Monday, January 3, 2011

Film Yap: Top Ten Films of 2010

Top Ten lists are tricky because when is the list ever done. There are a bunch of movies I still want to see including All Good Things, Blue Valentine, Buried, Carlos, Client 9, Enter the Void, Howl, Last Train Home, Lebanon, Mother, Somewhere and Tiny Furniture. I will get to those in the next few months. Who knows if they will crack my list but for right now, this is what matters.

#10 – Winter’s Bone

This movie is cold, but not just because of the Ozark Mountain setting. There is not one warm ally on Ree Dolly’s quest, only the cruel. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in this neo-noir as a young girl trying to find her deadbeat father. Without him, they’ll lose the house so she has no choice but to confront the people of her town. Her journey is mesmerizing and unflinching through this masterfully crafted world. Lawrence, writer/director Debra Granik and the brilliant character actor John Hawkes deserve all the praise they’ve been receiving.

#9 – The King’s Speech

Period pieces are often hailed by the Academy because of their attention to the production detail and their grand sense of scale. The King’s Speech succeeds because it’s about the smaller things. What really works in the film is the friendship between King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel Logue. This build-up is so well handled by the script and the actors that the entire film because incredibly captivating. Everything is incredibly important on a personal and nation-wide scale but the movie never uses melodrama to make this point. Such a fine movie.

#8 – The Secret in Their Eyes

How can last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar winner be on a Best of 2010 list? Everybody else is counting is as a 2010 movie so why not. It’s my list, dangit! Too often, films are too blatant when they are setting up plot points or jokes for later use. It’s only clever when all of the pieces come together without any obvious setup. If the movie can naturally create the environment with characters that aren’t just vehicles for plot, then something special can happen. That’s what this movie pulls off with beautiful style. It’s full of romance, mystery, and altogether wonderful story.

#7 – Mother and Child

When movies are compared to novels, that’s a compliment. Sometimes movies are too hung up in their 3-act narrative structure or only focus on one character’s arc. Rodrigo GarcĂ­a delicately created a story around three distraught women and their uncomfortable position in their life and family. Annette Bening is a 50 year old woman still haunted by the child she gave away when she was 14. Naomi Watts is that child who proudly grew up independent, which has made her cold. Kerry Washington is a young wife who is trying to work her way through the adoption process. The movie is heartbreaking at times and it earns all of its moments. Like a fine novel, the movie knows its themes and naturally lets its characters revolve around them. It’s a shame this movie went so underseen.

#6 – True Grit

There is so much expectation when established filmmakers release a new movie. It seems like every movie must be their next masterpiece. Is True Grit the best Coen Brothers movie? It doesn’t matter. This is still an amazing movie. Top notch dialog, fantastic story, and great lead performances by Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges. The film shows how entertaining movies can be while never talking down to their audience. There is a vibrant quality to their storytelling that is missing from too many movies out right now. This is one of the few remakes that is better than the original.

#5 – Inception

In my top ten, there are only two films that are based off original ideas. Signing off on something without a build-in audience scares producers. The only way a movie of this scale could be made was having Christopher Nolan as the architect. What a movie he built. Their have been complaints that there is too much exposition but that is not a problem when they are answering questions that are being asked by the audience. Too often movies insist on telling you backstory or random flashbacks. Everything answered in Inception is fun and a worthy question. It’s not a complicated movie, just a new one. And that’s great.

#4 – Exit Through the Gift Shop

Although it’s not exactly reflected on my list, this was a fantastic year for documentaries. The shining jewel was this movie, this odd examination at street art. Much like My Kid Could Paint That, this film investigates whether or not this can be considered art or just graffiti. Then it takes really unexpected turns that could be completely ridiculous or the exact thing to prove the movie’s point. This all could be part of Banksy’s master plan, but either way this is a stellar look art and the ones who value it.

#3 – Toy Story 3

Few trilogies actually have three good entries. Toy Story 3 with its amazing structure and attention to characters not only pulled off a worthy conclusion but possibly the best installment. Pixar goes beyond what is expected from children’s films and this is no exception. It ends the story of Woody and the gang by having them look into how they are going to spend the rest of their eternity, their lives without Andy. Essentially this is their afterlife. It deals with this topic with outstanding maturity while still having a very funny prison escape plot. This is not just a great kids’ film, but an outstanding piece of art.

#2 – The Social Network

Everyone has it on their list and everyone should. Nobody thought this could be a movie, but not enough people knew the story. To make a scathing movie about Mark Zuckerberg (my unofficial doppelganger) during the height of his power is a risky move. It is reminiscent of Citizen Kane in that regard, but there are more apt comparisons. The rise to power has been told many times but Aaron Sorkin reinvigorates it with his best screenplay since his West Wing years. The non-linear format and its unconventional third act alone would rank this as one of the great scripts of the years. Yet his dialog, that missed rapid-fire dialog… There’s so much of it, this movie could easily have looked like a theatre piece but David Fincher can do wonders if he has he right script. This is a movie that will be remembered for many years to come.

#1 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Prepare yourself for hyperbole overload. This movie is beyond magnificent. This is one of the most important comedy films in years. Too many comedy films are dictated by the actors. The script could be solid (or often not solid enough) and it’s the actors who have to make or break the comedy. Acclaimed comedy directors are the ones who let the actors do what they do best. Edgar Wright has shown the potential for comedy beyond that.

No longer are dramatic and genre directors allowed to be the one who show their visual style. Wright’s direction in this never detracted the comedy but exemplified it to new heights. The editing, the innovative transitions, the BAMs, the tricks. Everything worked and was amazing. Wright is the most exciting director since Scorsese and this is his Mean Streets.

Beyond that this movie brings forward the intelligence everyone has been asking for in romantic comedies. Ex-es are not just here for punchlines but to show the emotional repercussions the characters face. The movie isn’t about the relationship, but the potential to have one in a modern setting.

This has the best set of supporting characters seen in any film, everyone is hysterical, and the action is better filmed than anything else this year. Even Michael Cera gives his best performance since Arrested Development.

This is the type of movie that will inspire the next generation. With today’s cookie-cutter output from Hollywood, there aren’t enough risks and original voices. People became invested in film from movies like Jaws and Ghostbusters and Pulp Fiction. This is the movie that kids will wear out the disc and will want to go out and make a movie (or a rock band). This is truly something special.

Honorable Mentions

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

The Living Wake

Inside Job


Waking Sleeping Beauty

The Lottery

I Am Love

Get Him to the Greek

Red Riding – 1974

Soul Kitchen

Let Me In

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Best Worst Movie

The Kids Are All Right

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