Going to the movies this year was a lot of fun. There were so many good films released in 2010, more than I remember in many recent years past. I don’t know if were in for another year like this in 2011, but I hope so, I had a blast. I figured a top ten list would be too easy to make because of the sheer quantity of quality, so I’ve challenged myself to do a top five. So here’s my top five favorite films of 2010. There’s a noticeable absence of some of the most critically acclaimed films of the year including The Social Network and The King’s Speech. As good as those movies are, I found they weren’t anywhere near as good as those listed below. I also haven’t seen some films like, The Fighter. I’m not a movie critic (and don’t ever want to be one) so take it or leave it. This is my blog and here’s my two cents.
Easily my favorite film of the year. No other film challenged me to keep up with it like Inception did. The story was brilliant, the acting was really good and the intensity level was frequently hovering around ten. I love movies that challenge me, I love psychological thrillers, and I love movies devoid of Hollywood lines and cheesy acting. This one had a few Hollywood moments (“Don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling.”), but not enough to ruin it for me.
For the first time in a long time I came out of the theater with a buzz that lasted a few days. Only one other film this year had a similar effect on me (another psychological thriller, listed next). I spent days trying to answer the riddles of the world I had just been thrown into. But it wasn’t annoying like watching Lost where you suspect there probably is no answer and the writers are just fucking with you to keep you watching (I stopped watching Lost after two seasons), with Inception I knew it was something I wasn’t understanding. Upon second and third viewings I was able to figure it all out while also revealing new questions. This movie will entertain me for a lot more viewings to say the least.
I was disappointed that the Blu-ray came up short on behind the scenes material as there’s a bunch of film making questions I have. For instance, does anyone know how they did the anti-gravity stuff, where Arthur is floating around in the hotel? I have a few theories on methods that could have been used outside of wires and CG, but I’d like to know which one(s) were actually used.
Inception is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece to date. For me it has replaced The Prestige as his best film, and while I don’t see how he can top this one any time soon, I’ll be watching all of his films from now on (pfft, as if I wasn’t going to) in the hope that he does. I’m also eagerly anticipating his re-boot of the Superman franchise. He’s done such a good job with the Batman franchise.
2. Black Swan
Black Swan was the second film that moved me enough to stay with me long after seeing it. Another Aronofsky tragedy, another self-destructive protagonist/antagonist hybrid. Aronofsky set the bar pretty high on this flavor of film making with The Wrestler. He has surpassed it here, but not by much. I think he’s plateaued a bit now, but what a wonderful place to plateau. I’ve seen all his films. The Wrestler was good, but Black Swan was his first since Requiem to really shock me. Not in the lame trendy Hollywood “shock value” way. In the genuine plot/character driven, I-love-this-movie kind of way.
If you follow this blog, you know how much I anticipated seeing this film. I’ve had a crush on Natalie Portman for over ten years and enjoy every film she’s done outside of the Star Wars prequels. She chooses her roles carefully and is steadily building a very respectable resume. Check it out, there’s some really good films on there, some of which are acting clinics.
This film showcases Natalie rising to her potential. The combination of Aronofsky’s style with Portman’s sincerity and poise is just awesome. I’ve yet to see this film twice but I can’t wait. This film is dark, raw, moody and gritty. If I had to sum up Aronofsky’s films in three words they would be as follows: No Happy Endings. You don’t leave the theater with a happy fuzzy feeling, but at least it’s honest. Life can be pretty shitty, and film makers are realizing that people realize that. How often is there really a happy ending in life? No where near as much as you see in the movies. Instead of that fuzzy feeling, when I leave an Aronofsky film, I’m usually marveling over two things: the acting and the cinematography. Both are usually done masterfully and are the key components that suck me into the world of the film. Natalie Portman will win an Oscar for this performance, and if she doesn’t she’ll win one soon. She’s firing on all cylinders now.
I love that I have absolutely no idea about wrestling, selling drugs, ballet, or solving crazy math problems and yet I have no questions when it comes to the believability of these films. I’m completely strapped in, and it’s because there’s a master of the art steering the ship. The literal transformation of Natalie’s character is breath-taking. There were actually moments where I realized I wasn’t breathing while watching this. I also cried when she got the part of the Swan Queen (Shut up). And when she finally becomes the Black Swan, I got goose-bumps (Seriously, stop making fun of me). Physical reactions to films are rare, at least with me they are. I love this film.
