Monday, May 30, 2011

The Epic 2010 Movie List

Here it is! Only six months late. This is my 2010 movie round-up and best-of list. Because I hate rating things, I've separated the films into brackets, instead of organizing them by stars or numbers or whatever. I know I watch a strange mixture of movies and I missed a few of the big 2010 releases. So, this list is completely arbitrary and mostly for my own amusement. (Keep in mind that I'm an opinionated thing once I get going). Weee!

The 'Everyone Involved Needs to Apologize to the American Public' Bracket

- Burlesque - I knew this was going to be cliche and awful, but I was hoping it would be fun, cliche and awful. After all, I can watch Staying Alive and Grease 2 over and over again. I love a cheesy musical. But this? This was just boring and bad.

- Knight & Day - Was I the only one who thought this movie was incredibly creepy? Tom Cruise's character seems like a psychopathic and Cameron Diaz's character seems like an idiot for wanting to be anywhere near him. There was one awesome action scene in this film, but the rest should be destroyed. Now.

- The Sorcerer's Apprentice - So much wrong in this movie. The biggest problem? It just isn't interesting.

- Gulliver's Travels - Whoever is responsible for this script needs to be banned from Hollywood.

- MacGruber - Whoever is responsible for this script needs to be banned from Hollywood and publicly flogged. That celery business? Flogging is the only appropriate response.

The 'Didn't Live Up to My Expectations' Bracket

- Alice in Wonderland - I think it suffers from trying to keep everyone happy and, heck, maybe it worked. It sure made a lot of money. But, imagine if we'd had the old Burton in charge of this, instead of the new, commercially viable Burton. Imagine if this version were less Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and more Nightmare Before Christmas or Ed Wood. Now can you see what I see? There were a couple of moments where it almost lived up to its potential, but then that horrible dance at the end destroyed all of my goodwill.

- Due Date - I was hoping for funnier. What more can I say?

- Easy A - I didn't get any of the main character's motivations. She does all this random stuff, but you never get a sense of why. The movie created a huge, complicated mess, then cleaned it up far too easily. I'd have liked a better sense of consequence. Sure, the voice of the character was occasionally engaging, but the actual character was insane.

- Iron Man 2 - It didn't do anything to elevate the formula and it didn't make me care. Boring is the last thing I want from my superheros.

- Micmacs - Gets lost in its own quirkiness. Doesn't know what it is about or what it is trying to do.

- The Tempest - I thought at least it would be a magnificent failure, but it couldn't even muster that. No excitement. No drama. No romance. Just embarrassment and a few lovely costumes. Helen, you did great, but you deserved better.

The 'Left Me Feeling Empty and Cold' Bracket

- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - This movie has a job to do. It feels more like watching items get checked off a list, than becoming immersed in a story. It's a shame, because C.S. Lewis deserves so much better.

- Clash of the Titans - Who are these people? Why should we care?

- Date Night - This movie expects its cast to do all the heavy lifting. Yes, the cast is great and very funny, but there is zero sense of peril at any point in the story. Without danger, the concept doesn't work. Instead, it just feels like a prolonged, network television episode.

- The Joneses - This movie has ideas, but doesn't know how to execute them. Very bland, without many tonal shifts. In the end it takes the easy way out, instead of daring to be something special.

- Ondine - Started out as something strong, but went into strange tonal directions and lost most of the sincerity it built up in the beginning. The worst part? The obnoxious child actor for whom was written one of the most horrible precocious child roles I've seen in a while.

- Somewhere - Don't take this the wrong way. I'm a big Sofia Coppola fan. I've really liked her other films. But, Somewhere felt pretentious, self-indulgent and unnecessary. There were a couple beautiful moments, but the rest was static.

The 'Indifferent or Forgotten' Bracket

Because it's the 'Indifferent or Forgotten' bracket, I'm just gonna let these movies sit here and gather dust. Hear that sound? Tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds falling asleep from boredom.

Just Wright
The Karate Kid
The Losers
The Tourist

The 'Worked as a Character Study, But...' Bracket

- Get Low - Some powerhouse acting in this film and genuinely interesting characters. I loved seeing them bounce off one another. The premise is great, but the story ultimately disappointing.

- I Am Love - Hubby and I disagree on this one. He thinks the entire film is brilliant. For me, the melodrama was too apparent and the story too predictable. The notes rang false at several key points. However, I cannot deny the insane, brilliant and amazing performance by Tilda Swinton. That woman should have gotten an Oscar nod. Her exclusion was a travesty.

