My Top 10 Films of 2010

1. Inception
There’s a nice symmetry when your Most Anticipated film of the year ends up being your absolute favorite.  Christopher Nolan’s dizzying, ambitious epic is the reason I go to the movies.  It’s huge, original, thrilling and has already embedded itself in pop culture.  I see countless movies a year, each time hoping to have my mind blown, each time leaving slightly disappointed.  If I’m lucky, I hit that one movie a year that does just that.  In 2010, nothing else even came close.


2. Black Swan
Combining the ambitious theatricality of The Fountain with the intimate scale of The Wrestler, this film is absolutely the best-of-both-worlds.  Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career and Darren Aronofsky reasserts himself as one of my favorite filmmakers.  The last act is a stunning tour-de-force.  If you didn’t love it, you’re probably too old.


3. Toy Story 3 
Pixar is becoming adept at making sure each film they release has one moment that will make you an emotional wreck.  This film has two: the sweet ending and the shockingly heartbreaking scene at the dump.  I’m still amazed at how the film actually makes you believe every character might be about to die, even though you know better.  And to think, at the beginning of the year I was actually worried if they could pull this off?


4. The Social Network
While it’s not the “film that defines a generation” (or even as brilliant as the trailer), it is a fast moving, funny and extremely entertaining film about how Facebook was founded.  The cast is great, score is propulsive and dark and it’s shot like Se7en.  What’s not to love? 


5. 127 Hours
Despite the evidence above I’m usually not a fan of true stories but Danny Boyle’s intense, viceral film is indeed one of the best of the year.  Ten minutes in, you’re completely tensed up and remain that way through the end.  Boyle is great at making feel-bad, feel-good films.  You go through hell first but come out feeling like life is beautiful.


6. Greenberg
I get it if you hate this movie, but I also think you’re wrong.  Noah Baumbach’s abrasive characters walk a very fine line, (loved them in The Squid & The Whale, hated them in Margot At The Wedding.) This film thankfully strikes the right balance and get’s easier to watch (and funnier) through repeat viewings.


7. Exit Through The Gift Shop
A brilliant documentary.  Ostensibly about the rise of street art culture it’s a film about art that forces you to question “what is good art?” without ever directly asking you that question.  I’ve still got no idea how much is real but it doesn’t really matter.  


8. Please Give 
This film deserves the kind of recognition being showered on the enjoyable (but overpraised) The Kids Are All Right.  The film is funny, surprising and doesn’t wrap everything up into a little bow at the end.  A lesser filmmaker would sacrifice reality for convention, amping up situations for bigger laughs and forced dramatic confrontations but writer/director Nicole Holofcener remarkably resists these temptations and the film is better for it.


9. Red Riding Trilogy 
Conceived as a mini-series for British television the Red Riding films are really unlike anything on American TV (or in theatres for that matter).  I had the unique opportunity of being able to watch the entire trilogy back-to-back at the IFC Center back in February and it remains one of my favorite experiences at the theatre this year.  A dark, absorbing mystery that plays like a cross between Zodiac and The Wire, (but British).  You can’t help but get sucked in.


10. The Loved Ones
The most obscure title on my list.  The film has no US distributor but I was lucky enough to see it during FilmLinc’s Scary Movies series in October and have been thinking about it ever sinceThe film is a true original with several twists that elevate the movie beyond standard psycho fare and subplots that resolve themselves in surprising ways.  It’s definitely for the adventurous but when you figure out what the title is referring to, you can’t help but smile.

