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Friday
Dec312010

The Top Ten of '10

Another "Best" List That Nobody Asked For

I’ll always remember 2010 as the year that I bought a house and a car, became a father and a manager at my day-job.  It’s also the year that I yanked Kicking the Seat from blogdom and launched it as an official Web site.

In 2010 I received a fantastic care package from Nancy and Robert Englund and engaged in a very brief altercation with Wayne EwingCory Udler let me know that people take my words seriously.  I was also denied admission into the Online Film Critics Society—which reminded me that I’m not doing this for recognition, but for the fun of watching movies and writing about them (a theme my wife repeats on a weekly basis).

Because I’m not a full-time, paid movie critic, I can’t see every film that hits theatres; so please keep that in mind when you wonder why I didn’t include The American, Exit Through the Gift Shop or Eat, Pray, Love on my list of best films of the year.  You should also know that I’ve only included movies released in 2010 here—which is unfortunate because I saw The Room for the first time in February, and believe it should be on every Top Ten List of every year.  But I’m trying to keep things relevant.

Lastly, if you find these choices outrageous, silly, or lame, I invite you to read the full reviews and find out where I"m coming from.  My criteria for a Movie of the Year is that it be entertaining and surprising, and, ideally, original and moving.  Some of the more obvious choices, like Inception and True Grit didn’t make the cut because I consider them to be obnoxious wastes of time.  Without further ado, I present The Top of ’10:

10.  Incest Death Squad 2  Yes, this is really my choice for the tenth best film of the year.  IDS2 stuck with me for weeks after I saw it; not because of the subject matter, but because of the huge improvement that writer/director Cory Udler made between the first and second films.  In my review of the original Incest Death Squad, I suggested that Cory get out of the horror genre and focus on relationship pictures.  I take it back.  He can do whatever he wants and I’ll give it a watch.  His is the sharpest low-budget local film I’ve seen, and his choice of music alone marks him as a gifted storyteller who gives a shit about delivering the goods.  IDS2 should just be an attention-grabbing horror movie about Bible-thumping brother-and-sister serial killers, but in Udler’s hands it becomes an eighty-minute master course in independent filmmaking.

9.  Let Me In  A lot of horror nerds considered the idea of Matt Reeves remaking Let the Right One In to be sacrilege.  I think Reeves goes one better, and I still can’t figure out if it’s simply the Americanization of the material or the narrative tweaks that helped the flow that won me over.  But this story of a lonely pre-teen boy and his new bloodsucking best friend works very well, thanks in large part to Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz’s chemistry, along with some terrifically sad-sack work by Richard Jenkins.  Purists may scoff, but this adaptation of the Swedish original has fire and blood in its veins.

8.  Daybreakers  An Ethan Hawke vampire movie?  Released in January?  Who knew such a lethal combination could add up to an exciting, original piece of sci-fi/horror?  The Spierig Brothers throw everything they have at the screen; fortunately for us, what they have is balls and imagination, populating a post-apocalyptic, vampire-dominated Earth with details as grand as daytime-driving camera domes on cars and as minute as the blood-inspired paintings hanging in a Yuppie’s condo.  Daybreakers is fun and funny, scary and thought-provoking.

7.  The Kids are All Right  Lisa Cholodenko’s movie about a lesbian couple raising two teenagers who seek out their biological father contains some of the most honest performances I’ve seen this year.  Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore are so natural that their scenes take on an air of professional improv.  And it’s a testament to Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg’s script that Annette Bening’s Nic inches out of caricature to give the Overbearing Careerist Mom a big, beating heart.

6.  Kick-Ass  Hands-down, this is my favorite comic book movie, ever.  Telling the story of a geeky, comics-obsessed high-schooler who decides to fight real-life crime, Kick-Ass is violent and outrageously funny.  In this world, heroism is spat upon and good guys get set on fire on Webcasts.  Chloe Moretz shows up on the Top of ’10 list again, here playing the baddest little bad-ass ever to don a cape; her Hit-Girl is a psychopath trapped in the body of a confused eleven-year-old girl.  She’d take one look at Peter Parker and eviscerate him with her katana blade.  This, and so much else, makes Kick-Ass a note-perfect piece of anti-establishment escapism.

5.  Tangled  This was a huge year for animation, with Toy Story 3 from Pixar, Despicable Me from Universal, How to Train Your Dragon from Dreamworks, and Legend of the Guardians from Warner Brothers.  Observing them from its stone tower high above is Disney’s Tangled, a magical, musical fairy tale that looks like no other animated feature I’ve seen.  Adventurous, witty, and moving, I couldn’t believe how involved I got with the characters and the story—especially since it’s “just” an update of Rapunzel.  This movie should have the Pixar execs downing Ambien.

4.  I’m Still Here  Casey Affleck’s fraudulent documentary about Joaquin Phoenix’s failed hip-hop career is one of this year’s most insightful brain-teasers.  Exploring the nature of media-created reality and the effects of fame on the famous and their followers, Affleck discovers a rabbit hole at the bottom of the rabbit hole and plunges us into a world of bad rap, cocaine and prankster assistants shitting in beds.

3.  The Social Network  Leave it to David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin to turn a lame-ass Facebook movie into the first epic of the Internet Age (sorry, Matrix, I meant the first one for adults).  On strictly a storytelling level, The Social Network weaves a fantastic Roshomon-lite narrative involving the creator of the world’s most important and invasive social network and the enemies he made along the way.  As a film, it bristles with passionate young stars and seamless special effects (the Winkelvoss twins were played by one guy!).  Fifty years from now, the story of Facebook may seem as quaint as audio cassettes do today, but The Social Network will likely still be regarded as a fine and important movie.

2.  The Fighter  The previews for this film make The Fighter out to be a Boston Rocky, but David O. Russell’s story of a Beantown boxing family’s struggle with drugs, failure and denial is its own thing entirely.  Mark Wahlberg is really good as real-life champ Micky Ward, but it’s Christian Bale’s turn as his crack-addict brother Dicky that elevates the material and the movie.  Throw in a colorful supporting cast and a screenplay that delivers as many sucker-punches as the climactic Big Fight, and you have a sports movie for people who hate sports movies.

1.  The King’s Speech  Tom Hooper’s masterpiece about King George VI overcoming a lifelong stutter to rally his people in the face of encroaching Nazi hoards puts every half-assed director, screenwriter and actor in Hollywood to shame.  This isn’t a stuffy, English period piece, it’s a gripping examination of class, family, and the damage people allow to be inflicted upon themselves at the expense of pursuing true happiness.  If Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush don’t fill all five slots of their respective Actor and Supporting Actor categories at next year’s Oscars then I’m sad to say that there’s no reason for that show to go on.  If you just scrunched up your nose at that gross hyperbole, you obviously haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet.

Okay, maybe Rush and Christian Bale can duke it out in the ring for Supporting Actor—as long as Firth uses his golden statue to ring the bell.

Note:  I should have mentioned this in the beginning, before I lost all of my readers with this list.  Thank you for being a huge part of Kicking the Seat.  Your suggestions, questions and criticisms have helped me become a better writer and appreciator of film.

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