Editor’s Note 01.11.11: The Best and Worst Films of 2010
It’s time once again for my annual top 10 best and worst films of the year lists. It’s always fun, but I must confess that I saw fewer films this year than I have in previous years. There are many reasons for this. The weeks leading up to my wedding, the ceremony itself, and the vacation afterwards, took up a hefty chunk of my time. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve increased my general workload more than I should have, and that has made my relaxation time precious.
Sometimes, going to the movies is just what the doctor ordered to chill, but I have become unmotivated to go as much this year. The fact is, if you can go to the theater regularly and have a pleasant viewing experience with no equipment malfunctions, people talking, or some other disruption, you are one lucky moviegoer. The amount of people that go to the movies and immediately take that time to explore their cell phone or have loud discussions is constant in my area. With the price tag of films not getting cheaper, paying the money to have the film ruined by pricks in the theater is not always worth it. The only place I have a quality theater experience is in a major city. Usually, those people are there to watch the film and just sit and shut up like they should. Unfortunately, going to the city is not a trip I can take all the time. Overall, it has become more of a chore to see a movie, not because the quality of them is worse necessarily, or that I am losing my desire to watch them, but because people’s behavior in theaters is just aggravating as hell, so I avoid it when I can. That being said, the amount I’ve seen this year is not that much lower than before, but I’m almost positive it is.
And of course with a new year coming to a close, out come the folks who love to grumble that “This was a bad year for movies.” I’ll repeat my line from previous years: “It is my experience that those who claim the year has been poor are those that do not go to enough movies. While it is true that not everyone can see as many as others, I hate when people make the comment but cannot back it up.” With that copy and paste job out of the way, let me say I will concede that 2010 produced more mediocre efforts than normal, but there were at least 4 (maybe 5) four-star film in my eyes, if not a few more.
I construct my top lists in a specific way. My goal, whenever possible, is to include films from many genres. Sometimes certain genres contribute all the best movies, and other times one specific genre has no worthy offerings. The point is, I pick my favorite films of the year, while also trying to cover each genre. I also factor in how the film is different with a second viewing. I noticed that some critics’ lists include crossovers from 2009 to 2010. If they were released in 2009, they belong on a 2009 top 10 list. If they were submitted for the Oscars in 2009, I cannot justifiably put them on my 2010 list. It is one of those unfortunate circumstances where some foreign films fall through the cracks (i.e. A Prophet, Mother, The Secret in Their Eyes). There are exceptions to this rule of course, but I try to stick to that. I have seen more documentaries this year than I normally do. As a rule, they are not looped in with my film list because they are not films, they are documentaries, and should be judged differently. Here are my top 10 best and worst films of 2010.
THE TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 2010
A few thoughts on some of my honorable mentions. The Expendables may surprise some, but I still am amazed that people rent this and expect something other than a wall-to-wall action film. I said from the beginning when the project was announced and especially when it picked up more hype than it could handle prior to release that everyone needed to remember what they would be getting. It’s Sylvester Stallone, so of course the plot will be thin in favor of action and fights. That’s all I wanted, and he exceeded my expectations with a film I’ll be glad to pop in regularly.
A similar reception met Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere upon release. People seem to forget what type of filmmaker she is. Her latest is a terrific, unique account of the life of a celebrity, and it possesses many of the same qualities that Lost in Translation had, yet fans of that film are hating this new one, leading me to believe that the praise surrounding Lost in Translation had more to do with Bill Murray than the skills of its director. The reaction is weird. Coppola hasn’t changed much, but apparently audiences expected something faster paced? Black Swan and The King’s Speech would have appeared higher on my list, but I simply saw more films that pushed them out. It happens. On a side note, I have seen True Grit, Winter’s Bone, and The Fighter. I liked the first two, but not enough for them to crack my best line-up, and The Fighter I thought was average.
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – This is one of the more rewarding comic adaptations in recent years and is about a Canadian musician who must battle 7 evil exes of his dream girl. It’s also the best video game movie that isn’t based on a video game. In terms of representing the medium of film, Scott Pilgrim is a masterpiece from start to finish, saturated with great visuals and superb special effects. After zipping through the comics rather fast, I was worried about how the film would turn out, but thankfully it is witty, action packed, and competently acted with Michael Cera in the lead role. Ok, the first fight is a bit kooky, but the rest is so fantastic that it’s easy to let that slide. Everyone involved in Edgar Wright’s wild romp deserves praise, and in the words of Guillermo Del Toro, “anyone that didn’t watch this film is a motherfu**er.” His words I swear.
