Yeah, so it's a little embarrassing that this is the most recent post since my last post about the top films of 2009. Hopefully I'll be a little more consistent over the coming year, a New Year's resolution.
Once again, I find it hard to limit my favorite films of 2010 to a list of just 10, so 13 it is. While I thought that 2009 was an excellent year for movies, 2010 was quite underwhelming to me...at least at first remembrance. Many of the blockbusters that came out failed to live up to their own hype and it was a spring and summer of sequels and remakes...most of which were not very good. Movies that you will not find on this list such as Alice in Wonderland, Iron Man 2, The A-Team, or most especially The Last Airbender (more on that right before the list). However, even with these disappointments, this year had many incredible original films if you were willing to search for them, a fact that I was reminded of when I was compiling this list. But first, on to the biggest disappointment of the year, possibly decade.
Dishonorable Mention. The Last Airbender
In a year filled with disappointments we come to the biggest one for me and the final fall of M. Night Shyamalan. Like many, I had been let down by M. Night's recent films, but was curious to see how he would handle adapting a story that he didn't write. The trailers only got me more excited to see the film. The film is an adaptation of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a cartoon which aired on Nickelodeon. As the film came closer to release, I kept hearing amazing things about the show from reviewers and sites that I respect. So, even though it was a "kid's show" I felt I should at least watch a couple of episodes. The show hooked me after the pilot and I watched all 3 seasons in two weeks! Needless to say I was now really excited for the film...and then it released. I have not been so bored in a film in my entire life. I wanted to cause myself physical harm just to see if I was still conscious and not in a coma. M. Night, may your career have a swift and painful death for doing this to one of my favorite shows. Short story; please, please watch the show as it is incredible; please, please save yourself the agony of watching the worst film of this year.
So, with that off the proverbial chest, let us dive into the wonderful films that came out this year. On to #13!
13. An Education
It feels a little odd placing this film in the 2010 selection since it was nominated for several Academy Awards this past year, but the film didn't release wide until early February, it's in this year. Carey Mulligan delivers an incredibly nuanced performance, and one that I believe deserved the Oscar over Sandra Bullock, but that's neither here nor there. She grounds this coming of age story in her performance, and through it we learn the joys and hazards of being swept into a life that she didn't know existed. We watch her discover new aspects of life, make mistakes, and in the end come out a more mature woman. Come for Carey Mulligan, stay for a story well told.
12. The Fighter
This film is so much more than the trailers lead you to believe. It seems like it's just going to be another Rocky like story...and to some extent it is, and it's also much more. The film covers "Irish" Micky Ward in his rise to become a boxing champion. But the film is about the relationships around Micky and how they are both good and detrimental to him. The most inspiring part of the film is not his success, but his family putting aside their selfishness to stand behind him. Christian Bale delivers another fantastic performance as his cocaine addicted brother Dicky.
11. Exit Through the Gift Shop
How on earth do I even introduce this movie? Hmm, well, first off this one surprised the hell out of me. For those that don't know (like myself before hearing about this film) Banksy is a well known and controversial street artist (or graffiti artist) who lives in London. The film follows a man named Thierry Guetta who began documenting street art from it's lower levels until he finally met Banksy. Now at this point, the film goes from Thierry behind the camera to it pointed at him as he tries to break onto the street art scene. A truly fabulous documentary that defies expectations and explanations.
10. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle has played in so many genres now, that it's nigh impossible to know what the man will tackle next. After Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture, he decided to show the world the story of Aron Ralston, the man who amputated his own arm that was under a boulder in order to survive. Boyle captures the hubris of Ralston leading to his predicament, as well as his pathos in his will to survive. Like Slumdog, you will exit the film feeling exuberant about life. The amputation scene is intense, but much less graphic than anything you've seen in a war film. James Franco turns in what is essentially a one-man performance and is one to check out.
9. True Grit
Chalk another one up for the Coens. One of my favorite parts of a Coen Brothers film is their penchant for dialogue. Once again, they do not disappoint. I could listen to the characters in this world talk for hours. For all the talk going around about Jeff Bridges, which is true, Hailee Steinfield truly steals the entire move. It truly is something when you have a movie with the likes of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, and yet whenever Hailee is on the screen you cannot look at anything else. Everything in this movie is meticulously done, from the screenplay and acting to the cinematography and music.
8. Winter's Bone
This is a movie that nearly flew under my radar, but kept hearing about Jennifer Lawrence in the film. The film follows her in a search for her deadbeat, meth cooking father who skipped bail, and she and her family will lose their house unless she finds him. What follows is an intense journey through the underbelly of Missouri. At a time when strong female characters are largely absent from films, the likes of Winter's Bone, An Education, and True Grit come highly recommended.
6(tie). How to Train Your Dragon
Continuing their streak after Kung Fu Panda, it seems that Dreamworks has finally discovered how to capture some of that Pixar magic. This movie may be the most fun that I have had at the movies all year. While watching the flying scenes I was laughing just from the sheer joy coming from the film. A great film to see with the whole family.
6(tie). Toy Story 3
What more can be said of the best reviewed film of the year? I thought that the film was going to be good, but I had no idea what emotional devastation awaited me. It is an unflinching look at life and death, and yet is joyous and life affirming. If you can watch this movie without tears coming to your eyes, you may not have a soul.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Okay, so I may have fibbed a little when I said that Dragon was the most fun I had at the movies all year, because Scott Pilgrim is right up there with it. I have seen the film at least ten times, and I would watch it again right now. It has the most rocking soundtrack of the year, and the film just incredibly exuberant and fun. Bravo Edgar Wright, bravo.
Count on Christopher Nolan to deliver a thrill ride of an action film that is also intelligent. In a summer of poor sequels and adaptations, Inception was like a breath of fresh air. Watch it again (or for the first time) and thank whatever movie gods allowed such an adventurous film in a climate of safe sequels and adaptations.
3. The King's Speech
This movie hit a little closer to home than the others on this list. I have stuttered from a very young age, and while it has lessened as I have aged, it is still something that I struggle with. Colin Firth makes it seem like he has stuttered his whole life, which I consider one of the greatest accomplishments I have witnessed, since I have experienced how the disability works. While the premise of the movie is somewhat formulaic, like The Fighter, it is so much greater than the sum of its parts and is an absolute must see here at the start of a new year.
2. Black Swan
Black Swan is a movie that works on many different levels. On one, it is about a young woman's descent into madness as she tries to train for Swan Lake; on another, it is a modern retelling of Swan Lake, using Swan Lake as a plot device for its characters; it can also be about the dangers of seeking perfection. The film works on all of these levels. It is a dark dark film, but Aronofsky once again delivers a tour de force.
1. The Social Network
This was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me. When this film was first announced, I was disappointed that David Fincher was "wasting" his time on the Facebook movie. Boy, I could not have been more wrong. Aaron Sorkin delivers the best screenplay of the year, with the most rapid dialogue I have ever heard. Fincher directing at his most subtle, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails delivering one of the finest scores of the year. No matter what your reason for not seeing this film, you should rectify that as soon as possible.
Well, that's about it for 2010. As 2011 enters in, this site should be updated more frequently as I hope to post at least 3 to 4 times a month. May the following year be a great one for entertainment for all of you. Happy New Year!