It’s that time of year (hey, at least it’s closer to that time of year than I was last January)– time for me to pontificate about which films released in 2010 tickled my fancy enough to be worthy of placement on my top ten list. I had a rough time with this year, personally; I’m not about to go on about the cinematic sky falling and predict the end of all extant artistic achievement just because 2010 featured no There Will Be Bloods or District 9s or Children of Mens or Pan’s Labyrinths, but 2010 fell short for me in that a lot of the movies I did get around to seeing were decent to great, with the “great” movies often lacking the capital “G”. But the movies that hit the mark were quite excellent, so in the end there’s little point in complaining.
One caveat: note the “pt. 1” in the title. Yep, I’m breaking this out into two parts. I’m a tease that way.
10.) How to Train Your Dragon— A great movie for Dreamworks, and a great movie for us. And also the best animated movie of 2010. There’s an argument for Toy Story 3 but I’m not going to lie: I expect excellence from Pixar and mediocrity (mostly) from Dreamworks. How to Train Your Dragon soars about the former film effortlessly and proves that the studio behind such delights as the Shrek franchise, Madagascar, and Megamind isn’t utterly bereft of creative talent and drive. It’s hard to decide which to be more excited about; the self-contained story, which totally lacks pop culture references made with a wink and a nudge to the audience (save for, arguably, one D&D reference that just works regardless), or the animation, which is breath-taking from start to finish. In the end it’s the total experience that makes the movie such a treat, and I can only hope for more such movies in Dreamworks’ future.
9.) Kick-Ass— Don’t say I didn’t give anyone fair warning. I raved about this one on release (even after purposefully and overly hyping myself up for it), and still consider it the best action movie I saw all year long. Kick-Ass wastes little and never reuses concepts or choreography in each of its action sequences, keeping everything feeling fresh and inventive as it ramps up the ridiculousness scene after scene. From the parking lot of a 7-11 to the high-rise of Mark Strong’s father-of-the-year mob boss, Kick-Ass goes the distance as far as violent entertainment is concerned for 2010. But of course there’s more to this story of a teenager’s quest to become a real-life superhero; Kick-Ass is the kind of superhero movie that sheds light on the inherent ridiculousness of the genre while embracing it, and seems to argue that Aaron Johnson’s well-meaning but foolish protagonist is fighting a losing battle. If nothing else the movie provides a lot for superhero fans to mull over, but for everyone else it’s a deliciously madcap couple of hours spent with some wonderfully drawn characters, including Chloe Moretz and Nicholas Cage as a daddy-daughter crimefighting duo.
8.) Monsters— For many, I think Gareth Edwards’ debut picture will be worthy of a raised eyebrow due to the rumors circulating about its alleged budget (which as far as I can tell aren’t rumors but rather truths). I can’t say I blame anyone, even the movie’s supporters, for reacting this way; accomplishing what Edwards was able to using just fifteen thousand clams is impressive no matter how much the film works for you. And frankly, Monsters— a quiet movie that’s more about simmering tension and chemistry between its leads than it is about mayhem wrought by the titular extraterrestrial behemoths– will either work for people, or it won’t and they won’t get it. Not that there’s much to “get” about the movie, mind, but it’s an intimate and unassuming movie when many will expect something huge and explosive out of it. It’s not a spectacle, though, and it never tries to be, though the brief footage shown of the creatures is nothing short of spectacular.
7.) Scott Pilgrim vs the World— I’m not about to back out on my Kick-Ass statement, but really when it comes to the action scenes of said film and Scott Pilgrim‘s, it’s six of one, half dozen the other. A matter of preference, perhaps– I definitely liked the action of Kick-Ass more but you can’t really go wrong with either of them, and what Scott Pilgrim might lack in raw butt-kicking compared to Matthew Vaughn’s picture, it makes up for in sheer heart and editing wizardry. Scott Pilgrim dazzles, pure and simple, and it is honestly at its best when it focuses on Michael Cera’s titular embattled hero’s emotional journey from slacker loser to bona fide boyfriend material, rather than the physical exertions he undergoes in order to literally fight for the love of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s “girl of your (literal) dreams” Ramona Flowers. Maybe the most amazing thing about this movie is that amidst the spectacle of video-game violence, in which everyone has a special power and a hidden weakness, the story about youth growing up and rejecting “cool” for substance and meaning hits with the greatest impact.
6.) The King’s Speech— Recent view for me, and not a moment too soon. The King’s Speech is probably the best crowd-pleaser of 2010, a truly endearing piece of feel-good cinema without any schmaltz or disingenuous sentiment in the way of a moving, energetic, and impeccably told story. The King’s Speech succeeds despite sporting such an unassuming, low-drama plot; in a movie littered with plot points arguably better positioned to be dissected for conflict, Tom Hooper’s story about King George VI’s stutter and his friendship with an Australian speech therapist maintains our interest throughout and proves a completely rewarding experience. The best the film has to offer: Colin Firth’s and Geoffrey Rush’s respective performances as the future king and the man who helped him overcome his stammer.
Entries 5-1 coming…soon!