The past year has been incredible for me personally. I know I saw more movies in 2010 then in any year previously, between the many nights I spent over the summer at the drive-in or the multitude of DVDs Netflix sent me (I got my subscription last January). Of course, not everything I watched this year has been great, but the great has more than made up for the mediocre and downright bad.
My friend Kyle recently compiled a list of his personal best movies of 2010, and I was inspired to do the same. However, I’m going to write mine a little differently. Although I certainly saw enough great 2010 movies to make a similar list, I also saw tons of great older movies that really deserve mentioning. With this in mind, I present to you the Top 10 Movies I Saw in 2010:
10. Easy A
A dark horse of a movie if ever there was one. I was all ready to place “Shall We Dance?” – a Japanese movie that shares its name and plot with the Richard Gere remake – in the coveted 10th spot. And although I still HIGHLY recommend you watch that movie, I have to give honors to Easy A’s loose adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. Judging by the response I got on Facebook, most of my friends really didn’t enjoy this movie, and I honestly don’t know why. It’s easily the funniest movie from last year, not that Grown Ups and The Other Guys are much competition. What’s more, the comedy comes from sharp dialogue and pitch-perfect delivery instead of the crude and vulgar humor I’m so used to seeing these days. Maybe it’s not as good as Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You (although I think it is), but if you like smart humor, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a better movie than Easy A.
On a side note, I’m definitely noticing a trend in Romantic-Comedies lately: they’re starting to reference the movies of the 80s more and more, as Easy A demonstrated. How long before 10 Things I Hate About You becomes the go-to reference for Rom-Coms?
9. The Seven Year Itch
Memo to self: films from the 40s and 50s can really surprise you. That was certainly the case with the Marilyn Monroe classic, The Seven Year Itch. I don’t expect a movie from the 50s to make a veiled joke about the upstairs neighbors being gay (“I think they’re interior decorators”). I also finally understand the appeal of Marilyn Monroe. Va-Va-Voom, indeed! I could watch that woman walk up stairs all day!
But really, just do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It’s a classic for a reason!
Inception was a movie I had absolutely no interest in watching at first. In fact, this is a case where the trailers actually lowered my desire to see a movie; they just showed a lot of weird, nonsensical images and didn’t really given a true sense of what the movie was about. And then the hype train started. Twitter, Facebook, the watercooler: everywhere people were gushing about how amazing Inception was, and there I was still the skeptic. So I waited. I waited for it to leave theaters, come out on DVD, and finally be available for me to watch on Netflix.
And you know what: everyone was right.
Inception didn’t change my life or leave me philosophizing about “what it all means” for days, but it did keep me riveted for more than two hours without wanting to stop and check Twitter or Facebook (I’m not ADD, I swear!), and for an at-home movie experience that’s pretty damn good. The pacing is just superb, which is something I’ve really grown to appreciate this year. Plus, the move does make you think without getting caught up in its own BS (like the Matrix sequels). At its core though, Inception is just a smart and entertaining action movie, and it was definitely worth the wait.
7. Kick Ass
Kick Ass is just a fun movie! Conceptually, it has a lot in common with 2009’s The Watchmen, another movie I saw this year. You’ll notice, however, that Watchmen didn’t make my “best of” list (it didn’t even come close). Whereas Watchmen took the subject of real-life superheroes very seriously and – in my opinion – failed to really resonate, Kick Ass revels in the ridiculousness of it all. It’s totally the Kill Bill of superhero movies, complete with expertly-choreographed fight scenes and a swearing ten year old. There’s not much more I could ask for.
The original Rocky is the kind of movie I should have seen years ago, along with Dirty Harry and The French Connection (which I also watched this year). It’s just one of those classic movies everyone has seen and references. Except for me, that is. Well, I still referenced it, but it was always the lying kind of referencing where you simply repeat the lines you’ve heard everyone else quote.
But yeah, Rocky is a really really good movie, and not just compared to other pugilistic films.
5. Gran Torino
Even as an old man, Clint Eastwood is still the man. Only he could make the phrase “get off my lawn” sound menacing. But Eastwood’s eternal bad ass status aside, Gran Torino is just a really good drama. I wish I could be more extemporaneous and articulate, but unfortunately I watched it 10 months ago, so my exact feelings on why it’s so good have escaped me.
