If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Here's the 47 films I saw (up to December 31st, 2010):
Daybreakers, The Book of Eli, The Spy Next Door, Legion, Edge of Darkness, From Paris with Love, Shinjuku Incident, The Wolfman, Shutter Island, The Crazies, Brookyln's Finest, Green Zone, Hot Tub Time Machine, Kick-Ass, Exit through the Gift Shop, Iron Man 2, Get Him to the Greek, The Karate Kid, Toy Story 3, I Am Love, Knight and Day, The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, [REC] 2, Inception, Salt, The Other Guys, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Piranha 3D, Machete, The Town, The Social Network, Jackass 3D, Hereafter, Due Date, 127 Hours, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Catfish, The Good, The Bad, and the Weird, The Fighter, Black Swan, The Kids are All Right, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Alice in Wonderland
So why TOP 17 you ask? Last year I did a Top 13 List, so I thought this year I should top myself - although I probably won't be as in depth on the choices outside the Top 10 List. Needless to say, Happy New Year y'all and LET'S DO THIS!
Really quick thoughts on this movie. Reason why this film belongs on this list is simple: It's funny. I laughed out loud several times. Sure it has many flaws, but most of it are done intentionally for humor's sake. It's a purposefully-made exploitation film that lives up to what it's genre is known for.
"Machete don't text" - Machete
16. Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
This is not just a film. It's an experience. A maddening one at that. I wouldn't agree with such praise it's been getting; that it's the "best picture of the year". But Darren Aronofsky's goal of putting the viewer in the mindset of Nina Sayers is certainly remarkable. I was on the edge of my seat several times trying to make sense of what the hell I was watching. That said, I never felt the purpose or sympathy for Natalie Portman's character. That's not a knock on her performance, as Natalie Portman is amazing and convinced me of her character's inner demons coming out.
15. The Town (Dir. Ben Affleck)
Taken on the outside, it's a B-heist film the likes of Takers or Armored. But on the inside, it's a heist film that, to me, surpasses Heat. This is a film done with the gravitas of a great director and cast. Ben Affleck is re-innovated himself here, proving that Gone Baby Gone wasn't just a lucky hit. All of the mannerisms and cheesiness of Ben Affleck from the past is now completely gone. Ben Affleck probably won't be nominated for Best Actor, but he should at least be considered. The action is sparse but entertaining in a realistic sense, other performances from Hamm, Renner, and Hall give their characters more depth than type. One strike against the film is the ending. The last scene of the film, for me, ended too much like a Hallmark card.
14. I Love You, Phillip Morris (Dirs. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
Most of the movies on the list are about un-ordinary people. But one this year that I can see striking the chord for many people due to its subject manner is this film. Steven Rusell can be considered as a criminal mastermind, despite the fact his crimes have caused no harm to anyone at all. Jim Carrey is amazing here, deftly blending comedy (what he's known for, obviously) but also drama (what we've seen from Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine). It's a very funny movie with a mean streak, but underneath is a surprisingly and touching take on a relationship of two men that I found was pulled off convincingly.
13. True Grit (Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen)
This film was a surprise. I mean, it should be coming from the Coen Brothers, but not in the sense of any genre-bending we've been accustom to them doing. This is a straight-forward Western through and through, but their direction is just as solid, concise, and simple. If there's one thing I didn't expect from the movie was a lot of comedy. Taking a look at the trailers, the film looks a lot more revisionist and dark. Jeff Bridges is the humor of the film as Rooster Cogburn, and he nails it, for the most part, without ever channeling John Wayne. I say this with trepidation as half of the time, I couldn't understand Bridges' Cogburn at all. Matt Damon is, as usual, great here as a side character with both comical swagger and West-torn seriousness. The breakout performance of the year, for me, is Hailee Steinfeld. She talks with the Western dialogue given to her without ever being hokey or false. She, surprisingly, steals scenes from everybody - which is a huge feat if you're against Academy Award Best Actor winners like Bridges and Damon. Her performance can be comparable to Jesse Eisenberg's (Social Network), she is perfect in this movie - giving the balance between the single-mindedness of a young adult and an innocence of a child. One knock against the film is Josh Brolin. Again, unless you've seen the advertisements, when he shows up you won't realize he is the villain. Josh Brolin isn't used enough here to be menacing at all. Also, the last act of the film, while serviceable, does not have as much of a catharsis as one might expect. Again, unless you've seen the advertisements, when he shows up you won't realize he is the villain. Overall, it's not as ambitious or revolutionary as No Country for Old Men, but it's still solid entertainment. One more tidbit to add: Hailee Steinfeld should get an Oscar for Best Actress, NOT Supporting.
