A blog about movies and filmmaking.

2010: A Retrospective (and Top 10-ish List)

In awards, filmmaking on December 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm

The biggest thing in movies, for me, this year was in-fact moving to the mecca of cinema. Los Angeles (and specifically, Hollywood itself). I arrived here on Valentine’s Day, worked on a number of projects – a feature, web series’, music videos, and lots of short films. All in all, this was my year of movies.

Of course, you’re not here to read about those stories, you want to know what I thought of the movies I saw in theaters, or that had an effect on me. Amazingly, I thought 2010 was a fantastic year for movies. Not necessarily a better year, but just that I actually had the opportunities (again, thanks to location) to see a number of movies that tend to only play theatrically in limited locations, and a lot of times almost strictly in LA or New York. So, unlike most years that I might write one of these, there may be a couple of movies that you haven’t gotten to see yet, though I believe almost everything that’s been limited this year theatrically; you could probably see on Video On-Demand or via iTunes. Which, in a certain way, makes this year a special one in availability of movies to mass audiences.

So, on to the movies.

2010 might wind up remembered as being the year audiences said “enough” to hollow and shallow releases that were put out mainly for profits and less so for the art or for the imagination that movies can bring audiences. Movies like, PRINCE OF PERSIA, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, TRON LEGACY and a number of others; have all done less business than might have been expected. In at least the case of Scott Pilgrim, it was to the detriment of the fun and creativity involved with that project. But, the marketing involved made it and the other’s listed seem like shallow, unworthy projects to spend money to see in a theater. And in a number of instances, the audiences were correct.

So, before I finally get to my list (I know, I know, I’m getting there), the last thing I wanted to mention was that there were a lot of great movies that I saw this year and feel bad that I can’t include on this list. Even worse, are a number of movies that I absolutely would have put on my list, but seeing as I saw them in special screenings, or through a film festival, and they don’t have current release dates; I’ll forgo that. (But I have reviewed most of them, so feel free to go through the archives and try to figure out which ones.) And for as many opportunities that I had, there are still a few movies that even eluded me. But, I look forward to catching up with most of the movies from this year – in-between the number of movies I’m really excited for in 2011.

Okay, now for my list; I’ll be running through a top ten list of the movies I loved the most. There is some common themes that will run through most of these; and it might also reveal the taste and direction I take towards this medium.

10. I’m going to cheat – right off the bat, but only this one time – as I actually have three movies to name in this spot. They kind of sum up, but are just slightly lesser, than a number of the movies that will be named later. But each of these had profound effects on me while watching, that they absolutely could not go unnamed.

SHUTTER ISLAND – Martin Scorsese’s thriller – slash – homage to noir, supernatural thrillers. With it’s dark demeanor and slap you in the face climactic moments, Shutter Island was just another notch in Scorsese’s belt of great, great movies. And of course, that ending.

NEVER LET ME GO – The story of three kids who grow up in an alternate England – that unlike our own world – has found the cure for most diseases. This cure comes in the form of farmed children who donate their organs and lives in order to save others. The slow, meditative pace of the movie only adds to the heart-filled and heart-breaking performances by it’s leads; Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, and Keira Knightley.

Finally, HEREAFTER – Clint Eastwood’s so-called trip into the paranormal was much more a treatise on life and how we can so easily waste it being afraid of something that we can neither control, nor evade. It was absolutely beautiful and sits – like Scorsese – as just another great movie that Eastwood has put together in the last number of years.

9. EDGE OF DARKNESS – I know it’s not in-fashion to like Mel Gibson, but his performance in the movie that was meant to be his return before an even more recent tirade, left me stunned. The story shook me; it had a moment of vengeful retribution that like Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, I think just about everyone has one time fantasized about (it’s Ray Winstone’s final scene, FYI). It was PAYBACK, if Gibson’s character had been after his daughter and not money. It featured some of the slimiest, yet completely realistic villains, I can think of. Absolutely amazing.

8. INCEPTION – To say I was just the slightest bit disappointed with Christopher Nolan’s newest movie doesn’t really mean anything as it was still one of the best major blockbusters of the year. A movie that told us it was about dreams – but in reality was about the relationships between people – not only physical but imagined and falsely recalled, was totally stunning. And yes, there was the mind-twisting plot that is normal within a Nolan movie. So, while it definitely belongs on this list, I was disappointed that it wasn’t quite up to THE PRESTIGE – a lofty and probably unrealistic goal.

