03 March 2011

Good and Bad of 2010: Movies - Vol. 3

2010: What I Loved

This year has been a toughie. The list below is the result of difficult deliberation on what I really, really liked and or in most cases loved. As opposed to the last two years, the lists just naturally made themselves due to the quality of films. 2009 was particularly fantastic, with such titles like Watchmen and Whip It completely blowing me away. Ultimately only a few titles really wowed me in 2010, and therein lay the difficulty. The latter movies I hold in high regard, and my thoughts will follow as such. I recognize this may not be the most entirely conventional list in the blogosophere - after all, I haven't had a chance to see many of those "best of" movies - but perhaps that's a good thing.

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The King's Speech

Notice this at the top of the list. The King's Speech is a very good movie, boasting some mesmerizing, strong chemistry between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. And let us not fail to mention that Helena Bonham Carter was, freakishly enough, not remotely scary looking - in fact, she appeared quite sane. The performances are superb, all across the board; Alexandre Desplat's music shines and chills [especially in the scene where the King gives his address]; and Tom Hooper directs nicely with some pretty nifty shots [here I'm thinking about the voice training montage forty minutes in]; the script is lovely, with raw emotion and heart and plenty of comedy. It's a beautiful little film that is very, very well executed, but it's inclusion on this list rests on the shoulders of two men: Firth and Rush. Screw all the other accolades the Oscars felt worth bestowing on it, screw all the major press it gets, King's Speech great because of those two men, and, I feel, it would be a lesser movie without them.


TRON: Legacy

This was precisely the movie I was looking for. Overall, TRON: Legacy isn't the type of film that is going to be admired for years to come, talked about, or even loved, I think, because of the lack of complexity in the script and the emphasis on special effects over human drama, but I effin loved Legacy, and it's a superb effort from everyone involved and it was immensely engaging from beginning to end. The story of a son looking for his father - even following in his father's footsteps in many regards - is an interesting and compelling one, and nicely realized here. Yes, originality isn't exactly present in high regards here, I admit, but it's the execution I fine worth noting. That relationship is a strong one, father and son, and it serves the drama well. Flynn fighting his own creation is a beautiful sort of twist on creations rebelling against their Maker, prominent in Biblical stories or those futuristic robots-will-take-over-the-world types. Daft Punk's score is the most perfect companion for this movie, it absolutely is. The stars are magnificent, the movie flies by with ease, and as expected from a movie two and a half years in the making, the visual effects are sublime. Legacy is included here because it's a well made movie that is better than people give it credit for, and deserves props nonetheless for being one of the most entertaining rides of the year. [Review Here]


Predators

Here's a science fiction movie that's better than it has any right to be. The last two movies that featured a Predator in them were absolutely atrocious, and no amount of reasoning can possibly make up for the pain and agony of watching both AVPs. No excuse. And finally here comes a third movie in the standalone Predator franchise, and it kicks all kinds of ass. A group of predators - military men, mercenaries, basically dudes with guns - are thrown offworld to the aliens territory to be hunted :: game starts now. Friggin' spectacular. With a cast that fully delivers, including an buff Adrian Brody in a role many, including myself, didn't feel he had the ability to pull off, but miraculously did. That sense of danger whenever the Predator is around, that sense that winning this fight is near impossible, and that overall glee that comes over you when you see the Predator in action - it's all there. Predators is a success, paying homage to the original two, maintaining that same sense of atmosphere that served the originals so well, and perfectly staying in continuity. I would have been happy if they simply didn't frak the franchise up like they did with the AVP films, and they did so much more. They delivered not only a good Predator movie, but a good action/adventure, a good horror, and good suspense film. There is no reason Predators should not get recognition. [Review Here]