- I Love You Phillip Morris - If you look only at the parts that tell a love story, then it's a brilliant film. On the other hand, there are so many things that don't add up, so many moments that exist only to draw attention to themselves, and so many info dumps that could have been eliminated. Ewan and Carrey are great, great, great. The script? A little too charmed with itself.

- Let Me In - As a viewer you get to the point where you're breathing in time with these characters. They're fascinating and the world they live in is fascinating. The problem? I felt the line between right and wrong stayed far too clear. When the characters made the wrong choices, I knew why they were doing it, but I never wanted them to. I wish the movie could have blurred the lines a bit more and made me feel like darkness could be a legitimate option. I think, that for the story to work, it needed to do that. It tried, I could feel it trying, but it didn't succeed. There was potential for so much more.

- The Trotsky - First off, I have you tell you, this movie is funny. It is very funny. The dialogue is sharp and smart. Jay Baruchel proves that he can and should be cast in leading roles. I loved watching him onscreen. However, the story is problematic.

- The Illusionist - A quiet little film, this works when we get to see the characters interact with the world around them. There's something desperate and dark beneath the surface of this otherwise charming story that intrigues me. All the same... when it's over there's an emptiness, a sense of distance, and a big question mark over the film. I didn't feel like I'd had a good meal. Instead, I felt like the waiter had forgotten me.

The 'So Close' Bracket

- Daybreakers - Don't laugh, but this movie is a great time. It's got ideas, guts and follow through. It manages to achieve insane, crazy things. It stays entertaining throughout. Yes, it is campy, but that isn't always a bad thing. If only some of the story elements hadn't been so... lazy.

- The King's Speech - Oooh, I'm gonna get flack for this one. Yes, it's everyone's favorite film. Me? Not so much. It came close, but I cannot overlook the unoriginal script. This movie is every inspirational sports movie ever made. You've got the underdog, the unconventional coach, the training montage, the self-doubt and setbacks, the female who encourages and supports our hero, the falling out and almost giving up, and the final triumph. Never was I surprised by anything in this film. Yes, it used a convention and did it very well, but I don't believe this movie did anything to advance the art of film making. The actors were great, but I would have preferred Colin Firth win the Oscar for his performance in A Single Man the year before. That was a movie that slayed me on every level.

- Never Let Me Go - I'm probably biased, because this is one of my favorite books, but the movie let me down (or let me go, if you prefer the pun). There were a few moments it succeeded brilliantly, but the relationship between the characters (kinda the whole point) was simplistic and lacking.

- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - This movie has style dripping from every corner, but I never wanted the two main characters to get together. That seems like a problem. All the same, it's really cool.

- The Way Back - A lot of interesting stuff happens here, but the movie doesn't make much effort to bring you into the characters. Most of the time you feel like you're watching them from a distance. That's a shame, because so many other elements work.

The 'Surpassed My Expectations' Bracket

- Despicable Me - I totally expected this movie to suck. How wrong I was! Great laughs, a sense of joy and fun, and a story that was almost Pixarian in it's ability to sneak attack emotion. I might have misted up slightly.

- How To Train Your Dragon - Yeah, my expectations were not high for this one, either. How wrong I was! The lead character was absolutely enchanting and the movie made his plight feel real. The world design was breathtaking and the dragons were super cool. On top of that, it made a gutsy choice at the end, which made me respect it even more.

- Tangled - Disney has burned through a lot of my goodwill over the last few years, so I didn't expect much from their latest project. The trailers made it look trendy and annoying, another one of their focus group films. I almost didn't go. But, I'm glad I did. This movie was a joy. Bright, thoughtful, nuanced, and genuinely funny. There were even a couple old-fashioned Disney moments where you just hold your breath and watch the pretty. I gotta give them props on the original villain. It was a good year for animated movies.

- The Warrior's Way - This movie didn't get a very high tomatometer or much buzz upon release. That's a shame. It is a popcorn movie in the best sense. Extremely entertaining and takes the time to develop its characters. Great action and great characters? How often does that happen? Plus, it exists in an imaginative world with high stakes and villains so nasty you'll want to shoot them yourself. Underrated.

The 'Okay, This is Kinda Fun' Bracket

- Heartbreaker - It isn't brilliant, but it is a lot better than most of the romantic comedies Hollywood is churning out these days. Heartbreaker reminds me that romance can actually be fun.

- Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - A portrayal of a comic desperate for success in a world where the men rule. This movie reveals so many facets of a surprisingly complex woman. I'd almost call it required feminist viewing.

- OSS 117: Lost in Rio - Aha! So this is how movies can be both idiotic and hilarious. I don't always get this kind of humor, but this film is so absurd and ridiculous that I left the theater with a big smile on my face.

The 'Just Plain Awesome' Bracket
- Another Year - Honest and lovely. The characters in this film are so real that I hesitate to call them characters. Engrossing.

- Inception - We've all seen it and we've all talked about. Inception will have a place in our popular culture for years to come. So much respect to Nolan for proving you can make a good, intelligent film and people will come to see it. Lots of people. The man has yet to disappoint me. Brilliant storyteller.

- The Other Guys - Wow, did this ever surprise me. I did not expect to spend the entire movie laughing my head off. I am not a public movie laughter. But, I almost lost it completely at several points. One in particular makes me crack up just at the mere thought of it. Freaking hysterical/brilliant. How did The Tourist get nominated for a Golden Globe over this one?

- The Social Network - Okay, we all know it is brilliant. Performance, writing, directing, everything comes together to create an image of one moment in time. It captures the spirit of our culture in a way that is distinct and thoughtful. People will remember this film.

- True Grit - Not the most Coeny of the Coen brother's films, but beautiful none the less. Though their directorial influence is invisible most of the time, it is assured and masterful. We end up feeling like we know these people and this world in a way we may never come to know our own friends. It's an old fashioned movie and I mean that in the best possible way.

The 'Top Films of the Year' Bracket

- Black Swan - Divisive and rightly so. This is a work of power and passion, so original and immersive that it haunted me for days. Yes, there are elements of melodrama and camp, but it's freaking Swan Lake! It's pantomime, ballet and drama. This is the story, folks. This is the way it has always been told. There are so many layers of meaning to this film that it is insane. I wrote a review here because it wouldn't let go of my brain. When a movie can be so intelligent at the same time that it is completely visceral, I've gotta applaud it. This is art.

- Blue Valentine - It blows my mind that this film was directed by a newbie. It is so quietly competent, so delicately spun, that it feels like the work of a master craftsman. There is not a single moment when the movie is not perfectly on pitch. Yes, I'm using a lot of adverbs here. Yes, Blue Valentine deserves them all. Devastating in a way that transcends language, it still, even months later, amazes me.

- Toy Story 3 - Oh, Pixar. Is it weird for me to say that you give me hope for humanity? I don't know who wrote it, but one of the reviews I read claimed that, "Toy Story 3 is a metaphor for everything." I can't say it much better than that. Thank you Pixar for loving your creations and your audiences so much. Now, stop with this Cars 2 crap and get back to the good stuff!

There you go! Movies. Whew! Yes, I know that the art of filmmaking is extremely subjective and you're welcome to disagree with me on any, or all, of these brackets. So, tell me. What were your top films of the year and why? Did you like or hate my top 3? Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have an amazing Memorial Day!

Reader's log:

44. On Writing - Stephen King


  1. Agree with you about Burlesque. I watched it by myself (my husband wouldn't be caught dead), hoping for fun and cheesy. It wasn't even cheesy. It was just trying way too hard, and it took itself way too seriously!

    Also agree about Knight & Day - I did laugh, but the chemistry between Tom and Cameron was forced.

    The Social Network was my favorite movie of the year! Black Swan wasn't my favorite, but it stayed with me afterward for so long that I think it did its job.

    Great post!

  2. I was also surprised at how much I liked Despicable Me! Good comment on Scott Pilgrim. I loved the style but you're so right about the characters...and I just wanted to give Scott a kick in the ass.

  3. Oh, now we're going to have to disagree! :-)

    Loved King's Speech and Scott Pilgrim. Also thought How to Train Your Dragon and Tangled were better than Toy Story 3. Just me ... lol

    I actually stopped to say 'thank you' for your support during my A-Z blogging month. I've created a fun "no strings attached" blog award for you and all of the other awesome bloggers who offered feedback and encouragement.

    You can view the award and my thank you note here:

    Hope you are well and that I see you around in the future!


  4. My blog is being really strange right now, so apologies for not responding to your comments earlier. Thanks for your input, guys! I don't know that it was the best year ever for movies, but there were some great ones. It was an especially strong year for animation. :)