So you’re about to embark upon the amazing adventure that will be reading my top fifteen favorite films of the year 2010. It will possibly be the most gratifying thing you will ever do. Or, also possible, it is another meaningless list that someone with a little too much ego has decided to share with the world. To be honest I’ll tell you why I do these every year: Mostly it’s because I’m hoping there’s some movies on this list that maybe you haven’t seen, and if they’re listed below then they’re at the very least little gems (in this guy’s opinion anyways) so long story short if I can help put you on the path to seeing a good movie you hadn’t heard of before or dismissed because it didn’t appeal to you at first glance, well then it’s all worth it, innit?
I should also mention that not all these movies were originally released in 2010. Some of them are foreign and were released in their country of origin in 2009 or 2008, but they were first screened in North America in 2010. I realize their inclusion in this list is questionable but I’m including them here because I can’t include them on my previous years top fifteen, which they would have definitely been a part of had I seen them in time. Legally speaking, 2010 was the year in which they were available to me, so that’s when I saw them and that’s why they’re on this list.
Enough rambling, let’s get listing!
Honorary mention: Monsters
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by Gareth Edwards
First, a notable honorary mention. It didn’t make the top 15 because life is unfair and wrong and 15 is a silly number. 16 would have been much better. That’s my bad. I went to see this movie with a bunch of people and I think I’m the only one in the bunch who liked it, but I really really did. This is a beautiful love story. It’s lingering, deliberately paced. Do not go in expecting a horror story, this is anything but. Much more in the mold of a road movie/love story that happens to be set in a monster infested part of America. The plot is very simple: a photo journalist is tasked by his boss to get his daughter back to him safely. In order to do this they have to cross a big part of the country that has been quarantined when new lifeforms began infesting it. More Wim Wenders than James Cameron, this film is never about the monsters, it’s about the two leads (played by unknowns) and the relationship they forge as they make their way through this hostile land. It’s beautifully shot, amazingly acted, and at times quite poignant. Also it’s a completely independent flick that I encourage you to see if only because we need to encourage movies that take a chance, dammit.
Watch the trailer here
Pre-order it here
#15 Red Hill
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Written by Patrick Hughes
An escaped convict seeking revenge is on his way to the tiny village of Red Hill, where constable Shane Cooper is starting his first day in the police department. There you have it. That’s the one sentence synopsis for this thoroughly entertaining contemporary western. A little movie from Australia (the first feature length from writer/director Patrick Hughes, whom I will be keeping a keen eye on) that I didn’t see coming and was thrilled by from start to finish. Of course, I love westerns (Red Hill is the first of two on this list), I’m sure that played a little hand in my loving this so much, but seriously it’s just so well paced and so lovingly crafted and so simple yet perfect, I finished it and wanted to cheer. There will be movies on this list I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, but this is not one of those – in fact I’m guaranteeing to you right now that should you rent this you will at the very minimum enjoy the hell out of it. And watch for a great turn from Ryan Kwanten, who plays Anna Paquin’s brother in the hit show True Blood (incidently, he’s the funniest and most entertaining character to watch in that series), his role in this movie is completely different and he does an amazing job with it.
Watch the trailer
Buy this amazing movie
#14 Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Directed by Eli Craig
Written by Morgan Jurgenson and Eli Craig
I’m sorry. I’m saying this right now because I owe it to you. It’s a pretty shitty thing to do, putting this great little flick on my top of the year, because you can’t see it. Why? BECAUSE NO ONE IS PICKING UP THE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS TO IT!!!!!!! Pfffffff. Okay, I’m all better now. On with the review: The premise to Tucker & Dale vs Evil is so brilliant you have to wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with it. It’s like trying to imagine a time before the wheel. Dale and Tucker are a couple of hapless hillbillies who just bought a run down little cabin in the woods that they’re looking to fix up. Along comes a group of young good looking college student-types looking for a lake to swim in, drink beer at and just hang out. After a misunderstanding that leads to another misunderstanding, the kids become convinced that Tucker and Dale are some Deliverance-style psychos looking for blood. Hilarity (and no shortage of gore) ensues! Mixing comedy with horror is not always a safe bet, but when done right (see Shaun of the Dead) it can be gold. And this is gold. It’s not the classic that SotD is, but still this little piece of entertainment is insanely funny and doesn’t have a dull moment in it. The work from actors Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk (both of whom I got to meet at the Fantasia screening where I saw this – wooohooo) work so well off of each other you would think they are best friends in real life. And Hillbillies. And slightly dimwitted. If you are a fan of movies that take horror movie conventions and turn them on their back, this one is for you.
