2010 has been a really bizarre year for film. During these past twelve months I have seen some of the best movies of my life and some of the worst. Everything has been a little topsy-turvy in terms of my tastes as well. I'm really not a big action movie guy, but I found myself really wrapped up in 2010's more fact-paced showings.
The year also did little to nurture my guilty pleasure of horror movies with Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" offering one of the most deflating and disappointing closing scenarios in the genre. Saw 3D, the conclusion to my ultimate guilty pleasure, was a colossal disappointment with lines of dialogue worthy of latenight Lifetime programs.
There are a lot of honorable mentions here, too. "Kick-Ass," the film adaptation of the graphic novel by the same name was a hell of a movie. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the man behind "Stardust" and "Snatch," offered a brutal yet fun movie with a lot of nice technical touches with its editing and Chloe Moretz had a memorable role. Adding to the off-kilter nature of this years films was a successful remake of "Let the Right One In," and hell, even the most recent Harry Potter movie was tolerable. Overall, this year has been great. Here are my choices for the best of the best starting with number five:
#5 WINTER'S BONE | Directed by Debra Granik
"I'm Ree, my dad's Joseph Dolly... I got a real bad need to talk to him."
It drives me to great disappointment when I think about how little buzz the movie generated among thriller fans. Despite its resounding critical acclaim and impact at the Sundance Film Festival, I hear little conversing of this masterpiece. For that reason, I wish to not let slip even a plot synopsis.
All you should know is that there is a powerful feeling of danger and peril that haunt the later scenes of this film. Once the intensity starts rolling, the concept of a mere bathroom break becomes inconceivable. Don't be like the rest of nation and go see this movie!
#4 BLACK SWAN | Directed by Darren Aronofsky
"I just want to be perfect."
After the critical and financial crash that was Aronofsky's "The Fountain," it's wonderful to see his later efforts hit in such a big way. While keeping 2000's "Requiem for a Dream" in mind, I now consider "Black Swan" to be his most powerful and penetrating work to date. There are two primary reasons why this film is so effective. First off, Natalie Portman's depiction of distressed ballet dancer Nina is believable and what her break-out role. The strains she experiences, both mentally, physically and sexually are disturbing and frightful.
The second bullet point to note is the fantastic utilization of handheld camera work. As the dancers spin about the stage, the audience is treated to a whirlwind of twirling costumes, blinding stage lights, and the shrill cries of orchestral strings, all while the camera perambulates around them, as if joining in the dance. These moments, and more, offer some of the most visually arresting moments of 2010 cinema.
#3 THE SOCIAL NETWORK | Directed by David Fincher
"The internet's not written in pencil, Mark. It's written in ink."
I believe that it's easy to watch the trailer for "The Social Network" and think to yourself, "Okay, here's a movie that wants to rake a few dollars off of the eCulture phenomenon Facebook; it probably sucks." To make such an assumption is not only incorrect, but also a disservice to what is one of the best screenplays I've had the pleasure of witnessing. Everyone is blisteringly quick and witty, sarcastic and intellectually profound. It's like watching a grand showdown of cognitive masters as they verbally smash and grind against each other - fantastic stuff.
I was surprised to see "The Social Network" nominated for its soundtrack this year, but upon reflection it actually feels well deserved. The music doesn't immediately harness attention but the solemn, reserved piano strokes play well alongside the eventual heartbreak towards the closing scenes of the movie. The script, excellent delivery and captivating momentum are all fantastic reasons to see this one - even if you know nothing about Facebook. Ultimately, "The Social Network" is a movie about people - and there isn't a soul alive who doesn't know about them.
#2 TRUE GRIT | Directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
"There is nothing free but the grace of God."
I'll admit it, I have not loved the recent output of the brothers. While 2007's "No Country for Old Men" was well deserving of its best picture award, nothing since then has packed the same level of honest quality and regality. Although "Burn After Reading" was a successful black comedy romp, the characters and situations there expressed were so contrived and twisted that I had a great deal of difficulty getting immersed in the context.
I'm happy to admit that the drought is over, and "True Grit" is here. While a remake of a popular John Wayne ****c might not sound like the career stimulator that everyone expected, it absolutely is. "True Grit" tells the story of a young girl who hires a dangerous U.S. Marshall to hunt down the man who murdered her father. Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, who sports a quick brain and an even quicker tongue. The interplay between her and the gruff, hardened Marshall (played by none other then Jeff Bridges) is entertaining and a joy to watch. The movie so comfortably oscillates between its sharp humor and its dark, intense action-based scenes. These swings in emotion never feel abrupt and are always appropriate. Additionally, no matter how dark the film became, it never lost the feeling of wondrous, grand scale adventure - in many ways, the film felt magical. It's just a damn good movie. The humor hits just as fast as the bullets do and Steinfeld delivers the performance of a lifetime and she's only in her teenage years. Kick back, and just witness what a good movie looks like, all the components are here.
Alright, here it comes.
My personal best movie of the year.
I'm serious, this is it right here.
Best movie of the year.
#1 INCEPTION | Directed by Christopher Nolan
"If we are to perform Inception we will need imagination."
What is Inception? What genre does it fall into - what audience is this intended for? While ****fying it as an action movie is a quick summarization, it hardly acknowledges the sheer story juggernaut that this film is. All things considered, in the duration of the movie's almost three hour running time, one will witness a love story, a crime mystery, a drama, an intellectuals chew toy and yes, an action movie. The screenplay took Nolan roughly ten years to write, and it shows. The film is incredibly precise about where it chooses to place its focus and at what point. It even distributes its time in these genres so well that it all swells to one masterful, multi fascinated adventure that I won't soon forget.
Something so intriguing about "Inception" is its ability to bridge the gap in so many audiences. Yes, there are car chases. Yes, there are adrenaline rush, high-stakes moments and overall I would ****fy this as an "action" movie. However, these moments are running parallel to the films effectively powerful, sad, emotional core. This is one of the few instances a movie with the aforementioned car chases and high stake pinches has been able to incorporate honest emotion and relatable sentiment. The suffering of our main character, Dom Cobb, played by DiCaprio, is believable and real. The droning tension between himself and the memories of his deceased wife, Mal (played by Marion Cotillard) never hampers or holds back the momentous events that unfold; if anything it propels them forward.
"Inception" has everything I could ask for in a movie. Heart-pounding (both emotional and adrenaline induced), the cinematography is fantastic, the special effects are visually stunning, the score is appropriately powerful and strong, and the performances never waver. What I am left with is a film that I can only nit-pick at. This is result of years and years of work, needle-like precision and grand creativity. Nolan's ability to inspire some freshness into the most bloated genre in the industry is honorable.
Recently, Inception has become the movie has the "cool thing to hate." Despite some scattered negative feedback, the praise speaks for what the film truly is. Four golden globe nominations, a #3 spot on IMDb's Best-of list and millions of dollars later, one thing is clear: "Inception" is not just a flavor of the week hit. This is a movie that will live among the pantheon of all-time greats. It is what I consider to be not just the best movie of the year, or my favorite action movie, but a film that sits comfortably in my overall top 5. Hot damn.
All right, well, thanks for reading! Inception haters can line up. :]