4. (500) Days of Summer
I can thank my best friend Lisa for introducing me to this film. After she “live-tweeted” her own viewing experience from Australia, I decided to add it to the top of my Netflix Queue. (500) Days of Summer is definitely what I’d call a modern love story. It’s not a Rom-Com by any means, and the movie tells you right away that there is no happy ending for this story. The protagonist isn’t a very reliable narrator either, remembering events differently than they actually occurred (which becomes clear as the movie progresses).
Overall, I really like the message the movie sends, even if it’s not particularly cheery: relationships don’t always work out. This year, I had to end a long-running relationship with someone I really cared about because we just did not work together. And that sucks! But it’s also life. I love Rom-Coms for their feel-good “love will find a way” philosophy, but it’s worth mentioning that love does not always find a way, and what’s more, sometimes that’s a very good thing.
3. A Fistful of Dollars / Yojimbo
Yes, you read correctly: I have two movies listed for #3. However, that’s not because it’s a tie; it because they’re the same movie! For that matter, I could throw Sukiyaki Western Django up there with them. That’s right, I watched three versions of the same movie this year, but it’s a good effing movie!! It doesn’t really matter which one you see, but I suppose I prefer A Fistful of Dollar because Clint Eastwood is – as we’ve established – the man. Aside from this, I watched a lot of Westerns this Fall, finally exposing myself to the genre; and of all the movies I watched during that binge, A Fistful of Dollars was definitely the best.
2. Toy Story 3
There were plenty of people skeptical of the third Toy Story film. But really, when has Pixar really made a bad movie. Monster’s Inc. and Ratatouille aren’t my personal favorites, but they’re still good and very much loved by others. Up and Wall-e, on the other hand, were just phenomenal films, and TS3 has only served to raise the bar even higher for Pixar. This movie could easily have been phoned in and still have put millions of butts in the theater seats, but instead we got a sequel that takes the franchise in bold new directions while still being true to the spirit of the first two.
Finally, Pixar has to be given credit for their ability to provoke emotional reactions from the audience. The first 10 minutes of Up are pretty brutal, and the last 15 of Toy Story 3 make me cry consistently for three separate reasons. The ending in particular is touching and heart-wrenching all at the same time, and it’s the perfect way to close such a beloved series. It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to forget your responsibilities, pull out your favorite childhood toy, and be a kid again for a while.
And really, I can’t find anything wrong with that.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
After my writing my review, I’m not sure what else I can say about Scott Pilgrim. It’s easily one of my favorite movies ever, and owning it on DVD has only solidified its place in my heart. Go read my review again if you need more justification; I’ve annoyed enough friends already with my incessant quoting of the film.
Honorable Mention: The Heartbreaker
Earlier I said that Easy A was the funniest movie of 2010. That was before I remembered this French gem, which is also pretty damn funny. The Heartbreaker is the kind of movie I know will eventually get an American remake (probably starring someone obnoxious like Cameron Diaz), but the original will always be superior (see also: Shall We Dance). The premise is that the three primary characters break up unhappy relationships as their business; think of it as Hitch in reverse. Romantic-Comedies have been a bit stagnant lately, but The Heartbreaker shows that their are still good ideas out there.
Worst Movie of the Year: The Last Airbender
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen more than an episode of the cartoon this movie was based on. Honestly though, not having that background really exposed just how terrible The Last Airbender was. In stark contrast to Inception, the pacing in Airbender was horrendous. I know they were trying to cover 20+ episodes worth of plot into a couple of hours, but the story moved so quickly that I could hardly catch my breath. There are never any “travelling” scenes with the characters: short interludes where I could get to know the characters, their motivations, what the world is like, or at least what their GD names are! The film is just a series of departures, arrivals, action sequences, and the occasional narration to move the plot along even faster. It’s hard to really say enough bad things about this movie.
So that was my 2010 in movies. I saw so many films this year, but I still feel like I missed so many that came out. I wish I’d been able to see movies like Tangled, True Grit, Black Swan, The King’s Speech, and The Social Network before I wrote this list, and hopefully I’ll be able to see most of those very soon. My list would probably look a lot different if I had. Regardless, my earnest hope is that something on this list will pique your interest and you’ll go see it. Maybe it’s a movie you passed over when it was in theaters, or something you’ve been meaning to watch for ages, or even a movie you’ve never even heard of! 2010 was there year I fell in love with movies, and I’ve enjoyed sharing a little bit of that love today.