Watch the trailer: No. No trailer for you, the quality on youtube is crap. Here’s an interview with the two lead actors instead
Buy the poster!
#13 Summer Wars
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Written by Satoko Okudera
This is another Fantasia 2010 entry making it to my top 15 (and not the last, baby!) I don’t go out of my way to see Animes, there’s too many of them to keep up, but I had seen the trailer for this one about a year ago on Twitch.com and it sort of blew me away, so when I saw it on the Fantasia menu this year I made sure I had a ticket. It’s a weird story to sum up and yet it’s a lot more down to earth than a lot of other Asian animation films I’ve seen, and I really responded to it on a purely emotional level as well as the holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing factor that I come to expect from Animes. It’s about a boy (kind of a math genius) who is paid by one of the loveliest girl at his school to come to her family cottage for the Summer (where her entire extended family will be!!!) and pretend he’s her fiancé. She promised her ailing grandmother she would find a suitor and seeing as this may be the woman’s last summer with them she wants to ease her worries. Add cyber terrorism, ground breaking animation and mind-blowing fight scenes and you have your standard coming of age romp. It’s awesome, seriously. In equal measures awe-inspiring and moving, this movie isn’t just for fans of Anime, it’s for fans of cinema. See it.
Check out the trailer for the American release
Be impatient and get the bluray right now!
#12 127 Hours
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, based on a book (Between a rock and a hard place) by Aron Ralston.
Ahhhhh James Franco, is there anything you can’t do? The man seriously gives an amazing performance in this true story of a guy who gets his arm stuck between a boulder and a rock façade for, like, some duration of time, not sure how long. You can’t expect me to remember EVERY tiny detail, sheeesh. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking what I was thinking, which is “How can a movie about a guy with his arm stuck somewhere for a couple of days be anything other than pretentious and boring”. Well, leave it to Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy to make en extremely tight film about a man forced to look deep inside himself (in more ways than one – ZING!) and the choices he has made in life. It’s a thrilling character exploration, an amazing performance, and a very moving story. There are a couple of very graphic scenes in the movie but it never felt exploitive or gratuitous. It is, however, very involving, and it’s hard to leave the movie unmoved.
Watch the trailer here
#11 The American
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Written by Rowan Joffe, based on the novel by Martin Booth
This is not a movie for everyone. It is slowly paced, has very little action in it (the trailers for it were possibly somewhat misleading on that front) and is filled with long silences. And it is breathtaking. Clooney gives the performance of his career here, displaying more subtlety than I thought he was capable of. It’s another movie with a deceptively simple premise that is very hard to sum up. Or, it’s quite possible that I really suck at summing up movies. I’ll look into that. Anyways, this one’s about a hit man who goes into hiding in a small Italian village after something goes wrong in his life. He takes on a contract while there but it isn’t a hit. It’s something else. In a way that’s not the point. The movie is filled with great performances and stunning photography. It’s quiet and beautiful and what little action there is is always visceral and expertly shot. But really, the winner here is the ambience, the mood of the film, that envelopes you and only lets go after the haunting last shot fades to black.
Watch the beautiful trailer here
Buy this beautiful movie NOW!
