Sunday, December 26, 2010

My top 10 movies of 2010

Before I depart for my annual year-ending week in NYC with my family, I figured it's as good a time as any to come up with my top 10 movies of 2010, both because I figure by now I've seen just about everything that might make this list except for maybe "The King's Speech" and "Rabbit Hole," and simply so this won't be completely empty while I'm gone.

And lest anyone wants to squawk about the fact that neither "Inception" nor "The Social Network" made the cut, rest assured they're among the 10 runners-up, along with "Shutter Island", "A Prophet", "Splice", "Despicable Me", "Easy A", "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1", "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "The Fighter".

So, without further delay, let's get to it, in order only of release date until the very end, where you will find my favorite movie of 2010. And as usual, please feel free to add your favorites and let me hear about any that I've unfairly snubbed.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"/"The Girl Who Played With Fire": These should definitely be viewed together, and ideally all at once with the third chapter, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," but I haven't had the opportunity to see it yet. Given how sprawling and packed with details the novels by Stieg Larsson are, these are both nearly perfect models of how to adapt books for the big screen, and though David Fincher is doing an American remake of the first movie for next year, please do go see these first, because just trust me: Once you see her, I'm sure you'll agree that Noomi Rapace simply is Lisbeth Salander.

"Kick-Ass": Though many movies try to re-create the feel of comic books on the big screen, very few come as close to accomplishing it as this thoroughly fun flick from Matthew Vaughn (for the opposite kind of failure, view the almost completely lifeless "Iron Man 2".) Sure, there are moral questions about having a 13-year-old assassin spray bullets all around, but young Chloe Moretz is electric as Hit-Girl, and she and Vaughn create at least two of the year's best action sequences here.

"Toy Story 3": Being sometimes a fairly cynical fellow, I doubted that all the hype about this Pixar flick could be true, but it really does pack the emotional and entertaining punch to launch the "Toy Story" series into any discussion about the best movie trilogies. And "Toy Story" fans take note: The franchise will live on, sort of, as Barbie and Ken will star in the short movie that will precede "Cars 2" next summer (and will probably be better than the main attraction).

"The Other Guys": A Will Ferrell movie? Really? Yes, because Ferrell and Adam McKay bring all kinds of funny and just enough smarts to this comedy that skewers the buddy cop genre almost as well as Edgar Wright's "Hot Fuzz." And besides, this movie has both the best opening and closing credit sequences of the year, which may not sound like much, but they really are small wonders to behold.

"Animal Kingdom": This Australian gangster flick lacks all of the glamour of "The Godfather" or "Goodfellas," but packs even more of the grit. The story of the less-than-two-bit Cody clan, a crime family that never rose too high and is already on its way down as the movie opens, is hardly a sunny tale, but it's extremely compelling, thanks in large part to the chilling performance of Jacki Weaver as the menacing matriarch.

"The American": This is probably the flick on this list that most divided audiences, but I know that along with me, at least Roger Ebert and Reel Fanatic reader Jeremy Jirik also love it, so at least I'm not alone. "Control" director Anton Corbijn displays all of that titular quality here as he strips this tale of George Clooney as a hit man on what could be his last mission in Italy down to the barest bones of a thriller, making it instead a slow-moving but riveting character study and just a good story well told.

"127 Hours": Though the tale of what lengths trapped climber Aron Ralston had to go to remove himself from underneath a boulder in a valley was as hard to watch as I could have expected, it's also completely imbued with optimism thanks to director Danny Boyle and energy thanks to James Franco, even at its darkest moments. And even though Boyle used two different cinematographers, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, you'd never know it as they merge their talents to drop us into every treacherous step of Ralston's journey, and should definitely share an Oscar for their efforts.

"True Grit": Even the ridiculous coda at the end, which is loyal to the source but just drains the energy right off the screen, can't ruin the fact that this remake is one of the Coen brothers' very best flicks. Restraining from most of their usual oddity, they instead just let the actors have a ball here, as The Dude, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and, most of all, young Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross all do, elevating both the humor and heart of Charles Portis' great novel. I've seen it twice already, and just may again before it leaves theaters.

"Black Swan": There's not an ounce of subtlety in this Darren Aronofsky flick, but since at its most basic level he's essentially made a great B horror movie (albeit it one of the psychological variety set in the world of ballet), he didn't really need any to make it soar. I'd have to imagine Natalie Portman is the odds-on favorite for the Best Actress Oscar, but Vincent Cassel should hear his name called in the Best Supporting Actor category too as the ballet guru who leads Portman's Nina Sayers to the darkest reaches of her own mind.

