Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best Movies I Saw in 2010

Here is my list of the best movies I saw in 2010. It isn't a Top 10 List because I quite honestly, I didn't see enough good movies in theatres in 2010 to get a Top 10 List. There are a couple of films (The Fighter and 127 Hours), that I believe I would have added to my list, but I haven't seen them, yet, so I just had to go based on the movies I actually saw in movie theatres in 2010. There's one exception to this and that's my only honorable mention. Unlike most critics, I've included movies I actually enjoyed and believe are worth watching, even if they are popular movies. Just because a movie is hugely popular doesn't mean it can't be one of the best movies of the year. So, without further ado, here are the Best Movies I Saw in 2010.

Honorable Mention:
The Silo Project
In full disclosure, the director of the documentary The Silo Project is a friend of mine. However, I think even if I wasn't friends and I had stumbled upon this short documentary, I would have been impressed. In the Fall of 2008 a young musician collaborated with several other musicians and recorded a folk album in the center of an abandoned grain silo. The director, Joel Hager, was there to record the process. I have the album that was recorded there and the music is fresh, vibrant, catchy, original, fun, and at times thought-provoking. However, I'm a film buff and I like the documentary even better. It's rather short (around 40-45 minutes), but Hager has talked about perhaps lengthening it in the future. Besides the stories and some of the interesting quotes by the people in the movie, what I find most fascinating are the visual images. This wasn't a staged mockumentary or a recreation and this stuff really happened. Kudos to Joel Hager for being there and capturing these images on film and sharing them with the rest of the world.

The story in Devil is from M. Night Shyamalan and he's also the producer of the film. The premise is that a group of people find themselves trapped in an elevator. Unnatural occurrences happen, people are killed, and it becomes clear that one of the people in the elevator is actually the Devil. Shyamalan has worked in a lot of drivel lately and taken a lot of crap. I know he didn't direct Devil, but his handprints are all over this movie. The film is a classic, nearly Hitchcockian thriller with a little bit of visual gore thrown in for good measure. It's also a Renaissance morality tale about the nature of good and evil, light and dark that explores if a person's soul can be redeemed.

The Other Guys
Comedies are rarely considered by critics on their "Best Of" lists. I guess it's because if something is funny it can't be taken seriously. However, I'm not like that. The funniest movie I saw in theatres this year was The Other Guys. It's a spoof of all the American buddy action films that have ever been done with a storyline focusing on white collar crime that's never been more relevant with just a little bit of Will Ferrell thrown in for good measure. Seeming to parody a version of himself that he played in Stranger Than Fiction, Ferrell is an accountant that also happens to be a cop. He's the exact opposite of what a cop is supposed to be. Surprisingly, Ferrell is the straight man in this movie and his partner, played by Mark Wahlberg, is the funny man. Wahlberg has had a mixed bag of roles, but he's a better actor than he's usually given credit. The Other Guys allows him to shine as well as displaying some comedic acting chops. There's not really much bad language in this movie, the violence is either realistic or cartoony, and the sexuality has really been toned down. It's one of both Ferrell and Wahlberg's best movies in years.

Despicable Me
2010 was a great year for animated movies. Three of my favorite films are animated ones. The first is Despicable Me with Steve Carell. With my father's sudden passing 15 months ago, I've become a real sucker for movies about Dad's, even funny animated movies about a man who's an evil genius and just wants to be the biggest villain in the world. The story is charming, but the added bonus are the Minions. You should watch this movie for these creatures alone.

Megamind is another quality animated movie about an evil supergenius is wants to rule, except Megamind isn't really interested in ruling the world, just the place he lives, Metro City. Except, Megamind was never supposed to be a villain. He was supposed to be a hero. The movie is full of vibrant colors and strong voice performances. It's a movie about redemption and fulfilling one's potential. Dreams delayed are not necessarily dreams denied.

Book of Eli
THE BOOK OF ELI probably isn't making a lot of "Best Of" lists. It came out in the dumping grounds of Hollywood (January/February). It wasn't received by critics very well, it didn't reach that magic threshold of a hundred-million dollars, and there were complaints about how violent the movie is. With that said, THE BOOK OF ELI is a good movie and one of the best movies I have ever seen about faith. The movie is filled with religious symbolism, some of it overt and much of it subtle. If you're a person of faith, it's a movie you should see.

The Social Network
The Social Network is a movie that's at the top of a many critic's lists, it's won all kinds of awards, and right now it's the odds-on-favorite of taking home the Best Picture Oscar. Some have even hailed it as being "the Citizen Kane for the Facebook Generation". I completely disagree. I grant that The Social Network is a good movie. It has a solid script with some great performances. However, Jesse Eisenberg, a talented actor, is basically playing the same character he played in The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland, etc. He's once again the geeky man with a childlike demeanor. The movie breaks no cinematic barriers and beyond a few incidents, the story is rather dry. After watching the movie and hearing the critics rave beforehand, my initial response was "That's it?". It's a good movie, with some wonderful direction, and solid acting but it's really not the grand masterpiece so many are claiming it to be.

True Grit
When rumors of the Coen brother's production of True Grit came out the word on the street was "Did you hear they're remaking a John Wayne movie?". That's not really true because the Coen's didn't remake a John Wayne movie; they made a movie based on a novel that had already been made into a movie that starred John Wayne. Wayne's starring turn in True Grit was a movie that was all about Rooster Cogburn. The Coen's True Grit is truer to the spirit of the novel and the story is one seen from the perspective of Mattie Ross. There are similarities between the two films and some of the dialogue is identical. Where those similarities exist it is because both films take them directly from the novel. True Grit has done rather well at the box office and has become the Coen's most profitable picture. Still, the movie hasn't garnered as much respect among critics. I think the reason for that is that most critics have a bias towards Westerns, just as they do towards sci-fi, fantasy, and animation.

No matter how you look at it, Inception is one of the best movies of 2010. The film has a great script (it's really not that difficult to understand), excellent acting, and ground-breaking cinematography. Decades from now people will look back on Inception as the movie that set a new standard. I liked everything in the movie but the ending. When a filmmaker leaves a movie that has only one of two outcomes and so much depends upon that outcome, but then it's never resolved, that is bad filmmaking; have the guts to finish the story that you told and don't give some bull crap answer "it's up to the audience". Give the audience their money's worth and finish the story. Still, even with the open ending, Inception is a ground-breaking movie and one of the best of 2010.

Toy Story 3
Pixar is the best filmmaking studio in the world. Their films might all be animated, but every single one of the Pixar movies is an achievement in storytelling, direction, character development, cinematic vistas, and ground-breaking cinematic techniques. Bring all that together as well as one of the few cartoons you'll ever watch that'll make most grown men cry and you have Toy Story 3. Sure, at face value it's the last part of a trilogy and is a movie about toys. But, it really isn't. The Toy Story movies were never intended as a trilogy. They just happened that way. That's why each movie stands on its own. Unlike most trilogies, it's not necessary to have seen the previous installments to understand the movie. Beyond that, Toy Story 3 is a movie about what it takes to be a hero. It's a movie about friends, family, growing up, growing old, and finding your place in a world that doesn't want you. The movie has villains and despite this being a cartoon about toys, one of the toys is a would-be murderer. The movie is about faith, joy, and love. It's a movie about all that is good in the world; it's a modern fairy tale. All of that in about ninety minutes in an animated movie featuring a bunch of toys. That is a fantastical feat of filmmaking that makes Toy Story 3 the best movie of 2010.

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