The 10 best (and the 5 worst) movies of 2010
For a year that’s taken more than a little critical drubbing, especially during the summer, 2010 has given us a substantial list of very good films. It was a tough job to narrow this list down to 10. Look at some of the titles that just missed: BLACK SWAN, CARLOS, THE FIGHTER, A FILM UNFINISHED, I AM LOVE, INSIDE JOB, LEBANON, NEVER LET ME GO, A PROPHET, RABBIT HOLE, TRUE GRIT. It was also a great year for animated films. I’ve included two, but had to pass over TANGLED and LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE.
Here then are the 10 films I found the best this year.
1. THE KING’S SPEECH: (a virtual tie with #2).
High-class fare in every way, from England. George VI has to overcome a stuttering problem so that he can speak to his people on the radio and keep up their morale during World War II. You’ll feel his struggle through the impeccable acting by Colin Firth, a wise script and accurate details about the condition. But you’ll also have a good time. The central scenes of royal vs commoner sparring between Firth and Geoffrey Rush as his maverick Australian speech therapist are very funny. The history around George is also shown, particularly the abdication from the throne by his brother Edward, played with relish by Guy Pearce.
2. THE SOCIAL NETWORK:
The story of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook caught the most topical wave this year, the zeitgeist, some say. He’s even Time’s Person of the Year. He doesn’t come off so well in David Fincher’s highly involving film and Aaron Sorkin’s tight script where he’s a computer nerd who callously dumps his best friend/financial backer and may have stolen a few of the ideas behind Facebook. Both charges come out in lawsuits that form the backbone of this invigorating drama. Pretty good for a business story. Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, as inventor and his promoter, are perfect.
3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO:
Yes, it seems so long ago, especially since those two lesser sequels have now been around too. But there it came, in April, bringing us the most interesting female character in years. Lisbeth Salander, the bisexual punk computer hacker is played with cool precision by the Danish actress, Noomi Rapace. She helps an investigative journalist uncover a 40-year-old mystery based on Stieg Larsson’s huge-selling novel. You’ll be absolutely engrossed by the search and more than a little repulsed by what it turns up. (The English-language remake by David Fincher, who directed The Social Network, will be in theatres next Christmas).
4. TOY STORY 3:
It’s been a brilliant trilogy and this brings it to a wonderful end. Woody and Buzz and the other toys come alive again and must deal with the big issues: abandonment and even death. Andy’s off to college and his toys are sent to a daycare centre which is more like a prison, controlled by a bitter teddy bear. When Woody and Buzz engineer an escape, we get a large-scale adventure as they dodge the bigger terrors in the town dump. The film is sensitive to the toy characters, the emotions of the children who’ve come to love them and to the nostalgia of adults.
5. DESPICABLE ME:
There could have been four animated films on this list. I chose this to go with Toy Story 3 because of its wacky humor, its giant adventure and most of all, its heart. Steve Carell voices Gru, a has-been of a villain who has an idea for a comeback. He’ll steal the moon. A geeky rival (Jason Segel), a turn-down for a loan at “The Bank of Evil, Formerly Lehman Brothers” and three little cookie-selling girls complicate his quest. The brisk story turns into an outer-space romp much like Moonraker. Julie Andrews is very funny as Gru’s ever dismissive mother.
Was there another movie this year that caused as much discussion and as many bloggers attempting to explain what it all means? Both the story and the visuals are mind-bending, and after the hard to de-cypher first 15 minutes or so, you just go with Christopher Nolan on a spectacular trip and worry about meaning later. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a team of industrial spies into the dreams of an energy corporation heir. They want to plant an idea that will help a competitor. Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are part of it while Marion Cotillard interrupts now and then. There are amazing special effects and action sequences and above all a puzzle that makes this an unusually intelligent blockbuster movie.
7. WINTER’S BONE:
Not the beautiful Ozarks of song but a depressed, crystal-meth infested countryside is the setting for this gripping story told with absolute authenticity. Jennifer Lawrence plays a teenager who has to find her father or lose the family home because he skipped bail on a drug charge. On her quest she finds rural poverty, family loyalty and a code of silence. The film is bleak and occasionally harrowing but with such a strong pulse of real life that it’s not only watchable but thoroughly riveting. Lawrence gives a subtle and assured performance as a very determined woman.
8. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT:
Cool, honest, well-observed. Not many films hit those marks in showing how real people behave. Lisa Cholodenko, who wrote and directed, gets everything right in this off-beat family drama. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play lesbian partners whose lives are interrupted when their two children bring Mark Ruffalo around. He was the sperm doner and gets differing reactions from the two mothers; nothing but suspicion from Bening, but an affair with Moore. The script depicts the characters subtly but fully and doesn’t pretend any of them are angels or can change to be better. One of the highlights is a mean-spirited speech near the end. All three adults give terrific performances.
9. 127 HOURS:
We know where it’s going and maybe cringe a few times on the way. And yes, the climax is hard to take. You can always turn your eyes away, but there’s the sound. Still, you shouldn’t be scared of this sleek, lively cautionary tale for wilderness and extreme sports enthusiasts. James Franco plays Aron Ralston in this real-life story. For almost the whole film, he’s a trapped in a crevasse, his arm jammed under a rock. After five days of hoping, hallucination and dehydration, he has to amputate that arm. Graphic stuff, yes, but also very well-acted by Franco and well-directed by Danny Boyle, whose last film was Slumdog Millionaire.
10. FORCE OF NATURE: THE DAVID SUZUKI MOVIE:
Suzuki shows again that he’s one of Canada’s best lecturers. His thoughts on how we should fit in with the environment not fight it form the central core of this film. We’ve heard and read them many times but they’re fresh again with his impassioned delivery. And we can use clear explication and pep talk now and then. He also tells his life story, the Japanese internments, wakening to the evils of racism, science in Tennessee, his genetics lab at UBC, and his TV work (nothing about radio, though). Director Sturla Gunnarsson intercuts with Suzuki visiting the major locations that shaped him. An engrossing and dramatic documentary.
An Extra …
INCENDIES: This Quebec film should be on the list (it played at VIFF, has been screened for local media and is Canada’s submission to the Academy Awards) but it doesn’t open until Jan 21. Watch out for it then. You’ll be delighted that a Canadian film is so intense. It’s a powerful tale about an immigrant brother’s and sister’s search for their history before coming to Montreal. Their mother will tell them to find their father (who they thought was dead) and their brother (who they didn’t know they had). They find a painful story from a time of civil war in Lebanon, and an example of survival and hope.
And the five worst film of 2010. Luckily, I missed many of this year’s probable candidates, but I did see ….
MacGRUBER: An occasional two-minute sketch on Saturday Night Live is bearable, even if it is the same joke repeated each time. As a 90 minute movie, it’s atrocious, juvenile, brainless and padded out with puerile sex and bodily function gags.
LITTLE FOCKERS: Who cares if people are going to see it? They just want more father-in-law/son-in-law wrangling between Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. What they get is weak, unfunny sitcom stuff including Stiller relieving De Niro’s unending erection with an injection to the … oh, never mind.
NUTCRACKER 3D: Who decided that Holocaust imagery is what children need for Christmas? And without even the Tchaikovsky music and the ballet they might have expected. This leaden misstep of a movie was made in Hungary by a Russian director with English money and some Tim Rice songs. Nathan Lane, John Turturro and Elle Fanning and some bad 3-D couldn’t save it.
VAMPIRES SUCK: The latest in an annual series by a couple of movie parody wannabes is my first exposure to their work, and likely my last. The Twilight films get the once over here with gags that are obvious and juvenile. The young woman playing the Bella Swan counterpart does a very good Kristen Stewart imitation. But gay werewolves singing and dancing? Come on.
THE VIRGINITY HIT: Remember those bus stop ads: “Need Help with Your Virginity?” They were promoting this alleged teen comedy created on videocams in New Orleans and sent around by Will Farrell’s company. Obnoxious pals document a boy’s attempt to lose his virginity. It’s a mean-spirited view of modern adolescents.
An extra .... (and Canadian too…)
SCORE: A HOCKEY MUSICAL: Charming performances by Noah Reid and Allie MacDonald as two young lovers kept this film out of the top 5. But boneless ideas must be recognized. Despite mammoth publicity, nobody went to see the film. The producers finally figured out that maybe there aren’t many hockey fans who are also fans of musicals, and vice versa. As an old Hollywood mogul once said: “If people decide they don’t want to see your movie, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
NOTE: The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.