My Favorite Films & More from 2010

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Lists
Tags: , , ,

2010.
A rather strange year.
Good riddance, I say.

What do you mean, “Why?” Let me refresh your memory. We had:

— Catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile
— The BP Oil Spill
— Ash from an Icelandic volcano disrupting air travel for weeks
— Facebook’s privacy settings backlash / The year privacy died
— Sarah Palin’s Alaska
— A Florida pastor threatening to burn the Qur’an
— The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 all ending up in…heaven
— Vuvu-freaking-zelas
— LeBron taking his talents to North Cuba
— Arizona enacting a “Show me your papers” immigration law
“Obamacare”
— The official repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
— Wikileaks

Okay, so those last three may/will ultimately prove to be good things. But for the most part… meh.

And the year of cinema, on the whole, was no different. A couple flicks exceeded my expectations and most of my favorite directors did hit home runs, but only a handful of films really blew me away. Before I get on with my Top Ten of ’10, let me throw out a few more of my favorite things from the year that was:




F A V O R I T E _ T E L E V I S I O N _ S H O W S

I am a year behind on FRINGE, but I’m certain its current season would make this list.

5. 30 ROCK, seasons 4 & 5 (NBC)
[ Choice Episode: “Reaganing” ]
It was between this and MODERN FAMILY for the fifth spot. And while I very much enjoy the ABC sitcom, this show still makes me laugh to tears at least once a week thanks to an irreverent, insanely un-PC line from Jack Donaghy or Tracy Jordan. Five years in and I still watch this before nearly anything else on the DVR.

4. LOST, season 6 (ABC)
[ Choice Episode: “Ab Aeterno” ]
While the iconic series may not have “stuck the landing” in its final run, the journey there was still a blast. Great characters, actors, and production value—this was event television; a show that people from all walks would discuss and dissect the next day. Networks are still trying desperately to manufacture the next LOST. (*BWURM*)

3. PARKS AND RECREATION, season 2 (NBC)
[ Choice Episode: “Telethon” ]
This show definitely hit its stride in season 2. It was a lot stronger than this past season of its sister program, THE OFFICE, which has finally started to show some wear. Rob Lowe and Adam Scott came in late and, while not necessary, they’ve been a great addition. And there are no two funnier characters than Andy Dwyer and Ron Swanson on any show.

2. DOCTOR WHO, series 5 (BBCA)
[ Choice Episode: “Vincent and the Doctor” ]
No one thought they would or could love another Doctor after David Tennant’s exit from the series. But new showrunner Stephen Moffat, young Matt Smith, and my favoritest companions to date have brought a new energy and dynamic to the show that was as good and fun as ever in its 5th series since the 2005 reboot. “I wear a fez now. Fezes are cool.”

1. COMMUNITY, seasons 1 & 2 (NBC)
[ Choice Episode: Seriously, pick any from this current season ]
The misadventures of Jeff Winger and the gang from Greendale Community College were easily the most laugh-out-loud thing on television this year. With each passing zanier-than-the-last (because they can) episode, it’s continued to move up the ranks of my favorite shows. Always the first thing I’d watch on my DVR in 2010. [You should be watching this show]




F A V O R I T E _ N E W _ T V _ S H O W S

I’m still working through the inaugural seasons of HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE and FX’s LOUIE and JUSTIFIED, but I am digging ’em all so far. I’ll go ahead and call them numbers 5, 4, and 3.

2. THE WALKING DEAD (AMC)
Frank Darabont brought some gravitas and a film-level production value to AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s zombie anthology, and the result wasn’t bad. I’m looking forward to an extended second season, which will hopefully feature less racist redneck drama and more Dale.

1. SHERLOCK (BBCA)
There are so many ways that this modern spin of the most portrayed character in history could have sucked. But damn if it doesn’t work on every level. Contemporary setting or not, this Sherlock Holmes is more true to the character than the current film franchise’s. Stephen Moffat is batting a thousand on streamlining iconic British characters, and I can’t wait for series 2.




F A V O R I T E _ S O N G S

No rankings here, just a handful of songs I dig that made it on my radar this year. I know some of these tracks are off of late 2009 albums, but they weren’t released as singles until sometime in ’10. So, yeah, I’m way behind on new music. That’s why you won’t find a FAVORITE ALBUMS block in this post. I will, however, refer you to a couple of best of blogs that I largely agree with: Mike Maihack’s and Aaron Koontz’s (the latter also includes a strong and thorough top songs list). It’s safe to assume though that most of the albums which the below singles are from would make mine.