9. The Good, the Bad, the Weird – When it comes to pure action, no title pleased me more than Kim Ji-woon’s crazy South Korean epic, inspired of course by Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I’ve come to be a fan of Ji-woon’s work (A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life), and here he delivers laughs, solid storytelling, and some of the most incredible action sequences in years. The cast is excellent, and led by Song Kang-ho, who can be seen in Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Memories of Murder. He’s a great actor, and you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. If you enjoy westerns, action, and comedy, this has it all.
8. Animal Kingdom – In 2010 we had quite a few movies that examined the lives of criminals. The Town was certainly a good one, but Animal Kingdom is a title you might have missed. This Australian drama revolves around a 17 year-old who goes to live with his aunt and her criminal sons. David Michod directs this gripping film that is brilliantly suspenseful and so wonderfully performed. Jackie Weaver has garnered the majority of the praise, but everyone involved is outstanding. This has sadly gone overlooked by many people and that blows. This is a picture that gets under your skin and delivers and emotional wallop. It’s a nail-biter. I think I used all the annoying critic phrase clichés possible in this blurb now. Find it on DVD January 18th.
7. Buried – Everyone seems to be raving about James Franco and his “stand alone” performance in 127 Hours, but I would still contest that Danny Boyle’s direction handicaps him. For a superior stand alone portrayal, a highly under appreciated one I might add, please watch Ryan Reynolds at his career best in Buried. It’s about a guy who has been buried alive in a coffin. There is no camera trickery or irritating special effects, just Reynolds. Director Rodrigo Cortes puts himself on the map with this mesmerizing film that will be hard to endure if you dislike claustrophobic scenes in movies. However, if you loved that sequence in Kill Bill Volume 2, see this now. There is a political agenda in the plot, but for once it actually fits and is not shoved down our throats. This one will leave you shaken to the core. Look for it on DVD January 18th. Read my review here.
6. The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) – Yes, I’m cheating here, but oh well. While I would not rate each entry the same, they still work best as one fabulous saga. If you’re waiting for the American adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s popular novels, you will surely be missing out. Noomi Rapace gives the best performance, male or female, of the year, no question. Rooney Mara has a tough road ahead of her. When mystery thrillers are handled correctly, they are ripe for repeated viewings, and these three will find their way into my player a lot. The characters are unforgettable, the storylines are intriguing, and the filmmaking of each is top notch. The first two installments are available on DVD now, and the third arrives in stores on January 25th. A box set will be available as well. Trust me, they are worth the time and money.
5. The Social Network – Well, almost every group of critics under the sun have awarded this “Best Film of 2010” honors, and I loved it without question, but I’d say the amount of “iconic” movie moments is what separates it from the top 2 you’ll see below. One thing this film did do is cement my faith in David Fincher. His skill before this was not up for debate, but when he was set to tackle a project about Facebook, I had doubts. I’m grateful that it turned into such a magnificent film about the origins of this social networking behemoth and what it takes to keep a business thriving. It’s not supposed to answer all the questions about Facebook, but it does touch on several of them I’d argue. Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, and the rest of the cast supply first-rate acting with a superlative score from Trent Reznor. This is out on DVD today.
4. Mesrine (Killer Instinct, Public Enemy Number 1) – Again, a bit of a cheat considering there are two films to be seen and together they add up to a bit over 4 hours, but damnit, this is a modern-day Scarface and I was riveted every second. Vincent Cassell is amazing in the titular role of a French gangster who was as charismatic as he was ruthless. The balls on this guy really has to be seen to be believed as his prison escapes make others look cowardly by comparison. The supporting cast includes Gerard Depardieu, Cecil de France, and Mathieu Amalric to name a few. Jean-Francois Richet directs, the same person who stood at the helm for the Assault on Precinct 13 remake, but this is what he will be known for. The pacing, structure, and approach are just sensational. I promise once you start these films, you won’t be able to turn them off until the end.
3. Carlos – From a gangster at #4 to a terrorist at #3, maybe it’s just my affinity for fascinating lengthy films, but this one clocks in at over 5 hours, yet I would ask to you to look at my promise for the previous entry. It applies here too. It is unbelievable that we’ve received two masterful depictions of criminals (both based on true events), both so detailed and so entertaining at the same time, in one year. It is unfortunate that epics such as this, Mesrine, and Che go unnoticed simply because people are intimidated by the running time. Oliver Assayas directs this sweeping biopic as it jumps from one continent to the next covering Carlos the Jackal’s various acts between 1975 and 1994. Edgar Ramirez should be an instant contender for Best Actor on any awards show. There is a shorter version, around 2 hours or so, that will be floating around, but the longer one really takes you into his world.
