2010 dwindles down to its final hour with the passing of each day. It’s been a pretty mixed year, filled with movies worth watching but not necessarily worth getting excited about; only a handful here and there, for my taste, have really been exceptional and stood out amongst the crowd of good-but-unmemorable releases. But what the other 75% of the year has lacked, the final quarter seems potentially poised to make up for in spades between entries by Fincher, the Coen brothers, and Aronofsky, and some lower profile genre flicks (plus Jim Carrey romancing Ewan McGregor). If 2010 has stumbled over itself to reach this point, it seems like the year should at least finish strong.
Maybe. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Social Network: It’s impossible not to be excited about the latest David Fincher movie no matter who else is involved, but when Aaron Sorkin is involved and the topic happens to be the most revolutionary and explosive social networking program in the world, the stakes get raised in a big way. How could the Facebook movie be anything other than one of the most relevant and important films of the year? Facebook, and programs like it, are changing the way that people communicate with one another, for better or for worse. The Social Network could be much more than a typical rise-and-fall story about one random everyman hitting it big and finding out what the high life is really like; it could be a time stamp that records an essential fixture of our times.
Let Me In: I rarely let myself get jazzed about remakes of great foreign films, but Let Me In actually seems like it might be worth seeing on its own merits. Remaking 2008’s Let the Right One In, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) could be biting off more than he can chew given the amount of subtlety and nuance that went into the original picture and aided in making it such a genre masterpiece– the aforementioned giant monster movie shows no trace of either element– but early trailers suggested a lighter hand being brought to the material. The involvement of two great, bona-fide child actors (Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee) goes a long way toward assuaging potential negative feelings towards the film, depicting the relationship that blossoms between Owen, a lonely young kid, and Abby, a young-on-the-outside girl who happens to be a vampire. Remember, it doesn’t need to beat the original, just honor it and set itself apart.
Inside Job: I know I have a tendency to hone in on socially relevant movies, and I do not apologize for it. While The Social Network is only based on real life, Inside Job is a documentary focusing on the economic crash of 2007-2010. If you’re sick of hearing about the financial crisis, this isn’t the movie for you, and if it sounds manipulative, it may be because films are by default manipulative in some form or another. Charles Ferguson seems to have built himself a base steeped in credibility in his interview subjects, and if the Cannes reviews are any indication there’s a righteous anger at the core of the film that drives its calculated and highly-researched thesis.
Monsters: Six years after an extraterrestrial invasion has riddle the southern region of the US/Mexico border with alien life forms, and rendered half of Mexico into a quarantined zone, the US and Mexican militaries battle to keep the massive alien beasts contained within the “infected” area. In the midst of all of this, an American photojournalist is tasked with leading his employer’s daughter through a dangerous world populated by towering, Lovecraftian creatures in order to get her home. Should I write any more than that? I should? Monsters is being described by some as 2010’s version of District 9, a film quite well-liked in these parts, and the favorable comparison rolled together with the preceding synopsis should be enough to strike the interest of even the most casual genre fans.
127 Hours: James Franco takes the lead in this biopic covering the amazing and cringe-inducing story of Aron Ralston, a man who found himself pinned under a boulder while hiking in Utah. Evaluating life, the universe, and everything, Ralston does what any run-of-the-mill person would do– he sawed off his own arm, climbed a 65 foot wall, and hiked for 8 miles to get home. No big deal. I could do that. Most of us could. Anyways, this squeamish tale is brought to the screen by Danny Boyle, who apparently has wanted to make a movie based on Ralston’s story for years. The director’s interest in Ralston’s story could inject a lot of life and energy into what will likely be a very intimately painful experience; with Franco, this could be a very, very interesting entry in 2010’s record book.
Skyline: I have a lot of personal hope that this movie turns out for the better; unlike Monsters, Skyline focuses on the actual alien invasion at the core of its plot, and the sweeping images of humans being zapped up into the sky by behemoth roving alien spaceships are impressive. Its everything else that sets off red flags in my head– the cast, which admittedly contains Donald Faison and therefore isn’t totally irredeemable, and the writing and directing staff, the former of which has next to zero experience with movies of this sort and the latter of which have experience but not from a directing standpoint. If nothing else it’s interesting to see two aliens-invade-Earth movies release almost concurrently, and of course there’s always the chance that the film succeeds beyond expectations despite the apparent limitations in its path.