7. CYRUS – The Duplass Brothers’ foray into a more mainstream release was everything to me that most romantic comedies are not. Realistic. While full of silly situations, and psycho-hilarious moments from John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill; it was the romance that blossomed between Reilly and Marisa Tomei that really wowed me. Because deep-down, just about every guy sees himself as being SHREK, and wondering why a woman would be in the forest with him. Plus that ending… So much more fulfilling, with it’s ambiguity than either THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT or Inception.

6. THE SOCIAL NETWORK – I’ve seen screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, mention a couple of times that he didn’t take on this project because he cared about Facebook – hell most of us were against a movie based on that subject matter – but instead because of how simple and classical this story actually is. A guy does something to prove himself to a girl, and winds up screwing over his friends in order to do it. That’s what The Social Network is. The movie’s full of unlikable characters – who are no closer to their real-life counter-parts, I’m sure; than Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were to “normal policemen” in THE OTHER GUYS – but it’s this story that captivates us and made everyone see this movie. Only afterwards did we care that we actually cared about a movie about Facebook.

5. 127 HOURS – Staying true to life, is the story of Aron Rolston (as played by James Franco). The man who goes rock-climbing by himself and winds up pinned under a rock for five days. Sure, there’s lots of noise about the faintings and what not related to the graphic nature of a certain scene; but it’s the story of this man and his spiritual voyage of wanting to live that makes this movie so important and uplifting. See it for that, not for the five minutes of (well-crafted and amazing) gore.

4. BLACK SWAN – As much as Aron Rolston mentally willed himself to live; so does Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan’s mind will her into madness. Aronofsky seems to be one of the most divisive filmmakers working today. I know a number of people that just do not like his work. (To varying degrees; some like his older stuff and not the newer work, some think he’s been a hack the whole time.) I am one of those people that claim THE FOUNTAIN as one of my favorite movies released in this new millennium. (So, the side of Good, then.) Black Swan is right up there with it, with it’s gothic horror; it’s mental and physical transformations of it’s characters. It does for ballet what JACOB’S LADDER did for postal workers….Wait, maybe that’s not right.

3. THE KING’S SPEECH – It’s a hard decision placing this movie here as opposed to number 2. But, my genre bias wins out in this case. The King’s Speech though, is certainly no slouch and is absolutely one of the best; most uplifting movies of the year. Not necessarily, in it’s subject matter, but in it’s approach to humanity. We see royalty stand up for not only a commoner, but someone considered even lower than that – an Australian. We see an unlikely friendship develop between two men, and an unspoken bond develop that is rare. There’s not a gunshot fired (that I remember) on-screen; hardly a raised voice in anger – except for as part of the speech therapy. And yet the movie is thrilling and exciting all because of the words that come out of a man’s mouth. A man who has problems speaking.

2. TRUE GRIT – The movie is part trifle, and also important analogue on violence and retribution (as the poster states) – which is almost always a common, and vital, theme in the work of the Coen Brothers. The movie, which follows a fourteen year old girl on her quest to capture the villain that killed her father bites at the heels of other, modern (and great) westerns like Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN, but doesn’t betray the satirical – and outright hilarity – of both the book and the John Wayne movie that came before it. Each character – major and minor – is fully unique, while playing into their pre-fabricated roles. The leads from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, and even Barry Pepper, are all magnificent in their costume, demeanor and in some cases, complete ineptitude.

1. ENTER THE VOID – The movie that I graced in this very blog with the shortest review I could muster, is also the very best. It coalesces it’s visuals and ideals into a uniform creation that I will never forget. Whether it’s the traumatic viewings of a truck smashing into a car; or a penis ejaculating inside a vagina – hell, the opening credits might be enough to induce epileptic seizures in people not afflicted with that disability. The reason I couldn’t write a full review of the movie then, was because of how in awe, and totally scarred I was from the experience. It’s beautiful in it’s point-of-view camera work; illuminating Tokyo in it’s bright neons; repulsive in some of it’s graphicness; and mind-blowing in ways I still can’t really fathom.

And with that, that wraps up my 2010. The pleasure of not only seeing so many of these great movies, but also getting to see a number of them in iconic Hollywood theaters, has been probably some of the greatest moments in my movie-going life. Beyond all these great, new and exciting movies I saw, I got to experience seeing classic favorites on the big-screen. Meet celebrities and idols of mine. And also make new friends that love and care for movies as much as (if not more than) I do.

All of which makes me very excited for the year to come.

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