In light of today’s Academy Award nominations, I thought now would be the perfect time to review the top movies that came out this year. I did this last year, and I had a difficult narrowing it down to ten, so I did a top 12. I’ll stick with the precedent and do 12 again. I will not spoil any movies, just simply give my analysis, and explain why you should see them. While I haven’t seen every movie that was released in 2010, I’ve seen practically all the ones that received the most critical acclaim. So let’s get to it.
My, oh my, what a year for movies! Usually there are only about two or three top-tier movies per year, but this year, there were several. It was really, really difficult to narrow to pick out a top five, but, I think I did a good job. Let’s start with the bottom…
12. How to Train Your Dragon: If you love animated movies, as I do, then this is a must-see. I love an animated film that not only tells a good story, but also touches your heart. Animated films have the ability to do that in a way that live-action films can’t, because there is an innocence there that can not be portrayed by actual people. We’re too flawed. But this film centers around a young viking who is taught by his father and his peers that he must be violent and brutal and kill dragons, when all he wants to do is befriend them. The result? A wonderful film that everybody can enjoy. Plus it’s in 3d! However, it won’t win “Best Animated Picture” at the Oscars this year, and that is because of…
11. Toy Story 3: Speaking of heartwarming, this movie has it all. The best thing about it is the nostalgia factor. The first two films from the series played a large role in defining our childhood. So to see them return to the screen for one last hoorah really brought back a lot of memories. But not only that, the story is wonderful. It’s great to see a franchise brought back and done right, and not just for the sake of making money — which I’m sure it made plenty of. There’s one particular scene at the end that will really tug at your heartstrings, and I’m man enough to admit it… I almost teared up. ALMOST.
10. True Grit: This movie is a remake of a 1969 film, which was based on a book. I watched the original right before I watched the 2010 version, and in hindsight, I wish I didn’t. The 2010 trumps the 1969 version in terms of direction, cinematography and visual effects, without question, but I enjoyed the story a little better in the original, and thought the characters were more well-defined. John Wayne was the star in the 1969 version, and while it’s almost impossible to replicate any performance of his, Jeff Bridges comes pretty damn close. His drunken, woolly, goofy portrayal of Rooster Cogburn alone makes this one worth the watch.
9. The Kids are All Right: I highly enjoyed this one. it’s a very simple story, but sometimes the simplest stories make for the best movies. First and foremost, the acting was phenomenal. Annette Bening was great as usual, Julianne Moore was solid, and Mark Ruffalo was terrific and received a well-deserved Oscar nomination. But I was particularly impressed with the performance of the kids — Mia Wasikowska (of Alice and Wonderland fame) and Josh Hutcherson. I think the two of them have long careers ahead of them. It’s a very serious movie at times, but also contains a lot of humorous parts. And its the combination of those two things that really make you care about the characters, worry about how the film will end, and have you thinking about it long after the credits roll.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1: Hell. Yes. There was no movie I was more satisfied with throughout the entire year than this one. Not because it was the best; far from it, but because I have been a huge Harry Potter enthusiast my entire life. The books meant so much to me as a child, but the movies never really did anything for me. So, to finally see the final movie come out, and just hit the freaking nail on the head… well, like I said, it was extremely satisfying. You do not have to be a Harry Potter lover to enjoy this one, and you probably don’t even need to have seen the previous films. This one is on a whole another level, and I can’t say enough about how much the acting abilities of the three main actors — Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint — has improved. They made this movie, and after watching their performances, there is no doubt in my mind that they will have successful careers post-Potter. But, be warned, this is not a kids movie.
7. Blue Valentine: This movie was easily one of the hardest ones to place. it’s hard to say how much I “enjoyed” this film, because it’s not really a movie that you are meant to enjoy. The film is a pretty a straightforward story about a contemporary relationship. Think Revolutionary Road, except Indie, and current. But what makes the movie is the performances. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, two of the best young actors in Hollywood, are phenomenal. They portray their characters so convincingly that you almost forget your even watching a movie. That being said, it is an absolute travesty that Gosling was snubbed out of an Oscar nomination this year. I thought he was badly snubbed in 2007 for Lars and the Real Girl, and now the Academy done gone did it again. Shameful. I recommend this movie to everyone, but be warned, it will take something out of you. Yet, at the same time, you will certainly take something out of it as well.
