20 Jan 2011

The Only Best Movies of 2010 List Worth Reading, For Reals! (Version 3.0)

So here's my top movies of 2010. In years past, I would do a numbered Top 10. I guess as I've gotten older, though, I can see the futility of doing a numbered Top 10 for two reasons:

One, number-ranking movies against each other is always gonna be a little futile. For example, three of my favorite movies of all time are GoodFellas, All About Eve and Toy Story. I can say GoodFellas is the best/my favorite movie of all time, but even this is a little silly considering how different AAE and TS are from it. In short, I just can't bring myself to have to number movies in a list anymore. Why? Because I make the rules on this blog, sweetheart.

Two, a top 10 to me means that all 10 movies are fantastic. This is not always the case. Sometimes there are more than 10 amazing movies out in a given year and sometimes there are less. Therefore, trying to, year-after-year, name 10 because of convention is, to me, a little silly. After all, 10 is an arbitrary number that, because of tradition, gets assigned greater importance than, say, it's equally impressive brother 11 (or it's sister, eight)!

Anyway, rant/justification over. On to the list.

I hardly got to go to the movies at all this year for two main reasons (and then many sub-reasons that stemmed from these two) that, in the interests of anonymity, we shall refer to as Xinlay and Xate. In fact, I only saw two movies in theatres: Inception and Sex and the City 2 (but more on them later). You'll see from my list, though, that I've managed to see most of the "big" or "considered-award-worthy" movies of the year anyway. All I can say is thank Dawkins for my little friend the internet.

The Best Movies of 2010 (in no particular order...well, apart from the first two, that is)

(Joint Best Movie of the Year) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Original. Compelling. Visually-stunning. Feminist. Thrilling. I can't begin to think of all the superlatives this movie deserves. Based on the first of Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy of crime novels, Dragon Tattoo was, for me, an instant classic in the way only one other movie was this year. For me, Noomi Rapace gives the single best performance, male or female, of the year in the role of the titular "Girl", Lisbeth Salander.

(Joint Best Movie of the Year) Toy Story 3 - How is it possible that Pixar have managed to make a trilogy of films where the standard has been this high throughout? Even the LOTR trilogy doesn't count being, as they were, made all at the same time and are pretty much all one long movie. I have EXTREMELY high standards when it comes to Toy Story, my favorite animated movie of all time. TS2, while not quite as good as TS, was still inspiring and hilarious. This, though, is even better (again though, not quite at the height of TS, but as close as it's possible to be). Michael Keaton's Ken - brilliantly written and performed. The incinerator scene - sweaty-palm and heart-wrenchingly dramatic. The epilogue - as beatifully written and emotional as anything in the series.

127 Hours - Waaay better than I thought it would be. James Franco = Amazing. I just can't get over what a fantastic job Danny Boyle did with this movie. The fact that most of the film takes place in one confined location with one character and yet Boyle manages to not only keep the audience's attention but also ratchet up the tension is nothing short of awesome. The scene with the arm (you know what I'm talking about) was possibly the most intense scene I've ever seen in a film and realistic as all hell. The editing was also the nuts.

Inception - The very definition of a "smart" summer blockbuster. Great cast (especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Tom hardy), brilliant special effects (all the more so because of minimal CGI) and a final half-hour of jaw-dropping cinematic mastery from director Chris Nolan.

Never Let Me Go - Okay, just like 127 Hours, this was far better than I thought it was gonna be. Base on a Kazuo Ishiguro novel, NLMG is a similar meditation on unrequited love, time moving too quickly, a sense of duty, to The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro's most famous (and Booker-Prize-winning) novel. Set in an alternate late-20th-century, this film combines SciFi (it's more Children of Men than Transformers!) and three outstanding performances from Keira Knightley, (new Spider-Man) Andrew Garfield and, especially, Carey Mulligan. Brilliance.

The Fighter - Two words: Christian Bale. Fuck every other review/description of this movie. If you don't know what this film is about, I'm not going to tell you (okay, real-life boxing story). I demand you watch it anyway because of the performance of Christian Bale.

True Grit - It's weird that a lot of critics are calling this the Coens' best or one of their best. Shit, I prefer MANY Coen movies over this...Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Hudsucker Proxy (so underrated it makes me sick), No Country, etc... While I think this is a lesser Coens effort, it still ranks as one of the top movies of the year for me because the Coens are simply of a higher standard than most film makers. As bubblegum a movie as you're ever likely to get from Joel and Ethan.