#10 Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (story) and Michael Arndt (screenplay)
I am torn about this movie. In a way, it is to me the weakest entry in the series. It pretty much explores the same themes as the second one and doesn’t offer up anything really new. Also it follows what is to me one of the greatest sequels ever made. So it’s got a lot going against it. And yet it’s at number 10 on my list. Because it’s fucking good. I watched it a couple of times since I got the bluray disk and I realized that saying it isn’t as great as the two first isn’t a slight against the film, it’s a compliment to those it follows. Toy Story 1 & 2 are so fucking amazing that saying you’re not as good as them really doesn’t say anything about how good you are. Which is a lot. A lot good. At times hilarious, at times gripping (seriously, there is a scene in this film where the tension is amped up to the absolute maximum) and at times unbelievably moving (I’m looking at you, ending that made me cry!), this moving fails at nothing. I don’t think there is a better trilogy in cinema, to be honest.
Watch the trailer
Buy the flick
#9 True Grit
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Written for the screen by Joel and Ethan Coen (based on the novel by Charles Pontis)
When I heard that the brothers were doing a western I was very happy. Then I heard about the casting of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin and I was kind of ecstatic. But man, I did not see Hailee Steinfeld coming. On the one hand you have Bridges creating another iconic character, someone I’ll quote for years (thought right now I’m going with Barry Pepper’s unforgettable “That is bold talk for a one eyed fat man”, which I can’t seem to get tired of) but on the other hand you have miss Steinfeld stealing damn near EVERY scene from under the man’s nose. I did not think the movie was going to be about her. That it was really a coming of age, at times very sweet movie, that just happens to be filled with ruthless man, killers and drunks. Also, every single scene Damn and Bridges have together are absolute chemistry gold. If you love the western genre then chances are you’ve seen this already, but just in case (and seriously, what the hell are you waiting for???) here’s the damn trailer, dammit
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
The man gets points for giving his nuggins a true work out and coming up with one hell of an original heist movie. I’ve watched Inception a bunch of times now and I’m amazed at how easily Nolan has weaved theses interesting concepts throughout the fabric of the film without out hurting our ability to follow along. It is truly an admirable feat that he has made a complicated story line so easy to understand. Don’t get me wrong, the ideas are complex and can fuel hours of conversation after a viewing of the film, but you can watch the film without getting a headache and follow along what’s going on without getting a damn aneurism. I hope his script will get some recognition come award time (not that it would really matter). Also, points for giving us the most original fight scene I have seen in years, not just visually but conceptually as well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt must be giddy as hell to have this part under his belt. In fact his entire arch (or dream level, or story line or whatever) is some truly riveting stuff from beginning to end.
Watch the trailer for the hundredth time here
Buy the flick here
Directed by Matthew Vaughan
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan, based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
The best superhero movie of the year has no superheroes in it. Eat THAT, Iron Man! The story of awkward teenager Dave Lizewski (played expertly by British actor Aaron Johnson) and his attempt at becoming a superhero is some of the most riveting cinema of the year. As funny as it is violent, as sweet as it is electrifying, this movie has it all. What begins as a standard teen movie evolves into an orgy of kicks, punches, knives and bullets that no action movie was able to equal this year. The way the tension escalates, the ability with which the story (and hero) are allowed to grow and reach the absolute maximum height of their potential requires a control and story-telling talent that to me is baffling. Matthew Vaughan created something here that works perfectly. The first time I saw it I almost teared up after the action climax (tell no one) because it all worked so fucking well together. It is bliss. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the AMAZING score. Can you hum for me the Spider-Man theme (from the movies, not the awesome TV show song)? How about the Iron-Man theme? No? How about Hulk? Can’t do it? Why the shit aren’t super hero themes memorable anymore?!? I can hum the Kick-Ass theme for you, because they fucking knew what they wanted. Something epic and victorious, like the amazing Superman theme by John Williams. To say that they equaled that would be blasphemy, but they come pretty fucking close. I have not mentioned Hit Girl or Big Daddy here. On purpose. Some things are better left discovered without too much warning. If you haven’t seen the movie, buckle up, you will get your money’s worth.