2. Toy Story 3 – Pixar gave us one of the greatest third installments of any franchise with this sentimental farewell to Andy. They plan on giving us short films with the characters from time to time, but no more feature length films. That is wise. This trilogy was the perfect way to end the saga. This story sends the toys into Sunnyside daycare and it provides a spectacular new setting, colorful characters, and lots of funfilled action. What Pixar does better than every other animation studio is make “heart” their priority above all else. The animation looks glorious, but it is the story that must resonate with audiences. That’s why their films will age so effortlessly. And I don’t care what anyone says, Spanish Buzz was hysterical. And so the streak has continues. This is the 5th year in a row a Pixar title has made my top 10. Hopefully next year has the same result. Read my review here.
1. Inception – Each year, 1, perhaps 2, films cause me to sit back in awe, and in 2010, that film was Inception. I am glad that people have finally noticed its similarities to Satoshi Kon’s 2006 anime effort Paprika, but Christopher Nolan used that idea and made it better. This is a complex, transfixing, and overall incredible film that definitely comes out at the top of Nolan’s canon. Every aspect is intelligently stitched together from the drama to the action and everything in between. Leonard DiCaprio gives another superb performance, 1 of 2 that will again be overlooked by the awards committees. The rest of the line-up: Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy and more, are all exceptional. One of the reasons this is #1 is because when you picture it in your head, any number of jaw-dropping sequences instantly come to mind. No other title accomplished that like Inception did.
THE TOP 10 WORST FILMS OF 2010
I’ve seen basically everything I feel I needed to in order to be satisfied with my worst list. Ok, I missed Yogi Bear. I’ll live. You’ll notice that movies like The Last Airbender, Furry Vengeance, and The Spy Next Door have been left out. Yes, M. Night Shyamalan delivered another bomb. It was bad, but people tend to only mention Shyamalan as the reason his recent efforts have been disappointing, leading me to wonder how outspoken the hate would be if he wasn’t the director listed. Furry Vengeance is stupid too, but no worse than any other Brendan Fraser slapstick comedy. Seriously, this is the guy who made the Bedazzled remake and Monkey Bone. When you saw a trailer, poster, or any preview of Furry Vengeance, did you honestly expect anything better than what Fraser usually does? It’s a harmless family film, nothing else. Fraser does what he wants and that’s nothing new. At least he’s enthusiastic about his bizarre picks and at least the animals’ mouths weren’t CGI’d here. The Spy Next Door was difficult to get through, but it did have a few Jackie Chan fight sequences, which boosted it off this list. I could go on, but those are the main three I think people will notice.
10. Legion – Some of you might have forgotten that this one landed in theaters early in 2010. The apocalyptic horror genre has not produced very many worthy efforts, and this is no different as Paul Bettany and company treats the dud of a script way too seriously. The CGI is bad, the action is dumb, and story has numerous problems. Debut filmmaker Scott Stewart does nothing right here.
9. Marmaduke – Dog flicks have enjoyed another rise in popularity for movie audiences over the past few years. They usually do pretty well at the box office. Marmaduke has to be one of the most retarded dog flicks I have ever seen. The narration is mind-numbing, the mouth moving animals in CGI is tough to look at, and this is filled with some of the most outrageously unfunny jokes of 2010. The script is dreadful on a new level. The effects are cringe inducing, and the story is basically a romcom for dogs. The climax is among the worst endings in history. Owen Wilson and director Tom Dey should be ashamed, and so should everyone else involved.
8. Vampires Suck – Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg have created another spoof film, and what a surprise, it is torturous. The main problem is that they use nothing but the most obvious and uncreative jokes/humor and to be truthful, this could have been a halfway decent comedy had the filmmakers operated with a smidgen of intelligence. But hey, this duo is in a league of their own, This is also offensive to the nth degree, horribly acted, haphazardly directed, and much more, but we all knew that. If you’re still anticipating these offerings, please seek the help of a counselor.
7. The Bounty Hunter – Remember this one? Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston had a whirlwind romance which I suppose they were hoping would help this idiotic movie, but alas, it did not. I guess it’s only predictable that they were going to break up, seeing as how they had zero chemistry on screen. This film tries to incorporate multiple genres, but can’t pull it off for a second. This is contrived, lifeless, and…you get the idea. The smarmy attitude of this one still creeps into my brain every now and then.