6. 127 hours: I absolutely loved this movies, and even as I write this I can’t believe it didn’t crack my top five. I guess that speaks for the deep quality of films that came out this year. Anyway, if you love an inspirational story, then drop what you’re doing right now and go see this one. You’d think that watching a dude stuck in a crevasse between a rock and a wall for over an hour would be pretty boring, but not when the dude is James Franco. He is absolutely brilliant in this movie, and plays such a likable character, which I have a hunch is not too far off from his actual self. if there wasn’t such steep competition this year, I’d say he’d have a shot at winning best actor, but I don’t see it happening.
5. The Fighter: Ah, the top five. here we go. The Fighter is technically a sports movie, but it’s really a story about a man finding his identity amongst an eccentric crowd of people that includes his overbearing mother (Melissa Leo, my prediction for best supporting female actor), his crackhead brother Christian Bale (a shoe-in for best male supporting actor), and his supremely independent and “I take shit from nobody” girlfriend (Amy Adams, as beautiful as ever.) Christian Bale outdoes this movie. he’s so good that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he actually did crack during the movie just to fit the role. Anyway, you’ll leave the theater feeling really good after watching this movie, mark my words. Great story, and it makes even better that it’s all true.
4. Black Swan: Two words: Natalie. Portman. Also: Darren. Aranofsky. Also: Mind. Fuck. This movie will certainly keep you on your toes, wondering what exactly is going to happen next. We see the entire film through the eyes of Portman, who as the movie progresses, slowly loses her mind. That’s where Aranofsky come sin and totally messes with our heads. You will feel uncomfortable at several points through this movie. But at the same time, when the credits are rolling, you’ll be sitting in your seat staring at them while saying “Wow.” And Natalie Portman is exquisite. A completely committed performance, and shouldn’t have any trouble beating out Annette Bening for best acrtess. A victory for the Jews! Mila Kunis always gives a surprisingly good performance, and is involved in a can’t miss two-minute long make out session with Natalie Portman. You heard me correctly.
3. The King’s Speech: Colin Firth gives the performance of his career in this one. he’s going to win best actor, there’s no doubt it, and it is well-deserved. The movie is exceptionally well-made, the acting is supreme by everyone involved, and the story is very absorbing. Geoffrey Rush is really amusing as Colin Firth’s speech coach, and you find yourself sympathizing and rooting so badly for them. Never in your life will you anticipate a speech more than you will than at the end of this film. Also, the Oscars like to pick one movie to take home all the big awards (best actor, director, picture.) Don’t be surprised if this is the one that does it.
2. Inception: You all saw it. Then didn’t understand it. Then talked about with friends. Then read a little about it online. Then you watched it again. And now you get it. Sort of. This movie is brilliant in every sense of the word. it uses a lot of special effects, but not too much to take away from the brilliant story. Whether you got it or not, when it ends, you’ll know that you just witnessed something amazing. Christopher Nolan is a genius, that’s for sure. The story is extremely compelling, and just gets more and more awesome as it progresses. pretty good score, too. It’s one of its kind, and was an extremely successful “summer blockbuster” film, which is rare for an original film not based a prior source. but it’s that good.
1. The Social Network Yeah, yeah, I know. Facebook. But what can I say? This movie was brilliantly put together. it featured a brilliant script by Aaron Sorkin, a brilliant director in David Fincher, brilliant acting by Jesse Eisenberg ah he portrayed my boy Marky Zucks, and a surprisingly great supporting performance by Andrew Garfield, who I thought was snubbed out of an Oscar nomination. Funny enough, last year, I said that Eisenberg has emerged as “a poor man’s Michael Cera.” Uhh yeah, I rescind that statement. He’s come into his own. He won’t win best actor, but he definitely deserved his nomination. Watching this film wasn’t like watching any other movie, but it was like watching the evolution of my own generation unfold before my eyes. It’s almost a must-see not just because of how good it is, but for its educational purpose. Facebook has taken over, and this movie tells us how it happened. It won best picture at the Golden Globes, and while I say that it’s not undeserving of receiving the same honor at the Oscars, i won’t be surprised if it doesn’t. To me, it comes down to this and The King’s Speech. We shall see.
And that’s it. Those are my top 12 films of the year. I hope you all enjoyed my analysis, and I look forward to watching all of the movies that 2011 has movies and doing the same thing one year from now.
But I should also mention two other movies that just missed the cut: Winter’s Bone and The Town. Winter’s Bone more than The Town, but they were both very enjoyable. The Town is unoriginal and clichéd, but well-made and a fun film to watch. Meanwhile, Winter’s Bone is carried by shockingly good performances by the young Jennifer Lawrence and the elder John Hawkes — both of whom received well-deserved Oscar nominations today. Oh and Hereafter was a good one too, which was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Matt Damon. If you’re a crier, I highly recommend bringing tissues to that one. but just don’t post about it on Facebook after!