The Best and Worst of 2010
By Danny Minton
More than usual, I heard many grumblings this year that 2010 was a horrible period for films. I’ll admit that there weren’t a large amount of Oscar-worthy films released in the first three quarters of the year, and that there were a slew of terrible and mediocre films, but overall there were still some terrific motion pictures. Just like any year, I spent an immense amount of time narrowing down my Top 10 and there were at least 20 that are close in line. For me, this became the year that animated films stole the scene. Four of the top 10 grossing films of the year were animated and Tangled could very well become the fifth when all is said and done.
As far as Oscar predictions go, you’re unlikely to see many of my Top 10 in the list. Social Network, which I thought was a good/not great film is looking like the film to beat. I’m still holding out hope for Toy Story 3 and True Grit, which could be contenders, but I’m pretty certain the Academy will rule in Facebook’s favor this year. Many of my favorites this year are currently available on DVD/Blu-ray and if not you can catch them in theaters – and I highly suggest that you do so.
1) How to Train Your Dragon. There are so many things to admire about this film about a viking boy who befriends the most dangerous dragon known to his clan. If I could pick out just three things it would be its story, its music and its sense of adventure. The story is more complex than you usually get with an animated film and takes many unconventional steps to get to the end. The score by John Powell is magnificent both with the film and by itself. And both kids and adults become empathetic to the hero, making it easy to imagine what it would be like to befriend and fly on a dragon, as well as stand up to traditional thoughts and beliefs in order to make a change for the better. I’ve seen this one a half-dozen times this year and it has never gotten old.
2) Tangled. Disney has been making the princess movie since the studio entered into the feature arena, but none of those stories can match up to that of Rapunzel in Tangled. With its modern animation and classic story-telling, the mouse house reached new heights and created what will be considered by many more than myself as one of their greatest masterpieces. Bringing back composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) was a huge boost for the production as the songs are as memorable as they are lovely.
3) Animal Kingdom. With the Angelika Film Center closing this year just as Animal Kingdom was opening, you might have missed this amazing Australian crime drama about a good kid who is taken in by his bank-robbing uncles and grandmother after the death of his mother. While it did receive a limited run months after the rest of the country saw it, you’ll be able to rent or buy this twisty drama come January. If you are paying attention to awards season right now you’ll see Jackie Weaver’s name pop up as a favorite for Best Supporting Actress. As the matriarch of the family, she’ll send shivers up your spine with her spectacular performance.
4) Toy Story 3. Andy is going off to college and his toys decide to escape to a daycare in this third and probably final Toy Story pic – which also just happens to be the best one of the trilogy. The story is clever, but what really makes the movie are the two huge tear-jerking scenes at the end of the film. You will find yourself fighting to hold back your emotions as both you and Andy say one last goodbye to Woody, Buzz and the gang. Fortunately for us, on home video we can say goodbye time and time again.
5) Shutter Island. This under-appreciated film teams Scorsese and DiCaprio again in Dennis Lehane’s tale about a U.S. Marshall sent to a remote island to investigate a disappearance at an insane asylum. What I liked most about this film was that it was so fun to try to figure out and impossible to do so. And then when you watch it a second time, it is a completely different film.
6) True Grit. Even fans of the original John Wayne film based on the same novel by Charles Portis can agree that this new incarnation is a tremendous piece of western fiction. The acting is solid from all angles, the score by Carter Burwell is gorgeous and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is inspiring. This may be the Coen brothers’ most accessible film, but it is also one of their best.
7) A Prophet. While this film was nominated for a 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, because it didn’t hit the U.S. until Spring of 2010, I am including it on this year’s list. This French crime drama about the rise of prison nobody into a kingpin will bring back memories of The Godfather and the lead, masterfully played by Tahar Rahim, will make you think of a young Robert De Niro were he given such a role as a young man.
8) Restrepo. Two brave filmmakers dug themselves in with a group of U.S. Marines in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, widely considered to be the most dangerous post in the U.S. Military, in order to make one of the most important documentaries of our generation. There are no politics here – just a group of men putting their lives on the line for their country. Never has such authenticity been captured in a war film, simply because it would have been too dangerous to do so. Several soldiers died during the making of the film, including a medic named Restrepo for whom they named their base after, and later the film.
9) The Secret In Their Eyes. Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film also received a spring release date in 2010, so I had to put it on my list. This Argentinian film, about a retired legal counselor that travels back to Buenos Aires in order to write a book about the case that changed his life, is one of the most shocking and thought-provoking films of the year. You can’t help but feel hopeless and helpless against a corrupt system and the ending will most definitely blow you away.
10) The Fighter. The boxing film has been done so many times and many of them have been good films. The challenge with the sub-genre is to create a film that is fresh enough to not leave its audience apathetic. The Fighter follows the true story of “Irish” Mickey Ward as he struggles between the decision of letting his family be in charge of his career and watch it go down the toilet, or let professionals handle it and have a shot at the title. What stands out the most in this pic is the tremendous acting by the likes Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and the chorus of sisters that steal every scene they are in.
Honorable Mention: 127 Hours, Biutiful, Black Swan, Edge of Darkness, Fair Game, Four Lions, Inside Job, Jack Ass 3D, Kick Ass, Let Me In, Social Network and Winter’s Bone
The Worst of 2010:
1) Sex and the City 2. SATC 2 was one of the most high profile films of the summer and also one of the first indications that the tentpole films of 2010 were not exactly going to hold up the tent. Every single minute of the film was ridiculously stupid and the movie strived to be unwatchable with every little dumb plot and lame joke. And to make matters worse, fashion should have been the name of the game here and the girls all looked like circus clowns. The stellar HBO series we knew wanted to go out with a bang. Instead we got a backfire.
2) The Last Airbender. Director M. Night Shyamalan proved once again that he is no longer worthy of a studio’s trust after he royally ruined this film version of the popular animated series. You might point out that the film was still one of the year’s top grossers, but that was merely because there were so many fans of the show – and trust me when I tell you that not many people left the theater happy. I couldn’t have lost more brain cells if I downed a bottle of absinthe.
3) Valentine’s Day. Just because you get a world-class director like Gary Marshall and every A-List actor in Hollywood doesn’t mean you can tell a Love, Actually-like story with success. Intertwining so many bad tales into one incohesive film only provided one of the most miserable experiences of the year and a reason to hate February 14th.
4) The Back-Up Plan. Jennifer Lopez really wants to be a mother and when she can’t find the right man she loads up a set of twins artificially. But then the bad romantic comedy starts up when she meets the man of her dreams. The story itself had some potential, but due to bad writing, horrible characters, and loathsome acting, the film falls apart before it can even get going.
5) Grown Ups. While most of the cast’s other films are fairly low brow in nature, they are at least somewhat funny. But when Adam Sandler decided to bring together his closest friends Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, the result turned out to be more lame than you can imagine. The jokes hit so rarely that when one makes you chuckle it only serves as a reminder of how dumb the rest of them are.