01 March 2011

Good and Bad of 2010: Movies - Vol. 1

Hello ladies and gentlemen, friends of the movie blogosphere! Welcome to the annual Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek year-end review. Not the most conventional list or method of award giving, sure, but it's fun and I get to be all judgey. How cool is that? Also, speaking about the coolness factor, today is just Day 1 of 6! Yep, that's right mateys, there will be another five days of celebrating 2010 and all its cinematic and television accomplishments.

Hope you enjoy!

In 2012 you'll most likely see a repeat of what I have here. Christopher Nolan is one of the few name director/writers that all you really need to do is hear him mentioned, and your ticket is automatically guaranteed. He has a visual style that isn't quite replicable, and his intellect and cleverness certainly do him many favors. I personally love The Dark Knight more than Inception, but that isn't to say I don't recognize the remarkable achievement that is the Inceptioned blockbuster. Before cinematography, before the score, before the actors, Christopher Nolan is first and foremost a storyteller. A brilliant one, at that. He has this amazing ability to not only create a unique premise, but to add equally brilliant layers to that initial plot, adding not only character complexities, a few bazillion subplots, hurdles to overcome, agendas, and even adding in some thoughts to ponder on when the lights bright up and the credits roll. As a storyteller, Christopher Nolan leaves me in awe. As a director, Nolan has this amazing sense of the camera, recognizing its tooliness and providing us with visuals that we aren't soon to forget.

As a regular everyday Joe, as far as I can tell from transcript and video interviews, he seems like a honest, down-to-earth guy, and we need more of 'em. Nolan is the perfect blend of creativity, honesty, and brilliance.

(er, typerwritership)

We're to a point where audiences may be a bit over-hyped on The Social Network. I understand, I get it. But frankly, it deserves the love. Specifically, writer Aaron Sorkin. I would not remotely like this movie - let alone love it - nearly as much if it wasn't for the script's direction of story, or it's brilliant dialogue that is so remarkable and quotable.

Never read The Accidental Billionaires, doubt I ever will, but Sorkin took what really could have just been "that Facebook movie" and made it into a interesting story about two friends, the shit that happens between them, and their eventual separation and animosity. How the characters talk, and the delivery of those lines, is just icing on the cake. It's this interesting take on history, this messed up friendship, that I found most compelling, and makes the movie much more than just 'a film of our times'. Friendship going to Hell, it's a movie for all times.

In closing: great guy, wrote some great television shows (West Wing and Studio 60), wrote a terrific script about the lives of people and the choices we make, and crafted the cleverest, brilliantist dialogue of the year. An award I ain't winning any time soon. Cheers to you, Aaron Sorkin.


The Hallway Fight - Inception
Many folks left the theater confused, "Was it all a dream? What the hell just happened?" But one aspect of the movie was unanimous: "that fight in the hallway was AWESOME!" As expected, Christopher Nolan has once again glued himself to our minds as the year closes, providing us with one of the most intriguing technical achievements, most stellar and pulse-pounding action sequence, and overall COOLness of 2010. Yeah, that was pretty freakin' sweet.

Aim for the Bushes - The Other Guys
Decent movie that transcends brilliance with a hilarious, unforgettable scene in the opening half hour. Thanks to Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Fury himself, The Other Guys will forever be cemented in my mind. Dwayne and Samuel play those cops, y'know, the ones that are "the shit." They walk around like nothing can stop them, they're friggin' Supermen, have the city in their finger tips. So for some reason or another, they think it's a brilliant idea to chase after some bad guys by jumping off a very high building roof, but they'll be safe by "aim[ing] for the bushes." They pretty much go splat. A more perfect scene could not be envisioned.

Psychedelic Sex Scene - Black Swan
I'm at college, and I live in the dorms, and when Black Swan played at the nearby movie theater and the young adults came back from seeing it, I got the distinct impression the overall movie was lost on them and all they remembered was the hot sex scene about a hour in. So like it or not, this scene definitely qualifies for a big topper of memorable bits in 2010. I appreciate the scene for two reasons: (a) lesbian sex scene, and (b) with the end reveal at the level of Nina's fractured psyche and everything was (SPOILER) conjured up by her mind, this scene took on another level - outburst of her repressed sexual desires (on a person she fancied would have no problamo with her proposal). On one hand it's a hot scene, and on the other, it's interesting to see Nina's mind become so warped and blowing in multiple directions. And yea, Darren Aronofsky successfully made a ballet movie that would get men interested.