Harry Potter Something Something Something: You know where you stand on the books and on the films at this point, so you already know if you’re seeing this or skipping it. That said, so far Deathly Hallows looks like it could easily take the crown as the best film of the franchise; while Rowling’s novel contains inordinate amounts of filler featuring our trio of heroes kicking their toes into the dirt and standing around the forest with their hands in their pockets, the film looks to trim the fat of the books in order to create a propulsive and gripping epic experience. And “epic” certainly comes to mind as the most appropriate term to describe this section of the story in terms of scope and action: Grand measures are taken, characters die, and stakes are raised, raised some more, and then raised again. I have never liked a Harry Potter film enough for it to find a slot on my top ten; my gut tells me that 2010 may change that.
Black Swan: Only Darren Aronofsky could make a movie about the cutthroat world of ballet sound engaging and dramatic. The film explores how a rivalry between two ballet dancers blossoms into a friendship, then something more– and then, perhaps, something dark– as their company attempts to put on a presentation of Swan Lake. Aronofsky’s smoldering cast– Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis– and the stunning costume work and make-up artistry should be eye-catching enough on their own, but coupling these attributes with his own incredible skill sets as a director make this an absolute must-see for the season.
Night Catches Us: The details on this one are vague but a film whose leads are named Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie is a film I want to see. I’m also none too familiar with Tanya Hamilton, the director, aside from the fact that she directed 1995’s The Killers, but Washington and Mackie are so compelling that they could star in anything and I’d be interested. But they’re starring in a movie about a young man’s return to the racially divided Philadelphia neighborhood he grew up in at the height of the Black Power movement; sounds like meaty enough material for the primaries– both of whom deserve to be in the spotlight more– to really flex their muscles.
I Love You, Phillip Morris: A successful police officer seemingly has the perfect life until a near death experience causes him to reevaluate his situation and begin a new life as a gay conman. His escapades lead him to prison, whereupon he falls in love with the titular Phillip; his feelings for the man are so strong that he perpetrates elaborate hoaxes to get into prison to see him again. The film, starring Jim Carrey as the cop-turned-conman and Ewan McGregor as the object of his desire, had difficulty obtaining distribution most likely thanks to homophobia and reservations about the film’s sexual content before being obtained by Consolidated Pictures group– who balked not once but twice at giving it a respectable release. Thankfully, they’ve come to their senses: This sounds like the sort of shelved film that’s well worth seeking out after being wrongfully held back.
The Fighter: Did I see Christian Bale smile and act…well, less dour? Perhaps even warm and human? That’s enough on its own to get me out to see a biopic on “Irish” Mickey Ward. Forget the fact that the legendarily abusive David O. Russell is directing. Forget the fact that Mark Wahlberg stars as the titular boxer. The trailers mostly sell this as being a generic Rocky-styled sports/underdog film (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but Bale being so unlike his recent self absolutely is the greatest reason to see this movie. Even as a supporting actor, The Fighter could do great things for his image and by default, his career.
Tron Legacy: I am on near-total lockdown on this film aside from the odd image or banner here and there, plus the initial teaser trailer. Short version: It’s the sequel to Tron, for God’s sake, one of the genuine treasures of the 80s, and it looks beautiful. Being vague on details, I think, is a gift for this film; I don’t want to know why we’re revisiting the world of Tron, I’m just thrilled that we are.
True Grit: The Coens try their hand at adapting the novel upon which the beloved 1969 Western is based. Arguably this is kind of deceptive– would they ever have thought to make this movie if not for the original film?– but lately the pair have been on such a roll that it’s hard to begrudge them their wish to take on this story of a young girl avenging the death of her father at the hands of a drifter. The role of Rooster Cogburn this time around will be filled by Jeff Bridges, perhaps one of the most inspired casting choices of the year; the rest of the cast is rounded out by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. It’s hard to ignore that sort of talent, and the story is so iconic and ageless that it’s impossible to think of missing out on this one.
What about you? What films do you want to check out before the year ends? What films aren’t you looking forward to? Has this year been more fulfilling to you than to me? Let’s hear it!