Andrew's Picks: The Best Films of 2010 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Andrew’s Picks: The Best Films of 2010

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Of the three of us here at Can't Stop The Movies, I'm definitely the most "contemporary" critic.  Sure, I've analyzed the films of Bela Tarr and Krzysztof Kieslowski, but I've also perused the 2010 works of John Travolta and Denzel Washington.  Every week I review a few new films that have hit the DVD stands and because of this I've gotten to see some of the treasures of an otherwise depressing year for movies.

For the record I do keep a numerical rating on these films via the website Criticker (a very handy tool for organizing quick thoughts on every movie you've seen).  But for the purposes of this evaluation, I'm just going to write about the best films of 2o10 via a system of arbitrary awards made up entirely on the spot.  Because the spirit of creativity is within criticism just as it is the movies I choose to analyze and it would thoroughly sterilize that spirit if I were to arrange these films into some kind of numerically based list encompassing 10 or so films.

The Good But Not Great Honorable Mention Awards

The Kids Are All Right was a great exploration into an unconventional family structure and how that's not too different from what we've experienced since we've been a species.  Annette Benning turns in a wonderful performance in a film full of other great performances.  Some issues of pacing keep it from earning it's own reward, but it's still worth checking out.

Death At A Funeral is a remake of the British film of the same name and improved on it greatly.  Instead of dealing with the family pain of losing a loved one with snarkiness and distance, it instead resonated with life and warmth (and, ok, more than a few crude jokes).  A few too many pratfalls kept this from being really amazing, but it's good intentions and deft hand produced a a rare excellent remake.

Edge of Darkness may prove to be one of Mel Gibson's last great roles (at least until the public calms down).  He investigates the sudden and shocking death of his daughter on the streets of Boston, encountering a wide range of dangerous types who all know less than they want.  Great more in it's execution than originality, Edge of Darkness is a great modern noir tackling the paranoia many feel today.

Cyrus is another film dealing with unconventional family types.  It's particular brand of uncomfortable humor may not sit well with many, but when channeled through the always likable John C. Reilly it becomes excellent.  It relies a bit too heavily on hand camera shakiness to achieve it's desired "realism", but the script and performances more than even out any visual execution issues.

Valhalla Rising is the nihilistic step child of Braveheart.  It has great things to say about the way religion has shaped our countries history, as well as the lengths at which many are willing to go to keep their ideals pure.  All of this is centered around brutal action of Vikings and early Christians in the 10th century.  It drags a bit, but it's bleak style overcomes it's occasional story lulls.

Please Give is an examination of the sometimes selfish goals that we hope to fulfill by giving charitably.  It wonderfully showcases the always great Catherine Keener and the woefully underrated Amanda Peet.  The only problem is that it deals with so many ideas and so many characters that it occasionally loses sight of it's initial goal.  But as far as smart family dramas are concerned, there weren't many better in 2010.

Greenberg is another magnificently scripted story of an intellectual misanthrope from writer/director Noah Baumbach.  It's fascinating as a grown up extension of characters from his other films who haven't learned to adjust to the "real" world.  As it's not far off from his other features it's a bit too familiar, but still smart and featuring an unexpectedly amazing performance by Ben Stiller.

The Have Some Fun Award - Step Up 3D

Fun.  Remember fun?  Step Up 3D sure as hell does, and I didn't have a single other movie going experience in 2010 that was as enjoyable as Step Up 3D.  It has a purity of intent and execution that was lacking in other "important" films this year, all while paying a fairly lovely tribute to the art of dance.  Plus it has the team robot dance, my single favorite moment in movies for all of 2010.  So try and  have fun with the damn movie already, it's just as good in two dimensions without the large screen benefit of the third.

The Truth Is Hard To Come By Award - Exit Through The Gift Shop

So is it a documentary about the rising commercial potency of street art or is it a grand hoax perpetrated by it's most well known street artist?  Those are some of the questions raised in a pretty fascinating film.  It's less a documentary than an essay, less interested in getting the actual truth of the moments and more the emotional truth of street artistry.  As a showcase of artists in action it's superb, but as a breathing document of how we perceive art it's fantastic.  "Real" or no, it approaches these topics with a sense of playfulness not usually seen in documentaries.

The Apocalypse Never Seemed So Awesome Award - The Book of Eli

It's not based on a comic book, but so clearly in debt to them that it might as well be the best comic book movie of 2010. The Book of Eli executes it's particular brand of post-apocalyptic style so effortlessly it's hard to imagine that these images sprung fresh in the minds of the directors, the Hughes Brothers.  But fresh they are, and contained in a film with an ending that I applaud for it's naked hope for our own future.

The Desire Is Tricky Award - Chloe

Director Atom Egoyan specializes in making films about desire that play out in ways that we may not expect.  His Chloe is no exception, giving Amanda Seyfried one hell of a starring role as an escort that can become anyone you desire, which makes for an interesting dilemma when she desires someone herself.  It builds on that intriguing premise to an erotically charged conclusion that is logical and tragic.  Smart erotic thrillers are almost as rare as good romantic comedies, and this one is to be treasured.

The Annual Tilda Swinton Is In The Best Movies Award - I Am Love

Year after year, Tilda Swinton has proven that she is the greatest actress working in films today.  2010 was no exception, and provided a fantastically restrained and painful performance in the otherwise lush and gorgeous I Am Love.  It's a film alive with visual and sensual pleasures with a heroine who's emotions seem directly tied to the weather around her.  In this age of irony it's naked emotion might not sit well with some, but for this sentimental reviewer it worked beautifully.

