Looking Back: Marco's Picks for the Best & Worst Films of 2010
by Marco Cerritos
January 11, 2011
It's always a good feeling to take a second look at movies that inspired you throughout the year since that's what going to the movies is all about in the first place. To provide a joyful escape under a darkened theatre for two hours while the outside world drifts away. This is what good movies bring out in me, but bad movies are another matter entirely. Those are the kinds of experiences where I truly love my job because why else would I willingly subject myself to celluloid torture on a regular basis. In other words, a good movie is never long enough and a bad film is never short enough. Check out my lists of the Best & Worst of 2010 below!
I saw 382 movies this year. I'm not bragging, just stating a fact. In those 382 movies are countless hours of joy, sadness, anger and confusion. I wish I could take the time to single out every great movie experience I had in 2010 but that would take too long and you, my humble reader, would stop reading those rants very quickly. So I propose this compromise - indulge me for a few paragraphs and let me give you the cliff notes on the best and worst of 2010. I know Top 10s are done to death (especially this time of year) but hopefully there will be a few surprises that might inspire you to check out an overlooked gem or two. So here. We. Go.
WORST FILMS OF 2010
#10 - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
I'm as shocked as you that I would include a Woody Allen film anywhere near a worst ten list but this is the film that broke the projector's back. After a slump of terrible films a few years ago, Woody seemed to get his mojo back with the back-to-back artistic successes of Match Point, Scoop and Cassandra's Dream, Then things turned dim again with Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Whatever Works, culminating in Tall Dark Stranger last year, a bastardization of Woody's own material.
The man is capable of greatness but cranking out a new film every year guarantees you'll lots of misfires. My suggestion would be for Woody to take some off, hang out with his jazz band and come back to us when his batteries are fully charged. I say this because You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger isn't a Woody Allen film. It's a movie made by someone who knows he's great and is coasting on his past successes out of boredom.
#9 - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
I had the misfortune to see this movie on my birthday. I'm not being extra hard on it because of that fact but imagine yourself energized from having a nice birthday dinner with friends and ready to see what Uncle Oliver has promised to be the financial scalpel we've all been waiting for. Then as the lights go down and the movie starts up, the blandness starts to creep in within the first few minutes.
Those few minutes eventually turn into an hour and that's when it hits you that this is not only a pointless retread of the original material but this shameless sequel has also killed a piece of the original Wall Street, too. Instead of the cutthroat antihero we're expecting in Gordon Gekko, our guide throughout the film is a whiny brat we don't care about. While not as tragic a misstep as Alexander, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is still a sad footnote in Oliver Stone's career.
#8 - The Wolfman
How many reshoots and schedule changes does it take to make a disaster? Too many. The writing seemed to be on the wall for The Wolfman when original director Mark Romanek left the production for the always popular "creative reasons." That basically means the studio, actors or maybe both, had a different agenda that what was originally proposed and someone got screwed. Once the film was finished nearly two years ago, and that led to multiple reshoots and release date changes, it was hard not to get pessimistic. After all, these things are never a good sign and if this is how director Joe Johnston chooses to handle studio interference, then I'm deeply worried about his version of Captain America: The First Avenger this year.
#7 - The Tempest
Julie Taymor has had an awful year. Her elaborate stage production of Spider-Man is sending people to the hospital left and right and her new movie is convoluted. It's a sad thing because I usually enjoy her off-kilter work, but The Tempest had way too much flash and originality in the worst way possible. Frida still stands as Taymor's most controlled and best film work to date but the organized chaos of Titus and Across the Universe is nowhere near The Tempest. Just sound and fury signifying, well, you know the rest.
#6 - Killers
This dud wasn't originally screened for the press but I try my best to see everything that comes out anyway, even if it's crap like this. Don't get me wrong, I don't volunteer to see things that look terrible because I'm a cinematic masochist. Like most filmgoers I like to think there's a glimmer of hope in every movie, even if all signs seem to point in the opposite direction.
Killers was basically a bad <em>Mr. and Mrs. Smith retread with a dash of Knight and Day thrown in for good measure. But while it came out a few weeks before Knight and Day, it was so terrible it managed to make the ridiculous Tom Cruise vehicle look like a masterpiece. One more thing, this movie cost $70 million before marketing. Who pocketed that cash, because Killers looks like it was made from recycled parts!
#5 - Jonah Hex
I don't know what original directors Neveldine/Taylor would've done with Jonah Hex, but it would've been a lot more fun than what got released in theatres this past summer. This is a movie so bad that it can't be bothered with simple things like continuity. In almost every scene. This is a movie where the studio reshoots made the film worse instead of better. And probably the biggest burn of all, this is a movie where the best thing you can say about it is that Megan Fox plays a convincing whore (ouch!).
