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Top 10 Movies of 2010

Something that must be known about our final collaborative (stay tuned for OHD's personal rundown of the top books of 2010) list here at The Blogulator: we don't seem to make it to the cinema as much as we used to. Every year we all tend to kick ourselves just a little bit for missing this or that, but largely we (like the average American movie-lover) simply have to accept that unless you're a major loner and/or professional critic, you just can't make it out to every movie that might be the second coming. Add to this the fact that so many of the best movies of the current year aren't actually released in most markets until the following year and you can understand the absence of many films ogled on other even nerdier sites. Regardless, there were still 10 films that two or more of us all saw and agreed were awesome, so here ye be, the grand final ten...our favorite movies of 2010 (that we saw)...

10. Toy Story 3 [wr. Michael Arndt, dir. Lee Unkrich] - Another Blogulator Top 10 Movies list, another Pixar flick. The funny thing is that this should feel monopolistic and wrong, but it doesn't. By hiring screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) to close the final chapter in the Woody, Buzz, and Co. trilogy was quite possibly the smartest franchise-related move they've made thus far. And while Cars 2 might bring the otherwise still-on-a-streak company to a halt, I can't articulate just how nice of a surprise it was that TS3 held its own, not trying too much new visually or acting-wise, but simply gambling on the talents of a scriptwriter with only one critical hit on his hands. If you go back and watch Little Miss Sunshine, however, or even just reflect now, you'll notice that it basically is a Pixar movie with some swears and Nietzsche/Proust references thrown in. He knows how to be warm yet brutally heartbreaking, and if that doesn't get your goat, Mr. Tortilla Head certainly should have.

9. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work [dir. Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg] - (Qualler) How much do you know about Joan Rivers? Well, okay, how much do "millennials" know about Joan Rivers? I for one had only a vague idea of her purpose in her career. I remember seeing her on some award show pre-shows, dissin' other celebs. As it turns out, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work not only educated me about Rivers career that started in the 50s and continued for decades, but it was also the most sublime film I saw this year about aging. While a documentary "starring" the subject can always be looked at as a little biased in favor of the subject, Rivers is unquestionably someone to cheer for and, perhaps, someone to keep in mind while we plucky, annoying millenials try to force our elders out of their roles.

8. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1 [wr. Steve Kloves, dir. David Yates] - (OHD) As Boys II Men once said, "Although we've come to the end of the road, I still can't let you go." And thanks to the fact that the seventh Harry Potter book is 8 glockjillion pages long (okay, so it's actually not the longest book in the series, but whatever) and the Hollywood corporate machine is always looking for a way to squeeze $14 extra out of our pockets, we don't have to let go just yet--this is just one installment of two, with Part II gracing theaters in July 2011. Sometime around the movie for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4, and by far the WORST movie of the franchise), they stopped pandering to people who haven't read the books, so if you've seen all the movies but haven't read Book 7, you might get lost pretty fast. I saw the movie with people who have all read the books and love Harry Potter and there were still things (like the fact that Harry was carrying around a shard of glass with him the entire time without explanation) that they didn't remember or understand. That said, and despite the fact that the first part of the movie (and the book) consists mostly of Harry, Hermione, and Ron wandering the English countryside looking for (and failing to find) the Horcruxes that contain bits of Voldemort's soul (and which maintain his immortality) and fighting with each other, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I is such a fun movie to watch, so visually lush and yet at the same time as bleak as the characters' moods, so gut-wrenchingly poignant, that I would see it over and over and over again without pause. It's especially lovely when you think about how much the characters/actors have grown, what mature and interesting adults they have become, and how their relationships have grown and evolved over time. The depth of emotion and detail the movies and the actors have brought to these one-of-a-kind literary characters is almost unprecedented, as far as adaptation from YA/children's novels goes, and even if you haven't read the books and do get a little lost in the apocryphal minutia of Deathly Hallows, it's worth watching just to appreciate how much great work has been done on one of the biggest commercial franchises of all time. Accio July already!