12. 127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle)
Danny Boyle, off the height from the overwhelming success of Slumdog Millionaire, could have done any film after this. He opted for a smaller film - a bottle film to be exact. But that doesn't mean his scope won't. Based on a true story of Aron Ralston, who gets himself trapped under a rock in a cave for over 5 days is one of the most visually stimulating films I've seen this year. James Franco, I always thought, was just a serviceable actor (meaning good, not great). But surprisingly, he brings in a great performance - carrying the whole movie. Starting off as seeming selfish and egotistical, as we delve deeper into him as his situation lasts longer we sympathize for him. As he leaves the cave at the end, we feel the weight coming off our shoulders too and it's an emotionally wrenching journey that's well-deserved. Danny Boyle's trademark direction is still a delight for the eyes (and ears).
"Opps!" - Aron Ralston
11. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Dir. Edgar Wright)
The film is just plain awesome and epic. Several moments in this film not only made me guffaw but also gasp in awe. Moments in this film I can honestly say I've never seen in film before. Perhaps in a comic book or cartoon show, but never achieved in reality. Edgar Wright, here, I believe proves that this is his master thesis on pop culture. Blending in comic books, video games, film, and music into a colorful and addicting mix. Michael Cera is the most animated as ever, and a perfect foil for an unusual protagonist. Scott Pilgrim at first seems lazy, arrogant, selfish, manipulative, and vain. But towards the end, he sees the error of his ways and stands up to redeem to the mistakes he's made in the past. The film is also a subtle commentary on relationships and as well as an in-your-face satire on hipsters. Both topics that are tackled very diligently.
10. The Fighter (Dir. David O. Russell)
The film is about a fighter, Mickey Ward, rising to the top of the boxing legion. Yet the title can be seen in another light. Mickey Ward has to also fight, or at least break free of, the restraints of the family and environment he's been living with his whole life. Before we get into Mark Wahlberg's performance, let's start with the obvious: Christian Bale. He is phenomenal in this movie, yet another example of a method character the likes of Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro who could make any movie better than it should be. Here, Bale plays Dick Ward, a man who thinks his past triumph is still a marvel to look at, but denies to think it's long-forgotten. But Bale doesn't simply portray Dick, but embodies him radically (losing a considerable amount of weight) to the point where he looks like a crack head, crumbling into grotesqueness. Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, playing Mickey's girlfriend and mother respectively, also give great performances. Melissa Leo as the mother, I felt, was given much more of a character arc and therefore worked with me towards the ending argument between all key characters in, ironically, a boxing gym. Mark Wahlberg has been touted by most to be the weakest part of the movie. And sure, he may seem like that amongst other great performers. But I think he's equally fantastic in this movie. Mark Wahlberg portrays Mickey Ward as man who's being trapped and under pressure by not only the community nor the hype, but by his family. I use the word Pressure heavily because that's how I felt for him at every corner in the movie. So when all of that pressure comes off of him at the climax of the movie, I cheered for him loudly. This film, out of my Top 10, is easily the most accessible and will make crowds of all kinds very pleased.
