The Top 10 Movies of 2010 — Part One!
2010 was not a great year for new movies, in my opinion. For the first ten months of the year, I saw far fewer movies in the theatre than I had in years past. Part of that was due to how busy my life has gotten these days, but it was also because there just weren’t that many movies that came out that really interested me! Things started to turn for the better towards the end of the year. A number of very interesting films were released in the end-of-the-year Oscar crunch, and as those of you who’ve been following along with my “Catching Up On 2010” series of articles know, I also made an enormous effort in December & January to track down on DVD many of the smaller films that I hadn’t been able to see in theatres earlier in the year (films like Cyrus, The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone, etc.)
So in the last two months I’ve added quite a few films to the list of “good 2010 films” that I keep in my notebook. But what’s fascinating to me, as I looked through that list in preparation for creating this Top 10 list, is that while there did wind up being quite a few 2010 films that I found to be really GOOD, there weren’t so many that I felt were truly GREAT. Looking back at my Top 10 Movies from 2009 list, I think that every single one of the ten films I chose is really spectacular. I own all 10 films on DVD or blu-ray. But as I considered all of the new movies I saw in 2010, there aren’t that many that I can see myself buying on disc. (And since I buy a LOT of movies on disc, this is a telling statement about my feelings regarding the overall quality of the films I saw this year.)
But enough negativity. Though it was a harder list to assemble than it was last year, assemble it I have. The following ten films are the ones that I found to be truly superlative from 2010. It’s an eclectic mix, but I stand by my choices. If there are films on this list that you never saw, I strongly encourage you to check them out!
Before we begin, I like to make note of the 2010 films that I WANTED to see but didn’t. I think I see a lot more movies than your average Joe, but despite that, there are always films that I missed for whatever reason. This year these include: Tiny Furniture, Animal Kingdom, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Company Men, The Tempest, The Myth of the American Sleepover, Blue Valentine, Solitary Man, Nowhere Boy, Get Low, Somewhere, Megamind, and You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, among others. If you saw any of those films and are shocked that they’re not on my list, well, now you know why. I do hope to get to catch up with all of those films on DVD in the coming months.
OK, here we go!
Honorable Mentions: Though they didn’t make the cut for inclusion on my Top 10 list, I enjoyed the hell out of: Winter’s Bone (click here for my review), I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (click here for my review), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (click here for my review), Flipped (click here for my review), The Fighter (click here for my review), Predators, and Greenberg (review coming soon).
10. Inception — Though it’s not one of my favorite Christopher Nolan films (I would rank Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Returns, and even Insomnia ahead of it), I still think Inception is one of the best films I saw this year. My hat is off to Mr. Nolan for crafting a strikingly original film that is also relentlessly entertaining and mainstream. His adventurousness regarding narrative and imagery continues to be unparalleled among today’s filmmakers. The score is brilliant (click here to watch a video explaining the secret of the score). The cast is great. I adore the snow-chase homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I love the ending. This film is a winner! (Click here for my full review, and click here for my cartoons having fun with Inception.)
9. Machete — To say Machete is not great cinema is an understatement, but I don’t think I had more fun in a movie theatre all year. This deliriously madcap homage to grindhouse films of old (the film actually began life as a joke trailer in Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 double-feature film Grindhouse) is packed with over-the-top violence, nudity, and lots of other craziness. It features a man swinging out a window using another man’s intestines as a rope, a one-eyed woman kicking ass with a machine gun, and a Mexican who’s pretty damned hard to kill. Danny Trejo is everything you want him to be as Machete, and the rest of the cast is pretty sweet as well: Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan. What an insane collection of actors! The film overstays it’s welcome a little bit, but when there’s this much lunacy on screen, it’s hard to complain. (Click here for my full review.)
8. The King’s Speech — I just wrote about this film last week. It’s the story of Prince Albert, Duke of York (the man who would become King George VI, the King of England during World War II), and his relationship with Lionel Logue, a speech therapist hired by the Prince’s wife to work with Albert on his stutter. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush give marvelous performances as Albert and Lionel. In fact, the main joy of the film for me was in watching those two terrific actors parry with one another throughout the story. As the world lurches ever closer to war, their uneasy relationship would gradually become a close friendship. It’s a sweet, touching story, told with just the right amount of drama to keep one hooked on the narrative, and just the right amount of humor to keep one thoroughly enjoying the film as it unfolds. This is a smart drama made for adults, and I really loved it. (Click here for my full review.)
7. Kick-Ass — Michael Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust)’s adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s gloriously hyper-violent and profane comic boom series is just as jaw-droppingly crazy as the comic. Dave Lizewski is a geeky kid who wonders why nobody in real life has ever decided to try to become a super-hero like the comic-book characters we all love reading about. So he decides to be the first, and winds up sliding down a rabbit hole of increasingly escalating trouble. The film gently mocks many of the conceits of the modern super-hero film, while also telling a really compelling super-hero story of it’s own. It’s funny, it’s violent, and it’s got a terrific cast that plays the story completely straight (er, well, except for Nicolas Cage and his absolutely insane Adam West impersonation). The last scene preserves the comic’s pitch-perfect ending and makes me very impatient for the planned sequel (tentatively titled Balls to the Wall, which really makes me laugh). (Click here for my full review.)
6. True Grit –– Another triumph from the Coen Brothers. Somehow these two amazing talents are able to take every genre they touch and twist it just slightly on it’s edge in order to create a unique, idiosyncratic movie that is all their own. It’s been years since I’ve seen a Western as blisteringly alive as this story of young Mattie Ross, a strong-willed young girl desperate to avenge her father’s murder. Jeff Bridges delivers an iconic performance as the tough, grizzled Rooster Cogburn, and Matt Damon also dazzles with his delightfully weird portrayal of the Texas ranger LaBoeuf. The film is strongly emotional without being schmaltzy or syrupy, and it’s tense and dramatic without being gruesome or hyper-violent. It’s a compelling story told by master craftsmen at the top of their game. (Click here for my full review.)