7. My Son My Son What Have Ye Done [wr./dir. Werner Herzog] - I think everyone else in the blogosphere forgot about this movie because they're pretending it was a 2009 movie and thus doesn't count. Well, you know what? I'll give many of the Oscar baiters a break because they at least finally arrive in Minneapolis in January, but though MSMSWHYD technically came out in NYC in December of 2009, it didn't arrive anywhere else until spring of 2010, and dammit, it's just too good to leave lost in the fog of limited art house release dates. I mean, c'mon, it's Herzog & Lynch (billed only as producer, but allegedly very involved with the filmmaking)...together! At last! Plus Michael Shannon is seventy shades of creepy and affecting as a troubled soul dealing with thoughts of matricide and more. It's sparse, yes, but also haunting and darkly comic at the most opportune times. These are the only two guys that can pull this kind of abstract nightmare off and together, they amp it up without ever going overboard. It's a glorious thing.
6. True Grit [wr./dir. Joel & Ethan Coen] - (Brigitte) I can never get enough of of the modern day western, and I think that Jeff Bridges is every bit as gritty as John Wayne was in the original cinematic adaptation. The Coen brothers know how to deliver a good film. This grungy western manages to balance some gruesome scenes with a quiet sort of beauty that drew me in as soon as the movie started and lasted through the final scene. The plot is fairly simple--a young girl seeks revenge for her father's murder--but it managed to keep my attention. The real heart of the story, I thought, was how that young girl managed to win over the gritty old bounty hunter and the hardened Texas ranger in a sort of Heidi-esque fashion. Except Heidi is a lot less sunshine and flowers and a lot more fast-talk and pistols. But like the little mountain girl who brought laughter back into her grandfather's life, this little girl won over the hearts of the old cowboys and our hearts, as well. The end of the movie made me feel sad without really understanding why I felt sad, and I liked that. I did have to cover my eyes during a few of the ickier scenes, but the acting and directing made up for that. And I really would like to see one fantastic western each year. This one will definitely have you reaching for your pistols and talkin' all old-timey for awhile.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World [wr./dir. Edgar Wright] - (DoktorPeace) This movie was made for me. I love video games, love Edgar Wright, and don't hate (or even understand the hate for) Michael Cera (most successful actors excel in one archetype, and Arrested Development is fine as it is). Nevertheless, I felt a bit hesitant putting this at the top of my (admittedly anemic) list (parentheticals are fun (Editor's Note: I agree!)). The delusional, video game aesthetic through which Scott views his world peaks around minute 10, after which key elements are very slowly forgotten and dissolved into what is by the end relatively standard action fare. Blame seems to lie with crunching 6 graphic novels into a single film, forcing emphasis on the clever yet simple plot as opposed to the meta-world and its characters. Yes, of course the books and their extended narrative are better (I read them after), but Scott Pilgrim still stands on its own as the film that made me smile more than anything since Hot Fuzz. It is, despite being based on literature, the best “video game" movie ever made. And thanks to an unfortunate box office turnout, it’s likely to remain that way until becoming as retro as the beat-‘em-ups it celebrates.

4. The Social Network [wr. Aaron Sorkin, dir. David Fincher] - Believe it or not, I used to think it mattered how closely a based-on-true-events movie followed the real life facts from which it stemmed. And I especially thought this when it was about figures particularly prominent and current in society. This previously thought notion was as recent as seeing United 93, a film whose authenticity I praised and called for more of in an industry obsessed with entertainment more than truth. But I don't think anyone can ever quite think that way again after seeing the Facebook movie. Everything is so tightly interlaced, intensely acted, and swiftly directed that you really aren't given a chance to think about the "real" Zuckerberg or anyone else for that matter. What matters is that even with Sorkin's semi-absurdist quickfire writing style, you are sucked into the souls of these characters through and through, the moral grayness even more palpable and believable than any fly-on-the-wall documentary style, no matter how gritty or shaky. This is filmmaking at its most classic and, in my opinion, finest. No questions asked, smug face tilted, and status update published.