3. Shutter Island
Shutter Island was one of the first great films of the year. I almost forgot about it because I thought it came out in 2009. It’s right up my alley as it’s another psychological thriller…literally, it takes place in a prison for the criminally insane. I can’t say too much about this film without ruining the great ending, which I had to explain to a few people because it can throw you off, but it’s really great. The journey this film takes you on and the powerful ending are what cemented this film among the best films of the year for me.
I guess I must be a sucker for the really dark and gritty stuff because this film is full of it and I love it. The use of lighting is a major highlight and plays a big part in creating the unsettling feeling I experienced throughout watching it. DiCaprio has had a stellar year with this film and Inception and between those two films and The Departed he’s become one of my favorite actors. Ben Kingsley also never fails to impress me with his range and skill.
Not a lot of films are capable of stringing an audience along anymore. We’ve all seen everything before. Shutter Island is a refreshing exception to this and brought back the tension releasing “Ah ha” moment at the end of a good thriller. It started the year off on a strong note and held a firm grip among the best of the year.
4. True Grit
This is the last film I saw this year and it put a nice cap on 2010. True Grit was another solid piece of film making from the Coen’s. I’d highly recommend watching every Coen brothers film as they’re all excellent. Some of my favorites include: The Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Burn After Reading, and my favorite, No Country For Old Men. There’s a great website dedicated to the Coen’s entitled, “You Know, For Kids,” (a nod to The Hudsucker Proxy) which I recommend to anyone wanting more information on the filmmakers.
True Grit will join those listed above as one of my favorites from the Coen’s. It hit me in much the same way as did No Country For Old Men in that I didn’t leave the theater feeling satisfied (or much of anything else), and went through that creative digestive period whereby I realized I didn’t need to and it was a damn good film anyway. Much like The Town, this film’s strength is its characters. Though in my opinion, the quality of acting in this film supersedes that of The Town. Jeff Bridges is insanely good and hilarious, Matt Damon was his usual awesomeness, and look out for a bright new star in Hailee Steinfeld.
The story was also top notch. It was simple and became complex as does life. You set out to do something and shit happens. It also didn’t end all fuzzy and predictable and chose the more realistic and raw path. If you’re setting out to hunt and kill someone, it’s going to be tough (especially back then). You might achieve your goal but it will probably cost you. This was clear as I felt the limitations set on the characters. The world was real, and I’m sure glad I’m not a part of it.
This is a film I’ll have to watch again to truly appreciate, and maybe I’ll grow fonder of it when I do. It has the disadvantage of being the only film on this list I’ve only seen once.
5. The Town
The Town was one of those films that just hit me. I didn’t see a whole lot of hype for this one. I had no idea it existed until a few weeks before I saw it. From the trailer I was immediately interested. It looked like Ben Affleck had honed his directorial skills and brought his acting chops to boot. Turns out I was not disappointed, I was extremely entertained. The strength of this film is the characters. Every character is completely human in every way. They’re as rich in their strengths as they are in their weaknesses. Coupled with the characters was a story reminiscent of the brutality and rawness found in The Departed, another of my favorite films. Granted, both films take place in roughly the same setting and “industry” but the dynamics of each are different.
I thought Ben Affleck, Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Pete Postlethwaite’s characters were all extremely well portrayed. The film itself felt very cold throughout. Whether it was the cinematography or the editing or something else, this film felt very raw and to the core throughout, complimenting the acting and story perfectly. I was completely shocked when The Town was shafted for a Best Picture nomination at the Golden Globes in favor of a movie about Facebook and another about a stammering royal. Hopefully the Academy will reward Ben Affleck with the nomination this film deserves.
What, No Animation?
But this is On Animation.com! You like animation…don’t you? Yep, but this year the live-action films were so much better. Usually I can list two or three animated features in the top five at the end of the year, and Toy Story 3 (mainly for sentimental reasons) was on this list until it was knocked out last-minute by True Grit. There were some really good films on the animation front this year: Tangled, The Illusionist, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3 were all great films. But none of them challenged me like Inception, made me empathize and wince like Black Swan, were as solid as True Grit, had the rawness of The Town, or the intensity of Shutter Island. At least in my opinion. I’m just being honest.
The order of this list is not important. What’s important is that I narrowed it down. Depending on what day you ask me, I’ll switch it up, but these five films will consistently be in my top five list with Inception at the top. Rounding out the top ten would be pointless but I can tell you Toy Story 3 just on the outside looking in.
Okay, so I showed you my list, now show me yours…