At the end of 2010, it wasn't difficult to pick out the best thing I saw all year. It was a morning showing in an all but empty theater, and when I left I knew I wouldn't see anything better in 2010. There were many other good things to see in a year that started strong, died out in the middle and late months, and then caught fire in December. This was a really good year for the motion picture, but also a strange one. I can't remember a year that had so many disappointments and so many surprises so often. Regardless of what was good and what was bad, what some loved and others detested, here are my favorite 15 movies of 2010:
15: Daybreakers. The best vampire action movie in years, Daybreakers worked as sort of a mega-light version of Dark City. An action movie for teenage boys to sit in on during a Saturday afternoon turned into something darker, and more intelligent.
14: The Wolfman. This remake of the old Universal classic is probably liked by no one as much as me. I really fell for this movie, perhaps because I never saw it in theaters, resulting in a better experience due the longer director's cut available on DVD. That's the version to see in a movie that loves the original and also tries to get by on its own. This is a horror story that works because of a really strong story, compelling characters, and a dark and sad mood. Director Joe Johnston knew what he wanted and he gets nearly everything right.
13. Exit Through the Gift Shop. I didn't love the movie, but I loved its ideas. Any film that manages to stir up the discussion that this one does deserves to be mentioned.
12. How to Train Your Dragon. I think everyone sort of loved this mix of The Iron Giant and Dragonheart. I personally loved it because it reminded me so much of the aforementioned giant, one of my favorite animated films of all time. How to Train Your Dragon is also visually sumptuous and completely entertaining.
11. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Here's maybe the most uncompromising movie all year. It's a brilliant detective story that is more fun to follow along than any mystery in recent years.
10. Let Me In. It had some visual flaws, but for the most part I enjoyed this film more than the Swedish version. They're both pretty much the same, and comparisons notwithstanding, this is one of 2010's most admirable movies. It's too bad nobody saw it.
9. Toy Story 3. As is the case with most Pixar movies, I don't love them until a see them again. That's the case with Toy Story 3, a film I adored upon its release but have since sort of forgotten about. But I know when I see it again I'll love it even more. It's not that Pixar's work is too light and fades from the memory, but rather it's too dense and can't be fully soaked in until further examination.
8. The White Ribbon. When I saw this movie last March, I was sure it would end up on my top 10 list. Well, nine months and many, many films later, it's at number 8. I guess that's not too bad. Michael Haneke's mystery on the eve of the first world war possesses the quiet intelligence and somber mood of a Bergman film, while also maintaing Haneke's own vision. It feels like it was made sixty years ago, yet more importantly doesn't feel like it's trying to be.
7. Shutter Island/Inception. Shutter Island is pure craftsmanship by a director who has the freedom and respect to do whatever he wants. His choice, to adapt one of the most clever novels ever written, is a good one. Leonardo DiCaprio's descent into utter confusion makes for a new classic. Also a classic is Nolan's Inception, which I list here merely because it seems almost like a companion piece to Shutter Island. These movies are very much alike, not in terms of plot but by way of character and theme. Inception is grand, with my only real complaint being to how some people react to it. This isn't a hugely debatable movie simply because it gives so much information. It's not confusing for the same reason. But some people think it is, which annoys me. Nolan could have made it so, but that's not the point. What he wants to do is inform us so we know every detail about what inception is.
6. The Social Network. Everyone's favorite Facebook movie is exquisitely thought out. The non-linear narrative that shifts perceptions and feelings about the characters, the acting of Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, and Armie Hammer, and the script that people go ga ga over, all showcase the the greatness of David Fincher.
5. The Town. The Town is a work of genius, a heist drama that explores far more facets of blue collar crime life than one would expect. It's also a hell of a lot of fun, and in some ways better than The Departed.
4. True Grit. One of the easiest movies to love all year.
3. Winter's Bone. A country noir, Winter's Bone is a thriller that means business. No false scares, pointless action, or silly contrivances. This is a movie that paints a bleak picture of a girl trying to survive in the Ozarks. She has two siblings to take care of, a dad that's gone missing, and a house that will be lost if he's not found. A brilliant tale based off a novel I'm currently loving, too.
2. The Fighter. The Fighter is the greatest boxing movie ever made, a movie that is always surprising us yet isn't afraid of being a little familiar. With this and The Town, small-town Massachusetts ruled in 2010.
1. The year's best film was The Ghost Writer. And not only is it the best movie of the year, but it's actually superior to those quiet political thrillers from days gone by that it's often compared to. The first time I saw it I was so wowed by the setting, the mood, and the performances that I overlooked some crucial plot points. Repeat viewings I was able to pay more attention to the story and really admire they way all the plot points come together.
I would like to point out that I've done a poor job catching up on movies. I've yet to see Black Swan, 127 Hours, Get Low, The King's Speech, The Secret in Their Eyes, Never Let Me Go, Robin Hood, and Hereafter, among others. The last film, Clint Eastwood's second ghost story (if you count Pale Rider) was the movie I looked forward to most this year. Yet I never saw it. Most people pretty much dismissed the film, and now it seems like it never even came out.
Other movies I had a good time with are Clash of the Titans, Kick-Ass, The Karate Kid, Tangled, Harry Potter, Iron Man 2.
Indifferent: Greenberg, A Prophet. The latter was pretty strong, but was it really a new crime classic? More like a crime fantasy. It took all the best case scenarios for the prison set-up, and also added the supernatural element, liked by some, but not by me.
Misses/disappointments were The Crazies, Legion, Cop Out, The Book of Eli, Edge of Darkness, and Alice in Wonderland. The latter was actually okay, but it left me completely underwhelmed.
Trends of 2010: Bleak thrillers with western scenery concerning some sort of apocalypse that were released in January/February. I counted Daybreakers, The Book of Eli, Legion, and The Crazies. Documentaries. Real or not? There's I'm Still Here, Catfish, and Exit Through the Gift Shop. Gripping crime films from Europe: Red Riding Trilogy, A Prophet, The Secret in Their Eyes, Meserine, and Carlos. And if you want, The Millennium Trilogy could be included.
A few big titles I'm dying to see in the coming year: Super 8, Captain America, and Tintin.
To a great year in all things movies and everything else, too!