Originally posted on December 31, 2010
It’s New Year’s Eve and once again that means it’s time to send out my list of the best and worst movies of the year. This year, I saw 113 films in the theater and rented 19 movies on DVD. Through all the films I saw what was most noteworthy to me about 2010 were the amazing documentaries. I think I could make my top ten list solely on them alone. Instead, I will honor my favorite docs along with some foreign, independent and big budget films that I just loved in 2010.
Before I get to that, I want to make a cinematic personal note that 2011 marks a major milestone for my two favorite films of all time. On January 25, 2011 my second favorite film, BROADCAST NEWS will get the Criterion Collection treatment being released on blu-ray complete with director commentary, alternates scenes and other fun extras that will make my head explode. And July 3, 2011 will be the 20th anniversary of the film that changed me forever, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. This landmark will be celebrated with the launching of a new licensing program for fans like me and hopefully, some of the LA and NY art houses will pay tribute to this masterpiece with screenings.
Now, let’s look back at what I believed the best and worst films of the year.
Top 10 Films of 2010
1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
I saw this film 3 times and can testify that it gets more and more rewarding with each viewing. It’s brilliant- a fascinating character study that’s filled with sharp, kinetic dialogue that simply crackles off the screen, a visceral score that gets under your skin and a completely riveting story. It has knock out performances by the whole cast with scenes that are mesmerizing, intriguing and sometimes explosive. Andrew Garfield is the heart and soul in this film and reveals so many layers to his character, Eduardo- he’s vulnerable, smart, and tough and someone the audience can truly connect with. My favorite scene showcases Garfield’s Eduardo as he is hit with the full magnitude of Zuckerberg’s betrayal and you see the courage and blood rush into him ashe leans over and proclaims to Eisenberg’s character, “You better lawyer up, asshole, because I’m not coming back for 30%. I’m coming back for everything!” It gives me chills every time. This film is not just extraordinary; it’s a master class in directing, acting, writing, cinematography, editing and film scoring. All I can have left to say to Hollywood is, “More please.
2. TOY STORY 3
Every once in a while, you see a film that moves and speaks to you as if’s looking directly at you and you were exactly who it was made for. The remarkable thing about TOY STORY 3 is realizing that it didn’t have just that affect on you, it spoke to everybody. Sort of a shared emotional experience that lets you know that you are not alone when your imagination allowed you to love, care deeply about and creates lives for your toys when you were a kid. Your toys were there for you, provided solace and were your friends too. Not only does this astonishing film let you reconnect with your childhood but it’s also a cinematic feast of action packed sequences set in a day care center, tickles your funny bone with its unique characters and their neuroses and explores the themes of loss and acceptance. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a scene more simultaneously terrifying and gut wrenching then the incinerator scene at the climax at the film. The journey of these toys as they try to find their way back to their precious Andy is one of the most poignant and wonderful two hours of my life this year because during this time I got to be in the presence of absolute magic.
3. RABBIT HOLE
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart deliver astonishing performances as a couple dealing with this loss of their only son and the film chronicles how they manage to move on and live when it feels like their whole world has come crashing down. This is a beautiful film that moves, uplifts and breaks your heart. But it also provides hope and is filled with vitality for life that you wouldn’t expect with its devastating subject matter. I loved these characters and watching them question their lives and futures while finding a way to be present in this one life as it’s the only one we’ve got.
Christopher Nolan takes on a thrill ride into the mind where we encounter the many layers of dreams and a way to manipulate them and therefore, the person having them. This movie is mind blowing on so many levels. The characters are constantly moving through the film using exposition so organic that it seamlessly moves the story forward. On top of the visually eye popping special effects, the intense score and the wonderfully complicated storyline, we also get to watch some incredibly talented actors played opposite each other. When I realized that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy where taking up the same space on the cinema screen, I had to pinch myself for fear I was dreaming.
5. WAITING FOR SUPERMAN
An inside look into our country’s broken Education system with interviews with educators, law makers and parents. This documentary reinforced to me what I already believe about unions but also opened my eyes to the reality the children in the U.S. face today. This film is essential viewing and what I hope will one day be seen as a turning point in making our country a better place to learn and grow.
Bong Joon-ho weaves together a haunting tale of a Mother who is protective of her mentally disabled son. She tries to shelter him from the cruel world and when he gets targeted by the police as the key suspect in the murder of a young girl, she goes to great lengths to vindicate him and seek out the truth behind what really transpired. The Korean film takes its time and slowly builds in intensity right up until its shocking climax. It’s a suspenseful and twisted psychological thriller with an ending I didn’t see coming and left me shaken for days.