"I'm the one fighting!" - Mickey Ward
9. [REC] 2 (Dirs. Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza )
As the poster tagline suggests, Fear Revisited. This is one of those rare sequels, in a horror genre no less, that works fantastically. This is what Aliens did for Alien. But what's also great about this movie is that a viewing of its predecessor may not even be necessary. Sure, you may not get a few references here and there, but in its core is a horror film intertwining three stories all into one nice package. I was on the edge of my seat, cringing and the like from the moment the Response Team embarks on a would-be long and torturous night into the apartment building of Hell, literally. The use of Camera POV may seem hokey and force to some, but I found the use of here much more ambitious and gives audiences a much more emotional response to the haunting images on screen. I certainly felt fear and anxiety several times, but there is one sequence that truly rung to me. The sequence is where one team member is all by himself searching an apartment and as he goes through it, he accidentally draws more and more zombies to chase him. Ultimately leaving him locked in a bathroom, with the door being torn apart in seconds. He faces the mirror, we see his face in tears as he pulls out a gun and he kills himself before the zombies do. That scene, amongst others, is to me rare to be seen in horror films. How humanity deals with horrific situations and what do we do in result.
8. Catfish (Dirs. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost)
Whether or not this is real or not, one thing is certain. The narrative is perfect. It starts off as an innocent look at online relationships and how we connect to strangers that we later befriend. Then it takes a drastic 360 spin and focuses on quite the opposite. How we want to perceive ourselves, how online relationships can lead to a discovery of bliss and hell, and just relationships in general. This year two films, both on my Top 10, use Facebook as a motif, and while it may not use it as better as the other it is nonetheless used to great effect. I went through nearly every emotion in this film: Happiness, confusion, misunderstanding, anger, sympathy, hatred, and shock. One of the best discoveries caught in film I have to say in years.
7. Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Inception is, without the doubt, the most revolutionary film out of the Top 10. Christopher Nolan puts all of his imagination and ambition in his direction, superbly juggling many aspects of film into one amazing experience. I will say that the first viewing may not be as digestible, but upon the second viewing the outlook on the film is much greater. Some critics feel that Nolan's interpretations of dreams are cold and rather ordinary. I feel the ground of why such dreams are like this makes me connect to the movie a lot more than if it was a lucid fantasy the likes of Eternal Sunshine (though that's not a knock on that brilliant film). I experience a dream that feels real enough that when I wake up, I feel like my reality, for a brief second, I feel cautious. This is a heist film I recall that truly does more with character development and epic scale. Nolan blends in the heist and sci-fi genre immensely, world-building just enough that the last reel isn't confusing to us at all. In between is the emotional investment of the film.That being of Leonardo DiCaprio. Leonardo DiCaprio is great as usual here, playing a tragic protagonist wanting for redemption and a big catharsis to his tragic life. My only gripe is that the Cobb/Mal storyline towards the end was finished up a little bit weakly, and I'm not sure whether I should have gotten an emotional kick (pun intended) when Fisher gets his inception or not. Deficit to say, it's both an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. All supporting characters play their parts just enough that we care about whether they'll succeed AND make it out alive. The action and how it's shot & choreographed is much improved and enthralling as ever. Nolan gives us some of the most amazing action in years whilst mixing it with mind-bending (practical) special effects that we've seen from other spralling epics like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you don't think the Hallway Fight Scene is one of the best action scenes in recent memory, something is wrong with you. Many critics and moviegoers have theorized the ending, but I think the "dream" aspect isn't what it should be about. What's important about the ending is his catharsis. And that catharsis is very much deserved - along with that great, heart-wrenching and thralling score by Hans Zimmer and then Nolan pulls off the rug and cut to black.
"If we are gonna perform Inception, then we need imagination" - Eames
6. The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Dir. Ji-woon Kim)
The award for Best Action Film in Years should be handed down to this film. As the film describes itself, this Oriental Western gives the Western and action genre a run for its own money. Granted, the film is purposefully more exploitative and ridiculous than the more reality-bound Westerns. But this is definitely not a bad thing at all. I've never stumbled unto a film that me laugh out loud, cheer of its action, and cringe of its cut-throat tension. The tension is there just enough to recall Westerns of the past and the action is visually awe-inspiring. It's shot so well that unlike the modern action movies we've seen lately (From Paris with Love, Expendables), you can actually see it and marvel at it. Unlike most action-comedies that have failed, it brings out humor out of action sequences and works really well. At one point, one character wears a submarine helmet during combat and the results are not only humorous, but bad-ass. It may not better than the legendary as The Good, The Bad, The Ugly but its love for that movie and the genre is at the forefront and I loved every second of it.