Check out the trailer here
Don’t be a douchbag and download this movie illegally, buy it
#6 Golden Slumber
Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura
Written by Kotaro Isaka
Another Fantasia 2010 graduate (and not the last one, baby!!) and another shitty blow to your cinema-loving balls. You’re not seeing that movie anytime soon, I’m afraid. But I have to include it because maybe you live in Asia somewhere and haven’t seen this and if that’s the case you fucking need to change that right now! The reason everyone else can forget about it is that the song Golden Slumber (from The Beatles, silly) is featured heavily in the movie and due to North-American copyright laws this one ain’t seeing American distribution for quite some time (read: never) because clearing a Beatles song for a movie is super expensive. ANYWAYS: The story is about a man being framed for the assassination of the Japanese prime-minister. The movie is about long lost friendship and how powerful they can be. To say that this movie is a one of a kind stunner is an understatement. I remember walking out of it with my friend Clara and we had kind of a bewildered look stamped on our faces, like we’d just been slapped by awesome. The entire movie is carried by the unbelievably great performance of it’s lead actor, Sakai Masato. He plays the role not like an action movie star would, but instead like a normal dude like you or me who can’t fucking believe that anyone would think he could do the things he’s accused of. He meets a cast of great characters along the way, not the least of which is a ruthless serial killer that you’ll find very hard not to love, and just tries his damn best to survive. I should stress that this isn’t an action film at all. But it is thrilling. And moving. And funny. Maybe it’s a little perfect.
See the trailer here
Be my hero and buy it (warning: no subtitles!!)
Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
Written by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza
I also saw this at Fantasia so it’s time you start regretting not going to that festival a little more. You can right that wrong next year, bucko! This little gem isn’t available on DVD or bluray yet but I hear Magnet got the distribution rights to it so with a little luck it’ll have a homevideo release next year at some point. It’s about a playboy hired killer ninja gambler and it’s awesome. He’s looking for the man who killed his family and he’s awesome. He can do flips and high kicks and just one look from him at any woman and she fuckin’ melts and he’s awesome. He’s better than you. But it’s also a coming of age story about him growing up with his uncle And it’s got a really clever script with a great femme fatale at the heart of it. It’s got twists and turns and great fight scenes and even though it cost next to nothing you can tell they got for times the value for their money up on the screen. It’s too bad that some of you won’t see the greatness beyond the awesome cheesiness on display. That’s your loss. I hate you.
Here’s the trailer for that unique little piece of amazingness
*Back when I first saw it I wrote a blog about it I loved it so much. It’s here
#4 The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich
Aaron Sorkin is a little bit of a genius. Just look at all the West Wing episodes he looked. How fucking good they are. Look at Charlie Wilson’s War, or The American President or A Few Good Men. Yeah, the man is good. So when I say that he out did himself here I want the full weight of that statement to be clear. This movie does with dialogs what John Woo does with gun fights. So take this amazing script and give it to David Fincher and what does the man do? He gets real wise real fast and gives his most restraint directorial effort ever. This is the actor’s movie, not the camera’s. And the actors. Pfffff. I’m not sure what to say. There is not a bad egg in the basket. Jesse Eisenberg, though always good, gives an amazing performance here because he never falls prey to the temptation of making his version of Mark Zuckerberg likeable. That is not to say that he is unlikeable, he is just human. Warts and all. Oh, and very very intelligent, which makes it quite difficult for him to connect with anyone in the manners with which you or I do. Also amazing is Armie Hammer as both Winklevoss brothers. Look, I suck at writing intelligently about movies, especially movies this intelligent. Do me a favor and see it, will ya? It’s good. Dark, funny, mesmerizing.
Absolutely. Amazing. Trailer.
Buy this fucker, here
#3 Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin (screenplay), based on a story by Andres Heinz
A lot has been said of Natalie Portman in Black Swan. But not enough. Not nearly. The tension. The stress. The pain. The paranoia. The fucking dancing. The psychosis. The alter ego. This is not a happy movie, not by a long shot, and yet at the end of it I felt elation. Bliss. I was covered in awe. Fascinated. But, hey, not for everyone. I guess some people won’t see what I saw in that performance, and that’s okay. It’s too bad but it’s okay. Moving on, then. I am not an Aronofsky whore like I am a Coen brothers whore. I haven’t even seen The Wrestler or Requiem for a Dream. So I wasn’t sold walking into this movie. That being said I can’t deny the directorial skills on display here. The way the dancing scenes are shot is unbelievable. How the camera moves around while dozens of people are dancing on the stage. It must have been a fucking nightmare to plan out. All for our viewing pleasures. Thank you, sir. This is the best horror film of the year, bar none.
