2010 was a good, solid year to go to the movies.
Say what you will about the rest of it—the politics, the economy, the general sense that the world is on an express elevator to Hell—but the last twelve months produced a good number of fun, watchable flicks that will probably make it onto my DVD shelf in the near future. That’s got to count for something, right?
So, before we leave The Year We Make Contact behind forever, I want to take one last look at the movies I loved in 2010. There were a few big ones that I missed—Black Swan, The Fighter, Machete, Piranha 3D, The Town, 127 Hours—and they would likely have changed things here and there if I’d managed to get to them. To my eyes and ears, though, these were the best and the brightest that my local theater had to offer this year.
10. Iron Man 2
Although certainly inferior to the original, Iron Man 2 has really grown on me. Yeah, casting Don Cheadle as War Machine was a misfire, but they also cast Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, which may qualify Jon Favreau for sainthood. The movie has some good action and some nifty gadgets, plus Sam Rockwell proves he is more than a match for RDJ in the scenery-chewing department. I dug Iron Man 2 a lot, and repeat viewings have helped fend off most of 2010’s other excellent action movies from the Top 10 all year long.
9. Despicable Me
It’s so fluffy! Despite a dangerously derivative plot and a horrifying “everybody hold your iPhone up in the middle of the movie theater” translator app, Despicable Me was charming as anything and a good time for both kids and adults. Steve Carrell and Jason Segel each do a respectably funny job as the protagonist and antagonist (or is that antagonist and more-antagonistic antagonist?), but they’re really just straight men to the three little girls—Margo, Edith, and Agnes—who steal this movie almost effortlessly. It takes a lot for me to start cooing about cutesy cartoon moppets, but these three (little Agnes in particular) are the most adorable animated characters I’ve seen in years.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1
Yes, it has lots and lots of sitting in the woods. No, I don’t care. The seventh Harry Potter movie was dark and moody and one of my absolute favorites this year. The decision to spread the last book out over two films has allowed Deathly Hallows 1 a lot of time for things like character and pacing, which have been sorely lacking in the last few go-rounds. There are little nits I can pick (aren’t there always?), but I was more satisfied with this film than almost any other in the series. My only real complaint is that I need to wait another seven months to see it wrap up.
7. The A-Team
Hey, wait a minute! These aren’t the men who promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground! This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! It is, however, a loud, fun, heroic exploso-fest of a film that really felt like it honored the spirit of the original TV Show. Plenty of critics had a good time with witty summaries like “The B+ Team,” “The C Team” or even “The F Team,” but, for my money, this was the action film to beat all summer long.
And this was the film that finally did it. The A-Team was big and loud and dumb, but RED was big and loud and smart. I had one glaring problem which kept me from totally enjoying the final act of the movie, but, overall, this film was an absolute blast from start to finish. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich are obviously having the time of their lives playing shoot-em-up and it has a great supporting cast including Mary-Louise Parker and Ernest Borgnine, one of whom is secretly in love with me. I’ll let you guess which one.
5. True Grit
There’s a lot to like about True Grit, as I’m sure the upcoming awards season will trumpet. Personally, though, I felt this movie came down to the old cliché of “there are no small parts, just small actors.” Each role in this film is strongly written and everyone showed up to the party with their game face on. You expect it from people like Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, of course, but even the stuffy town merchants and the grubby, no-dialogue banditos have a heft to them and an on-screen presence that lets you know this movie could just as easily have been about them instead of a 14-year old girl with a bone to pick. A 14-year-old girl who goes toe-to-toe with Jeff Bridges in every scene for nearly two hours, by the way. In a different year, True Grit could have easily filled my #1 spot.
4. The Social Network
A lot has been made of The Social Network and the liberties it’s taken with the life of Mark Zuckerberg. How much of it is accurate? How much of it is invention? I’ve got a better question: Does anybody really care? Honestly? Aside from Mark Zuckerberg himself and the entertainment industry that tried to make it into a pseudo-scandal, I can’t imagine anyone does. I know I don’t. The script is as intelligent and clever as anything Aaron Sorkin has ever written and the production is the best thing David Fincher has done since Fight Club. It’s a fascinating film about a relatively unknown story, expertly crafted and a lot of fun to watch.
3. Toy Story 3
Also known as The Stupid Cartoon Movie That Made Me Cry Repeatedly. Pixar has always been aces in the “making me weep openly” department, but I think my tears here were as much from relief as anything else. See, when Disney and Pixar looked like they were going to split a few years ago, Disney put together an entire studio (Circle 7 Animation) dedicated to taking Disney/Pixar properties like Toy Story and sequelizing them into Franchise Hell. So, when I heard about Toy Story 3, all my worst fears about Buzz + Woody Go Hawaiian seemed to be coming to fruition. Instead, we got a poignant, intelligent look at what it means to grow up and move on that kids can certainly enjoy, but I suspect only adults will truly get. There have been some people who criticized the repetition of ideas and unoriginal plot, but, as my grandmother used to say, those people are evil, unfeeling robots and are not to be trusted. Toy Story 3 rocks.
I cannot imagine how Christopher Nolan’s mind works, but I think it would be a fascinating place to visit. The last hour of Inception has got to be one of the most complex action sequences ever created, and I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that this man could come up with it, write it down in an understandable way, and then shoot it so that another person can take the pieces and construct it into a film. It leaves me boondoggled. The movie looks great, is well acted, and has a cool story that doesn’t get caught up in explanations and technobabble. It’s just brilliant from start to finish.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Inception is the best film I saw in 2010, but Scott Pilgrim is my hands-down favorite. In fact, repeat viewings have stopped me from asking where it ranks in comparison to the other movies that came out this year and started me thinking about where it ranks in my favorite films of all time. Every movie I’ve mentioned here is a movie I loved, but, in five years, I have to imagine that only Scott Pilgrim Vs The World will still be in regular rotation on my DVD player. I do wish it had done better in the theaters, but, then again, its box-office failure feels kind of fitting. Scott Pilgrim is funny and unique, but, like Evil Dead 2, it’s weird and different in the eyes of most people. It’s got a great personality, but, like The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, it’s probably going to the prom by itself. In other words, Scott Pilgrim Vs the World is a cult film, and one that I think will prove to be a worthy successor to Clerks, Army of Darkness, and all the other strange and wonderful movies that turned us into the Mutants we are today. It’s just that good.
My Bottom Five That I Thought About Discussing But Don’t Want To Waste My Breath On (in descending order): Clash of the Titans, Jonah Hex, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Alice in Wonderland, The Last Airbender