"No" - The Social Network
Perfect example of Aaron Sorkin's tight dialogue that gets straight to the point and is bloody well beyond clever. There's plenty of memorable scenes in this movie, loads of 'em, actually, but this one was glued into my memory while it was playing. Jessie Eisenberg rocks here, he completely owns the camera, owns the delivery, and owns the movie right then and there. Now if only I had the balls to speak out like this...nah, get me in loads and loads of trouble. Nonetheless, this is an awesome moment where Mark Zuckerberg just flat out says he wasn't paying attention because he has far better and more pressing matters to spend his time and energy thinking about. The music helps set the mood, the tense, dark moment where Fincher cuts back to the lawyer who looks completely taken aback.

Dance of Despair - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
No amount of wizarding battles or hilarious one-liners or action sequences can quite compare to this quite two minute scene that packs one hell of an emotional punch. As you can tell from the poster - and any Potter fan knows - Harry is on the run from everyone. Voldemort has infiltrated the Ministry and now they want his head on a plate. His friendship with Ron is strained to the point that Ron leaves, but Hermione chooses to stay, her heart conflicted. This scene happens some days after Ron leaves, as Hermione is so completely lost - whether it be lost with hope, or questioning her decision to stay with Harry, what have you, that woman is depressed, broken maybe - and Harry sits down across from her and sees her despair. The radio is on, Nick Cave's "O Children" playing, and Harry gets up and offers his hand to Hermione. The two of them get up and dance. Often I hear about how 'cute' the scene is, and although that it is, the scene is also poignant. It's just a fleeting moment of happiness and carefreeness before re-entering the world where everyone wants to kill them. It is not a romantic moment, it is not a blotted scene to bring us to a long running time, it's a quiet little scene that gives us so much and bares a heavy emotional impact. Life is shit right now, so let's take a moment from that and just forget our worries. Taking it into another context, it's a beautiful moment showing how far these two characters have progressed from the first movie to this last story, their arcs, their grown upness. Magnificent scene, and definitely one of the best of the series.[Image Source]


How to Train Your Dragon
written by John Powell

I may not have been head-over-TARGET-bought-shoes in love with Dragon as it seems the major populace was, but John Powell's score should not be underrated, and his contribution to making the movie as successful as it was unappreciated. With the exception of the mega cool Queen dragon at the very end - which I will forever distinctly remember because I would very much like an action figure of it - the most memorable aspect of the film is Powell. Take the training sequence for example, as Hiccup attempts to teach and care for 'Toothless'. That's some great work. And I can't forget mentioning the great work in the battle scene(s). Whether it be action pieces or the dramatic character moments, Powell rocks.

The Last Airbender
written by James Newton Howard

M. Night's cinematic adaptation may not have been up to snuff, but the music by James Newton Howard (King Kong) is far and away magnificent. The story of The Last Airbender calls for something epic. The score is, naturally, epic. It's a beautiful composition. Specifically, I'm thinking of the ending cue, "Flow Like Water". Listen to that, and let me know if you can find another track in 2010 just as absolutely mind blowingly gorgeous. Destiny, uncertainty, chaos, oppression, heroism - all themes Howard majestically brings into his score to the point where it tells the story without actually having to see the film [spare the few of you].

written by Hans Zimmer

Like I said with Powell's Dragon score, the scene could be a simple exchange of dialogue, or the group explaining the rules, or a outrageously awesome action piece, and in the case of each and every one of them, Hans Zimmer delivers some outstanding goods. The score for Inception is absolutely magnificent, rivaling the greatness of the movie itself. It's also immediately recognizable, not unlike Social Network, and that's a terrific compliment to Mr. Zimmer. All in all, absolutely one of the best scores of the year, and one of Zimmer's personal best.