The Deserves More Praise Than That Other Animated Film Award - How To Train Your Dragon

Dreamworks films have been coasting on an array of smug faces and pop culture references for so long that it seemed like they would never return to their inspiring roots.  Thank God for How To Train Your Dragon, a film inspired more by E.T. than any episode of Seinfeld.  The central relationship between the boy and the dragon develops in such a strangely tender fashion that once the scenes of pure pathos come in I was caught completely off guard at how invested I'd become in the characters.  On other levels there are some truly amusing sight gags, a grand sense of adventure and wonder, and some of the best animation all year.  It's a keeper, and instilled hope in me that Dreamworks can finally carve out a better identity for themselves.

The We're Challenging Reality Award - Shutter Island and Black Swan

Shutter Island and Black Swan are two of the many films this year that challenge the way that we perceive reality, but not in the expected fashions.  In Shutter Island, director Martin Scorsese is experimenting with just how far a mind can go when faced with loss.  Then in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, he details the painful mental and physical metamorphosis we expect from actors so that a proper performance is delivered.  Both films are visually inventive while staying true to each director's unique visual sensibilities and delivering slam bang endings.  In one sense it's all sound and fury, but they're both captivating and intelligent films deserving of accolade.

The Thank God I Finally Laughed Award - Easy A

I've not exactly kept it a secret that this has been a horrible year for movies, but comedies have suffered even more.  Then along came Easy A, a smart, sharply written film dealing with the value of abstinence in this day and age.  I was in stitches the whole time, partly because of Emma Stone's amazing delivery and partly because of the smart script by Bert V. Royal.  Supporting roles for Thomas Hayden Church, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson further emphasized just how smart this film is and were plenty funny all the same.  For anyone who, even for a second, wanted to be someone else growing up this film will resonate wonderfully.

The Redundant Praise Award - The Social Network (tied for best of 2010)

I was comically giddy watching The Social Network.  Rarely has a film so thoroughly captivated my attention for every second of it's run time, and a lot of credit has to be given to the push and pull of Sorkin and Fincher's styles.  It's that rarest of movie breeds - a film that manages to be a specific relic of our time while showing how new technology changes and adapts to social hierarchy.  It's a brilliant piece of work, and deserves all of the redundant praise I, and apparently everyone else in America, can provide.

The Why Aren't More Noirs In The Ozarks? Award - Winter's Bone (tied for best of 2010)

Winter's Bone is a chilly noir set in the most desolate part of the Ozarks where a young girl needs to find her father, dead or alive, amongst all the crystal meth users and wounded family members.  The setting is unique for noirs and made me wonder why more crime deals aren't done at livestock shows.  This is a film loaded with unseen danger and a rugged spirit in a landscape that seems built out of a Cormac McCarthy novel..  Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes in the leads deserve far more heaps of award and praise than they've been given, but this film will be remembered long after it's contemporaries have passed on.

That's it for 2010 everyone.  If you're wondering why your favorite film isn't on my list feel free to write a comment below and I'll explain either A) Why it's not that great or B) That it's one of the three or four films I still cannot see in Central Illinois.

Overall there were some great films but it was a bar lowering year for me.  So come on 2011, my expectations have never been more shattered!

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Posted by Andrew

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’ve got an idea! You should do a list of the Top 10 Best Lists of Top 10 Movies in 2010!

    Also, I don’t know whether or not you actually watched Shutter Island, but… it was really terrible. It was like, if Martin Scorsese and M. Night Shyamalan were at an airport, getting ready to board a flight to their next shoot, and they started talking when they realized, “OMG, you bought the exact same carry on bag that I did!” “OMGLOL, did you put your tickets in the exact same pocket I did” “I DID! That’s so cool!!” “BESTIES FOREVER!!!” and they got their bags and tickets mixed up while preening over each other, and comedy ensued.

    Shutter Island didn’t say anything new or interesting about reality or loss. The conceit of the movie was so tired a trick, in fact, that knowing the twist at the end by scene three or so is practically unavoidable. Having that part sussed out, I could have seen the movie as a spiritual journey for the main character, except that their wasn’t any real meat to that story either, because it was written presuming the surprise ending was somehow still a surprise.

    So what we get, is Leonardo DiCaprio wandering around for an hour and a half. It’s sole saving grace was that it was pretty.

    I’m not quite sure I like the implication that I put something on my award list and didn’t watch it, so I’ll just say that the twist was pretty much telegraphed from the opening shot and let me enjoy all the other aspects of the film.

    I watched it with Annie, my girlfriend, and she didn’t like it for pretty much the same reasons. I responded strongly to how ludicrously over the top gothic the aesthetic was, the way it tried to interpret his loss, and the strong commentary on how people use violence and manipulation to justify “higher” goals. We did get a little too much repetition in emphasizing the “please realize you’re in a dream” aspect of things, but it was all so well done/acted that it literally forced through those limitations.

  2. What Logan suggests in jest I shall do with conviction!

    Also, I am way too proud of that picture I drew for you.

  3. My implication that you didn’t see it was intended entirely in jest. You watch so many movies in any given year anyway that you wouldn’t need to make one up just to make a “Best Of” list.

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