Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Top 10 of '10

The year 2010 got off to a slow start cinematically, but picked up steam as we went along. By mid-June I was calling it the worst year for movies in at least a decade, but then late summer smiled on us with "Toy Story 3," "Inception" ... and even a "Twilight" movie that wasn't half bad.

A strong showing of Oscar-contending films in the latter months -- some of which won't hit local theaters until 2011 -- pushed the year into respectable territory.

Here are my picks for the best and worst of 2010.


First, the least.

In selecting the worst movies of the year, I should add the caveat that I haven't seen what are likely the absolute bottom of the barrel. A lot of the flicks that are truly awful, like the relentless annual issuing of a new "Saw" movie, are not screened in advance. It's a little game the studios and critics play: They know their movie stinks, so they don't show it to us, figuring no review is better than a bad review.

So these 10 films are the worst I saw in 2010, or at least that disappointed me the most.

1.   Yogi Bear -- I never thought I'd see a movie that made me look back fondly on "Garfield," but this aggressively awful CG-meets-live action romp sets a new high in low for kiddie fare.

2.    Machete -- Robert Rodriguez made a movie based on one of the fake trailers contained in the "Grindhouse" double feature from a few years ago. It's not nearly as much fun as it seems to think it is.

3.    Legendary -- WWE wrestler John Cena tackles a dramatic role in a movie about real high school wrestling. Tag this one out.

4.    Jonah Hex -- A silly comic adaptation of a bloody comic book, written by the guys who did those awful "Crank" movies.

5.    The Bounty Hunter -- Two likable stars, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, in a cynical movie that manages to dredge up every cliché of both the romantic comedy and buddy cop genres.

6.   Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time -- This big-budget summer flick from Disney featured a bunch of Caucasian actors pretending to be Persians, and a plot that pretended to be coherent.

7.    Repo Men -- I give it credit for some bold ideas, but this strange movie about thugs who repossess bodily organs out of live people should've been recalled for a rewrite or five.

8.    The Wolfman -- Hollywood hasn't made a werewolf movie in ages. And after this howlingly bad effort, it probably won't again soon.

9.  The Book of Eli -- An admittedly great-looking movie set in a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone is looking for the last copy of the Bible. Audiences needed a lot of faith to make it through this one.

10.  Wild Grass -- This effort from celebrated filmmaker Alain Resnais is like a parody of every stereotype of European art films: Dense, impenetrable and deliberately off-putting.



10.  Tangled -- Some have dismissed it as just another Disney princess movie. If the house that Walt built can still make them this good, I have no problem with many, many more.

9.    Biutiful -- This lovely, dreary Spanish-language film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu is notable mostly for its strong performance by Javier Bardem as a street hustler burdened with a soul and a death sentence.

8.   Freedom Riders -- The best documentary I saw this year. Stanley Nelson's film takes what we think is a well-traversed piece of Civil Rights history, and continually surprises and enlightens us.

7.    True Grit -- Joel and Ethan Coen's oater of a Western is not so much a remake of the John Wayne film as an entirely new vision based on the same book. It's darker, more violent, and better.

6.    Blue Valentine -- A tragic romance story about two people falling in love, intermixed with the same couple's marriage dissolving several years later. Two amazing performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams -- a Sundance Film Festival favorite, and now we know why.

5.   How to Train Your Dragon -- The best animated film of 2010, and it had some healthy competition. "Toy Story 3" will win the Oscar, but I deem this DreamWorks effort superior because it created a whole new world, and contained a sneaky theme about overcoming disability.

4.    Inception -- Truly the most audacious, original and innovative film of the year. Yes, the settings and world-within-a-world theme are reminiscent of other films ("Blade Runner," "The Matrix"). But Christopher Nolan's intricately-layered storytelling left audiences amazed and gasping.

3.   Winter's Bone -- Cold and sharp, this outstanding drama from co-writer/director Debra Granik is set among the cloistered confines of poor hill people, but never once does it look down upon them or treat them as a zoological exhibit. Terrific performances by Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

2.    127 Hours -- The cinematic performance of the year from James Franco, and another bravura directing job by Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"). Forget the grisly details about a trapped mountain climber who cut off his own arm. This is the story of a lost soul who was saved by the boulder that pinned him.

1.    The Social Network -- The "Citizen Kane" for Generation Y. In its portrait of a New Media mogul, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, this film from director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin may have taken as many liberties with the facts as Orson Welles did with William Randolph Hearst. But it's a dizzyingly smart, verbose film that highlights how computer code is rewriting the way we communicate.



Making lists of your favorite things is fun -- except for the anguish of having to leave deserving films off. Here are 15 more movies (in alphabetical order) that didn't make my Top 10, but vied for a spot:

The American
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Fighter
Get Him to the Greek
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
Morning Glory
Mother and Child
Rabbit Hole
Red Cliff
Toy Story 3

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