If it's crap ... We'll tell you
I've now been writing movie reviews and doing these "top/bottom" movies of the year for about 3 years now. Out of those 3 years this one is by far the hardest to chose just 10 movies to put as my favorite. This year has had so many great films and some pretty nice surprises. This is the first time I've had to decide between 5 movies in the first 3 months to put in my top 10. Usually that quarter of the year is battling for worst films. There were also 4 remakes that not only exceeded expectations, but they surpassed the original films.
Now that I got the 20-11 done, here are the final 10 of my favorite films of 2010
10. SHUTTER ISLAND
While it's not a new story, it's never been told this well. Martin Scorcese is one of the masters of story telling and proves it in every single scene of SHUTTER ISLAND. He knows how to pull performances from actors and how to cast. The movie is quite a mind-f*** and really delves into the whole paranoia aspect. And what better way to create paranoia when nearly every single person in the film -- aside from Leo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo -- are played by actors who are famous for playing villains? With so many people you normally expect to be bad guys, who do you believe? What do you believe? Leonardo DiCaprio give an astounding performance and every single one of the supporting actors -- including Mark Ruffalo -- are top notch as well. What really saved this movie wasn't the twist, it was the very last line spoken by DiCaprio's character. With that twist I was about to write the movie off, but with that last line thrown in it changed everything about that final scene for the better. The only problems I had were technical. Slight continuity editing mistakes and occasionally over-done score. But not too much to detract from the overall experience.
INCEPTION was the second most anticipated film of the year for me. I was so excited for it that I actually took 3 hours out of my 3 days at Disneyland to go to the theatre in Downtown Disney and drop $10 for a matinee showing on the Saturday of its release. Yeah, I was inside Disneyland, left to see the movie, then went back inside Disneyland. My sisters, mother and future brother-in-law can account for this. Yes, I'm aware that I'm a very weird guy to say the least. I was completely blown away when I walked out but also a little uneasy on the ending. After a few more viewings and a lot of reading on many interpretations on the film I've settled that the movie isn't as good as the Nolan fan boys are holding it up on their mantles, but it's still one of the best and most original science fiction films made in decades. While a lot of the theories are absolutely ridiculous, my main problem is that other than Cobb, no characters are ever really developed and I find myself lacking the emotional investment to really make this film the masterpiece that people are calling it. On a technical level, yes, it is a masterpiece. Every bit of the film is nearly flawlessly execute along with the single greatest set piece in almost a decade. But it lacked that emotional "oomph" that I desired.
8. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
Not only is it the most interesting documentary I've seen all year, it's one of the best films. While the whole argument on whether or not this is a real documentary or a mockumentary is still up in the air. Banksy, the famous street artist who took over the role of director over this documentary from Mr. Brainwash, says that he never thought that people would ever even consider that it was fake. While I do believe this film is completely real, if it is a hoax, then it's one of the greatest hoax of the last decade. The movie is incredibly interesting and sharply hilarious and shows the background of street art. How dedicated these "graffiti artists" are to just do what they love. Then near the end the movie takes almost a twist like turn and has you reexamine how you think about the art world. To quote Banksy "... the joke's on ... well, I'm not sure who the joke's on. I'm not even sure there is a joke."
The movie that set the bar for me early on in the year. KICK-ASS was one of the most fun theatrical experiences I had this year. Seeing the movie opening night with a bunch of fans just ready to hoot and holler was only surpassed by the midnight viewing of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (which missed out on my top list, but still great). The movie has held up all year. I have it on Blu-ray and have watched it several times since its release and it still remains one of my favorites. Nick Cage's overacting fit perfectly with the tone of the film and Chloë Grace Moretz proves herself as THE young actress to keep an eye on in the future. The direction, script and action are all handled amazingly and the music matches the shifting tone through the movie at every point. Every action set piece in the film is spectacular and really fun to watch. My only complaint, needed more Clark Duke.
6. BLACK SWAN
This year's ultimate mind-f***. If Darren Aronofsky was a therapist, there'd be a tremendous increase in suicides in the U.S. Like THE WRESTLERS two years ago, BLACK SWAN is a character study following a someone who is on a downward spiral from frame one. While we followed Mickey Rourke through the physical and emotional journey into oblivion, we follow Natalie Portman down the mental path down the same road. The film has all the stylistic tropes of an Aronofsky film and has one of the best shot dance sequences ever put onto film. Using the handheld cameras he's able to literally put you in the dance right along side the performers. It's a very interesting way to do a ballet sequence but it works amazingly well. The film is depressing, as always for Darren, and has some great visual grotesqueness that really makes your skin crawl (hang nail anyone?). The last shot is signature Aronofsky ambiguity just like THE WRESTLER. It was perfect and the film as a whole is nearly flawless. Only reason it's so low on my list is while I loved it so much, I can't see myself watching it multiple times for enjoyment. It was the most exhausting movie I've watched all year.