6. Knucklehead – So if you’re a WWE fan, or a parent of one, please, do not rent the mind-numbingly bad movies they make no matter how difficult the urge might be to suppress. If you don’t, they will stop making them. Thank you. While John Cena’s Legedary was awful in an after-school special sort of fashion, Knucklehead tops it easily as we are privy to Paul “Big Show” Wight eating funnel cake, wrestling a bear, taking a big dump on a bus, receiving a wedgie, and oh yeah, I will have nightmares from the unflattering angles of his rear end and crotch. This is beyond moronic, and even has Jan from The Office as a former stripper turned religious nut (possibly nun?). She even gets into a mud fight after downing a margarita. The characters’ motivations here make little sense, and this waste of time had gags involving poop, piss, vomit, spitting, and every bodily fluid you can think of. And yes, this was in theaters if you can fathom that.
5. Jonah Hex – Boy was this a disaster. I haven’t read the comics, and I can assure you, I have no desire to ever consider picking one up after seeing this film. I’m sure they’re superior, but what this movie does is present an adaptation in the worst conceivable way for any fan of the source. It displays all the flaws and negative attributes of this universe in a manner that will probably deter future fans. John Malkovich is literally phoning his performance here, Meagan Fox is useless and crappier than I expected, and Josh Brolin tries too hard. Nothing was properly explained, unless of course you were already familiar with this material, and the story actually gets increasingly stupid as the running time moves along. And get this, it has 2 scenes of Jonah presumably “walking off into the sunset.” How the hell does that work?
4. The Back-Up Plan – It really is criminal that Jennifer Lopez is allowed to continue making movies. She has no talent, and am I the only one that notices that she chooses projects solely as money grabs? I know she’s a big name, but how is it that people still pay money to see her drivel? It’s only about one thing for her, and this one is especially hard to tolerate because it has at least 3 breakup-makeup sessions. Most romcoms have 1, towards the end. To add to the garbage, the humor is unspeakably bad and the acting, as expected, is ready for the Razzie nominations. They keep trying for slapstick comedy and it’s just cruel and unusual punishment.
3. Handsome Harry – Not many of you will have seen this, and probably just as many will have not even heard of it, but there are plenty of limited releases that are agonizing each year, and this is one of them. Director Better Gordon seems to not have a clue in the world for this pretentious and lame drama that houses some of the worst acting from a generally fine looking cast on paper. I hated every second of this laughably horrendous picture and all of its nonsensical moments. Gordon provided a Q&A at the screening I attended, and it took all my strength not to laugh out loud as some audience members chatted about its merits. This is the last time I see a movie based on a recommendation from Kurt Loder.
2. Grown Ups – Adam Sandler and his partner in crime Dennis Dugan have actually sunk as low as any team possibly could. This is an abhorrent comedy, one where Sandler and his friends exchange appalling jokes through a non-existent plot. If you enjoy Sandler and his buddies getting together and making fun of one another while they watch your money flow in, then I guess this will be right up your alley. They go on vacation, and we pay for it, in our pockets and our IQ. There is still a small corner of my being that appreciates Sandler and the talent he does possess, but that is disappearing fast as he bludgeons us with so many excruciating comedies.
1. Sex and the City 2 – When I construct my top 10 worst list, it is comprised of those titles that genuinely made me mad as I watched them. No film made me angrier than Sex and the City 2. This sequel manages to be worse than the first movie and kill any positive legacy the series had left to survive with. The cast has outgrown the roles, the endless puns are sooooo painful, and the story is the epitome of idiocy. And the icing on the cake? This is 2 and a half hours! At one point, I did enjoy the series. No more. Whenever anyone mentions Sex and the City, I will suffer from violent flashbacks of these movies, and will need to be restrained.