“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” — ARCADE FIRE, (The Suburbs)
“You’ll Be Bright” — CLOUD CULT, (Light Chasers)
“Truth” — ALEXANDER EBERT, (Alexander)
“Little Lion Man” — MUMFORD & SONS, (Sigh No More)
“Down By The Water” — THE DECEMBERISTS, (The King Is Dead)
“Old Man Chicago” — ALBERTA CROSS, (Broken Side Of Time)
“The Sweet Part Of The City” — THE HOLD STEADY, (Heaven Is Whenever)
“Infinity” — THE XX, (Self-Titled)
“Runaway” — KANYE WEST, (My Dark Twisted Fantasy)
“Dog Days Are Over” — FLORENCE + THE MACHINE, (A Lot Of Love. A Lot Of Blood)
“The High Road” — BROKEN BELLS, (Self-Titled)
“Black Sheep” — THE CLASH AT DEMONHEAD, (‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ Soundtrack)
“Crash Years” — THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, (Together)
“Rill Rill” — SLEIGH BELLS, (Treats)
“Tighten Up” — THE BLACK KEYS, (Brothers)




R A D D E S T _ M U S I C _ V I D E O S

“This Too Shall Pass” — OKGO
Another strong effort from them; this time an elaborate, single-take Rube Goldberg video
“You’ll Be Bright” — CLOUD CULT
Imaginative, sweet, and beautiful video to compliment an equally beautiful tune
“Howlin’ For You” — THE BLACK KEYS
A killer Grindhouse-style trailer starring Caprica 6 and Todd Bridges!?!
“Wide Eyes” — LOCAL NATIVES
This shark stalks this dude, then fights him. Need I say more?




B E S T _ M O V I E _ T R A I L E R S

“Who ranks previews?” I do. Have you seen all the by-the-numbers movie trailers lately? Every genre has a cliche-laden template they follow, all giving away plot point after plot point. It’s lame. The several cited here are good examples of how to tease a film without spoiling the whole thing. And there’s number one, which is just a beautiful piece of art on its own.

10. BLUE VALENTINE
09. WINNIE THE POOH (July 2011)
08. BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (March 2011)
07. BLACK SWAN
06. TRON: LEGACY
05. INCEPTION
04. TRUE GRIT
03. COWBOYS AND ALIENS (July 2011)
02. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
01. THE TREE OF LIFE (May 2011)




B E S T _ D. V. D. _ R E L E A S E S _ O F _ 2 0 1 0

ALIEN Anthology
Besides the fact that this quadrilogy features the sharpest blu-ray transfers I’ve seen to date, the set contains some of the best DVD extras out there. The first two films stand on their own as true classics, but it’s the much-maligned third and fourth installments, strangely enough, that make this set interesting. The bonus documentaries on the latter two films show you how FOX did about everything in their power to tank the sequels (and succeeded). This one’s definitely worth owning.

The Complete METROPOLIS
Fritz Lang’s masterpiece is a must-see, must-own title for anyone even marginally interested in the history of cinema. Beyond its historical significance and influence, it remains incredibly entertaining, full of wonderful imagery, good performances, and a commanding score. This recent restoration, while technically imperfect, still manages to achieve the impossible by improving this towering, iconic film.




B E S T _ D I R E C T – T O – V I D E O _ F I L M

BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD
The Judd Winick-penned “Under the Hood” storyline was controversial when it was first published, but that controversy didn’t stop him and DCU/Warner Bros. from adapting what is their most violent, bloodiest, and arguably best animated feature to date—one full of solid voicework (despite missing regulars Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill) and some killer showdowns and action.




We’re almost there. No, I swear.
But first, a quick rundown of my favorites films from 2009:
__________________________

20. CORALINE
19. AN EDUCATION
18. OBSERVE AND REPORT
17. A SERIOUS MAN
16. WATCHMEN: THE ULTIMATE CUT
15. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
14. THE HURT LOCKER
13. THE BROTHERS BLOOM
12. UP
11. ZOMBIELAND
10. FANTASTIC MR. FOX
09. DISTRICT 9
08. AVATAR
07. ADVENTURELAND
06. DRAG ME TO HELL
05. MOON
04. UP IN THE AIR
03. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
02. STAR TREK
01. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
__________________________

I know, I know. On with it, already!
Here they are…




M Y _ F A V O R I T E _ F I L M S _ O F _ 2 0 1 0

H O N O R A B L E _ M E N T I O N S
A PROPHET
HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part 1
THE AMERICAN



10. TOY STORY 3
[ written by Michael Arndt / directed by Lee Unkrich ]

I fully expected to love this film. What about Pixar or this franchise’s track record would lead me to believe otherwise? But, about 10 minutes in, I realized that this third installment might be the best one yet. TOY STORY 3’s most unforgettable moments are not loaded with chases or danger or humor (though all three are in great supply). No, the scenes that will stick with you are more mature and haunting; the product of the human characters and the audience growing older and able to stomach the heavier drama.




09. 127 HOURS
[ written by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy / directed by Danny Boyle ]

Is there a genre or a story on earth or beyond that frenetic director Danny Boyle can’t knock out out of the park? Condensed to a 90-minute package of unwasted moments, we get much more than a simple retelling of Aron Ralston’s accident. Boyle and James Franco, both on their A game here, put us deep inside Ralston’s fractured mind and force us to wonder how we would have held up under the circumstances. 127 HOURS will make you squirm, but you’ll be a better person for having seen it.




