I’ll preface this by saying there a lot of films that I have yet to see (True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech and 127 Hours to name a few), but of the films that I have seen, here are the best of the year:
5) Kick-Ass – This was the super-hero film of the year and was a lot better than anyone expected it to be. It had a great origin story, a breakout performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl (who would say things that would make Mel Gibson blush), a crazy performance by Nicolas Cage and a great villain in Mark Strong. Aaron Johnson was solid as the hero Kick-Ass – what other superhero has an alter ego that has to pretend to be gay to get close to the girl of his dreams. One moment you’re laughing at the violence and comic mayhem that is going on and then a moment later things get dark and the film has your undivided attention. This was definitely a surprise pick for me, and now that it is on DVD, more and more people are checking out what they should have seen in theatres.
4) Inception – Christopher Nolan brought us another summer blockbuster but this time he delivered one that twisted audiences minds like no other film this year and demanded repeat viewings. The film boasted an all-star cast, amazing special effects and gave audiences an experience like nothing they had ever seen on the big screen before. The climatic sequence (what I refer to as the dream within a dream within a dream sequence) was absolutely amazing, and the performances were universally good. Inception proved to everyone that smart, big-budget films made my major studios can still be made.
3) How to Train Your Dragon – Another surprise to me is how much I enjoyed this tale of a young Viking who befriends a dragon and finds out that dragons are not really as evil as the Viking villagers believe they are. The voice work is great, with Jay Baruchel leading the way as Hiccup, Gerard Butler as his father Stoick and Craig Ferguson as the blacksmith Gobber. The story is a departure for DreamWorks Animation as this is not a film looking for cheap laughs through pop culture references. This is a film about story and characters and the relationship between Hiccup and the dragon Toothless is as touching and honest as any put on film this year. What also stood out is the decision to give Toothless different gears when he is flying. It made it feel like a racing experience in the air, and I just sat back and enjoyed the breathtaking visuals. Add in a great score by John Powell and amazing animation and you have one of the best films of the year.
2) The Social Network – This was a tough decision to place The Social Network at number two, as it really was neck and neck with the #1 film in terms of my favourite of the year. This is just a fantastically told story about the start of Facebook. First thing’s first, and that is you have to have an amazing script and Aaron Sorkin delivered in spades. I guarantee you that he wins an Oscar for his screenplay. The opening sequence between Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara with rat-a-tat dialogue had me hooked and I knew I was in for a treat for the next two hours. This was the line at the end of the opening exchange that stood out for me:
“Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
Once you have a great script, you need a confident director and David Fincher delivers his best film since Se7en in my opinion. Every detail on the screen is meant to be there and he gives the film a bigger scale than you would think it would have, setting scenes on both the east coast and west coast with characters in different places. It never felt confusing and it was always engaging. The final thing that stood out to me was the acting. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg continues the actor’s run of great performances, but the standout of the film for me was Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin. His character (arguably) goes through the greatest arc of the film and he is the person that audiences identify with the most. The Social Network is fun to watch because for every character there are always parts were you both sympathize with them and hate them, depending on the sequence. The one thing that can always be said is that you always care what happens to them, and that is why I’m listing The Social Network as the #2 film of the year.
1) Toy Story 3 – Once again, a Pixar film makes the top of my list. Believe me, this film had a lot going against for me. First, it was a sequel to a franchise that last put an installment in theatres 11 years ago, so was this sequel really necessary? Secondly, the trailers did not make me want to go out and see the film. Lastly, it was a third installment, and I subscribe to the theory that no third installment can ever be as good as the first two films. Toy Story 3 Sunnyside Daycare (which felt like the daycare in The Simpson’s parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds), the flashback sequence and of course the ending. There were times where I didn’t know where the film was going (when the climatic sequence was happening, I actually thought that the film was going to go to a dark place), and when you are that engaged in what is going on, that is always a good thing. There is not one moment in Toy Story 3 that felt fake or cheap, and it earned every emotion from me. It was a close battle between Toy Story 3 and The Social Network for my favourite film of the year, but Toy Story 3 is in my opinion the best film of 2010.
Scotty G’s Worst Film of the Year
The Last Airbender – I have defended M. Night Shyamalan since Unbreakable. Unbreakable was the best film Shyamalan has made in my opinion, and was a great origin story for a modern day superhero. I like Signs even if I was a little disappointed with how the film ended and I enjoyed The Village even if it was a little predictable. I thought Lady in the Water was better than most people gave it credit for, even if how the plot unfolded was juvenile (having a tenant reveal tidbits of the legend slowly throughout the film). Then cameThe Happening, which was by far and away his worst film. I will admit the film had a few scares in it, and I was intrigued by the premise of people killing themselves for no reason at the start of the film but lost interest with each passing minute. I thought The Happening was so bad that Shyamalan’s next effort couldn’t be any worse. I was wrong. The Last Airbender is just a mess. I could care less what happened to any of the characters. The dialogue is stilted and is just plot exposition after plot exposition. I also hate to rip on child actors but they were all so flat and uninspired in their delivery that I wanted them all to be killed off so the film would end. I never got excited about any of the sequences in the film (the escape on the island = boring, the final battle = dull), and I would get frustrated when a new power or new people appeared out of the blue. I just didn’t think there was a flow to the film as everything was disjointed, and for that I blame Shyamalan. Maybe the film was made for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I just didn’t care what happened while I was watching it. I saw the film in theatres, but not in 3-D, which from what I have read was the smart thing to do as apparently the post-conversion to 3-D was not very good. The ending is maddening because it is obvious that they were hoping to make a sequel, which I am never a fan of unless you know going into the film that a sequel is already going to get made. The Last Airbender was neither a hit nor a bomb at the box office, but I hope they don’t continue with their plans to make another installment, because this was a terrible, terrible film.