I’m definitely late to the dance, but I finally feel comfortable enough to make a top ten list for 2010. I had a lot of catching up to do the past couple of weeks. The following, in alphabetical order, are simply my favorite movies released last year.
To be completely honest, although I was very much looking forward to the latest release from Darren Aronofsky, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this particular film. Was it a ballerina version of The Wrestler? The answer is absolutely not. Instead, we get an intense psychological thriller that makes you question everything that’s happening within the story. Natalie Portman, as the mentally unstable Nina, gives a stellar performance that’s worthy of all the praise she’s been getting. Her journey to “crazy town” is something that needs to be seen to believe. If you haven’t seen this yet, do so immediately. You won’t look at nail clippers the same way again. At risk of making the rest of the list anti-climatic, this was my favorite movie of 2010.
The Fighter is really your basic sports movie. When they go right, they inspire the audience with a story of perseverance and redemption. This one has all of that in spades. The tale of two boxing brothers: Dicky (Christian Bale) is famous for “knocking down” the great Sugar Ray Leonard (but is now a crack addict) and his younger brother Micky (Mark Whalberg), a promising talent who seemingly languishes under the guidance of both Dicky and their mother (Melissa Leo). Based on a true story, we do know how it’s going to end, so I don’t need to say much about that. Bale is fantastic as Dicky, losing himself in the role as he always does. Whalberg, however, provides the rock the rest of the cast can dance on; a very underrated performance.
How To Train Your Dragon
Lots of people are giving Toy Story 3 a nod, so let me give one to the superior animated movie of 2010. An action packed and humorous film with obvious parallels to E.T., How To Train Your Dragon was a breath of fresh air. Sure, the usual plot points were there: an outcast son of a heroic father, the cool girl who barely knows he exists, and so on. However, it’s how it’s all blended together here that makes it so great. The characters are equally charming and they are memorable (especially Toothless the dragon) and the visuals are simply amazing, most notably during the flying sequences. I will admit that Toy Story 3 does have it’s share of moments that surpass this movie, but How To Train Your Dragon is a much more fulfilling experience.
Christopher Nolan strikes again with his return after the mega-blockbuster known as The Dark Knight. An heist movie with a guilt ridden main character at it’s heart, Inception was one hell of a ride. The visuals are stunning (just think of that hallway fight scene) and Hans Zimmer’s score is great as always. Nolan has a willingness to take genres that are usually considered juvenile (super hero action as with his Batman movies, science fiction with this one) and not only take them seriously, but also take the audience on a journey we haven’t quite been on before. Not nearly as complicated as some make it out to be (everything is spelled out nicely during Ellen Page’s indoctrination to their world), it’s the ending that makes Inception so compelling. What do you think happened?
I’m probably in the minority here, but Kick-Ass is the most fun I had watching a movie in the theatre this year. Following the criminally under-seen movies Layer Cake and Stardust, Matthew Vaughn struck gold with this comic book adaption. I loved all the balls to the wall, over the top action that the movie itself was satirizing. In a year that was very much devoid of fun, this (and a movie to be talked about later on) stood out among the lackluster efforts 2010 provided. No, you shouldn’t take much in this seriously. There’s a great tongue in cheek turn by Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy and we get the introduction of Chloe Moretz (as the awesome Hit Girl) to the big stage. Their final scene together is as touching as it is brutal and dark.
The King’s Speech
While there are those who have criticized it as being rather paint by numbers, The King’s Speech is still a wonderful and cheer worthy movie going experience. An all-star cast led by Colin Firth and includes Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter (all three have Academy Award nominations), it’s about a royal (Firth’s George VI) who has public speaking, stuttering and temper issues. Unfortunately for him, the throne is thrust upon him in England’s most dire time of need: the beginning of WWII and the Nazi firebombing of the country. Rush is great as an unconventional speech therapist who is the Prince/King’s last hope. The standout moment is the speech itself, of course, and it goes quite well indeed.
Let Me In
2008’s Let the Right One In is one of my favorite movies of that decade. When I heard there would be American take on the story, I wasn’t very optimistic. I was wrong to doubt. Matt Reeves has provided an almost equally haunting version of the story while making it different enough to stand alone from it’s previous counterpart. Like the original, the leads (the previously mentioned Moretz’s Abby and Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Owen) are superb. Moretz in particular gives a very strong yet subtle performance. Richard Jenkins has a very nice turn as Abby’s father (not to mention he takes part in one of most memorable scenes of the year). While not quite the masterpiece that the Swedish version is, Let Me In is a serious and welcomed addition to the genre.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Edgar Wright can do absolutely no wrong and this movie proved he could it without Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (creative partners on “Spaced,” Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz). Scott (Michael Cera) is your basic loser douche and to add to that, he’s dating a high school girl named Knives (the uber cute and very legal Ellen Wong). Along comes Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who Scott immediately falls for. Like most people, however, she comes with baggage. In her case, it’s the League of Seven Evil Exes, who all want to kill Scott for trying to get with Ramona. While this is also another comic book adaption, I would argue this is the best video game movie ever. I mean, Scott levels up at one point! It’s just a wacky good time.
The Social Network
David Fincher is back with a very fictional account of the founding of Facebook, most notably following Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg in an extremely strong performance). We all know the story at this point: Zuckerberg creates Facebook, people allege that he stole their idea, he gets seduced by fame and greed, he turns on those who were his friends, and it’s all because of a girl who told him off. Like I said, very fictional. While it might not be the true story of it all, it’s an interesting look at a character who’s as cold as he is detached to everything around him. Great score by Trent Reznor that’s perfectly fits the essence of the film. There are those who criticize The Social Network with having little to no emotion. I ask this: isn’t that the point?
After the misfire that was A Serious Man, the Coens try their hand at an adaption of Charles Portis’ novel. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) wants revenge after her father is murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To do so, she enlists the help of Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) who is more like a vigilante than an officer of the law and, with the help of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), they head out to find Chaney. Tonally very different than the 1969 version with John Wayne, True Grit takes a strong look at what it means to take the law in your own hand and the consequences of doing so. The cast is great, but it’s 14 year old Steinfeld that’s the standout. She more than holds her own with two Hollywood heavyweights.
So, there you have it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what your favorite 2010 movies were.