Kick Ass

Truth be told, it wasn't as perfect of a movie I expected it to be, but with repeated viewings, Kick Ass is still a strong, comedic, action film that hits more than it misses. It wasn't necessarily a social commentary on what would happen if some doofus was dumb enough to don a superhero outfit and fight crime...and eventually end up hospitalized or quite dead, instead it was a nice satire on the genre it loved, embraced the conventions, and had some fun with it. The movie wasn't complex by any means, but it was hilarious and fun and full of action. Plus, it enabled McLovin to test his acting skills in a character that wasn't primarily a dork. Mark Strong continued his streak of being in nearly every other movie I saw last year by playing the villain here, and he did it wonderfully. That's the beauty of Kick-Ass: it doesn't take itself seriously, and it's a perfect blend of satire/homage. And let's not discount that Kick-Ass gave the world Hit Girl, and that alone is worthy of high recognition. I'm interested to see where these characters go from here, so absolutely sign me up for Kick-Ass 2!


The Karate Kid

Truly the most surprising title on this list, I, like many others, expected this movie to not only flop in the box office, but be a major disappointment and overall suckfest. Turns out, not so much. The Karate Kid exceeded all expectations, and became a emotional, intelligent, and very well acted and directed movie about standing up for oneself and achieving discipline. To add to the surprise, Jackie Chan's performance is his most dramatic ever, brilliant as the instructor with a tormented past; Jaden Smith is jaw-dropping, frankly, in the lead role, absolutely charismatic and completely pulling off the martial arts/karate/what-have-you with the utmost believability and, dare I say, kickassness. Although I love the film, I do recognize some faults, such as pacing issues and a romance I personally felt was a bit forced, but none of that detracts from the enjoyment factor. One of the rare instances where a remake, or 're-imagining', actually works, The Karate Kid is a triumph. [Review Here]


Inception

Christopher Nolan really is a genius. Figuring out the mechanics of the multiple layers of dreamworld, miraculously placing enormous amounts of exposition that doesn't really feel like it's being delivered as exposition in a quick and understandable style, conjuring up some iconic and brilliant cinematography, and overall keeping me guessing about what the hell was going to happen next even after analyzing countless trailers, posters, and quotes. I will still always place Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as his best work above all others [Memento included], but Inception really was fantastic. The only problem I have with the film comes down to pacing: when Cobb and his gang enter the third layer (aka the snowy fortress), that's when the running time becomes apparent and editing becomes a garbled mess for a small time being. But the movie quickly picks up its feet a bit afterward, and all is fine again. As for the ending, I think it was perfect and appropriate, and there frankly couldn't have been an alternative. [Review Here]


The Social Network

That "Facebook movie" that ended up not really being about Facebook at all. Instead a riveting character study of a somewhat fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg (played perfectly by Jessie Eisenberg, successfully washing away all Michael Cera-comparisons) who acts like an ass, is a bit too smart for his own good, and ostracized a dear friend in the making of millions of dollars. Although the entire movie is pretty much perfect, with each actor delivering their best and David Fincher directing as brilliantly as to be expected and a rocking soundtrack to boot, the real outstanding element of The Social Network is Aaron Sorkin's script. The dialogue shines, similar to Diablo Cody's Juno script but a tad more clever, and thanks to Fincher's suggestion for a rapid fire, Gilmore Girls-esque delivery of the lines, the dialogue comes across just as compelling as an action sequence from, say, The Dark Knight. Much has already been written about this film, so I'll simply end by saying it was a pitch perfect film that defied expectations and was interesting and captivating from the opening seconds to the closing shot of Mark refreshing the computer screen.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