08. THE FIGHTER
[ written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson / directed by David O. Russell ]

Sometimes, when you don’t expect something to be great, it surprisingly turns out to be just that. Director David O. Russell’s THE FIGHTER is engrossing entertainment and a triumphant underdog story that’s already one of the best sports movies in my lifetime. The film is as inspirational as it is heartbreaking—at times tough to watch, yet, at the same time, one of the most watchable films I’ve seen all year. Christian Bale better walk away with Oscar gold or we’ll burn this place to the ground.




07. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
[ written and directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders ]

After years of admittedly ripping Disney’s ideas and rushing them out first, and riding the SHREK wave til it was bone-dry, I think the folks at Dreamworks are finally starting to get it. They’ve really stepped up their game as of late. With HTTYD, no new ground is broken—we get the typical hero’s journey and some big, noisy action sequences. But it’s the middle of the film that really hits the mark. The bond developed between Hiccup and Toothless is conveyed virtually without dialogue, a novel concept the studio may have also ripped from their rivals. I really enjoyed the ride.




06. THE TOWN
[ written by Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard & Peter Craig / directed by Ben Affleck ]

I think THE TOWN—in which Affleck also stars and helped pen from the Chuck Hogan novel, Prince of Thieves—has officially silenced any remaining haters. Let’s be honest, he was never half as bad an actor as critics or the Team America puppets claimed him to be. His sophmore effort is a well-paced and well-staged crime thriller with a fantastic supporting cast that more than make up for any shortcomings in the storytelling. Ben lenses Beantown the way Scorsese does New York—as a character in his films; rotten and corrupt, yet you can see his love for its every brick.




05. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
[ written by Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall / directed by Edgar Wright ]

There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with this film. Some love it, some hate it with a passion (/don’t get it. Yeah, I said it), and most just didn’t see it. I am in the first category. Yeah, it’s a frantic, live-action video game, but I don’t think the film, faithfully adapted from the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels, should be dismissed as light and frothy. It makes palatable some pretty heavy stuff—handling the deep issues of relationships in a fun, and yet surprisingly subtle way. While not my favorite Edgar Wright film, I do heart this love letter to 8-bit games, nerd culture, and, well…love.




04. BLACK SWAN
[ written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin / directed by Darren Aronofsky ]

This is just a devastating, yet beautiful piece of art. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her lifetime as a ballerina chasing the impossible dream of perfection. We see the psychological toll it takes on her, breaking her physically and mentally. BLACK SWAN is raw, visceral, erotic, brutal, and, at times, all of these at once. And the director’s subtle use of gore even got under my skin. This film will rattle you something fierce, and, in my mind, it firmly establishes director Darren Aronofsky as one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation.




03. TRUE GRIT
[ written and directed by the Coen Brothers ]

Ethan and Joel Coen are masters at capturing a mood or sense of place and period so convincingly that you are taken aback by how effortless it all seems. With TRUE GRIT, the richness of the dialogue, the stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins (who locked up an Oscar by the five minute mark of this film), and award-worthy performances from top to bottom make it not only one of the Coens’ best, but legitimately better than the original and one of the best remakes of all time. And, I’ll dare say, one of the all-time best Westerns too.




02. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
[ written by Aaron Sorkin / directed by David Fincher ]

This razor-sharp film features no violence, blood, gore, action, grotesque creatures, or real perversions of any kind. Yet, I can still find dozens of reasons to love it immensely—Sorkin’s writing, Fincher’s steely visual style, the performances, and Trent Reznor and Attticus Ross’ propulsive score, to name a few. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a triumph in every way. I’m ready to see it again right now. Okay, so it’s not exactly historically accurate. Fine, let’s assume it’s 100 percent fiction. That doesn’t lessen its greatness in any way. This one will likely continue sweeping the awards circuit, and I’ll hear the argument that it’s the best film of the year, but it did not make my number one spot because…






BWAAARRRRRRRHHHHM!!!






BWAAARRRRRRRHHHHM!!!






BWAAARRRRRRRHHHHM!!!






01. I N C E P T I O N
[ written and directed by Christopher Nolan ]



It’s not often that I see a film and immediately think there is no way another movie that year will top it. INCEPTION was that film. And, in this case, that thought occurred well before the end credits rolled. Somewhere near the two-hour mark—when Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s character, Arthur, was fighting off projections in a gravity-less hotel hallway and Tom Hardy’s Eames was going James Bond biathlon through a snow fortress, all inside a dream the extraction team was collectively experiencing from inside a falling van; a dream within a dream they were sharing during a transcontinental flight—it hit me: THIS is why I love movies. It’s what I love about movies. People can argue all they want as to whether the film’s much debated ending has a right answer, or no answer at all. Deliberately ambiguous cut to black or not, INCEPTION stills works for me on every level as a deep (not to be confused with hard to follow), breathtaking thriller that explores the power of dreams. BWAAARRRRRRRHHHHM!!!






There you have it. I’m pretty comfortable with that list.
I have yet to see THE KING’S SPEECH, WINTER’S BONE, THE GHOST WRITER, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, or BLUE VALENTINE. Time will tell if they’ll end up on next year’s finalized 2010 list.


Thanks for taking the time, kids.
Until the next one…

Comments
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