#4 - The Last Airbender
M. Night Shymalan is dead to me (I've written about him before). I've continued to defend The Village despite its flaws and even forgave Lady in the Water as a creative burnout after years of studio pressure. But when The Happening destroyed my cinematic mind, I was on high alert.
It's no exaggeration to say that within the first minute of The Last Airbender, the film is in serious trouble it never recovers from. The problems only get bigger until the biggest sigh of relief is when the credits roll. The Last Airbender's unnecessary 3D conversion was a shameless money grab and made the movie look as if you were watching it through a dirty window. Not that a 2D presentation would've helped matters but it would've been nice to clearly see the disaster onscreen.
#3 - The Human Centipede
I'm no prude and object to The Human Centipede's premise on moral grounds. It's a sick and twisted concept but my school of thought is if you can tell a good story (any story) then I'll give you a chance. All this movie had going for it was a gross-out concept that made people very curious. Then when they actually saw the film they got a boring and pointless exploitation flick. Because of all that misled enthusiasm there's a sequel coming next year where even more people will join the centipede. I will keep an open mind but if that sequel blows as much as the original, I will save a slot on next year's list to burn that movie, too.
#2 - The Bounty Hunter
The fake chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler plus the obvious and romantic "plot" made me notice a weird trend in this movie. Whenever something goes wrong in a scene, someone always gets punched in the balls. I don't know why this happens and most of the time it's Gerry Butler getting punched but it happens nonetheless. The movie trailers advertised this movie as being "from the director of Hitch," as if that were a good thing. All I saw was mediocre talent slumming it for an easy paycheck.
#1 - The Back-Up Plan
Few movies make me angry. The Back-Up Plan pissed me off in a major way, which is weird because this is a romantic comedy after all. Romantic comedies should make you happy and want to fall in love, not burn the whole theatre down. It was evident from the annoying animated titles that we were in for nothing but a Jennifer Lopez show, where she dominates the spotlight like she always does and nothing else matters. Nevermind story and plot, Lopez has to be the center of attention at all times in her films, even if said films turn frustratingly saccharine as a result. An abysmal insult to moviegoers and romantics everywhere.
Dishonorable Mentions: Agora, Centurion, Clash of the Titans, Cop Out, Date Night, The Expendables, Extraordinary Measures, Grown Ups, Gulliver's Travels, Howl, I'm Still Here, Little Fockers, Marmaduke, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robin Hood, Salt, Sex and the City 2, The Spy Next Door, St. John of Las Vegas, Survival of the Dead, Tooth Fairy, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Warrior's Way.
BEST FILMS OF 2010
#10 - The Killer Inside Me
The angry and negative buzz coming out of this year's Sundance Film Festival tainted a lot of people's perception of The Killer Inside Me. It's not torturous or misogynistic as some have been quick to point out but instead it's a quiet, misunderstood piece about a small town sheriff with deep issues.
Director Michael Winterbottom had a monumental task ahead of him adapting the controversial novel on which the film is based so the only way he could go was up. While the film never reaches the heights of the novel (movies rarely do), The Killer Inside Me is a brutal and unflinching experience in its own right. It's not meant to be a happy ride which is what threw a lot of moviegoers off when they first saw Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba on the poster, only to see them go through the ringer by the film's last reel. Casey Affleck is an understated actor and he uses those subtleties to great effect here. It also proves that he can act when he actually gives a damn and isn't goofing off with Joaquin Phoenix.
#9 - The Last Exorcism
Much like The Killer Inside Me, The Last Exorcism was another film that was misunderstood by the public. Except the confusion in this case was a blatant bait-and-switch by the film's marketing department. When people bought tickets to what they thought was a no-holds-barred horror flick and all they got was a talking heads documentary with few scares, they unjustly took it out on the movie.
This unfortunate and short-sighted marketing ploy turned away the very people who would embrace The Last Exorcism and angered everyone else who actually paid for a ticket. The movie is coming out on Blu-Ray and DVD next week so this is your chance to catch up with it.
#8 - Buried
I don't want to point the finger at Lionsgate but after tricking moviegoers with The Last Exorcism, they did the exact opposite with their next release, the claustrophobic thriller Buried. If you were lucky enough to see it at a film festival or in limited release where it seemed to open and close within a week, then you know that Ryan Reynolds' one-man show throws 127 punches to the face of someone whose name rhymes with Change Ranco.
