I have put together a list of my favourite movies of 2010. Keep in mind that these aren’t necessarily the ‘highest quality’ films of the year, but the ones I enjoyed the most and recommend. I did not manage to see every movie last year, but I got around to most of the ones I wanted to see. There are probably many more that I don’t even know about that could be awesome. The main films I haven’t seen yet that could possibly affect this list are: The Fighter, The King’s Speech, Hereafter and Buried.
Before I begin, I want to quickly point out in no order, all the great soundtracks I came across this year: The Social Network, Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter 7.a, Tangled, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, Scott Pilgrim, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Inception and The Good, the Bad and the Weird. Even bad movies like Ghost Writer, Tron and The Last Airbender had great scores (not that I saw the latter).
I was subjected to many bad movies this year, but the 10 that follow are those which earn the top spots.
10. Exit Through the Gift Shop
This is one of the few documentaries I saw, and it is certainly a clever one. The film follows a camera-man who decides to stop being a paparazzo, and starts filming the elusive underground graffiti artist known as Banksy. Once the camera-man starts following Banksy around to learn about his art, he decides to become a graffiti artist himself. Herein follows the second half of the film which now switches directions and documents the camera-man’s pursuit of a career as a contemporary artist. At face value, this movie can give you a lot to think about in terms of what it takes to be an artist. However once you discover that this film is actually made by Banksy himself, and that the camera-man ‘might be just an actor’, then the documentary becomes a mockumentary and turns into a satire of contemporary art.
When 2009’s Princess and the Frog came out, people were claiming it as the Disney Company’s return to their classic animations. Although it was better than their recent outings, it didn’t appeal to me. However, with their new film Tangled, this definitely is a return to form. The (computer) animation is gorgeous, there are great set-pieces, musical numbers that feel natural and it’s funny. It also gets my vote for the most beautiful scene of the year: the boat scene with lanterns in the air.
8. Valhalla Rising
Not a wide-release, this independent movie was only in smaller theaters for a week or two; but you can now find it to rent most anywhere. As much as I loved this film, it’s not one I will be re-watching any time soon. It is a very dark and brooding film with some surreal sequences. It follows a mute Viking renegade killer as he travels across the land until he meets a group of Vikings who then set sail for North America in search of new land and a religious haven. This movie is not for everyone. It is slow, thematically dark and has a few violent scenes. It is however very ambitious in terms of direction and style. If you know my brother Tim, I would describe it as a movie designed for his liking.
7. How to Train Your Dragon
When Dreamworks isn’t ripping off Pixar’s ideas for animated films, they are usually making lame ones of their own. With only a few good movies in their canon (Shrek 1 & 2, Antz, Kung Fu Panda), everyone was surprised when they released a movie that is almost as good as a Pixar movie this year. How to Train Your Dragon takes place in a world where Vikings are always fighting off dragons, until one boy decides not to fight, but make friends with the creatures. Directed by the same people who did Lilo & Stitch, there are many similarities in the quality of these movies, mainly in the simplicity of the story and the bond between the boy and his dragon. What kicked it up a notch for though, was the final act which is one the greatest action sequences of the year. Seeing the flying scenes in an empty theater in 3D was a joy I’ll never forget.
This movie seems to be the leader for most critics as we head towards award season. At it’s core, The Social Network is a courtroom drama chronicling the “actual” events of the lawsuit over the rights to the website Facebook.com. When I first heard about this movie, I rolled my eyes and dismissed it as some sort of cash-grabbing ‘Facebook Movie’. In actuality, it has little to do with advertising or promoting of the company. Rather, the story chooses to focus on the creator himself, and how ironic it is that he creates a ‘social networking system’ while he himself is unsociable. The directing is fine, but what I enjoy most is the acting from the principal cast (including Justin Timberlake and twins played by one person) and the sharp script.