TRON: Legacy
written by Daft Punk

I initially wasn't a fan, but hell, this score bloody well works. No Hans Zimmer or John Powell could deliver a score so satisfying and complimentary to the content of TRON like this. Miraculously the score becomes more than just what I dismissed as techno junk left over from The Matrix Reloaded, instead becoming an integral part of the story that conjures the desired emotions - the exhilaration of the Grid, the reunion of father and son and the emotional complexity of that, and definitely sells the fight scenes. Hell, one could nearly say the score makes the film. It's definitely one of those scores you will want in your car to blast on a long trip.

The Social Network
written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Two nights ago Reznor and Ross won the Oscars for Best Original Score, and although they do deliver a fine composition indeed, I can't necessarily concede it's the best. Nonetheless, their work here adds layers to the film, from the eerie opening credits track to the work near the end underscoring the deterioration of Mark and Eduardo's friendship. A lovely, lovely score that you definitely won't soon forget.

Black Swan
written by Clint Mansell

Aronofsky's Black Swan works on multiple levels, why would it stop at the music? Mansell has some terrific scores under his belt (Moon), and this is no exception. Disqualified by the Academy for its use of Swan Lake music, it at least does absolute justice to the ballet, bringing up the intensity of the final performance ten fold, adding to the psychological breakdown of Nina's, and being all around captivating. The quieter moments don't work as well as other films on this list, Mansell's strong work relying more in the big and grandiose moments, but when they hit, they hit big, striking a unforgettable cord. Conjures up chills, man.

  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - Howard Shore
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Various Artists
  • Shutter Island - Robbie Robertson

The Best Visual Effects in Hollywood

Avatar was sooo 2009. Welcome to 2010, where Disney kicks Avatar's ass and completely floors me with the visual orgasm that is TRON: Legacy. That's a comment I'm sure not many will agree with me on - after all, Avatar was supposed to revolutionize the digital effects industry - but each and every frame absolutely floored me. The world the Flynns explore is a gorgeous, pristine, precise world where everything is rendered to utter perfection. Now if only we could pull a George Lucas and recreate the digital effects from the original with the technology of today. I'd rebuy the original for that. No amount of hotness Olivia Wilde exudes or spiffy music from Daft Punk can quite match the sheer jaw-dropping awe that came from watching this digital world come to life. Wowness, indeed.

That concludes Day 1 of the Good and Bad of 2010. Come back tomorrow for lots and lots of awards which include awesomest character of the year, sexiest actress, favorite movie poster, a list of stupid endings, etc. Cheers!


James Smith said...

great list. i think daft punk was put on this planet to work on tron...

jeremythecritic said...

So true on those picks for best scores, especially recent Academy Award Winner Trent Reznor's for TSN. And I join you in being wowed in every way by TRON: Legacy. Music, story, visual effects, everything.

Fletch said...

Awesome start for just Day 1. This is gonna be huge!

What, no Sam Worthington for man of the year? I am disappoint. ;)

Can't say that I disagree with much that you called out here, though if you're gonna pick just one thing from Harry Potter, it's gotta be the animated sequence. The dance was a nice touch, but it wasn't as magical as it thought it was. Felt a bit too pre-planned. Nick Cave was an awesome choice, though.

Andy the Time Lord said...

James - Yes, indeed. Never heard of Daft Punk prior to TRON, so I just might check out their works.

Jeremy - Agreed. I wish TRON got a bit more lovin' instead of regulated to a SPFX extravaganza without all the other ingredients.

Fletch - Frankly, I did think about Sam Worthington. The amount of work he's done in 09/10 [and the movies yet to be released] did make him a candidate, but I really didn't wanna write about AVATAR anymore than I had to nor riff on Worthington's acting chops [CLASH makes me laugh; though from what I heard Worthington wasn't a fan of his own performance and vows to do better in WRATH. w00t, ladies and gents!]

You're bloody right on the animated sequence. Brilliant. Damn, shoulda added that. I added the dance because I guess it resonated with me the most. My mom felt the same way about the dance, that it felt a bit pre-planned and forced. Hopefully there will be a special feature on the DEATHLY HALLOWS disc showing the making of the animated sequence: that would be coolio. Thanks for reading, mate.