Dishonorable Mentions – When in Rome, MacGruber, Valentine’s Day, Repo Men, and Killers
Most Overrated Films of the Year
Let Me In
Most Underrated Films of the Year
I’m Still Here
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Most Overlooked Films of the Year
Most Disappointing Films of the Year
Alice in Wonderland
You Didn’t Like It, But I Did
The Next Three Days
Survival of the Dead
You Liked It, I Didn’t
Iron Man 2
Best Family Film of the Year
You Should Watch This At Parties
This One is For All The Weirdos Out There
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
For the Gentlemen
For the Ladies
Mother and Child
For the Couples
Going the Distance
The Best Documentary of the Year
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Please Do Not Forget…
The Ghost Writer
This Is A Fabulous Movie To Rent on a Rainy Day
The Kids Are All Right
For Those Who Want to be Depressed
Never Let Me Go
Two Excellent Trilogies in One Year
The Millennium Trilogy
The Red Riding Trilogy
Take 2 More Animated Titles
How to Train Your Dragon
It Was a Good Year for… Ben Affleck
The Company Men
MY 2011 BEST PICTURE PREDICTIONS FROM 2010
For the past few years, I have looked ahead and picked out certain films that I think have a chance at garnering a Best Picture Oscar spot. Last year I selected a bunch, and as you can see, many of them have not been released. However, of my picks, Toy Story 3, Inception, The King’s Speech and possibly True Grit will win a position, and that is the most I’ve gotten correct than ever before so at least I’m getting better. To view the original article wih my predictions, click on the Nether Regions column here and scroll to the bottom. Hereafter semed like a solid bet, but it was mixed with critics, as was The American, The Next Three Days, and even Never Let Me Go. The rest have not been released yet. But anyway, here are my picks:
1. The Way Back
4. The Tree of Life
5. The Beaver
6. The Conspirator
7. The Debt
8. True Grit
9. The American
10. Toy Story 3
Other Possibilities –The Next Three Days –Never Let Me Go –The King’s Speech
I will make my 2012 predictions in a future Nether Regions column. Stay tuned…
LOOKING BACK AT MY MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS FOR 2010
Another segment I like to write about every year are my most anticipated films of the upcoming year. Below are my thoughts from my Nether Regions article from last year. To view the original article, click here and scroll to the bottom. Of this list, only Paul and Hesher has not been released, but many of the ones below were fulfilling. Red and Jack Goes Boating were average, but still enjoyable. Love Ranch was super close to making my worst list. It is basically Joe Pesci doing his characters from Goodfellas and Casino, only here he is the co-owner of a legal brothel. After seeing his bald head in The Good Shepherd, why would he embarrass himself with that wig? Oh and Helen Mirren falls in love with a Hispanic boxer. Yeah, who cares.
–Red: This film is directed by Robert Schwentke and stars Bruce Willis as a a former black-ops agent whose life is threatened, so he reassembles his old team. The cast in this is outstanding, and it sounds like a lot of fun.
–Buitiful: The new film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu stars Javier Bardem follows a man involved in illegal dealings that is confronted by his childhood friend, a policeman. He hasn’t done anything since Babel, and I have always been a huge fan of this guy.
–Paul: Superbad helmer Greg Mottola takes just about every comedy star you can think of in his new film about comic book geeks who encounter an alien outside of Area 51. This has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which is intriguing, but it also has a bunch of other notable faces.
–Black Swan: This thriller from Darren Aronofsky stars Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, and Vincent Cassel. The premise deals with a ballet dancer and a rival, but it’s Aronofsky, so I’m in no matter what.
–The Social Network: I must admit, I am curious about this bizarre project, mainly because David Fincher is directing it. The story about the founders of Facebook stars Jesse Eisenberg, Rashida Jones, Justin Timberlake, and more.
–Mother and Child: The new film from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia, who made the wonderful hyperlink drama Nine Lives. This focuses on three different women, and the cast includes Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson just to name a few. I admire Garcia’s abilities, and hope he scores more fans.
–The Fighter: David O. Russell stands at the helmed for this boxing film centering on the early years of Mickey Ward. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams. The cast is terrific, but with Russell’s antics on set, one never knows what to expect.
–Love Ranch: This is about a married couple who opens the first legal brothel in Nevada. The couple is portrayed by Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci. It’s Pesci’s first notable role since 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4. I like Pesci and hope this return is a success. It’s directed by Taylor Hackford (Ray).
–Hesher: This is about a loner who hates life. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman, but this sort of role seems right up Gordon-Levitt’s alley. The director, Spencer Susser, is a newbie.
–Jack Goes Boating: The directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman is one I will not miss. He was a theater director, so he is not completely new to the position. He stars in this with Amy Ryan, and the plot focuses on a limo driver’s blind date.
Make sure to keep an eye out in future Nether Regions article for my most anticipated films of 2011.
Another year is gone, and a new one is ahead. I always have fun compiling lists. I hope 2011 brings plenty more efforts in movies and music for me to write about. I love providing my opinion. You’ll notice I left off my top 10 albums of the year and my annual song compilation. I will leave that for a future Editor’s Note, or possibly as an addition to my Nether Regions column. I wanted this to be all movies so it flows better.
I welcome all feedback as usual. Don’t forget to check out “Nether Regions”, which is a regular weekly column from yours truly. New issues will be posted every Tuesday. Check out my latest edition by clicking here.
Check out my Top 10 Pet Peeves articles as well:
“The plural of Chad is Chad?”
–From the movie Recount