#7 - Black Swan
This is not Darren Aronofsky's masterpiece (that would be Requiem For A Dream), but it is pretty damn close. Repeat viewings have shown a few missteps along the way but as a whole, Black Swan is engrossing and tragic entertainment. As I mentioned in my Christmas movie preview, Black Swan is anchored by a bittersweet performance from Natalie Portman. This meta retelling of Swan Lake pulls her in every which way and her commitment to an authentic performance pays off in the film's tragic but logical conclusion.
#6 - The Fighter
To take mundane material and turn it into a revelation is no easy feat. Director David O. Russell and his unconventional methods have crafted an underdog sports story that bathes in cliches but carves out its own identity at the same time. A lot of justified attention has been paid to Supporting Oscar frontrunner Christian Bale for his altering performance, but there are other great actors who help elevate the film as well. Specifically Melissa Leo as a manipulative mother and Amy Adams who seems to be playing the "feisty girlfriend role" at first glance, but turns it into something more deeper and powerful.
#5 - The Good, the Bad, the Weird
This spaghetti action western from South Korea surprised me in the best way possible. While most of the films in my top ten have a hint of sadness and tragedy to them, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is the only film that is pure entertainment from start to finish.
The story of three strangers looking for a lost treasure map (one's good, one's bad, one's weird) may feel a bit bloated at two hours but that running time is used to maximum effect. There are action set pieces in The Good, the Bad, the Weird that rival most Hollywood films and they're made at a fraction of the cost. Adding icing to the cake is the film's amazing score that adds the right amount of burst to an already amazing rollercoaster ride. If you don't mind reading subtitles and let's face it, if you're on this site you most likely don't, then enjoy yourself with the most unabashedly fun ride this year.
#4 - Blue Valentine
This is a different kind of rollercoaster ride, the kind that is more of a nightmare than a fun time. If you've ever witnessed or been a part of a serious break-up, this movie's for you. That's not to say that anyone who's had a blissfully happy life won't be able to empathize with or enjoy Blue Valentine, but carrying a few war wounds into the theatre does help.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a married couple whose courtship and ensuing marriage is mostly told in flashback, warts and all. If High Fidelity and 500 Days of Summer had a baby, the result would be Blue Valentine. One of the most realistic and bittersweet depictions of modern romance.
#3 - Inside Job
I'm just as surprised as you to see this film on my list and to see it ranked so highly no less. I was excited to see Charles Ferguson's new documentary (watch the trailer) about the financial crisis but I never expected it to hit me as hard as it did. The biggest advantage Inside Job has over other documentaries is that it shows its teeth. Most documentaries film footage and present the final analysis without any confrontation. Ferguson manages to interview the top brass responsible for the economic mess we're in and instead of pitching softball questions and letting them walk away, he goes after the hard answers we all want to know. The result is a maddening and heartbreaking testimonial that will be studied for years to come.
#2 - Exit Through the Gift Shop
I want to thank Peter Sciretta from SlashFilm and Steve Weintraub from Collider for encouraging me to see this Sundance revelation earlier this year. I was coming off a full day of press screenings and was ready to cut my day short but thanks to their persistence I managed to discover this indie gem at a surprise unannounced showing, and the rest is history.
Since its Sundance premiere, the big question has become, is the film a fake documentary or a real one? My answer is - it doesn't matter. Exit Through the Gift Shop does what a damn good documentary should do, entertain and provoke. So whether Mr. Brainwash is real or Bansky is using the film as an elaborate prank, I don't care. As it stands the film is an incendiary account of modern art and how each person's subjective view can influence or destroy.
#1 - The Social Network
I know it's become cliché to not just include The Social Network on a top ten list, but to also include it as the top film of the year. But in my defense, I was not swayed by promotional hype at all (especially recently), the film became an instant favorite when I first saw it and has remained that way ever since. Obviously I'm not alone since it's become the critical darling in recent weeks.
It really is that good. There's a reason it's been sweeping awards left and right, especially when the film's concept was initially laughed off as "the Facebook movie." The final marriage of material between director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has created more than just a movie about an internet fad. It's crafted a deft and provoking assessment of how we communicate and live our lives. Facebook may be a popular way of communication now but the underlying themes in The Social Network will live on way past the next big thing.
Honorable Mentions: 127 Hours, The A-Team, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Flipped, Get Him to the Greek, The Ghost Writer, Inception, The King's Speech, La Mission, Let Me In, My Dog Tulip, Repo Men, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shutter Island, Solitary Man and Waking Sleeping Beauty. That's all!