5. Shutter Island (Dir. Martin Scorsese)
Another movie starring by Leonardo DiCaprio that's in the yet-undeclared "mind fuck" genre. Needless to say, this is a fantastic film from director Martin Scorsese. Sure, the script may have some flaws but under Scoresese's brilliant hand and nearly every aspect works. The ever-changing atmosphere and tone, the creepy yet subtle horror, and an enormous sense of dread works to the script's advantage. It's either about the manipulations of an unstoppable mental institution or the manipulations man makes himself go through. This film requires multiple viewings just to see both sides and how you interpret each one is equally engrossing. Leonardo DiCaprio, again, is great in this. Although he plays kinda the same character, the reveal of his character Teddy Daniels and what he has to face is much more personal and gut-wrenching. His inner demons and what he has to ultimately come to terms with it and deal with it once and for all (or not) is just better handled here than Inception. And unlike Black Swan, I felt the madness reasonable and felt sympathy for Teddy Daniels and his tragic past. It's a beautiful nightmare.
"You're a rat in a maze" - George Noyce
4. Hot Tub Time Machine (Dir. Steve Pink)
This deserves the number four spot because I truly believe making a comedy is difficult. Because comedy is hard to be funny the second time. And the third time. After the fifth time, one might assume that all of the jokes they know would be tired and only elicit a chuckle. But comedies like Shaun of the Dead and The 40-Year-Old Virgin bring out laugh out loud guffaws to me even after the 20th viewing. This movie should have been a straight-to-DVD idiotic mess but is quite the opposite. It brings in the humor of The Hangover (in fact, it's much funnier than that movie) and amplifies it to its full potential and a narrative in love with Back to the Future. All four lead actors are hilariously memorable in each role and their character arcs come into full circle wonderfully like an episode of Seinfeld.
"Do I really gotta be the asshole who says we got in this thing and went back in time?" - Jacob
3. Exit through the Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy)
Regardless if Banksy admits this film is 100% true, this is a documentary so funny, so insightful, and so true that it hurts. To be honest, I did not laugh as hard my fifth viewing, but my fascination and intrigue to the film never changed or lost interest. We see multiple personalities in the street art world such as Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy and each one is more interesting than the next. And after we get enough insight on Banksy, I thought the film couldn't top itself (being that Banksy is perhaps the most prolific artist out of the all featured). But the third act of the film, which focuses on Thierry Gueretta, is baffling as it reveals itself. By the end, you are left unsure whether it is a hoax or a real-life disaster. I was shaking my head in disbelief, yet I was still laughing - which I guess is what Banksy wants you to feel. Slowly but surely, the film displays themes of art being commercial, how art can wrongly influence others, who deserves to be the 'next great artist', and ultimately "what is art?". At first a documentary that gives a straight-forward yet funny look at street art turns into almost a satire of the art world in general - or at least so, depending on interpretations of it (just like art itself). Nevertheless, Banksy has stumbled upon either a "stranger than fiction" scenario or has mastered the ultimate prank.
2. Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich)
How this film can make a person, young and old, moved to tears is an accomplishment. And that film of all things belonging in a trilogy of toys coming to life. When those trailers of the film came out, my expectations were surprisingly lowered. As much as I always relied on Pixar, it seemed at first to be a sad cash grab. But after seeing the film several times with different audiences (friends, family, and kids), the poor marketing has no excuse at all. Pixar has given those who were as young as Andy to grow up and then sit through the nostalgia of not only loving toys, but just being young in general. After 11 years have passed by, one would assume these toys wouldn't be as funny as we think they were. But that's the not the case at all, in fact their actions in this film are much more mature-heavy than its predecessors. Woody, Buzz, and the whole gang fear of being left behind their master. The sad fact of all of this is that we've all done this to our toys one way or another. So seeing your favorite toys on the big screen being put through this is like a child's nightmare. That is not to say this film is drama heavy throughout. The film's humor has aged along with its audience and therefore, to me, hilarious every time. Whether it's a subtle poop joke (Lincoln Logs, anyone?) or a reference to The Great Escape. I was surprised the film towards the end becomes like an escape film, and how Pixar/Unkrich choreograph and shoots the last act is astounding, sifting with ease. Your old favorite toys are portrayed here more fantastically and entertaining to watch here than the second or even the first film. The stark contrast between how many toys are left here versus the first Toy Story 3 is not only drastic but heart-breaking, and each actor gives their respective toy characters their own moment to shine (Mr. Pita-Head, Mrs. Potato's lost eye). Woody, played by Tom Hanks, carries the whole film with a sense of earnestness and doing the right thing and it's fantastic. New toys such as Lotso or Ken may not be as prolific as Buzz or Jessie (and that's a hard feat already) but are just well-developed enough to be memorable. Brings a lot of ideas to the table about humanity despite the fact its main characters aren't human, but toys: Youth, if your life is meaningful, Coming to grips with reality, fear of abandonment, and etc. This is a brilliant, nostalgic-filled, and heart-wrenching family film - the likes of earlier Disney classics.
1. The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher)
Nowadays, Hollywood sure can't be trusted what with their upcoming slate of films based on boardgames (Battleship) and reboots of already established franchises (Spider-Man). Yet one film out of the bunch around properties that truly shines uses Facebook as a MacGuffin, in what I think uses in such a poetic way. Jesse Eisenberg, who's been denoted as the other Michael Cera, not only breaks free out of that stereotype but pulls off such an amazing performance that it deserves a Best Actor win. Mark Zuckerberg, at least in the film, is not only a spectacular genius but a manipulative, sardonic, and yet witty asshole. It's hard to make the premise of that character, a central one at that, be given any humanity but Jesse Eisenberg miraculously does. Each line is pulled off so well, that it didn't sound like he was reading off a script but rather just saying what's in his mind naturally. Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, who you instantly can tell should be the voice of reason throughout the movie, plays the would-be-betrayed best friend of Zuckerberg and is easily the one to be sympathetic for. Eduardo can be described as the only "good" character as in almost everyone has a dark past (Sean Parker), dark ambitions (Zuckerberg), and dark desires (Winklevoss Twins) against each other. Every other cast member is just as good - with a surprisingly good performance from Justin Timberlake and a dedicated Armie Hammer playing as two twin brothers. The music score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, what I listen to every other day, and it is so engrossing not as a soundtrack by itself but helps establish an already well-articulated atmosphere by David Fincher and co. David Fincher, with his most normal movie yet, brings in his gorgeous and stark cinematography into play here. I've just noticed here as well that every movie of his doesn't have one bad performance I can recall and really antes his game up on directing the cast. The "social network" of the cast interacting with each other is surprising to watch as they talk to each either in a hostile or smooth-yet-fast paced way. It's all really intriguing of course with Aaron Sorkin's phenomenal script - one that's certainly the best out of my Top Ten. It's a court room drama outside of a court room and the dialogue is amazing. It's fast, sharp, cutthroat, and clever. The best scene of the film that sends it home for me is the last shot. As Mark Zuckerberg sees the errors of his ways and decides to, perhaps, change, he hopes that someone would accept his new self. And who else than the person who made him inadvertently create his "monster" (Facebook), his ex-girlfriend? As he waits patiently for Erica Albright to accept him on his own website (the dark irony Sorkin brings up here), the Beatles start to play a song about how his journey leading up to this moment may or may not have been worth it. Was it worth the betrayal, manipulation, and deception to be here? As the epilogue states, he's the world's youngest billionaire. But does his soul still stand? Such a beautiful moment, amongst others I assure you, that will still with you. So why should millions of people and I have doubted this film? The collaboration of David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Trent Reznor (& Atticus Ross), and Jesse Eisenberg should have been a no-brainer that it would not only be such an outstanding film but my definite favorite of the year.
There's my list, now what's yours, Spillios?