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The Curmudgeon vs. The Multiplex: Movies of 2010

Inception top totem

For starters, I see a lot of movies. I love them. But I love seeing them in theaters with an audience who is experiencing the same sensory adventure I am. I think that is the way the medium works best.

Sadly, I have come to view the relationship with filmmakers as almost adversarial. This is because so many dreadful films have come out in the last five years that I don’t expect much from them in terms of consistency.

Thus when I sit in the dark and wait for the film to begin I expect to be wowed or entertained. I think that it is only fair for me to assume that if someone is making a film, they are at least competent enough to tell a story that draws me in while remaining visually interesting.

As a lover of cinema, I can appreciate a well-crafted work of art as much as a kicksplat orgy of action. However I do expect a movie to not insult my intelligence. Which, in today’s film culture, is asking for the impossible.

[ad#longpost]This is because Hollywood has abandoned the draft of telling stories. It has become a slave to aiming for the lowest common denominator. It also has gone green: recycling every TV show, comic book and franchise it can find. This is tragic.

I also am sick of 3D. Most of the time it is just a gimmick and lends no real innovative benefit to the film it is shown in.

I also hate vendor’s prices in theaters. They should be ashamed for charging what they charge first to see the film and then for concessions. Bastards.

I think I saw over 300 films in the theater in 2010. Many times I caved in and saw things that my friends wanted to see. Other times I saw retro re-releases or indie films. But I would like to think I am pretty diverse in my taste and interests.

I also, whenever possible, support the local indie theater or art house movie palace. These theaters are in a fight for survival and need support.

Grumbling and grousing aside, here are my favorite films of 2010, in alphabetical order:

  • Black Swan
  • Farewell
  • The Fighter
  • Harry Brown
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Micmacs
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit

And here are some notes on those and others:

Inception: Although I hate rating things in order I will say that Inception was probably my favorite film of the year. I loved the film’s texture and really was amazed by the depth of it. Like the plot the film had so many layers that made it an interesting film. It really sticks in your head after you see it. I also enjoyed its intensity. I think the acting was superb and Christopher Nolan continues to develop more and more after each film. I also really enjoyed the score and think it really added to the overall resonance of the film.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3: It did everything it needed to work and expanded its universe to add more characters. It also didn’t miss any of the charm of the first two films.

The King’s Speech: Colin Firth is an amazingly solid actor in every film he is in. This film should get him an Oscar for his portrayal of King George VI, a king who stammered and then hammered to lead his nation during WWII. Geoffrey Rush is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination as well. Here he is back in top form balancing out Firth’s performance. Helena Bonham Carter is also great. Timothy Spall as Churchill was incredible as well.

Black Swan: This was one creepy film. Part horror, part ballet–Natalie Portman is a tour de force here. It is also good to have Barbara Hershey back as well. Aronofsky has made a really tragic, scary and altogether freaky ballet film more related to Fight Club than Swan Lake.

Harry Brown: Isn’t it great how Michael Caine keeps giving great performances film after film? He is featured in this revenge film as a sort of vigilante without the cowl, which surprisingly works for him. He is mean, tough and yet vulnerable and likeable. This film was widely overlooked but pretty riveting.

The Fighter: This is a great film if for no other reason then to see Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale practice their craft. Both actors chew scenery and deliver incredible portrayals. It is based on a true story and is not at all like Rocky.

Social Network

The Social Network: This film completely changed my opinion of Justin Timberlake as an actor. Jesse Eisenberg is rock solid creepy, but almost too much. Still, this is an incredible film.

Micmacs: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s satirical send up of world arms trading was pitch perfect. It was an imaginative romp that didn’t insult the audience while still proving its point. Jeunet again delivers in what he does best: creating a story that is set in an off-kilter world inhabited by genuinely odd but affable characters.

Farewell: A pretty potent Cold War thriller told from the French point of view. It was the best spy film of the year and never relented in delving into the psychology of espionage. A true tale of paranoia. Christian Carion is a director to watch out for.

True Grit: Jeff Bridges shined in True Grit. He made you forget about the John Wayne version of the film. The Coens followed the book and still managed to make a great Western. I loved how it looked and the scenes filmed at night were amazing. This was one of the best ensemble casts of 2010. The film also had great villains with Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin. This could be the film that revives the Western again.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Not on my official list but I loved almost everything about it. I think it was grossly ill-treated by the studio in how it was promoted. Basically it did everything a film is supposed to do: entertain you for 90 minutes.

Tron: Legacy: I got exactly what I expected here. The effects were great and it was stunning to see. I also love the soundtrack from Daft Punk. However, I really think that at times Jeff Bridges was almost channeling The Dude too much. The plot was pretty crappy. But it did entertain.

Monsters: I think this is one of the most tragically underseen films of the year. It tried to tell a story about alien invasion in a way that had not been done before. It also shied away from using famous actors and lots of explosions, which was terrific. I loved how it played into the theater of the mind and let you think as you saw it.

Here is one last positive thing about the cinema of 2010: for the first time in years I enjoyed more than two or three soundtracks. Social Network, Scott Pilgrim, Inception, Tron, Alice In Wonderland and Harry Potter all had great soundtracks and I think the pendulum has moved back towards innovate scores for films.

As I enter 2011, I know I will again be a sucker and go to the movies again and again. It remains the best form of escapism for me beyond books and music. Like a jilted lover I’ll go back for more and be treated like crap. The big blockbusters will be a missed blessing of mindless romps of fun and putrid reels of garbage. But sometimes in a relationship you have to suffer with the horrible to get to the real magic. I’d like to think that even as bad as Hollywood has gotten of late, the crop of flicks from world cinema and indie filmmakers is still worth my attention. Please let me be right!