This movie is superb. Not just as a Harry Potter movie, but as a film about a group of teenagers facing insurmountable evil in a community that has turned against them. It sucks to be Ron and Hermione, but more than anyone, it sucks to be Harry Potter. Everyone under Voldemort's grasp wants his head on a platter for the Dark Lord, and the few devotees to Potter he has tend to get the short end of the stick. So not only is the Wizarding community faced with political corruption, coercion, and a seemingly unstoppable antagonist, but there's even discontent in Harry's own camp. Ron faces his jealousy and anger and fear in two truly spectacular sequences that will forever leave an impression on me: the tent scene where Harry and Ron have a row, and later when Ron destroys the Horcrux by looking his deepest fears straight in the naked face and conquering them. With Order of the Phoenix, this series became a lot more than simply a childrens/young adult fantasy tale, it became a deeply personal story about a boy facing the darkness of the world and the sacrifices and trials he must make to beat it. The series is about friendship, about the darkness inside all of us, about our inherent goodness, about good vs. evil, right and wrong, and friendship and love. Deathly Hallows is a magnificent film that boasts no shortage of spectacular scenes, chief among them the creative animation telling the backstory of a child's fable. Daniel Radcliffe is mesmerizing and his performance nuanced, Emma Watson exudes the tragedy and, at times, comedy of the situation, and Rupert Grint does his finest work facing his darkest fears and blossoming romance. It's clear everyone on the production team were at their top game, and it will be quite difficult to match the same level of emotion, tension, and characterization of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Quite a remarkable achievement. [Review Here]


Black Swan

Wow. Just wowness. Yea, I went to Black Swan primarily for the Mila Kunis-on-Natalie Portman action, I admit it. Coming out of the movie, I couldn't really believe what I just saw. It was fantastic, mesmerizing, powerful, and, dare I say, poetic. Yes, Natalie Portman gave a tour de force performance as Nina, a woman possessed with perfecting her craft to the point it starts to mess with her mind, but the real artistry of Black Swan is the technical side: the cinematography is breathtaking; the writing is top notch; the editing quick, precise, riveting; the music by Clint Mansell, incorporating material from the "Swan Lake" play, is outstanding; and the overall experience is like a nightmare that hits all your senses and you can't look away, can't even blink. Black Swan is superior to The Wrestler in my mind, for Black Swan is so much more than just a movie about a individual achieving perfection in their performance, it's a dark film with some ghostly imagery and feels very much like a dark fairy tale. Simply put, Black Swan works on multiple levels, and it can't be categorized easily just by one genre. Darren Aronofsky has created one of the most unique movies of the past decade, only rivaled by my number one choice. If there was only one movie in the Oscar's 'Best Picture' list I would say without a shadow of a doubt you must see, Black Swan is it.

And #1 best/favorite/most memorable movie of 2010 is....

...drumroll, please...


Gonna Have to Wait for Tomorrow!

3 comments:

Jack L said...

I loved the King's Speech, it was fully deserving of it's awards in my opinion. Kick Ass was also great, I also really enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs The World, even more so than Kick Ass even.

I didn't like Tron or Predators at all though.

And I wasn't much impressed by Inception, Black Swan and the Social Network.
Harry Potter 7 was better than I thought it would be though...

Nice list, rather different from the usual lists one sees, and even if I don't agree with all your choices I still really like that!

Andy the Time Lord said...

Jack - Thanks for reading, mate!

Why with the no love for either TRON or PREDATORS? Or, for that matter, lack of impression on INCEPTION, SWAN, or NETWORK? I am intrigued.

Jack L said...

ok, if you really want to know:

Well Predators was pretty bad in my opinion, Adrien Brody was terribly miscast and the final twist was ridiculous, and The Predators themselves were pretty pathetic, I mean, would a predator really fall for one of it's own traps, so many things about the film annoyed me...
Tron on the other hand didn't annoy me much, it just left me very indifferent I didn't hate any thing about it yet didn't really like anything either, strange film.

Inception, Black Swan and TSN were all good but I didn't think they were anything more than just good.
Inception had excellent special effects but was quite badly written and the story was bland.
Black Swan was very interesting but I didn't like the way Arronofsky handled it.
The Social Network was very good but not amazing, it did what it set out to do very well but nothing more, I think it's a bit to overrated.

Of course I respect you're opinions and I hope I didn't bore you with my rant, please don't think I'm one of those people that enjoys hating films, even if it might seem that way, I just try to think of them objectively without being too influenced by what others thought, thus I'm often in disagreement with others...

I like your writing though and I'll be reading all your future posts!