I’m sure most critics will agree that writing an end of year list is a frustrating and unnecessarily difficult process. You’d think the 5-star grading system this site employs would make the task easy, but it doesn’t; an action blockbuster I gave four stars doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than that gritty urban drama I gave three-and-a-half. And then comes the issue of ordering; what makes film B not quite as good as film A, but slightly better than that C? The truth is nothing, really. Beyond my picks for the three best films of the year, numbers 4-10 are mostly interchangeable.
Ok, enough semantics. Let’s talk about the year that was. At its worst, 2010 will be remembered for two things: failed action-comedies (Knight and Day, The A-Team, The Losers, Cop Out, Killers) and the backlash of 3D (Clash of the Titans, Alice in Wonderland, The Last Airbender). At its best, however, it will be remembered for its strong array of animated features (Toy Story 3, Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind, Legend of the Guardians, The Illusionist) and fascinating documentaries that blur the line between fact and fiction (Exit Through The Gift Shop, Catfish, I’m Still Here). With a slew of disappointing blockbusters (Iron Man 2, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Robin Hood, Harry Potter 7, Tron: Legacy), 2010 was far from being a grand year for commercial cinema, but there were some notable exceptions (Toy Story 3, Shutter Island, Inception, Salt).
So without further ado, here are the ten best and worst films of 2010 according to yours truly.
Note: Due to belated release dates here in Australia, there are a number of 2010 films that I haven’t had the opportunity to see (i.e. True Grit, The Fighter) and films I have seen but are scheduled for local release in 2011 (i.e. 127 hours, Black Swan, Catfish). Rather than restrict myself to the films released last year in Australia, I’ve decided to abide by US release dates.
I left the cinema physically shaking after seeing Buried, the exceptional minimalist thriller from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés. Certainly not for the faint of heart, Buried takes a simple premise – a truck driver, Ryan Reynolds, is buried alive in a box – and milks it of all the intrigue, suspense and emotion fathomable. The intensity of it leaves you utterly drained, but also completely in awe of the talent involved. Among others, Reynolds has been criminally overlooked this awards season.
2. Toy Story 3
Easily one of the best threequels ever made, Toy Story 3 proves once again that Pixar are the kings of animation. There’s more heart and soul in this film than any other this year, which is quite a feat considering it’s merely a bunch of 0s and 1s.
Sure, it’s an Oscar-bated regal drama plotted like your typical sports movie, but it’s superbly told, deftly acted and monumentally uplifting. And best of all, there’s no sports to speak of!
It’s by no means flawless, but this reality-bending thriller from Christopher Nolan deserves points for making intelligent cinema accessible to the masses. It’s both visually breathtaking and cerebrally stimulating, a combination that Hollywood appeared to have given up on long ago.
Utterly charming from first frame to last, this indie New Zealand drama from writer/director Taika Waititi disarms you with its wit before earnestly exploring the delicate relationship between a boy and his rogue father.
A funny, exciting and captivating documentary about an eccentric French-American tracking down notorious British street artist Banksy. It explores the question of “what is art?” without stencilling its agenda to the back of your eyelids.
Terrifically scripted, directed and performed, The Last Exorcism is essentially two films in one: a fascinating faux-documentary about debunking exorcisms and a terrifying exploration of the paranormal. It’s entirely plausible right up until the last five minutes where it derails spectacularly. Still, what comes before is A-grade horror.
So earnest is Blue Valentine, the raw relationship drama staring the impeccable Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, you’d be forgiven for confusing it for a documentary. Without ever giving way to melodrama, it balances love and loss with hard-hitting resonance.
A low-budget documentary with such an exceptional narrative structure, complete with compelling twists and turns you’ll never see coming, Catfish almost seems too good to be true. And it might very well be, many dismissing it as being a fabrication. Regardless, it’s top-shelf entertainment that speaks many truths about today’s digital environment.
It will probably be remembered for featuring an 11-year-old girl saying the C-word, but Kick-Ass should better be remembered as a constantly thrilling and often hilarious superhero movie that felt as if it belonged to a genre of its own. It’s also one of few 21st century films that hasn’t exacerbated my disdain for Nicholas Cage, so it must be good.
Potential “Top 10” contenders I haven’t seen:
Never Let Me Go
Direct from the torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay comes the most repulsive cinematic experience of the year.
A shameless franchise cash-in that forgets to be funny.
If there is one good thing to come out of this boring, baffling and brain-dead excuse for a movie, it’s Liam Neeson saying “RELEASE THE KRAKEN”.
Thanks to the pointless 3D, the sheer ineptitude of The Last Airbender flies off the screen in multiple dimensions.
An ugly and deeply unfunny film that functions as a “what not to do” when combining action and comedy. Katherine Heigl needs either a new agent or a new career.
More irritating than funny, Dinner for Schmucks is a perfect example of why absurdist humour should be left to the Brits.
A cheap Sci-fi invasion B-movie that somehow made its way into cinemas. Would benefit from TV ad intermissions to help dilute the stupid.
8. Tron: Legacy
An utterly lifeless and monotonous money shredder. Without any sense of immersion, the visuals have no value.
More predictable than a famine in Africa. A tacky excuse for Christina Aguilera to warble like a drunk walrus on the big screen.
A plodding, pretentious and pointless piece of arthouse nonsense.
Potential “Bottom 10” Contenders I haven’t seen:
The Bounty Hunter
Sex and the City 2
(AKA films I gave a positive or negative review they didn’t deserve.)
A second viewing of Alice in Wonderland confirms that Tim Burton’s remake is not nearly as good as I first purported in my four star review. This is what happens when hype, wishful thinking, and Gold Class cinema treatment combines to alter a critic’s initial reaction. I wish I brewed on the film review for longer.
(AKA films I enjoyed that few others seemed to.)
It’s incredibly formulaic, but I still stand by Prince of Persia being an exciting, entertaining and relatively faithful game-to-movie adaptation.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen too many dreadful live-action kids movies this year, but Gulliver’s Travels wasn’t nearly as awful as it appeared to be. It’s a cheery, cheesy and amusing take on Jonathan Swift’s 18th century original.
I am somewhat ashamed to say I laughed – a lot – during this filthy adult comedy about nonsensical time travel.
So there you have it! Agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments below!