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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Andrew's Top 5 Films of 2010

(That I’ve seen. If I left out your favourite movie of the year, I probably didn’t see it. Or I hated it. I’m looking at you, Iron Man 2…)

One of the best comedies of the year and the best teen comedies I’ve seen in a long, long time – and what one thing raises Easy A above the pack? Emma Stone. For a long time she’s been uniformly excellent in bad movies – The House Bunny, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – and good movies – Superbad, Zombieland – but someone finally gave her a leading role and it paid off big time. I wish performances like this got nominated for Oscars because Stone is just luminous, witty, charming and, when it counts, emotional. If the film isn’t as good as it could be, and other characters are underdeveloped, it’s just because the film is so eager to service its main character, and fair enough. The scenes where Stone’s character Olive chats to her parents are some of the most fun you’ll have at the movies all year. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. You’ll like it.
Worth watching for:
Emma Stone
Thomas Haden Church
Great Dialogue
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson
Let Down By:
Bad plotting
Lisa Kudrow
Underdeveloped love interest
Innovative, completely original, faithful to the comic book – and a complete and utter box office bomb, Scott Pilgrim fell victim to a really basic marketing error (the same one Kick-Ass suffered) – that of marketing a movie to the people who were already going to go and see it. The first sixty minutes or so are romantic, clever, funny, creative, energetic and brilliant – and then we get to the fight against the fifth and sixth evil exes, and the movie loses steam. (In its defense, so did the books.) But Michael Cera is serviceable as Scott Pilgrim and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. But watch it. It’s unlike anything else you’ll see – at least until a copycat movie comes along.
Worth watching for;
Edgar Wright’s Direction
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers
Chris Evans
Let Down By
Boring Third Act and Cheesy Resolution
One too many fight scenes
Bad Marketing
Ben Affleck is an excellent director and when he’s playing a Boston criminal, a pretty bloody good actor as well. I had high expectations for The Town (its my kind of film) and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite its many flaws. Sure, the last act is ridiculous and then saccharine – and Pete Postlethwaite’s character is an underwritten cliché (though he’s very menacing) - but the first sixty minutes are excellent. Jeremy Renner, Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and co are all charismatic and have chemistry with each other. Hall and Hamm especially do well with underwritten parts.) Blake Lively is pretty excellent as well. It’s a shame none of these movies really know how to end (Third acts are a problem in all three of the movies so far) but its worth it for the sheer entertainment value – there are some stunning scenes in these first two acts. The two heists and the café scene between Affleck, Renner and Hall in particular lift this movie to another level.
Worth Watching For
The main performances are all excellent (esp. Renner)
The first two heist sequences are fantastic
Affleck’s direction
Let Down By
A ludicrous (albeit dramatic) third act heist scene
A script that’s not up to the direction or the acting
Not knowing where to end
Best Scene
The scene with Affleck, Hall and Renner at a café – incredibly tense and well-directed.
A quick word about Guy Pearce – the guy is on a hot streak of picking his projects. He’s done great supporting work in The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, The Road, The Proposition – and a fantastic, underrated performance in Animal Kingdom. (I’ll just pretend Bedtime Stories never happened.) Like Jon Hamm, Pearce plays the lawman on the trail of a crime gang – but where Hamm went for charisma and bravado, Pearce goes for quiet, controlled, almost mechanical efficiency – and only fleetingly lets us see the very angry man underneath.
He is, in my opinion, the best thing about a very good film. Though it drags towards the end and indulges in one too many ‘Underbelly’-style clichés – Animal Kingdom is, at its best, a haunting film. I wish I hadn’t heard so much about Jacki Weaver’s performance – it takes away a little of the impact – but she’s remarkable in a role I’ll say nothing about should you suffer the same fate. The direction sings during certain sequences (usually involving deaths) and the writing manages to capture the Australian dialect without ever reverting to “Welcome to Woop Woop”-esque cultural cringe. (One line that stuck out to me as being brilliantly Australian – “Knives and forks.” I have no idea why – it just captures the sound and the atmosphere of Australians preparing for dinner so accurately.) The film is held back, as are so many crime dramas, by failing to really make us care about the members of the family – even the mostly innocent ones. James Frecheville does his best (which is very good) with a terribly underwritten character, especially given his prominence, but he can’t quite instill enough sympathetic qualities into Josh. Animal Kingdom is a great Australian film – but the performances are the best thing about it.
Worth Watching For
Being an Australian film that doesn’t feel cheap or self aware (or too ‘worthy’)
Fantastic performances across the board
Some shocking moments and twists
Let Down By
It drags in places – often.
A crime family that sticks too closely to what we’d expect a crime family to be
Best Scene
The scene involving Sullivan Stapleton’s Craig finding a listening device…you’ll know it when you see it.
