You know it’s been a great year in movies when there are a handful of films that don’t make the final cut of your top ten list, yet easily deserve the same praise. There have been a lot of films that have become instant classics, as well as others that broke new ground in an industry that can sometimes feel as though it’s running out of real-estate.
While a good portion of my list already had their places set in stone, it wasn’t until the final days of the year that two films lost their spots after two other films (both will be considered classics, though one just absolutely blew me away) not only demanded a place on the list, but spots in the top five at that. One of those films was The Other Guys, which I still find myself quoting and thinking about almost every day, while the other is a film I saw all the way back in February, and I almost felt bad as it held on so long, only to be knocked out of contention in the final days. That film was Frozen, a work of genius from writer/director Adam Green, and as I said it would in my review of the film, it has remained frozen in my mind to this very day. So kudos to those two films in particular, which deserve mention here, even if there isn’t a number in front of them when it happens.
Again, the best part of this year was the sheer amount of originality that flowed throughout Hollywood. A lot of fresh takes on tired genres, and completely new ideas filled the cinemas, and on that note, let’s see which films did make my top ten list of 2010…
10. The Town
Ben Affleck is the next Clint Eastwood. Okay, pick your jaw up off the floor, yes, I just said that. Affleck made his directing debut in 2007 with Gone Baby, Gone, and it could be seen instantly that this guy had a natural ability when it came to working behind the camera. This year, in only his second attempt at directing, Affleck took it one step further and put himself in front of the camera as well. Pulling double duty, he successfully navigated his way to crafting a superbly told cops and robbers story, where he played Doug MacRay, a guy looking to escape a shady life that just won’t let him leave. Affleck once again proves that he’s got what it takes to be the top star in a film, but he also shows that Gone Baby, Gone wasn’t a fluke. If he keeps this up, I could easily see him directing his future films, just like Eastwood has done for the longest time, and being held in high regard because of it.
9. Edge of Darkness
Love him or hate him, Mel Gibson is a tremendous actor. In his first starring role in eight years, Gibson returned at the start of 2010 in Edge of Darkness, a fantastic tale of corruption, revenge, heartbreak, and the love of a father for his daughter. It’s a film that has stuck with me since I first saw it, and the emotional impact of the story, and the way Gibson handles the situations thrown his way, truly make it a film worthy of high praise.
8. Toy Story 3
It takes an incredibly well told story for the third film in a franchise to make a top ten list, though when Pixar is behind it, it may come off as a little less shocking. Toy Story 3 once again gives life to our childhood, and all the toys we’ve ever owned, as Woody and Buzz can be looked at as placeholders for our fond memories of toys we once owned, and allows their story to be told. Even if that isn’t the case, Pixar does such a wonderful job making Buzz, Woody and the gang such strong characters, that we feel as though they’re our toys as well; which is what makes Toy Story 3 so touching. Sure, animated films have always aimed for the heart, and sometimes they do hit the mark, but Toy Story 3 really knew which buttons to press, as these animated pieces of plastic showed, and caused, more emotional responses than a lot of actual actors could ever hope to achieve. This film is proof that you don’t just need to throw out useless sequels and just watch the cash returns pile up, but that if you put a little heart into it, you can have your space ranger, and play with it too.
The thing I love about Kick-Ass so much is that it’s full of scenarios that are completely unbelievable, while also mixing it up with things that likely would truly happen if one day I decided to throw on a spandex suit and try to fight crime. It’s a great look at what many comic book geeks, and hell, people in general, have likely asked time and time again over the years, “What if I did what superheroes do?” Well, for one, you’ll likely die, and not in some dramatic, heroic way, but more than likely very quickly, in a back alley, or parking lot somewhere. Mixing humour with fantastic, over-the-top violence, Matthew Vaughn takes the comic book movie to new levels (just as the comic, created by Mark Millar, did for comics) and really takes no prisoners. Add onto that a shockingly amazing performance by Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl, and an out-of-nowhere bad-ass performance by Nicolas Cage, as Big Daddy, that really makes you almost wish film were about them, and you have one of the coolest films of the year.
6. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
I was a little late to the Scott Pilgrim parade, but once I cracked open that first book (the film is based off a series of six graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley) I was hooked. The character is brilliant, and his interaction with those around him in flat out hilarious. On some level, I wondered if the movie would be able to capture the tone and feel of the books, and after I finally saw it, I have to give credit to Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) for an epic job well done! The film, which was actually being written/made at the same time that O’Malley was writing the final three book installments, hits all the right notes, and more importantly, captures the exact feelings you get when flipping through the pages of the books. Wright does a brilliant job of bringing this mix of fantasy and reality to life, all while keeping the true romantic underlying tones right where they need to be. The casting was also spot-on, as Michael Cera is not only the perfect Scott Pilgrim, but is also allowed to almost break out of a type-casting that constantly seems to follow him around. Missing this film would definitely be considered an epic failure, and if you have seen the film, but haven’t read the books, definitely do so, as not only do they completely kick ass, but they also make the movie that much better.