7. THE FIGHTER
I’ve always been a sucker for sports films. This one is particularly inspired because it possesses the astounding talent of Christian Bale who embodies the character of Dicky, a meth addicted boxer who at one time was a great boxer and now is trying to help his younger brother achieve the dreams that he never could. This movie sneaks up on you as you don’t realize the full magnitude of how these characters have grown on you and what you invested in them until the ending delivers an emotional knockout on the viewer that leaves our hearts full.
8. THE CRAZIES
To live the life of a horror film fan means we’re often left disappointed with the endless amount of shoddy remakes and even original movies that Hollywood offers to us. Once in a while, we get one and it’s a beauty to behold- a diamond in the rough. if you will. Leave it to my Michael Eisner’s oldest son to prove that a solid, edge of your seat horror film can still be made. I loved everything about this film- the opening shot of a town in flames, the first confrontation of an infected citizen on a baseball diamond, to the impeccable performance of Timothy Olyphant as the town’s sheriff. Dear fellow horror fans, we got a live one here- a great gift to us this year so seek it out on DVD if you missed it in the theater. I, for one, got my DVD copy as a Christmas gift and it was a merry one for me.
9. TERRIBLY HAPPY
A terrific Danish film that is a cross between BLUE VELVET and BLOOD SIMPLE which follows a cop from Copenhagen who is reassigned to a small town after a recent mental breakdown. He must learn to find his place in his new surroundings and at the same time command the respect of the strange locals who seem to like taking the law into their own hands. It’s a clever, engaging and excitingly odd little film and I enjoyed it immensely.
10. WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY
An inside look into the Walt Disney Company’s animation division from 1980 and 1994 revealing the rebirth of the medium after new management came into the company in 1984 and breathed new life into it. Before this documentary, I didn’t know I could worship Michael D. Eisner any more than I already did but after seeing him choke up during a eulogy for his closest friend Frank Wells, I realized my admiration for this man simply has no bounds. This is a must see film for animation and Disney fans alike.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: ANIMAL KINGDOM, IS IT JUST ME?, FISH TANK, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, WINTER’S BONE, NOWHERE BOY, BLACK SWAN, ANOTHER YEAR, JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK, INSIDE JOB
Top 5 Worst Films of the Year
1. GROWN UPS
In theory, the premise of five comedians doing a BIG CHILL type reunion comedy seems to be a winning combination. Instead we’re stuck with excruciatingly self indulgent mess of a film where the jokes fall flat and toilet humor reigns supreme. I can’t imagine anyone watching the dailies of this film and being proud of one second of this dreck or encouraged to keep up the nasty tone and vulgarities that it was producing. Someone somewhere needed to pull the plug and save its viewers from one this abomination.
2. THE LAST AIRBENDER
I think it’s very possible that this film could one day be a cult classic in the vein of PLAN NINE FROM OUTERSPACE that viewers flock to midnight screenings to gape at in disbelief. Or maybe a better comparison, it that it seems like one of the B movies on SyFy that Joe McCale make fun of on “The Soup.” It’s hard to believe that this movie was made with a big budget. It’s as if this film was made by someone who never made a movie before. Like a major studio plucked a random person off the street and gave them a huge budget and told them they could write, direct and cast the film on their own. What we get is a plodding film where the characters actually move the story along by announcing what they are doing next, act like they are reading lines off cue cards and perform fight sequences like they just practiced in their back yard a new move they invented. THE LAST AIRBENDER is jaw dropping in its poor production values, shoddy special effects and set pieces. I think someone in Hollywood was pulling a joke over on us but forgot to give us the punchline.
3. COP OUT
This is a long, poorly edited comedy that doesn’t know where it’s going or what it’s trying to say. It’s just a hodgepodge of random scenes with Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis teaming up to fight the bad guys with absolute zero chemistry between the leads.
4. CLASH OF THE TITANS
I feel lucky that I saw the 2D version of this film as Twitter blew up with the rage of a thousand geeks who very were subjected to the botched 3D conversion of this film which had had some of the actor’s hair floating in front of their heads to name one complaint. But that is as far as I go when I use the word “lucky” in reference to this completely ridiculous film where Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were indistinguishable, nothing made sense and the story was mind numbingly boring.
5. ALICE IN WONDERLAND
One of the main reasons why this film lands on the worst list is because I just adore the Lewis Caroll story and it was listed in my 2009 best of list as the film I was most excited to see. Fast forward to March where I’m sitting in a dark theater 40 minutes into this film trying to negotiate with myself that I fall asleep, no one will know because of my 3D glasses. Hey Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, I think I’m finally breaking up with you. Sorry, it had to go down like this in such a public manner but your continued nonsensical bizarre collaborations are suffocating me. I need some space.