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!
I have yet to watch The Kings Speech but I’m hoping to change that tonight. I’ve heard plenty of good things about it but I’m wondering how it will hold up to my taste as it doesn’t seem to fall into any category I usually watch.
I didn’t really enjoy Monsters that much and found it to be a rather boring journey through the jungle. I didn’t connect with the leads and didn’t buy that they were falling for each other or whatever the hell they were supposed to be doing. Seems the movie has gathered a head of steam by being created for so little which is about the best thing I could say for the movie.
Nice list so far. I didn’t rate Kick Ass as much as most but the other inclusions are all excellent, especially the ballsy inclusion of Monsters.
I’m really hoping to see “Monsters” as soon as possible. Every reaction I’ve read about it — even the negative ones — have me intrigued.
Will– hope you enjoy The King’s Speech as much as I did. Maybe it had an impact on me because of the surprise factor; it could have been, like I mention in my review, just a piece of fluffy, crowd-pleasing cinema, or it could have taken itself too seriously, but it strikes a balance between high drama and entertainment. It’s a lot of fun. As to Monsters, I think it either works for people or it doesn’t, as I said. It had me hooked from the start, which I think makes the quiet and low-conflict nature of their journey easier to sustain.
Andrew– thanks! Kick-Ass really won me over and even managed to catch me off guard in one or two places, no small feat considering how much I overloaded myself on preview footage for it before catching it in theaters (twice!). As for Monsters, I think I saw more polished and refined movies this year but I can’t really help myself. I really, really dug it, and I really think it’s gotten a lot less love than it deserves, even if only because it’s such a technical achievement.
Danny– you’ll have to let me know what you think of Monsters when you get around to seeing it!
Not seen 2/5 (King’s, Monsters) but no qualms thus far.
I tend to agree with your overall assessment of the year. I don’t think it was any better or worse than last year, really, but outside of maybe Inception, I can’t think of too many movies that I just went gaga over and thought “I must own that now!” Certainly, the top animated fare, along with Kick-Ass and Pilgrim will probably retain the highest rewatchability, but I wasn’t quuuuiite as psyched about either of them as some others. They made or came close to making my top 10, but I don’t know how much that’s really saying. We’ll see…ask me in five years.
I hate, hate, hate ,hated Kick-Ass. Nothing redeemable about that one whatsoever. If you take away the fact of the immoral violence you’re left with a stupid, under-written, half-assed super hero jumble that is impossible to care about. This movie is just flat out lazy on all levels. It will certainly be making my worst of list.
I have to assume Inception is coming up in part 2, but will it take the top spot. I’ll be around to disagree regardless 😉
Not gonna lie, I found Scott Pilgrim quite boring. I haven’t seen The King’s Speech or Monsters yet but glad to see Kick Ass in the top 10. Very divisive movie when it came out.
Fletch– nothing further to add there, but yeah, we’ll see in five years or so. I’m kind of looking forward to my next decade list, though I’m in no hurry to get there, just because I’m kind of curious to see how our perspective on 2010 changes with the passage of time. I’m pretty confident that Scott Pilgrim and Inception will still be considered among the top movies of the year and probably some of the best movies to be released in the decade, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Mike– there’s plenty redeemable about Kick-Ass, from Nicholas Cage’s excellent performance to the fantastic and invigorating action sequences. Maybe I care about it more as someone who’s invested in comic book culture (if only just), but this to me felt like a great comment on superheroes and comic book violence as well as the culpability of the public as it concerns the proliferation of violence in our media. And it’s incredibly fun and pretty well-crafted and written. Curious to know what exactly makes it lazy– lazy, to me, would be recycling elements from preceding fight scenes ad nauseam, but Vaughn never does that. In that respect the film’s demonstrably not lazy.
And yes, Inception will be present in the top 5. I almost want to put it at #1 just to drive you nuts, but…well, you’ll just have to see.
Castor– I can see not being in love with Scott Pilgrim but “boring” isn’t a word I ever thought I’d see someone use to describe it. Crazy! I knew there was a distinct lack of love for the movie on AM…can’t say that the movie is everybody’s cup of tea, but I figured the Internet set was kind of universally in love with it.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Kick-Ass but Moretz and Cage more than make up for Johnson’s plodding.
I’ve yet to see Monsters (but I do know it’s not really about them) so I can only agree with 80% of this list…on to 5-1:P
BTW Glad to see so much love across the blogs for Scott Pilgrim despite it not finding huge commercial success. This has gotten huge home sales though and will continue to find audiences for sure.
Fitz– hey, I liked Johnson! Hell of a transformation for a British kid– he apparently fooled Vaughn into thinking he was actually American, and totally surprised him upon speaking in his native British accent. But Moretz and Cage are the real stars of the show.
Marc– check out Monsters when you get the chance. I really am a bit surprised, pleasantly so, to find that so few people have actually seen it, and I’m hoping that its presence on this list gets some of you to watch it when able. As to 5-1….well, it’s coming! I promise!
And yeah, sad that Scott Pilgrim somehow did little business in theaters but it was kind of destined to be a success on home video anyways.
Your list is off the beaten path, which I love, but still includes “The King’s Speech.” I haven’t seen “Monsters” but heard great things about it. “Kick Ass” didn’t make my list, but I enjoyed it quite a bit — especially for the unflinching violence and Chloe Moretz’s performance. I’d watch that girl read the phone book for two hours.
The King’s Speech flirted with top 5 for me but I liked a couple other movies just a liiiittle bit more. It’s a great movie, though, and well deserving of all of its accolades. That Hooper managed to extract so much conflict and drama from a story so unassuming as Albert’s journey toward overcoming his stammer. Really a special film.
As with others who haven’t seen it, I wish you well in your quest to see Monsters.
Moretz is wonderful. She’s a chameleon, and incredibly versatile; I’m not sure what the future looks like for a 12-year-old girl who has already played a foul-mouthed assassin and a bloodthirsty vampire, but I think she’s going to have a great career ahead of her.
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