I went to Toy Story 3, as always when I go to Pixar films, with expectations that this would actually be the one that wasn’t as good as the previous installment. The strange thing about Toy Story is that I’m never excited about going but I always leave thinking – now why exactly was I not looking forward to that? It’s a brilliant film and one that I think seals Toy Story’s place as the best mainstream trilogy ever made. I’d like to say the main reason is Timothy Dalton’s Mr Pricklepants (a character I would watch an entire movie about) – but its really because the Pixar team keep finding ways to use these characters with new creativity and vigour – and throwing in one of the most chilling, inspiring and brave moments you will see in the cinema this year, live-action be damned.
The cast all do fine work (special credit to Dalton as Pricklepants, Michael Keaton as Ken and Ned Beatty as Lotso), the last scene will have you working very, very hard not to cry and most of us won’t even really know why. It’s timeless, colourful, brilliantly paced and as inventive as ever. So why isn’t it number one? Because at its core, it’s the same movie as before – toys get lost and have to find their way home. That film, however, is a really, really good one.
Worth Watching For
It’s as good as the other two
Mr. Pricklepants
The last action sequence
Let down by
It’s not better than the other two
Slight lack of inventiveness
Best Scene
The final action sequence where the toys are trying to escape is a masterpiece.
I was always going to like Inception. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Memento are all in my top twenty-five films of all time. The talent involved was second to none; the idea was a good one and the trailer looked fantastic. It was very hard to go wrong.
Even I didn’t expect it go quite that right. Inception is what happens when you give Christopher Nolan a blank canvas – and it's one of the most incredibly original movies I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to find anything all that new to say about the film – we all know how original it is, how good the zero gravity scenes are, how charismatic Tom Hardy is, etc. I’d just like to salute the courage of Christopher Nolan. The film may have its flaws (the romance never feels quite right, there could have been a little more characterization) but no other director in Hollywood would have the balls to take a massive budget and give us such an inventive, original, polarizing work as this one. More, please.
Worth Watching For
Mind-blowing action sequences with consequences
Charismatic performances
The end – and if you saw it in the cinema – water cooler talk value
Let Down By
Underwritten characters (victims of the brilliant action, so fair enough)
Fleeting lack of restraint
Not much else
Best Scene
The zero-gravity sequence involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Pure, undiluted awesome.
I have an iPhone addiction. It's got to the point where I think I could be genuinely diagnosed with a problem - I feel strange when I don't have it with me, I check it every couple of minutes, I'm writing this on it right now. When I watch movies, I check it often - to see if anyone has messaged me, check my email, check the time, and yes, check Facebook...and it's a great indication of whether or not I like a film - if I'm not checking my phone, I'm engrossed.
I can't remember checking my phone once during "The Social Network". It is the most entertaining, thought-provoking, defining movie of the year.
Firstly, full disclosure; I am an unabashed Aaron Sorkin fan. Sure he can be heavy-handed at times - ever seen Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? - but I'll forgive that when you're the most blisteringly intelligent and funny screenwriter going around. The performances are fantastic (more on that in a second), the direction is excellent and the story is universal, but the script is the X factor here. Sorkin’s screenplay is the driving force behind "The Social Network" being the best film of 2010.
Sorkin finds the voice of each of his characters, lends the story wit and charm and helps make what is essentially two depositions thrilling, tense and hilarious. His particular brand of snark has always needed the right vehicle, and he finds it in Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of these Ivy League toffs.
Fincher’s direction is kinetic and gives the film a pace it could easily not have had – but for mine the other stellar element of this film is Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg is superb – managing to turn this geek into an incredibly complex (and yet pretty simple) being – simultaneously giving the impression of feeling superior and inferior to everyone he meets. The opening scene is terrific, but his work in the depositions – and his evisceration of the asker of a particularly condescending question – is Best Actor material. I’m not sure Andrew Garfield is quite as good as everyone says he is – Eisenberg and Armie Hammer as both Winklevoss twins are better – but he’s the victim of the film’s one underwritten main character. Credit must also go to whoever cast Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. Timberlake is an incredibly talented guy, a great actor, and the piece of casting uses what we know about the actor to portray how these geeks see the character – a rock star. He gives a terrific performance.
A classic story of greed and betrayal, an examination of what we spend our lives doing, and in the end, a pure and simple story of what men will do to get women to like us, The Social Network is the best film of 2010. See it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Worth Watching For
A superb combination of writers, actors and directors at the peak of their powers
The best dialogue of the year
Just about everything else
Let Down By
Possibly Rashida Jones’ character – but only if I’m nitpicking.
Best Scene
The first one – and never lets up from there.

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