5. LET ME IN
The film that people were bashing before it even came out or even finished filming. "How dare American studios try to remake a classic just 2 years after the original came out!?" Well, how about because no one saw the original? Yeah, I saw the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN in theatres when it came out in the U.S. and SHOULD HAVE won best foreign film, but most Americans don't like reading subtitles when watching a movie. The film had a cult following but general audiences didn't see it. While I was hesitant, I was also excited for the remake. CLOVERFIELD director Matt Reeves not only did better than I expected, but with a few changes, brilliant casting and one incredible set piece involving a car accident, I found myself loving LET ME IN even more so than the original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. The changes Reeves makes are completely logical for the story he wanted to tell and the production value is much better. I still love the original, I have it on Blu-ray, and there are bits from both version that I like more than the other. But as an overall experience, LET ME IN is one of the best horror films made in years.
4. FOUR LIONS
FOUR LIONS should not be this funny. Seeing the trailer I was shocked, excited and mostly curious. I wanted to know how the premise got the green light. The movie is about British-Arabs who want to become martyrs for Islam, but they're all too incompetent to pull it off. The movie's got balls. It doesn't hold back at all and walks the very fine line between hilarity and offensive like the guy from MAN ON WIRE (a documentary on a guy who set up and walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers). From the opening scene to the final 20 minutes, I couldn't help myself. The final act of the film is just so outlandishly hilarious I was almost falling out of my seat. Seeing it at a film festival was definitely the right way to see it. I can't wait for it to come on blu-ray so I can show my friends this movie and just laugh at how we shouldn't be laughing at it. To answer the inevitable question "is it too soon?" I say maybe. But the thought of the movie going a little too far probably extends the likability of it for me.
"Think if OPEN WATER didn't suck?" That's how I described FROZEN to my friend before letting him borrow it. It was a blind buy for me as I missed my chance to see it in theatres, but I'm glad I spent every penny on it. No, it probably shouldn't be this high up on my list. It's not one of the best made films of the year, but it certainly is one of the most effect films in a while. FROZEN is the type of horror film that relies on you liking the characters along with putting yourself in their shoes. It's not a movie about some stupid teenagers who do stupid things that end up getting themselves killed. These are all fairly intelligent people with genuine relationships trying to survive the overwhelming yet very realistic situation they're in. It's one of those films that is increasingly scary when you realize that this type of thing is completely plausible.
FROZEN is about 3 friends (two best friends and the girlfriend to one of them) stuck on a ski-lift after convincing the lift operator to let them go up after he was supposed to close it down. There's a shift change and the new operator doesn't know that they're up there and shuts off the lift. The 3 friends are now dangling 50 feet about the snowy slope on Sunday night, and the resort doesn't open until Friday.
What's great when you're watching horror movies you usually say "why don't they do this?" "why can't they do that?" FROZEN covers all of those posibilities and shows why that isn't going to work. it's one of the best written survival horror films I've seen. To top it all off you actually care for the characters. You're not waiting to see them get picked off one by one, you want them to live. And when things go wrong, you really feel the tension and the horror the characters experience.
2. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Without question, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is the best film of the year in my eyes. Why is it number 2 if it's the best? Because while it is the best, it's not my favorite. But it is very close. David Fincher is one of my favorite directors with films like FIGHT CLUB and SEVEN under his belt. His visual style is unmistakable, even if he does seem to have a lighting fetish for green, and his stories are brilliantly told. Combine that with a script by Aaron Sorkin, one of the best screen/television writers alive, and a score by Trent Reznor... *sniff sniff* I smell Best Picture. While many are saying that the movie "defines this generation," I wouldn't go that far. But it is the film that really goes into one of the staples of this generation -- Facebook. But while the movie surrounds the origins of Facebook, the movie itself is all about the people around it. Their relationships, their trials. The movie is a court drama without the court room. It's a movie that by the time it ended, I was ready to see an extra half hour. Almost flawless in execution, the movie is on its way to my house from Amazon as I type this out.
1. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Anyone who knows me personally will know that I am absolutely enamored over this film. In a way, it's my dream movie. Comics, video games, martial arts, great music, comedy and a genuine love story all rolled into one. Everything about the film works. The whole comic book, video game fused visual style blends in perfectly with the film's narrative. The comedy is razor sharp and the timing is impeccable. All the seven evil exes are developed enough for it to matter in a matter of minutes for each one while most movies fail at one, two or three. Probably the most impressive feet was getting some impressive fight choreography and having FIGHT SCENES WHERE THE CAMERA IS NOT TOO CLOSE AND TOO SHAKY TO SEE WHAT'S GOING ON!!! But at the heart of SCOTT PILGRIM is a love story about having to overcome the baggage that comes with both sides of a relationship, dealing with past mistake and living life in the now.
Edgar Wright is now one of my favorite directors and so far has a flawless career. With SCOTT PILGRIM he not only makes his best film, but one that will probably become one of my top 10 films of all time. I saw it 8 times in theatres (an advanced screening, then paid for it at the midnight show and on that Saturday, then 5 more times getting friends in using my free movie privilege as a theatre employee) and I've already lost count how many times I've watched it on blu-ray. At this point, the only movie I've probably watched more is PULP FICTION.
While I'm not going to elaborate on my 11-20 or even number them, here are the films I really wanted to put on my list but just didn't have room for:
TRUE GRIT (my official #11)
THE BOOK OF ELI
NEVER LET ME GO (one of the most emotional films I've seen in years)
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
TOY STORY 3