"Winter's Bone": Definitely saving the very best for last, I first saw this movie this summer while on vacation with mi hermano in Philadelphia, and it's been burned on my brain ever since. I watched it again recently to make sure, and yes, Debra Granik's tale of a young woman (the fantastic Jennifer Lawrence, who would get my Oscar vote if I had one) forced to go on a hunt through the American underbelly that is the Ozarks to search for her deadbeat father - who has put the house she's raising her two younger siblings in as a guarantor for a court appearance he's almost guaranteed not to make - is every bit as good as I first thought. Bleak? Of course, but as Lawrence's Rhee Dolly searches for the truth in this mess, this flick combines all the best elements of film noir with a coming-of-age tale of sorts to cook up my best movie of 2010 by a pretty wide margin.

And there you have it. Please, as usual, feel free to share any of your favorites or any that I've just unfairly snubbed, and have a simply splendid new year. Peace out.


dbackdad said...

Great list. Completely agree with the Larsson movies inclusion. I've read all the books and watched the same movies that you have. I am looking forward to Fincher's vision but anybody skipping these movies are doing themselves a disservice.

127 Hours will definitely be in my year end top 10. I need to catch a few more hopefuls in this last week before I can fill out my top 10.

Tom Clift said...

I still need to see True Grit and 127 Hours.

I'm glad that The American (a film I loved) and Animal Kingdom got some respect, as well as Toy Story 3 (it's amazing, pure and simple).

However, I think the Larsson movies are criminally over-rated - there's no way they'd be getting the acclaim they've received if they were in English.

I thought The Other Guys was just ok, and I need to see Winters Bone again, because everyone raves about it, but I thought it was only solid, nothing more.

I'm still not finished putting together my own lists, but there are a few notable omissions to your list: The Social Network, Inception, Shutter Island and Scott Pilgrim all spring to mind. I also know for sure that Four Lions will be in my personal top five, although not many people have seen it. Thoughts on those films? Overlooked, or were you just not as huge a fan?

Reel Fanatic said...

Scott Pilgrim is one that I should have included in the honorable mention, Tom, but I somehow overlooked it this morning .. Though it was certainly a fun little flick, it wouldn't have cracked the top 10 even if I had remembered it .. And though we clearly disagree on the "Girl" movies, I know several people who agree with you ... Four Lions is one that I have yet to see, so I'll have to catch it on DVD .. I always like a well-done political satire, even if it's on the rather touchy subject of terrorism, so I'm sure I'll like it ... And one movie I also didn't see that mi hermano tells me is incredible is the full cut of "Carlos"

jeremy said...

Excellent choices! A couple I would leave out, a couple I'd add. I know I'm in the minority, but the only Danny Boyle movie I thoroughly enjoy is Shallow Grave--so I'm holding off on 127 Hours for video.
And Carlos--everyone loves it--and I hadn't even heard of it til the LA Film critics.
I watched Inception again last week and liked even less. In fact, I would go so far as to call it painful. I really hope it only get some technical nods come Oscar time.

Reel Fanatic said...

If you're not a Danny Boyle fan, as I know you're not Jeremy, it's probably wise to hold off until DVD ... He uses all his usual camera tricks, but the story is so great and it has so much energy that I was instantly hooked

Anonymous said...

Nice list, Reel Fanatic. I loved Black Swan and Toy Story 3, both films deserving of screenplay nods. I have yet to see the "Dragon Tattoo" flicks, but it's good that they're available on Netflix's instant viewing.

"Animal Kingdom" was just okay, in my view. It didn't have the impact I was expecting, but I do agree with your take on Jacki Weaver's performance. What a vile and stank broad her character was.

Whenever you get a chance, stop by my blog and check out my 2010 film lists. Have a Happy New Year!

Reel Fanatic said...

And to you too, V-Knowledge ... I'll certainly stop by, though perhaps not until tomorrow morning, because I'm a little too under the weather to do much reading ... And I think "Toy Story 3" will indeed probably win the original screenplay award ...

Chris David Richards said...

For me, it's between Toy Story 3 and Social Network. I'm probably not going to choose one. Too hard.

Sachin said...

Delighted to see The American in your list. I found that like The Limits of Control in 2009, The American got a lot of hate but I found it wonderful.

Since your are a soccer fan, if you get a chance you must see Kill the Referee, a fascinating documentary about refs in Euro 2008, which was my fav film of 2010.

Reel Fanatic said...

Wow .. that sounds right up my alley, Sachin ... I'm checking now to see when it might be available on DVD .. thanks for the head's up!

Anonymous said...

Looved Animal Kingdom!

Sachin said...

You are welcome. I do believe that an American DVD release of Kill the Referee will happen this year. The DVD was released in Europe last summer and post World Cup, it got some additional press in North America.

Chalupa said...

Another reminded I'm a bit behind on movie watching for 2010 :(

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Supercords said...

I liked your list. We share some of the same picks, but I've got a couple unconventional favorites of my own. They are here: in case you're interested.


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