waking Sleeping Beauty: Never mind Tangled. Here was the best film featuring Disney animation released in 2010. This documentary painted a picture of how Disney animation arose from near-irrelevance in the mid-1980s to become a powerhouse in the 1990s. And it makes me long to see Disney reach those heights again.

The 10 Best

10) Flipped: Rob Reiner's best film in nearly 20 years was barely released, and people missed a lovely lilting look at the male vs. female viewpoint which is even more effective than When Harry Met Sally ....

9) How to Train Your Dragon: How does DreamWorks produced its best film to date? By hiring guys who made one of Disney's best films, Lilo & Stitch. It also sported 2011's best use of 3D, with breathtaking flying scenes.

8) The Fighter: Much more than just another boxing crowd-pleaser, this movie is about the dynamics of the family, and how they can damage, when applied recklessly - and heal, when applied with care.

7) Toy Story 3: The last 30 minutes of the film sensationally run the emotional gamut - and Pixar leaves me in tears. Again.

6) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: When I first saw this murder mystery, I thought, "Feels like a David Fincher film." Lo and behold, Fincher is directing the American remake. If his film as half as engrossing as this film was, it will make my 2011 Ten Best List.

5) The King's Speech: So this film is supposedly ordinary and stodgy, is it?  As Bertie might have said, bollocks. This film has more soul than those who despair at its Oscar front-runner status.

4) Shutter Island: Some people misguidedly dismissed Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel as a show-offy lark. Those people ought to take another look. Like many of Hitchcock's best films, it's a stirring, emotional trip that repeat viewings will enrich."Is it better to live as a monster - or to die as a good man?"

3) The Social Network: The film begins with the line, "When people reject you, it won't be because you're a nerd. It'll be because you're an asshole." It ends with the line "You're not an asshole. You just try too hard to be one." The soul of this film lies in the distance between those two lines.

2) Black Swan: Natalie Portman's stunning performance is the best of the year, revealing with startling force the dangers of thinking that being perfect means never making mistakes.

1) Inception: An astonishingly intricate structure. Pulse-pounding action scenes.  Effects that are both groundbreaking and refreshingly old-fashioned. A screenplay that kept me guessing and still makes my mind reel, even after viewings in the double digits. A tale of human heartbreak and redemption. Put more simply, Inception was the film of 2010 that Had It All.

1 comment:

Allison M. Dickson said...

I so agree with your movie of the year choice. I've seen many great movies this year, but nothing has knocked it off that pedestal. Black Swan came closest.