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Foreign films aren’t for everyone, and for those people, I’m sure David Fincher will do this film justice in his American version of the film; however, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterfully crafted mystery that pulls you in and won’t let you go until the credits are rolling. Tattoo is the first part in the Millennium Trilogy (based on the novels by Stieg Larsson), which was followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, though as much as I wanted to put all three films together here, I couldn’t honestly say that the following two films were as strong as Tattoo, nor nearly as memorable. Noomi Rapace gives an award worthy performance as Lisbeth Salander, and it was this film that put her on Hollywood’s radar. Her co-star, Michael Nyqvist, also garnered praise for his work in the film, and will soon be seen in one of my most anticipated films of 2011, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol because of it. The film easily stands on its own, and while it’s nice to revisit the characters, and dig deeper into their lives in the final two films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is everything you truly need, all wrapped up in a perfect package.
4. True Grit
One day I firmly believe the Coen brothers will take a deep breath and say, “Hey, do you feel like not making a classic this time?” True Grit goes where few films do these days, and that’s back to the wild, wild, west. While the genre hasn’t been as fruitful as it once was, 2010 saw some great films enter, as the Korean film The Good, The Bad, The Weird shot it full of adrenaline, and comedy in one of the most fun films you’ll see this year; as well as the Coen brother’s already classic True Grit. Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn, a U.S. Marshal who makes a deal with 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to help hunt down her father’s killer and bring him to justice, with the help of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who’s been tracking the same man for a number of months. The film is filled with fantastic dialogue, and perfect deliveries, with every actor, no matter how small the role, doing their part to make this film memorable. Mixed into the wonderful acting, superb direction, and addicting story are some laugh-out-loud jokes, that all but sneak up on you at the oddest of times. Bridges gives the type of performance that some will remember him by, and may just garner him the same recognition that his work as The Dude did in another Coen brother’s film The Big Lebowski. Yes, he’s that funny, and yes, it somehow manages to work seamlessly. Even with such strong performances done by incredibly talented veterans, Steinfeld still manages to steal every scene she’s in, and will definitely be someone we see more of in the coming years because of it. One day the Coen brothers may decide to not make a classic, but that is anything but the case when it comes to True Grit.
Not every role can be award-worthy, and even if it can be, it doesn’t mean you’ll get noticed by any organization once that time of year comes around. So seems to be the case when it comes to Ryan Reynold’s immaculate work in Buried. Reynold’s is tasked with the difficult job of portraying a man who wakes up buried alive in the middle of the desert somewhere in the Middle East. He’s armed only with a cell phone, and a few other devices, in a coffin that will make the viewer feel claustrophobic, even if you watch the film in a completely open area. The suspense is riveting, and the pacing is perfect, as the film will constantly have you gasping for breath as if you’re afraid it won’t be there when you try to take it. Saddled with a limited release, most will have to watch the film when it’s released on Blu-ray, or DVD, and will unfortunately miss out on the experience of watching the film on the big screen, while feeling as though you’re trapped inside the coffin with Reynolds. At the same time, I believe the film will hold up strong, and won’t slip through the cracks a second time, garnering the appreciation it truly deserves once it hits store shelves in January.
2. Black Swan
Ignore the number two, as it’s just there to keep some sort of order in the chaotic world that is the top ten list. In actuality, I place this film in a tie for first, which gives the top spot to two films that couldn’t be more deserving, more unique, or more etched into my memory since I walked out of both showings. To start, I’d like to be one of the first to congratulate Natalie Portman on her Best Actress Oscar that she’ll receive later this year, as saying she completely knocks it out of the park in her performance here is the understatement of the year. Portman absolutely owns the screen, and takes the audience with her as she plunges deeper and deeper into a role she’s wanted all her life, that consumes her every waking moment. The direction from Darren Aronofsky is absolutely breathtaking, as he guides us right where he wants us to go, subtly adding layer upon layer of intrigue throughout. The musical score is glorious, and really helps take the entire film to a new level. Black Swan is truly an example of perfection hitting a film from every angle it possibly could, and in doing so, creating a film that will be remembered, and talked about for years to come.
The same could be said about Inception, a film by Christopher Nolan, who once again proves he’s one of hottest director’s in Hollywood today. His imagination seems to be unmatched at this point in time, as his creative juices just flow on the screen no matter what film of his it is that’s up there. Inception is a mind-blowing masterpiece that hits all the intellectual notes that make the film one to think about, while also hitting all the big-budget blockbuster notes that will put you at the edge of your seat throughout every viewing. Everything about this film is perfect, from the execution, to the actors chosen to play each role. Leonardo DiCaprio shows once again why he’s one of the best in the business, and that he also knows how to pick all the right roles that always seem to pan out. Not enough good things can be said about this film, though I stand by what I said when I first saw the picture in the summer: Inception is the definition of why we go to the movies.
Tags: Black Swan, Buried, edge of darkness, Inception, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Town, Toy Story 3, True Grit