5. Shutter Island
It is interesting to note that two of the biggest directors (Scorsese and Nolan) both released movies this year with Leonardo DiCaprio in films that question his reality and the loss of his wife. Shutter Island was a big departure from Scorsese’s usual gangster films. This was a straight up thriller detective story that took place in a mental asylum. People may criticize the film for having such an obvious twist at the end; granted any thriller movie that takes place in an asylum has only one of two possible endings. The great thing about this film is that it doesn’t matter if you know the ending, it’s all in the grandiose style that Scorsese directs. The movie is way better the second time when you can relish in all of the dread and bravura that is presented on screen.
4. The Good, the Bad and the Weird
Although technically released in 2008 in South Korea, this film finally made it to select theaters in Canada in 2010; that’s why I’m counting it! As can be pulled from the title, this is a remake of 1966’s fantastic western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This is what a good remake should be: fresh, purposeful and modernized for contemporary audiences, all while paying tribute to the original and not taking anything away from it. This Korean remake follows the same plot but as per the title, it’s a weird hybrid of genres - mixing together westerns, action, comedy and absurdity. This movie caught me off guard and it was so fresh and invigorating. Awesome directing, cool action sequences and it was funny. It also has the coolest soundtrack of the year, but as of yet, there is no such soundtrack to purchase. If you’re not convinced, just watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzNnCK5cd8Q&feature=related
3. Toy Story 3
Pixar can apparently do anything. With Toy Story 3, they capped off a story they started over a decade ago with the first two installments. I could argue with you if you wish, but I feel that this is the best trilogy ever (over Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones and Star Wars). I don’t think that this 3rd one is better than the first 2, perhaps only because I haven’t seen it as often as the others. While not as enjoyable as the first, or as funny as the 2nd, this one is definitely of the highest quality. There are so many great moments and new toys (my favourite being Chuckles the Clown), but the obvious greatness in this film is the dark climax followed by the bittersweet ending. They packed so much emotion into the final act. If you buy this movie, try to get the version with all the special features, it has some of the best extras I’ve come across in a long time.
What more can be said about Inception that hasn’t already been said? It’s a fantastic movie with an incredibly creative story. It does have some flaws, but it still rules. Just sit back and enjoy a truly original film.
1. Black Swan
As mentioned earlier, this list is not the best movies of the year, but rather my favourite ones. Knowing how much I love this movie, I also know that this is not for everyone. There are definitely some shocking scenes that may turn people off of this, but for me it’s all worth the ride. This is not a subtle film, the imagery and symbolism is blatant, the music is grand, the ‘shocks’ are sudden, the camera is invasive and how the movie ends is even described in full by one of the characters early in the movie. The director relishes in the story and presents it appropriately as a performance itself. He knows it is going to get absurd, so he tells us to just deal with it drags us down the rabbit hole. I’ve mentioned in a previous entry that the final part of this film, which is the actual performance of the ballet Swan Lake, is amazing. Black Swan deals with the struggles of being a passionate artist all while tossing you around, and I love that. Other than best actress, it probably won’t be winning many awards, but to me, this is what a movie should be.
Although they didn’t make my list, I also enjoyed parts or most of these movies:
127 Hours: Very good, but too intense at the end for me.
Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky: Solid drama with an awesome opening following the premier of the Rite of Spring, but was just a normal drama at the end of the day.
Harry Potter Part 1: Just lead up to the final chapter which I suspect will be on my top 10 next year. They just should have released a 4 hour movie.
Kick-Ass: Started great and Nicolas Cage was awesome, but it fell apart.
Lost Season 6: Obviously not a movie, but I wanted to honour the mostly great final season of what is essentially a 6-year-long movie.
Mr. Nobody: Weird and creative, but weird.
The Other Guys: Although it falls apart at the end, it’s the funniest comedy I saw.
Scott Pilgrim: Great visuals and good gags. Some parts I loved, some parts I Hated.
The Town: A really enjoyable Ben Affleck heist movie.
True Grit: Normal Coen Brothers western.
Waking Sleeping Beauty: Documentary about the Disney animation Renaissance in the early 90s.