The King's Speech - Despite all the excellent reviews, all the "OMG it's sooo great" comments from friends, all the award nominations and wins, it's obvious "award" pedigree, etc. Despite all of this pre-knowledge, I was still surprised at just how effing good this movie was. Firth was awesome, but so was Geoffrey Rush (his was a lead role, not supporting...eff the awards circuit!). Special mention to the cinematography. This was possibly the most beautiful film of the year. So many of the shot compositions were like works of art. Brilliant.

Catfish - To say anything of what this movie is about would be doing you a disservice. Suffice to say it's the best documentary of the year and revolves around Facebook. I really can't say anything else about it without spoiling it.

The Girl Who Played with Fire/The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - The next two in the aforementioned Millenium trilogy. Not a patch on Dragon Tattoo, but still two of the classiest thrillers of the decade and Rapace once again OWNS. Special mention, also, to Michael Nyqvist as (the other main character) journalist "Kalle" Blomkvist in all three. A kind of Swedish Daniel Auteiul or James Woods, only a little more subtle.

Restrepo - Film makers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington spent 15 months with an Army platoon in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan (the most dangerous part of the country). This documentary is absolutely apolitical (I defy anyone to argue otherwise) showing, as it does, nothing other than what it's like to be a troop on the ground. Never before has there been such an accurate depiction of modern warfare.

The Social Network - NOBODY expected a movie about the founding of Facebook to be this good, myself included. However, with director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men) on board, the clues were there. All I can say is that the execution was perfect and a central performance by Jesse Eisenberg (who knew he had it in him?) that was just marvellous.

The movie that's not quite good enough for my "Best of 2010" list, but is better than my "Honorable Mentions" list

Black Swan - This movie is either a fucking masterpiece in every conceivable way, or is a glossy, style-over-substance, psychological thriller/melodrama with some awesome ingredients. The thing is, I'm not sure which it is, though. What can't be denied is that it was totally involving, with brilliant make-up and editing and a central performance which, if this were a Rapace-less year, would be the best of 2010 from Natalie Portman.

Honorable Mentions

I also really enjoyed the following movies this year:

Shutter Island - good ending and masterful directing from the master.
The Crazies - great zombie movie and anything with Olyphant is worth watching anyway.
Why Did I Get Married, Too? - suck it, Tyler Perry, haters. I like his movies (minus the spirituality, of course)
Winnebago Man - great documentary with a brilliant and unique central character
Machete - they fucked with the wrong Mexican
The Town - while still awesome, this would be so much better without the spectre of Affleck's previous and brilliant Gone Baby Gone ratcheting up my expectation
Conviction - Hillary Swank + Sam Rockwell + "The Legal System" = Brilliance.
Winter's Bone - atmospheric, dark and an amazing performance from Jennifer Lawrence in the main role.
The Human Centipede - just a really original, chilling horror movie. FEED HER!!!

Worst Movies/Biggest Disappointments of 2010

Sex and the City 2 - I love SatC and I loved the first movie. This was such a let-down.
The Ghost Writer - Seriously. WTF was all the fuss about?! Boooo-ring.
Kick-Ass - I still liked Kick-Ass, but it was sooo much less than I thought it was gonna be.
Death at a Funeral - Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracey Morgan. All hilarious. Movie? I didn't laugh once.
The A Team - I loved the show. This movie (Sharlto Copley notwithstanding) sucked balls.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - it was mmmmokay, but as it's my favorite book in the series, it should've been so much better. The worst movie in the saga so far...

Movies I wanted to see but haven't...yet

The Tillman Story
Enter the Void
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Final thoughts

For me, 2010 was a year of great documentaries (as well as the above, Waking Sleeping Beauty, Exit Through the Gift Shop and The Cove [I know, I know, it was 2009, but I saw it this year] were all great), great female performances (Portman - Black Swan, Rapace - The Girl... Trilogy, Lawrence - Winter's Bone, Leo - The Fighter, Swank - Conviction, et. al.), disappointing summer movies (Toy Story 3 was the only genuinely good one) and squirm-inducing scenes (Centipede, 127, TGwtDT, The Killer Inside Me).

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