See Runners Up

I Saw 9 Movies: Recommended

I guess I’ve been busy recently because I haven’t reviewed a movie in the last 2 months even though I’ve seen a lot of them.  Sorry!  Here are some movies you should probably go see…

RECOMMENDED


Kick-Ass
Though it did rank in My Most Anticipated Films of 2010, I was approaching Kick-Ass with a fair amount of caution.  I’m not familiar with the comic, the trailers didn’t look particularly great and like most people I’m reaching my saturation point with superhero films (that aren’t The Dark Knight).  So my interest in the film was almost solely based on geeks who had seen an advance version of the film at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, (and I have been burned by these geeks before).  Though they may have been a little too worked up, Kick-Ass was actually a really fun movie.  I had expected the film to be a post-modern goof on superhero films it’s actually a pretty sincere version of the Spider-Man story.  The film also takes unexpected tonal shifts to more dramatic moments which give the film unexpected weight among the cartoonish violence.  Nicolas Cage gives a hilarious nod to Adam West in his performance, but as everyone has probably heard the film belongs to Hit Girl.  It’s hard not to enjoy this movie.

Exit Through The Gift Shop
I wanted to see this at Sundance!  Let me try to explain the plot of this documentary: Thierry Guetta is a Frenchman living in LA who brought his video camera everywhere and became fascinated with street art.  He eventually amassed thousands of hours of footage of street artists around the world including the elusive Banksy.  Because he isn’t an especially talented filmmaker his attempt to edit together this footage into a film is a disaster and Banksy, not wanting the art movements documentation to be lost, decides to edit the film himself using Guetta’s footage.  At this point the film really calls into question it’s believability as Banksy suggests Guetta work on his own street art as he finishes the film.  Guetta’s work is terrible, thoughtlessly derivative of Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Andy Warhol but he becomes a huge street artist “celebrity” anyway, his show becoming a huge success selling a million dollars in art, even designing an album cover for Madonna.  The documentary is brilliant, not just because you can’t figure out how much of this was orchestrated but because it forces you to call into question what is “good art”.  What separates Banksy from Guetta making one the real article and the other a fake?  Only you the viewer.


Waking Sleeping Beauty 
Another fascinating documentary about artists on the other end of the spectrum, Waking Sleeping Beauty focuses on Disney animation studios during the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The once mighty studio was at the lowest point in their history, releasing flops like The Black Cauldron that were over budget and didn’t seem to capture any of the Disney “magic” the studio was known for.  The film focuses on the artists and executives behind-the-scenes who helped bring the studio into a creative renaissance that brought The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.  Each of these films was pretty huge for anyone around my age, (I can remember going to see Aladdin in the theatre SIX TIMES), so it was interesting to learn that the studio was not a well-oiled corporate monolith like you’d imagine but rather a few artists, composers and executives who managed the nearly impossible feat of bringing the company back to life.  The film is told entirely through archival footage (as opposed to newly filmed interviews) and it helps put you right there in the action.  I’m honestly surprised a company who is so controlling of it’s image would allow this warts and all documentary to see a release, but I’m glad they did.

5 Films I’m Looking Forward To from Sundance 2010

Someday I’ll actually go to Sundance, but until then I’ll continue to watch from the sidelines and pick the handful of movies I’ll see when they’re eventually released.

1. I’M HERE
Spike Jonze 31 minute robot love story.If you need to know more than that, this movie probably isn’t for you anyway.  I can’t wait.

2. ANIMAL KINGDOM
A 17 year old boy is torn between a crime family and the cop who wants to save him in this Aussie crime drama that’s been compared to Tarantino, Coppola and Scorsese.

3. FOUR LIONS
Terrorist farce from (the best comedy on TV) Peep Show screenwriters Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain.  Please be brilliant.

4. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
A documentary about street art focusing on (and co-directed by) elusive street artist Banksy.  It’s pretty clear there’s no telling the facts from fiction, but it should be entertaining either way.

5. BOY
New Zealand’s Taika Waititi (who has directed episodes of Flight of the Conchords) coming of age tale about a boy from a broken home who is obsessed with Michael Jackson.  It looks suspiciously like previous Sundance entry Son of Rambow but supposedly is better (hopefully).

5 MORE: Blue Valentine, Buried, Catfish, Frozen, The Kids Are Alright.