I’ve discovered that I can’t really put out last year’s movie list until I’ve seen most of the Oscar contenders, which often happens in January of the following year.
Notice that I’ve titled this post “Favorite Movies” not “Best Movies.” Long ago, I gave up trying to be a critic for everybody because I can only swallow so much violence – and less if the violence is directed at women and children (even though I did read all three of the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo books this year). Basically, I write about movies with my sister in mind. If I think she’ll enjoy it, I take note.
True Grit – Among the questions that I might ask to determine if you and I could be friends, one might be, “What do you think of the Coen brothers?” Tell me anything short of saying they are modern day sages, and I’d have to take a pass on investing in our relationship. It is a serious film, but in such an odd sincere way, that it’s like reading a Haruki Murakami novel: pleasurable and puzzling. Jeff Bridges was perfect (and nearly incomprehensible) as the gruff U.S. Marshall Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld is sure to become big news.
Toy Story 3 – I don’t have to be embarrassed about gushing over an animated film when even Quentin Tarantino made it his #1 favorite film of the year. Anyway, everybody loved it – it even got an 8.7/10.o rating at IMDb. Besides having a brilliant storyline (hard choices about what’s “right” and what’s “loyal”), lovable voice acting (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusak…), this film is also filled with hilarious comedic moments that made me laugh until I cried. I thought it was great when Woody placed a square of toilet paper on the toilet seat before using it to climb out of the bathroom. I look forward to watching this with Christian some day.
Animal Kingdom – This film was this year’s Frozen River, which made my top ten back in 2008. By that I mean, it was a surprisingly good, low budget, gritty look at a hard luck guy in bad circumstances (he falls in with his cousins who happen to be professional bank robbers). There’s not a lot of conversation, but the emotional drama is incredibly high. It’s an Australian flick with lots of tough Australian dudes elbowing to be in control. The eldest brother is one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever watched, and the mother of all the boys (Jacki Weaver) surely deserves that supporting actress Oscar.
Babies is a darling documentary which chronicles the first year of a baby in each of the following cultures: Japan, Mongolia, Africa, and North America. At first, I was fascinated by the contrasts baby-rearing styles, but by the end, I sat back and enjoyed the cute fest – babies are adorable and funny where EVER they are. Plus this movie was totally “G” and so we played it while Christian was in the room. It was his first movie night with Mom and Dad.
Inception – From the director/writer who brought us Memento (and the latest Batman movies) comes another psychological twister. He’s proven himself enough to command an all-star cast, including DiCaprio and Leavitt, and you buy into the whole she-bang. How brilliant is it to make a chase film through FOUR levels of your mind?
127 Hours – I became a Danny Boyle devotee after watching Trainspotting. There are scenes in that movie that I can communicate to my sister with the slightest of gestures, because we’ve already laughed over them a hundred times. And now after Slumdog Millionaire, I imagine there are lots of Boyle fans world around. This film is based on the true story of a guy whose arm is trapped by a boulder for 127 hours, until he is finally able to amputate it himself with a cheap and blunt pocketknife from China. I knew this before I watched the film and it did not diminish my watching in any way and the final cutting is not overly dramatized. James Franco puts out a heartfelt performance and helps lift the story from gruesome to uplifting and inspiring. The Utah backdrop is gorgeous of course.
Black Swan – Despite the fact that this intense psychological thriller kept me from breathing properly for days, it made my list because Natalie Portman’s acting was spectacular. She trained for a year to be as convincing as she is on stage – there is plenty of dancing and stage glam, but make no mistake, this is a dark, dark story at the brink of insanity.
The Social Network – Chad considers Fincher to be the best director working today, and he does have a a few good ones under his belt already. The Fight Club is an indisputable cult classic and as sick as Seven was (as in the seven deadly sins), it’s memorable too. I never imagined that the ascent of a computer geek could be so gripping – but it is.
The King’s Speech – I had no idea that this was going to be about a speech impediment. I’m not kidding either, this entire movie is about the king’s stammer! I’ve had a soft spot for Firth since Mr. Darcy (who hasn’t?), and then he really knocked my socks off with his performance in last year’s A Single Man, which would have made my top ten had I ever gotten around to writing it; so I’m not surprised to hear that he is the best bet for this year’s best actor Oscar. It is well-deserved.
The Fighter – Christian Bale puts out a tremendous performance in this one, but I just find it too depressing anymore to be entertained by people screwing up their lives and losing children to bad choices.
The Rabbit Hole – You’ll need a box of tissues for this one as it deals with life after losing a child. Painful, but good. Nicole Kidman is very believable.
Love and Other Drugs – A good sexy romp. A Love Story for the new millennium – you know, heart-wrenching love story laced with lots of prescription drug references. The back story is the advent of Viagra drug sales. Based loosely on a memoir written by a drug sales rep.
The Kids Are All Right – Almost too canned, but the acting saves it. And not as predictable as you think it might be. Annette Benning and Julianne Moore make a hot couple – love how Moore tries to explain why two women might watch gay male porn to get off.
Hot Tub Time Machine – If you grew up skiing in neon in the eighties, this is a must-watch for you. Do kids these days even know what a walkman is? Have I seen every movie that John Cusak has ever been in?
P.S. Here’s Chad’s Top Ten Films of 2010