There was not much to look forward to at the movie theater this past year, but from of the depths of mediocrity (Grown Ups, The Last Airbender), a number of films did rise to capture our imagination, provoke thought, charm us and send our minds to a dark, twisted place that developed a fear of ballerinas (Thanks, Darren Aranofsky). Some films may not be worthy of an Academy Award nomination, but I don’t care because this is my list. So here are my favorite films of the year.
It was difficult to leave out this film, based on the popular comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Director Matthew Vaughn provides plenty of R-rated material with gratuitous violence and profanity while staying true to the source material. Ever wondered what it would be like to be a superhero? Who the hell hasn’t? Well Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson) did and he chose to become one, only to realize the comic books he reads don’t really emphasize the pain, blood and tears that goes into being a hero. And the film has one of the most memorable characters of the year: Hit Girl (played by Chloe Moretz).
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Edgar Wright’s story of two young lovebirds (based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular graphic novel series) told through video game culture, indie music and comic book lingo is one of the most entertaining films of the year. Wright’s imagination pleases the eye with great visual effects while Michael Bacall’s screenplay charms its way into your heart. Michael Cera may turn people away from this film, but give Wright a chance. It’s not the best film in his filmography (Shaun of the Dead is still No. 1), but this may be his best work as a director.
9. Toy Story 3
Disney Pixar’s third installment of a story….about….toys (hence: Toy Story…genius!) is highest grossing film of 2010 with $1.06 billion and for good reason. It’s a heartwarming, gut-wrenching film that is sure to bring nostalgic tears to a grown man. I saw this film in theaters on a date and the girl asked me, “Were you crying?” To which I responded, “What? No…of course not. I had…some popcorn in my eye. I hate it when that happens.”
8. 127 Hours
Mountain climber Aron Ralston’s courageous true story of having his arm trapped by a boulder is unforgettable thanks to Danny Boyle and James Franco. Boyle brings his A-game in a film that has only one person throughout most of the film. His direction of a starving, dehydrated man losing his faith and mind was excruciating and, at times, humorous to watch. Franco’s performance was remarkable. He played his character’s transformation, which went from panic and depression to accepting his fate, to perfection. 127 Hours may not garner as much buzz as Boyle’s previous film (Slumdog Millionaire), but it’s sure to make people take Franco seriously.
7. The Kids Are All Right
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore shone in this smart, dramatic comedy about a gay couple with two children who searched for their biological father (played by Mark Ruffalo). Lisa Cholodenko’s film is as entertaining as it is eye-opening, and it’s a fresh take on the modern couple and family.
6. The Fighter
What is it about the sport of boxing that it always makes awesome movies? We’ll never know…but The Fighter is worthy of being discussed among the best. The somber story of Micky Ward attempting to establish himself as a boxer while dealing with his family makes a compelling film thanks to its actors. Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams’ work will be overshadowed by the stunning performance of Christian Bale as Ward’s brother Dicky Eklund, a former boxer and drug addict who trains Micky. Director David O. Russell does a great job in recreating Ward’s fight as well as adding humor to certain situations to the film.
5. True Grit
Joel and Ethan Coen really went out on a limb in adapting the novel True Grit about a young girl hiring a U.S. Marshal to hunt down her father’s killer, but the gamble definitely paid off. The Coen brothers focused more on the Charles Portis’ novel instead of attempting to recreate the classic 1969 western starring John Wayne, which earned him an Academy Award. They integrated humor and great scenery to the new adaptation, and got the best out of actors Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Fans of the 1969 film may have cringed at the thought of another actor playing Rooster Cogburn, but Bridges recreates the famous character to make it his own, very much like Heath Ledger did with the Joker in 2008′s The Dark Knight. With great scenic directing, stellar acting and awesome writing, the Coen Brothers have added another classic to their list.
4. Black Swan
The most thrilling film of the year happens to also be one of the most beautifully and well-shot movies this year. Darren Aranofsky showcases his great vision in the compelling story of ballerina dancer Nina (played by Natalie Portman…just give her the damn award because she was that good), who begins to lose her grip on reality while attempting to prove to her director that she’s the perfect choice for the lead in Swan Lake. Aranofsky does a phenomenal job showcasing an innocent, restrained Nina transforming into a seductive, loose dancer (mirroring Swan Lake). I literally took a shower after watching the film and watched a light-hearted Despicable Me on Blu-Ray to get my mind out of the darkness…thanks, Darren.
3. The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech follows the basic formula to making a film that Oscar (the award, not me) loves to see. The trailer begged for attention from the Academy (Look at me! I’m a historic film…and British!) Tom Hooper does a brilliant job directing, but it’s David Seidler’s writing as well as the actors’ performances that make the film much more. Seidler’s story of King George VI (an Oscar-worthy performance by Colin Firth) dealing with a speech impediment and working with Australian speech therapist Lionel (an impeccable, entertaining performance by Geoffrey Rush) really captures the drama and pathos of its characters. Seidler also layered some humor and a hint of thrills (sounds like a good recipe) during the movie’s climax. I cannot wait to own this film on Blu-Ray.
Christopher Nolan has become somewhat of a staple when it comes to directing. After The Dark Knight, audiences eagerly awaited his next project. The Inception teaser trailer showed a snippet of amazing action sequences that defied physics, telling us “Your Mind is the Scene of the Crime.” When I saw the teaser, I remember thinking: “That was awesome, but what the hell did I just watch? Why is Nolan messing with my mind, here?!” Because it’s Christopher eff’ing Nolan. He likes to mess with your head and challenge his viewers, and Inception did just that. A visually stunning work of art, a complex, layered story and good acting will challenge The Social Network for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
1. The Social Network
The engrossing, gripping story of the birth of Facebook should not be missed. This film is an example of when everything just falls into place and is executed to perfection. Aaron Sorkin’s smart, witty writing is well acted by Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield, and the story is thrilling and well done thanks to the artful direction of David Fincher. This is the kind of movie that defines a generation and will be appreciated much more in the future.