Buy The Black Swan (it is a pirate movie, not a ballet movie. That one’s not out yet) (hahaha got you)
#2 Castaway on the moon
Directed by Hae-Jun Lee
Written by Hae-Jun Lee
What a great love story. The most romantic movie I have seen in years. Another Fantasia graduate, this fable is about lonely desperate people and the amazing way with which they find each other. I am not kidding when I say that it will lift you up and make your heart swell. The movie is anchored by two amazing performance, those of Min-Heui Hong and So-Yeon Jang. One of them starts the movie on the ledge of a bridge, on the verge of ending it all, and the other in her bedroom where she has locked herself (presumably for years). So spoiler alert: the man does in fact jump off the bridge. He doesn’t die, however (that would be a quick movie), he ends up on a little island in the middle of the river Tan, within view of Seoul but too far from it to swim back to shore. Also he can’t swim, so he was fucked to begin with. After coming to terms with his unfortunate predicament he begins his attempt at surviving in the wilderness of the island. It completely works as a man-on-an-island movie. But it’s so much more than that. A beautiful, disarmingly moving love story that grabs you by the collar and punches light and warmth into your heart until all you can do is bask at how intensely this movie made you feel. Then you wipe the many tears from your cheeks and call all your friends to tell them it’s amazing and they need to see it. But you realize it isn’t available in North America. Fudge.
#1 Scott Pilgrim vs The World*
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright (screenplay), based on the comic books by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Hi. So… this is awkward. I guess, after alienating you with my zillion facebook posts and blogs about this movie, you probably thought I was done, right? And here I am shoving it in your face again like the godless bastard that I am. Godless I tell ya. I’m not putting this movie at the number one spot because it’s sort of okay. It’s here because it passes the bar of awesome within it’s first half hour and leaves it far behind in it’s trajectory to cult legend. No other movie this year will get the place in the pages of cinema that Scott Pilgrim vs The World will. That place occupied by The graduate and The Matrix and Trainspotting, that place reserved for movies that wave the flag of an entire generation, that break the walls of convention and stand like victors in it’s rubbles. This is a movie in absolute control of what it is at all time, and yet that conveys effortlessness throughout. It has stunning action, genuine emotion, hilarious moments, and it oozes sincerity. It is about growing up. It is about the importance of minding other people’s feelings as much as your own. It is about how difficult it is to measure up, to be worth a damn. It is about owning up to your actions. Sincerely, I can’t love this movie enough. If there was an award at the Oscars for Ensemble cast this movie would win it hands down. It’s not just that there isn’t a bad performance to be found here, it’s that every performance is one to savor. Every character has it’s moments of greatness, no matter how big or small. None more than Micheal Cera, though, who gives here the best male performance of the year. Yup. Better than Franco in 127 Hours or Clooney in The American or any other. Nobody gives due diligence to comedy actors in the award seasons. Unless they give a dramatic turn. That’s fucking bullshit. Give me a comedy actor I’ll show you a guy who can do drama. Give me a dramatic actor I’ll show you a guy who’ll more often than not be absolutely lost in a comedy. Comic timing and delivery are not gifts that every one has, and Cera has it in spades. There are moments in this movie where he is uncanny, where he does these little things that sell exactly what it needs to to make the scene work. He is part Peter Sellers, part Woody Allen, part Bill Murray, and at the same time wholly unique. I really hope he stays active in the movies for a very long time because he has become an actor who’s movies I will see blindly as long as he is in them. Also, it is fair to point out that I do not mention Knives Chau in this review. That is a gift to you. The less known, the better. See the film. Relish every moment she is in. Ellen Wong is a goddess.
Amazing trailer right here
Be awesome. Buy the flick