3. Winter's Bone [wr./dir. Debra Granik] - (Brigitte) You know those movies where very little happens, but you don't really care? This is that kind of movie. This movie creates a real feeling that is consistent and heart-breaking, and after it ended I left the theater feeling...something. And I mean that in the best way possible. Jennifer Lawrence manages to reveal so much about her character, about life in the Ozark Mountains surviving on very little, and really about life and family in general without a whole lot of dialogue. The scenery is brilliant, and the violence is sometimes shocking as this story unfolds. I'm still not totally sure what this movie was "about," but it's worth several viewings to figure that out. Or maybe it's just about life, with all its cruelness and injustice, and managing to survive and find some joy in the cruelty. The music and cinematography stood out as well as the acting, and the simple plot was actually pretty profound. I love me a movie with little plot and lots of character, and plenty of bittersweet semi-uplifting at the same time as totally depressing scenes.

2. Inception [wr./dir. Christopher Nolan] - (Sean) There's some old saying about all great art being controversial. The modern equivalent is art that you can blog about a shit-load. Inception is exactly that kind of great art. Search Google for Inception "what does it all mean?" theories and you'll find half a dozen. And each one will actually seem plausible. Did you see that blog post about how the Hans Zimmer score featured an orchestrated version of the featured Edith Piaf song slowed way, way down? Slowed down the way time is slowed down in each successive level of the dreams within the film. It's stuff like that. Yes, of course the film itself is entertaining and beautifully shot and well-paced (and has Ellen Page who is a cutie; Marion Cotillard is okay, too). But the real impressive, lasting impact of this film is in the way it was all anyone could blog about online for a few weeks in the summer of 2010. And that is pretty awesome. You might even say for Christopher Nolan, the film's director, it was a dream come true. I N C E P T I O N.

1. Black Swan [wr. Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, & John McLaughlin, dir. Darren Aronofsky] - (Qualler) Is Black Swan the biggest feminist statement on film of the year, or is the most wildly exploitative film of the year? Both are valid questions, and both questions could be answered "yes." Director Darren Aronofsky has never been afraid to provoke the audience with the wickedly disturbing (Requiem for a Dream), the wildly pretentious (The Fountain), or the deeply gritty and real (The Wrestler). For Black Swan, Aronofsky directs the film like a greatest hits record -- hitting similar disturbing notes to Requiem (without going too far into the plain old hard to watch category) and the "real" feeling of The Wrestler, with a touch of the wildly pretentious mixed in for good measure. Most amazingly, Natalie Portman delivered her best performance of her career, a career-redefining role akin to Anne Hathaway's role in Rachel Getting Married, depicting the inner turmoil of her character with incredible range. And it is doubtless the only movie of the year to make over $50 million in box office receipts which depicts the imagined (or is it?) growing of feathers through one's skin.

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  1. Blogger LKc | 3:28 PM |  

    I actually HATED Black Swan; it was a huge disappointment to me, especially as I have really enjoyed Aronfsky's other films greatly. Next to Natalie Portman's character, the other roles were thin and unengaging. Sorry.

    I really want to see the Joan Rivers film...she's a crazy hoot of a lady!

  2. Blogger qualler | 3:34 PM |  

    Sorry to hear about Black Swan! I can definitely see it as a polarizing film -- hard to be "m'eh" about it.

    If you have Netflix, the Joan Rivers doc is available on Instant Streaming. That's how we watched it!

  3. Blogger qualler | 3:39 PM |  

    Hey Brigitte, if you can never get enough of the modern-day western, then WATCH DEADWOOD WITH ME!!!!!!

  4. Blogger DoktorPeace | 3:50 PM |  

    I only watched Inception recently, and liked it, but where is all the complexity? Outside of neat filmmaking tricks (like the noted musical one), the movie goes out of its way to explain everything 3 times over.

    Plus, me and Mike both fell asleep during the snow segment.

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