By David Ferguson
Greetings again from the darkness. Well my first official year of movie blogging opened the door for some very interesting discussions, as well as an opportunity for exposure to many more movie lovers. My next adventure will be transitioning to a full website in order to properly categorize the “old” reviews (1200+). More to come on that later in the year.
2010 was, to put it bluntly, a very weird year in movies. Overall, the box office was down slightly from the record set in 2009 ($10.5 billion from $10.6 billion), but still the second best ever. However, that’s quite misleading due to the bonus (price-gouging) revenue from 3D films. The number of actual tickets sold was down approximately 5% due to many of the “blockbuster” films falling short of expectations, or translated … they just weren’t very good.
Underachieving tentpole films are really not all that rare. What does make the year unusual is the high number of very good movies that were released. If you don’t get to the theatre as often as I do, there is a good chance that this list of 2010 recommendations will keep your NetFlix account very busy!
This year I will spare you my list of movie watching quirks, and instead remind you that these are not my Oscar predictions. Rather, these are the movies I believe were the best this year. The NetFlix list is designed to help you pick something for a rainy day. Maybe you will even step out of your movie comfort zone and try an indie, a documentary or something from world cinema … you may not like them all, but you can be assured that the filmmakers were working with passion, and not just collecting a paycheck.
It’s only fitting in this unusual year, that my “BEST OF” list contains only 8 films, half of which were released in December. In my opinion, these 8 stood out from the many other very good films, which are listed in alphabetical order by genre, after the “Great Eight”. Numbers 1 through 8 also have a link to my full review. The others can be found with a quick search on the blog.
Here are my TOP 2010 FILMS, listed in order:
1. TOY STORY 3
Go ahead … poke fun at me for being a grown man whose favorite film of the year is animated. I can’t help it. Pixar eclipsed my expectations in a story that resonates with all ages. After 10 years and 3 movies, the key characters have become like friends – we know and understand their quirks and personalities. This time we are also given a story with depth, humor, emotion and meaning. Those Pixar folks got it going on!
2. BLACK SWAN
So, it’s official … there is definitely something wrong with me. After selecting an animated film as my top pick, a BALLET movie comes in second place! In my defense, this is every bit as much psychological thriller as it is a dance movie. No, really! Director Darren Aronofsky offers up a mind-bender with some of the year’s best creep-out moments, and a bizzaro score to match.
This movie demands full concentration from the viewer. It’s not one to have playing as you paint your model airplane or down a third glass of Cabernet. You need to pay attention, rewind, and pay attention again. People either LOVE it or HATE it. I’m all about the love for Christopher Nolan’s latest masterpiece – especially the final 45 minutes, the brain-thumping score and the gravity-defying fight scene in the hallway.
4. WINTER’S BONE
Here is proof that a film doesn’t need explosions and car chases to be thrilling. In fact, this film moves excruciatingly slowly, and I was a nervous wreck the whole time. Jennifer Lawrence gave my favorite performance of the year by a lead actress. Oh, and the bad guys and gals in this one are all related to her character. Even the “good” uncle will make you a bit queasy. This won’t be the official Visitor’s Guide to the Ozarks anytime soon. It almost makes “Deliverance” look like a dreamy vacation
5. TRUE GRIT (2010)
The Coen Brothers dive into the Charles Portis novel and the result is not just a terrific western, but more so, a stunning film. The concerted effort to stay true to the prose, and thrusting young Hailee Steinfeld squarely into the lead role, makes this one a much different film than John Wayne’s classic from 41 years ago. Clearly there is room for both Roosters in Hollywood lore.
6. THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
This was the Academy Award winner for best foreign language film of 2009. So, why is it on my list for 2010? Well, because I don’t live in New York or Los Angeles and it wasn’t released in Dallas until May 2010. It is such a wonderful and captivating film that I just couldn’t let it fall through the cracks. Yes, it has subtitles, but all I can tell you is that the story and performances grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
7. THE FIGHTER
Based on the real life story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, my first word of caution is not to dismiss this as just another “boxing” movie. While the boxing portion is compelling, it’s the family dynamics that make this one a winner. Not sure if Ward’s biggest challenge came from his opponents, his mother/manager, his wild-haired sisters or his crackhead brother/trainer. You have to keep reminding yourself that these people actually exist as they prove that truth can be much stranger than fiction.
8. THE KING’S SPEECH
If you have seen the actual video footage of King George VI stammering through a speech, then you will immediately recognize how brilliantly the film captures his true-to-life struggles to be the war-time King so desperately needed in Great Britain. But there is a whole other story that is equally fascinating: that of the speech therapist and his pupil (The King) as they develop a lifelong friendship and bond that may very well have changed the course of history.
2010: BEST OF THE REST – movies for your NetFlix list:
CITY ISLAND – frantic family stuff from the Bronx
DESPICABLE ME – terrific animated film for all ages
EASY A – updated Hawthorne with breakout star Emma Stone
ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll. ‘nuff said
GET LOW – Duvall, Spacek, Bill Murray in the backwoods
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY – overlooked. Zack G’s best yet.
KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, The – overhyped, but interesting alt-family
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Sally Hawkins makes women equal at Ford
PLEASE GIVE – dark, offbeat film
ELVIS ON TOUR – updated, The King in strong form from 1972
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – Bansky or not?
INSIDE JOB – How to blame the establishment
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – education needs help. Now!
127 HOURS – true story, you know the rest
CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTNATION, The – odd one with Anthony Hopkins
CONCERT, The – beautiful music around messy family issues
GREENBERG – Ben Stiller as LA misfit
LAST STATION, The – Tolstoy’s final stand
SECRETARIAT – the Big Red story
SOCIAL NETWORK, The – The birth of Facebook
TOWN, The – effective beantown crime drama
BURIED – not where you want to wake up
GHOST WRITER, The – thriller from Polanski
SALT – wild action from Angelina
SHUTTER ISLAND – Scorcese homage to Hitchcock
UNSTOPPABLE – crowd pleasing runaway train
A PROPHET (Un Prophete) – prison crime drama
ANIMAL KINGDOM – scariest cinema mother EVER
I AM LOVE – beautifully sad film
MESRINE (pt 1 and 2) – explosive Vincent Cassel in true story
OLDIE BUT GOODIE
Thanks to inspiration from my friend Rick Tapp, this category includes two films (rather than the usual one) … and you have probably seen both. My suggestion is to re-visit these two classics and enjoy the strength of personal character displayed by both Will Kane and Atticus Finch. Each film (both quite thrilling) is a reminder that doing the right thing may be difficult, but the effects are long-lasting.
HIGH NOON (1952)
Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges
The film was written as an allegory to Hollywood blacklisting brought on by Sen. McCarthy’s red-baiting crusade. The cowardly townspeople represent those who wouldn’t stand up against the false accusations. Gary Cooper’s constant look of pain during the film might not have been excellent acting after all. He reportedly was suffering from a bleeding ulcer at the time. Originally filmed in “real” time with the numerous clock shots to prove it, the film was re-edited prior to release, nullifying the effect. Tex Ritter (John’s father) version of “Do Not Forsake Me” is heard throughout. This was the first major motion picture for both Grace Kelly and Lee Van Cleef.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Written by Harper Lee (novel), Horton Foote (screenplay)
Starring Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall, Mary Badham, Brock Peters
Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her first and only published novel. She has since lived a very private life, making only a few public appearances. The character of young “Dill” was based on Ms. Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote. Mary Badham (sister of director John Badham) was at the time the youngest ever Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee at age 10. Yes, that’s Robert Duvall hiding behind the door as the mysterious “Boo” Radley. Best Scene: “Stand up. Your Daddy’s passing”.
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